Agriculture

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Cooperation Humboldt to Take on Local Food Guide Publication

Posted By on Sun, Oct 11, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Locally Delicious, a nonprofit organization that works to support a sustainable local food system, has produced the Local Food Guide since 2017. Established as a resource for the community to access information about local, organic and freshly prepared foods, the guide lists Humboldt County farms, bakeries, markets and more. It’s designed to help visitors and residents alike find restaurants that source local produce and seafood, and to shre information about CSA (community supported agriculture) memberships and how to eat seasonally on the North Coast.
The most recent issue of the Local Food Guide. - LOCALLY DELICIOUS
  • Locally Delicious
  • The most recent issue of the Local Food Guide.

The Local Food Guide shines a spotlight on our vibrant local food scene,” says Locally Delicious founding member Ann Anderson. However, fellow member (and Journal contributor) Pat Bitton says, “we're all seniors now and it's simply too much work for our core team…, not to mention the distribution challenges we've encountered this year because of COVID-19.”

After four years, Locally Delicious is ready to pass on the project to an organization with more energy and resources. In 2021, publication of the Local Food Guide will be taken on by another nonprofit organization, Cooperation Humboldt. With a focus on building a “solidarity economy,” Cooperation Humboldt is already invested in food and sustainability programs like community gardens and fruit trees, Free Little Pantries, and Food Not Lawns. Read more about Cooperation Humboldt’s roots and programs here.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Day-Passes for Farmers in Fire Zones Available

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2020 at 9:38 AM

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Starting today, licensed farmers with property in Southern Humboldt's August Complex evacuation zone can obtain one-day passes from the county Planning and Building Department  to check on their crops and livestock.

One vehicle per pass will be allowed to visit sites in the evacuation zone between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The passes will be available at the county’s Redway office, 3156 Redwood Dr. Individuals will be required to show ID that must match the owner listed on a property’s permits.

“Law enforcement staffed at road closures will check the passes upon entry and exit of the evacuation order zone,” the county release states. Passes are approved by Cal Fire on a daily basis. “Some licensed farmers may not be approved to access the evacuation zone due to proximity of the fire and conditions on that particular day.”

For questions about the evacuation zone access passes, contact:

Humboldt County Planning & Building - Redway Office: 707-383-4100

Humboldt County Planning & Building - Eureka Office: 707-445-7541

Humboldt County Evacuation Information Line: 707-268-2500

Read the full release below:



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Friday, September 11, 2020

HSU's Humboldt Bay Seaweed Farm (VIDEO)

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2020 at 2:56 PM

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Humboldt State University is overseeing California's first commercial open-water seaweed farm in Humboldt Bay.

“Seaweed farming is an industry that is about 500 years old,” said farm co-designer, HSU Fisheries Biology Associate Professor Rafael Cuevas Uribe. “But this is going to be the first time here in California that somebody’s doing red seaweed at commercial scale in open waters.”

The pilot project called HSU-ProvidenSea is led by HSU and supported by GreenWave, an environmental nonprofit that helps coastal communities to launch and scale regenerative ocean farms.

The seaweed that will be farmed is native to Humboldt Bay and will create habitat and will hinder ocean acidification, cleaning the water by absorbing excess phosphorus and nitrogen.

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Ag Officials: Don't Plant the Mystery Seeds

Posted By on Sat, Aug 1, 2020 at 8:43 PM

At the USDA  National Identification Service' Lab in Beltsville, Maryland, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine botanists analyze and catalog seed samples received, unsolicited, from overseas. - USDA
  • USDA
  • At the USDA National Identification Service' Lab in Beltsville, Maryland, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine botanists analyze and catalog seed samples received, unsolicited, from overseas.
Mysterious packages of seeds are popping up in local mailboxes — sometimes labeled as jewelry or beads — and the Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office is urging anyone who’s received the unsolicited bundles not to plant them.

So far, about 20 local residents have reported being on the receiving end of the deliveries that appear to be from China, Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf said in an email to the Journal.

“At this point we have collected six seed shipments and are still encouraging members of the public who have received seeds to contact the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office so we can make arrangements to secure the seed,” he wrote.

Humboldt County is by no means the only place this is happening. The packets have arrived in at least 22 states as well as Canada, countries in the European Union and Australia, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Officials are asking residents not to open the packages but instead turn them over for testing.

It’s also not a new problem, per se. Dolf states in his email that “the U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates that there were 15,000 interceptions of seeds from all sources worldwide and 5,000 from China and Hong Kong in 2019.”

So, what’s the deal with these latest enigmatic arrivals? No one is quite sure but the USDA put out a statement earlier this week saying there was no evidence to indicate it's anything other than a “brushing scam,” in which internet sellers send out goods then try to increase sales by posting false customer reviews.

“We have identified 14 different species of seeds, including mustard, cabbage, morning glory and some herbs like mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, then hibiscus and roses,” said Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services’ Plant Protection and Quarantine, said in an interview on the USDA website. “The main concern is the introduction of pests and disease that could be harmful to U.S. agriculture.”

While the plants El-Lissy listed might sound rather benign, some morning glory species are highly invasive — as anyone who has the dreaded bind weed in their yard can attest — and the same goes for mint.

“We are working closely with (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) to intercept illegally imported seed packages,” the USDA said in a news release. We’re also working with other federal authorities, the U.S. Postal Service, express carriers and online marketplaces to stop future deliveries.”
Back in Humboldt, Dolf also noted the seeds could potentially harm local crops as well as the region’s native habitat. To ensure the threat is minimized, he asks anyone who’s received one of the packages to contact his office.

“Seeds can vector viruses, bacteria, nematodes and weed seeds, all of which could be potentially harmful to agriculture and the environment in the U.S.,” he said. “The Agricultural Commissioner’s Office is collecting seeds locally and will send them to state or federal authorities for testing.”


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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pandemic Widens Gaps in Regional Food Supply Chain

Posted By on Sat, May 30, 2020 at 10:37 AM

A Cooperation Humboldt volunteer loads a food box into the trunk of a car. - PHIL GUTIERREZ
  • Phil Gutierrez
  • A Cooperation Humboldt volunteer loads a food box into the trunk of a car.
Can we feed ourselves? This is a question the staff of the Humboldt Food Policy Council (a branch of the larger California organization) has been asking since 2012. Now, with COVID-19 crimping the distribution chain for larger grocery stores and more local residents going hungry due to economic losses, the question seems more important than ever. The answer is complicated.

“It’s been a big question for a while,” says May Patino, HFPC coordinator. “Do we have enough food to sustain the people who live in this region? The reality is we don’t actually know.”

In 2018, the California Department of Public Health released a study revealing that roughly one quarter of Humboldt County children experience food insecurity. Food deserts – census tracts where residents live more than 10 miles from a major grocery store or have little access to transportation to get to fresh food – are one cause of food insecurity. Humboldt County has 10 such census tracts (out of 31 total).

HFPC recently received a grant from the Humboldt Area Foundation to create an emergency food system response that would help pool and share distribution among different organizations. (Full disclosure: I am employed part-time by HAF.) One model under consideration would use a central and satellite hubs for distribution – a place where farmers, for example, could bring product that would be repackaged and redistributed at scale to need.

“We’re hoping this will turn into something that will be adapted and can be reactivated in emergency food situations,” says Patino “We would like to increase some long term food sustainability systems in the region.”

The North Coast Grower’s Association has already taken steps to aggregate supply by creating the Harvest Box Program – a multi-farmer CSA that families can order through the NCGA website.

Michelle Wyler, managing director of the Farm to Market program for the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, praised the nimble response of local farmers to COVID’s challenges.

“In general, when COVID hit folks, we had to think about pivoting pretty immediately to more direct sales models,” she says.

Wyler works with farmers statewide and says the Humboldt food system had some advantages, including a well-established sales base in local farmers markets and a later start to the growing season that gave local producers more time to figure out a response. While in other parts of the state some farmers have had to scale back or dump product because they couldn’t sell it or pay for the labor to harvest product, in Humboldt farmers are maintaining or even ramping up production to meet demand.

“It’s been a resurgence for the local food market,” says Wyler, adding that another advantage is that local farmers are less reliant on restaurant or wholesale sales, and thus the restaurant industry’s nosedive due to shelter in place is not having the same ripple effects on farmers that it might in other areas of the state.

“A next step would be figuring out what product is viable locally,” says Wyler. “Local product is not going to fill demand.”

To meet demand through larger suppliers and non-local producers, the problem is again distribution. Humboldt County is often compared to an island because of its rural remove from the rest of the state and — like an island – some worry that it could be cut off from the supply chain entirely.

Melanie Bettenhausen, HFPC member and former general manager of the North Coast Co-Op, thinks about distribution a lot.

“We’re so dependent on food that’s coming [from] out of the area,” she says, adding that unwieldy nature of some federal relief programs has revealed the vulnerability of our isolation. “Just participating in some of the USDA programs that are related to COVID-19 relief— they don’t go through our area. They’re for Northern California and Santa Rosa is Northern California. You have to convince drivers to divert from the I-5. And then often they have to be reloaded onto a smaller truck so they can get through Richardson Grove.”

This is true, too, she says, for grocery stores and other wholesale suppliers, many of which struggled to keep ahead of product shortages in the early days of the pandemic. This bottleneck exacerbated an existing problem for small service providers, especially those in rural areas.

“The thing we have keyed into in relation to pandemic is we have organizations who need access to food and they aren’t able to order from distributors, and they also aren’t able to purchase enough of the supplies they need at the store,” Bettenhausen says. “They’re treating all organizations the same.”

Bettenhausen says many smaller nonprofits, such as those that feed or house people, go to Costco or WinCo and buy what their clients need at retail prices, which is not cost effective. But most distributors have a minimum order price that is out of reach for nonprofits. A distribution hub model would be a better solution — allowing bulk purchasing that could be aggregated and then redistributed according to need. But that model comes with its own logistical challenges: cold storage, billing, moving product in and out of the facility. And then there’s the continued challenge of reaching rural areas, which would require refrigerated trucking and a sustainable financial model.

“Our food system feels precarious,” Bettenhausen says. “I personally think we need some policies at the county level addressing food policies and a system response to need. I saw the lack at the co-op when we had the planned power outage, all that food going to waste. The assumption was that those grocery stores are there to sell food but what if they can’t? The solution could be as simple as a partnership with the county to make sure grocery stores have generators.”

These supply chain issues, Bettenhausen says, have been apparent for a long time. It’s only now that they’ve become a more urgent priority.

“These are things are things we’ve known, but a lot of times because there’s no crisis, we have no momentum,” she said. COVID-19 may have changed that.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of census tracts in Humboldt County, which is 31, not 25. We apologize for the error.
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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Farmers Markets Return with New Rules

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2020 at 2:26 PM

Rest easy, romaine lovers, even in these confusing and confining COVID times, you can still get farm fresh greens at some of the county’s farmers markets —  now open for the season.

Farmers markets, like grocery stores, are deemed essential businesses. And with the opportunity to support local farmers who need it now more than ever, and to get nutrient-rich, delicious produce that has likely been handled less than it is in stores, we'll take it.
PHOTO BY MELANIE CUNNINGHAM
  • Photo by Melanie Cunningham
Our familiar farmers markets are opening up but things look a little different. For instance, at the Saturday Arcata Farmers Market, you won’t see crowds milling about socializing, weaving in and out of the streets and plaza grass, walking between vendors, hula hooping or lounging around listening to live music. There’s no sampling. No groups of friendly strangers sharing space at the stand’s counters touching produce and handing vendors cash. And while that may not sound like a good thing in a regular mid-May in Humboldt scenario, in these circumstances, it is.

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Monday, April 20, 2020

Public Health to Cannabis Farmers: Hire Local

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 3:29 PM

In a nod to 420, the international stoner holiday celebrated every April 20, that seemed odd yet entirely fitting, Humboldt County Public Health Officer Teresa Frankovich posted a "COVID Minute" video today to social media urging local farms not to hire trimmers from out of the area this year.

"I'd like to have farmers prioritize hiring people from within the area so we minimize the introduction of travelers and recognize that all people coming into the area need to be quarantined for 14 days prior to mixing with the general workforce," she said in the short video, which can be found embedded below.

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Redwood Acres Fair Canceled

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 3:13 PM

Like so many annual events, the Redwood Acres Fair and Junior Livestock Auction is not to be this year due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. The fair's board and organizers are working out whether an online livestock sale is possible for the 4-H and FFA students who've worked hard to raise their animals. In a press release, CEO Ben Brown says they're disappointed, "but together we will pull through and as our collective health heals, we can start working on the 2021 Fair and Junior Livestock Auction."
Proud 4-H kid Jocie Hague with her prize cow at the Humboldt County Fair. The Redwood Acres Fair, which also features 4-H and FFA animals, is canceled for 2020. - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • Proud 4-H kid Jocie Hague with her prize cow at the Humboldt County Fair. The Redwood Acres Fair, which also features 4-H and FFA animals, is canceled for 2020.

Read the full press release below:



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Monday, December 9, 2019

Trump Administration Food Stamp Cuts Will Hit 3,600 in Humboldt

Posted By on Mon, Dec 9, 2019 at 9:05 AM

The Trump administration has announced that it will be changing food stamp eligibility requirements, which could cut nutrition assistance to 688,000 Americans, including more than 3,500 in Humboldt County.

On Dec. 4, the administration announced it would be eliminating waivers that allow counties with high unemployment rates to allow able-bodied adults without dependents who work fewer than 80 hours a month to receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for more than three months. Currently, 52 of California’s 58 counties, including Humboldt, have such waivers in place.

FILE
  • File
Nationally, 13 percent of the population receives assistance buying groceries through SNAP.

According to the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, Humboldt currently has 3,606 residents who receive benefits through the program — administered as CalFresh in California — who would be impacted by the change. They receive anywhere from $16 to $194 a month in benefits, which come in the form of an EBT card that can only be used to purchase food, including fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, grains and other staples.

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

CHP, Sheriff's Office Upping the Enforcement Ante on Driving Around Livestock

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 10:04 AM

Cattle on Old Briceland Road will have to share their grazing ground with impatient travelers later this month. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • Cattle on Old Briceland Road will have to share their grazing ground with impatient travelers later this month.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and CHP are jointly “beefing up” (their words, not ours) enforcement around and awareness of driving on county roads with livestock crossings.

According to a release, both agencies “CHP have received numerous reports of livestock being struck by motorists” over the last year.

“As a rural county, several Humboldt County roads have easements granting the public passage through otherwise private lands; some of these lands being livestock pastures,” the release states.

“On county roads with easements, livestock have the right of way. While a fence is still needed to keep them on their property, it is not needed to keep them off the section of the road running through the property (often marked by cattle guards).
This does not apply to state highways, where a lawful fence is required, and livestock are not permitted to freely cross,” it continues.

One of the roads where this might occur is Old Briceland Road, which is receiving an upgrade to act as a detour for when the county starts repairs on Briceland Thorn Road, likely at the end of month.

As Marianne Odisio — who delivers mail in the area — says in this week’s JournalRough Road Ahead," Old Briceland Road runs through the working cattle ranch and this is calving season.
Calves from a previous year watching a vehicle pass along Old Briceland Road. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • Calves from a previous year watching a vehicle pass along Old Briceland Road.
"For the first few days of a calf's life, they are pretty clueless about vehicles," she said, adding that she’s also worried about the safety of domestic animals and wildlife in the area. "Sometimes ... a newborn calf will be standing on its wobbly little newborn legs in the middle of the road and you will have to slow down or stop until they get safely out of your way."

The release also notes that a driver can face hit and run charges for leaving the scene after striking livestock.

Read the full HCSO and CHP release below:


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