Sean Armstrong1 
Member since Apr 16, 2012


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Re: “Dairy Diary

Just to put it out there, Bob McCall and his wife Connie Lorenzo were some of our farm's earliest supporters, back when we were Wild Chick Farm in 2005. My wife's aunt is a friend of Mary Kheen, which has made this whole process even more awkward. :) Our group's concerns are not personal to Cypress Grove's management, and framing it as such just makes it that much harder to be neighbors. Cypress Grove's dry feed lots will produce as much feces every day as the towns of Orick, Willow Creek and Blue Lake combined--1400 goats produce as much feces as 4200 people. The waste disposal system for 1400 goats, or eventually 2800 goats, is a serious question for public review, as promised in our General Plan and Zoning Regulations. Factory farming produces pollution on the scale of other factories, and fecal pollution poses unique environmental threats. EMMI/Cypress Grove should have the same public oversight as what we at Danco went through for the sewage treatment plant for the Town of Samoa (equivalent to 200 goats worth of feces/day), or even Willow Creek Apartments (equivalent to 16 goats worth of feces/day). I have every hope that Ian is going to work hard to make Cypress Grove's dry feed lots a showcase of factory farming. In fact, that's what they're promised--they'll start here and export the perfected factory farming model to Wisconsin where EMMI Roth USA owns more goat cheese factories. But most factory farms don't involve beloved community leaders, yet the County has set policy, redefining feed lots to exclude those found next to milking parlours/milking barns. But the reason why "feed lots" require a Conditional Use Permit, which includes a CEQA analysis, is that they're a potentially large risk. Conventional agriculture is one of the least regulated industries, producing horrors like pink slime in 85% of our nation's beef and feeding arsenic to 90% of our nation's chicken to turn the flesh pink. Cypress Grove might run a fine farm, but they might not--our regulatory system is supposed to keep us safe, and be evenly applied. As much affection as I have for Connie Lorenzo, or Bob McCall, or the fine people who work there that I haven't met, this is not personal. This is a serious discussion about our permitting process, our public health and the environment. I know Cypress Grove staff pride themselves on being community leaders, and I hope they will make more responsible decisions, perhaps try a little compromising, because this issue isn't going away, and we'd all enjoy our summer a lot more if we could put this behind us. :) Regards, Sean Armstrong

Posted by Sean Armstrong on 04/16/2012 at 2:01 AM

Re: “Dairy Diary

Quick fact-check--the Grass-Fed Birthing Barn is a brownfield redevelopment of an existing cement pad, no new ag soils. We cleaned up the hazardous waste, performed a historic study Susie Van Kirk to remove the non-historic resource existing shed, and recieved a CEQA-exemption for an agricultural accessory structure. It's a 16x21 foot building, which is what that ag exemption is designed for. I think it's problematic that EMMI got that same exemption for 1400 goats inside of one acre of dry feed lots. So, the offer is out there--let's sit down at a table and talk with the plans in front of us, address the real concerns, and see if we can be better neighbors.

Posted by Sean Armstrong on 04/13/2012 at 2:18 PM

Re: “Dairy Diary

Hi Ian, I'm sorry if you didn't get your questions answered in the Eye. I don't like reading comments that are intended to personally wound me, by name, rather than argue the issues. You understand, but since I'm personally the target it wears me down to stay engaged. :) To your point on the tiered composting charts: will your dry feed lots store less than 1000 cubic yards of goat feces mixed with bedding? Here's my math--you have two buildings covering 1 acre. That's approximately 43,561 square feet, or 1613 cubic yards. At the neighborhood meeting last June, George or Mary explained the "deep bedding" fecal storage system would be 3-4' deep. So if you fill that pit up in 1 year, that's close to 2000 cubic yards of feces and bedding that requires a composting permit. Now, I could be wrong--maybe you've changed your fecal storage system. If you'd like to be the first person to disclose your design, great, I'd love to see it. More importantly though, the public should see it, review it, and approve it if they choose to as a discretionary permit. You have a dry feed lot and a milking parlour. You're calling it a dairy, but it has dry feed lots on it. In Humboldt County, a less-biased reviewer (and I've spoken with plenty) would agree that dry feed lots meet the definition of "feed lots" that require a CUP in Humboldt County. Even if the public never gets the CUP laid out in our County's General Plan and Land Use Code, you should have at least gone through a CEQA review instead of a CEQA exemption. That's what is required of all dry feed lots in all of California--a CEQA review process. It just galls me that your company continues to avoid that requirement, and putting us all through the hassle of fighting in the trenches instead of having documents that we can pass back and forth to come to resolution. My point--I think you're all decent people Really. But that doesn't mean you're doing a decent act in this circumstance. And if you are, then just put it a CEQA review like any normal developer. Seriously, I would be your PM for free just to get this done right--I've done years of work on planning sewage treatment plants and leach field systems. Call me crazy, but we should be working together to do a model farm up there, even a conventional (as opposed to Organic) factory farm. But you have to listen outside of your group of supporters, because this issue isn't going away--we're neighbors for the long hall. At some point we have to find a path through the arguing that we can both live with. I'm asking, hoping, that there are people at Cypress Grove we can meet with (the group, not just annoying me) to review the dry feed lot plans, the fecal storage, the waste discharges, and come to peace. Sincerely, Sean Armstrong

Posted by Sean Armstrong on 04/13/2012 at 12:13 PM

Re: “Dairy Diary

You know, I understand how it's frustrating to work for a business and to feel maligned unfairly, held to task for failings that weren't true, or weren't as severe as they were represented. I tried to do really good work at Danco, and I have a lot I'm proud of from that era, but I was shunned by some of my friends who really thought I'd gone to work "for the Devil" as one put it. So, you guys are nice. Bob McCall used to be one of our fans, and he and his wife Connie were early customers of ours back when we were called Wild Chick Farm in 2005-2007. Mary's nice. Ian is nice. I don't want to give any of you a hard time, and believe me, I've paid my lumps in this process--I got fired from the City over protesting your dry feed lots. So personalities aside, there's still room for improvement, but no willingness to compromise on the site plan. That really disappointed me, that I kept suggesting at the Open Space and Ag meetings, and then the Planning Commission meetings, that the site plan be redesigned, and absolutely no compromise. Keep in mind that I've also taken big projects through the City, and I've ALWAYS compromised to accommodate neighbor complaints. Even when Commissioner Judith Mayer suggested some compromise, Mary's response was that it wasn't possible for "technical reasons that she couldn't explain." And that's just silly. Your existing building becomes office space, so your addition can really go anywhere provided you'll accept a campus rather than a complex. But the money is negligable, and saving the farmland is real, and it would be so helpful in healing the community, and supporting Arcata's long-standing efforts to save our remaining farmland for community-oriented farming. What do you think--could we negotiate some sort of compromise before we take this to the Council? Joyce Plath has volunteered to do a free redesign of the site plan, and she's really excellent at site plans--we've done many community plans together. Right now the expansion site plan sprawls in the middle of the site, rather than hugging the south to save the northern farmland. I think you should take the bottom 6 acres, starting at the northern boundary of your existing building. 6 acres is a lot of land, no more than you're using now if you don't count the fringe of impacted land. Yeah? Could we work something out before the next fight? And to return the compliment, the first time I ate Humboldt Fog, I was truly transported by the experience. ;) It was Goat Essence, in the best sense of the idea. Good evening, Sean

Posted by Sean Armstrong on 04/13/2012 at 12:08 AM

Re: “Dairy Diary

Fair questions Cody:

  1. A "dairy" used to mean the land where cattle grazed, which then had a milking barn. So that land used to have pasture with animals on it, as well as the milking barn, hay barn, etc.
  2. We do farm the Arcata Bottom Green Belt at 2000 Foster Avenue, the first farm parcel on the right after Q turns into Foster. It's 26 acres, and we're out there every day of the year.
  3. I think our work hasn't been that visible--we presented at two meetings of Open Space and Ag, participated in their Green Belt subcommittee, gave a public tour of the Green Belt last fall with half the City Council there, met with Larry Oetker for a 2 hour hike through it... I think we're trying! :)
  4. I didn't scream anything remotely like Murderer. We had daycare kids there! It was a happy event, lots of laughing and cheering, honking cars going by... I think that narrative was manufactured in the aftermath to discredit our arguments. I didn't see any Cypress Grove people come out, or even roll down their windows, and the building is a long ways away... So who heard us being mean? But, if we did... I'm sorry. That's not how I protest, and I'm sorry if someone else protested that way.
Sincerely, Sean Armstrong

Posted by Sean Armstrong on 04/12/2012 at 8:08 PM

Re: “Dairy Diary

Hi Cody, and other Cypress Grove employees. I'm sorry if you feel personally criticized by our objections to your projects. It's not personal. It really is about: 1. Saving farm land from development. You shouldn't develop Arcata's farm land for a factory. Nothing personal, it's just really a "wrong" thing to do when there is hundreds of acres of vacant factory land, but only dozens of acres of farm land in Arcata. 2. The environmental hazards of factory farming. We're not scare mongers, we're professionals--one of your neighbors is also Dennis Kalson, formerly of County Environmental Health. He personally investigated the 2002 Lane County E.coli outbreak that dangerously sickened 85 people who walked through the goat and sheep barn. His assessment, and that of health professionals around the country, is that factory farming can be a hazard for down-winders because fecal dust, and fecal contaminated run-off, can and does sicken people. Or read the Scientific American article on the goat Q fever outbreak in 2009 in the Netherlands: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=tough-lessons-from-dutch-q-fev So far, there's no waste treatment plan that's publicly available. Your company has never run a factory farm before. So reasonable, professional people are concerned. Normally, these concerns get aired in public, with expert staff at hand, and there's a democratic process for judging the weight of evidence. That's what you saw at the Planning Commission--I disagree with the results, but at least there was a process to air the issues. But with the dry feed lots, nothing. No CEQA, no discretionary review body. So if Cypress Grove would submit themselves to the regulatory process of a CUP for their dry feed lots, we could get much more professional and fair about this, nad the public could be assured that the weakest of all the regulatory system, that on factory farming, is doing something about the risks of fecal pollution.....Instead we just argue through the blog posts. :) Regards, Sean Armstrong Tule Fog Farm

Posted by Sean Armstrong on 04/12/2012 at 6:57 PM

Re: “Dairy Diary

Hi Kevin, I was offering them "CSA cookies"--grass-fed butter and goose eggs from our farm, barley and wheat flour from Shakefork Community Farm, which subleased our Arcata Bottom land for its first two years. I wanted them to be able to taste and appreciate what the Arcata Bottom can produce. So much of the Applicant's presentation was based on undermining the Prime Agricultural status of the soils. The soils are a valuable public resource--black, deep, extremely fertile, the product of millenia of soil development. We are also blessed with abundant rain, so we have a globally rare farming resource. The soil science itself was being attacked and discredited to support the project, and my futile gesture was to offer cookies. I was trying to be nice in a not-very-nice situation. Regards, Sean

Posted by Sean Armstrong on 04/12/2012 at 4:49 PM

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