In federal district court yesterday, Judge Yvonne Gonzales-Rogers made clear her disdain for the legal arguments presented in the lawsuit being brought against the Department of the Interior by some of the people who will suffer the most if Drakes Bay Oyster Farm is closed.
Those who are familiar with the very real harm that is being done by the closure of the oyster farm have a hard time understanding why that harm doesn’t carry more weight.
It seems that the legal system is, in a certain sense, a separate world. What matters in court is deep knowledge of the complexities of the law. There is no guarantee that a legal remedy can be found even in cases where there has clearly been a moral injustice.
Outside the courtroom, things are different.
Readers of the Citizen are likely to know the truth: That the Lunnys have been superb stewards of the land and water; that they have always conformed with every applicable legal and regulatory process, policy, and permit; that they cleaned up the oyster farm at their own expense; that they created a beautiful, prize-winning oyster that the local food community and the national oyster community is exceedingly upset at the prospect of losing; and that they did all this not simply for their own benefit but because they care deeply about this historic community resource.
And in the face of all this positive action, another known truth is that the Park Service has leveled false charges of environmental crimes against the Lunnys—false charges that are still being echoed by government lawyers as they argue in court.
These truths are known well beyond West Marin, as I learned firsthand yesterday.
A few blocks from the district court in Oakland is a lovely old section of town that features a number of interesting restaurants. The Lunnys and I stopped at the 1917 Swan’s Market, now restored as a casual food destination, with an open-air feel (one wall is open to the sidewalk), two fine restaurants, and an impressive artisan sausage maker.
We had drinks—and some absolutely perfect hand-cut Kennebec fries—at the lovely and lovingly named The Cook and Her Farmer, where the stated mission is to “seek to enhance the quality of food, strengthen the fabric of community, and to celebrate the beauty and vitality that is present in the city of Oakland by cultivating a needful spirit of generosity and gathering around the table for honest foods. We desire to foster a creative environment that supports the growth and development of future cooks and farmers.”
When the owners found out that it was Nancy Lunny ordering a glass of wine, they refused to let her pay for it. A little while later they brought us a bottle of prosecco and a big plate of oysters on the house. The chef/farmers, Steve Day and Romney Steele, were delighted to meet the Lunnys. They have followed the story of their ordeal, and are shocked and upset at the moral injustice perpetrated against them. They asked, as most everyone does, if there is anything they can do to stop the shutdown.
But here in the midst of the artisan food revival in Old Oakland, the emphasis was not on the legal battle or the controversy. The cook and her farmer were genuinely excited about meeting these kindred spirits. Like Steele and Day, the Lunnys have shown that they care deeply about improving the quality of food, sustaining the fabric of community, and promoting the growth and development of future farmers. The cook and her farmer were honored to shake their hands.
The same thing happened when we stopped at Taylor’s Sausage on the way out—the founders got excited when they realized who their customers were, and insisted on cooking up some of their finest product, on the spot, for the Lunnys to try. They beamed with pleasure when their artisan sausage was met with approval.
In the farm-to-table movement, the Lunnys are rock stars. That is one truth that can never be erased, no matter what else happens.