10-10-08 Founding Fathers
Yesterday on 10-9-08 the boss, another veteran, a reporter and I had the privilege to meet and spend some time with a gentleman named Warren Weber at his 100+ acre Marin County farm near Bolinas directly NW of the San Francisco Bay area.
Warren is considered to be the first organic farmer in California and at a youthful 68 years young I observed an incredibly intelligent, well educated, and a thoughtful individual who started out in the 1970's as an idealistic "long hair" practicing a niche market by growing organic. A couple of decades later an older, shorter haired founding father of the Organic movement hosted the well known "organi-philiak " Prince Charles on his farm in Bolinas during his regal road trip around 'Merica to observe our nations organic farms.
In the sun room of his converted late 19th century Druid hall turned home we weaved in and out of many topics related to our project, his personal history in agriculture, and each of our own personal histories and agricultural experience. This conversation was an invaluable lesson in organic agriculture history as he chronologically weaved through the 80's & 90's and then finished on contemporary trends and potential avenues for the future of sustainable agriculture in America.
During our farm walk I had the opportunity to speak with Warren alone and surprisingly we learned we shared a few things in common, geographically speaking we are both from Missouri, each of us have each lived in Charlottesville VA, and though I didn't attend Cornell, my wonderful fiancée did. Aside from that it was about all we could agree on. Just Kidding. Warren was a gracious hosts, and he gave me a several things to kick around the brain box. After explaining my Peace Corps project and my desire to return and finish my work sometime in the near future he provided me with some potential contacts back in Charlottesville that focus on rural international -agricultural development.
Aside from farming, Warren's current endeavor is to transition all of Marin county's agriculture into organic production, currently at about 25%, he has also pioneered an initiative to develop Marin's own specific organic requirements tailored specifically for communities needs.
Afterwards, leaving Warren behind, the four of us all had a delicious lunch with the South African reporter who shared her experiences as a young woman living through aparteid , and later immigrating to the States because of the struggles there.
Then after the meeting we headed back up north and visited a lovely urban garden named "Crescent Moon Farms "where a young couple has converted their lawn to food production for the local community. With less than 1/2 of an acre in production they produce a plethora of peppers, herbs, vegetables, along with roughly fifty chickens for meat and egg production.
They even had an old beaten up Romanian mandolin that could hardly hold a tune, but was enough to eek out one little "friend of the devil" with the natives.
Later that night Michael the FVC boss packed our stuff back up and meandered back to Santa Cruz for another two hour drive, the second trip already that week, ending in three two hour each direction from north of the Bay Area. Yikes!!
Though I have been out of my village for six months now, I would think that they would be proud of me for continuing forwards with my dedication to agriculture and my continuation of what they taught me about the importance of food security.
I feel blessed to have gone so far on this omnivore's odyssey first learning from the most resilient, revered, and innovative farmers, of Niger. Now I am continuing the education my villagers gave me, but learning from their American contemporaries how to feed my own village and others.