Tag Archives: Agriculture

On the loss of Drakes Bay Oyster Farm

Significance beyond the obvious

I have spent the past 35 years exploring, through both theory and practice, the many challenges attendant to producing food in a manner that is ecologically benign or, at its best, beneficial. I have enjoyed oysters from Drakes Estero throughout that time, but it was not until I watched the evolution of the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm under the stewardship of the Lunny family that I came to fully appreciate how closely the Farm approaches perfection as a truly sustainable food production system. This simple fact is made all the more poignant by the juxtaposition of the imminent loss of the Farm and the particularly critical juncture in human history at which we now find ourselves.


Whether one views the Anthropocene as beginning with the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, or with the agricultural revolution of 8,000 BCE, the era is rapidly approaching endgame. We are now witnessing the sixth great extinction event on Earth. The Northwest Passage is no longer a fantasy. The most recent sea-level rise projections, expressed in feet, soar to the double digits. Wild oceanic fisheries are projected to collapse within the next 35 years, just as the human need for protein doubles.


Shellfish aquaculture is widely recognized as one of the few sustainable options for marine protein production, even as oceans acidify, placing natural shellfish reproduction everywhere at risk. The US already faces a worsening shellfish deficit without the gratuitous destruction of over half of California’s production capacity. We cannot replace this resource without effectively stealing it from the mouths of others, though, to be sure, we have shown ourselves to be very good at that.


Arguments by opponents of the oyster farm, that its destruction is an environmental good, have been repeatedly exposed as without scientific merit. If Department of Interior policy is derived behind a smokescreen of distorted and falsified pseudoscience to fit political whims, the future of our public lands, already at dire risk from underfunding, archaic management paradigms and rapidly advancing climate change, is dark indeed. If the National Environmental Policy Act can be manipulated by politics and ultimately ignored, as has been done repeatedly in the Drakes Bay tragedy, what recourse do we as citizens have in the ongoing effort to protect our environment against actual threats? And if the constitutional rights of the people of our state can be so easily bought and sold, what hope can there be for the emergence of a functional democracy in America?


I cannot help but wonder upon what planet those who have fought so diligently -and so obscenely- against the oyster farm, imagine themselves to be living. Earth, this planet, is in ecological crisis. A single species, ourselves, is claiming over half of the annual biological production for its own use, and fouling its land, water and air with total disregard for the limits of the global system upon which we are utterly dependent to absorb or purify any of it. Wilderness?  We will be lucky to survive this century, and no amount of diddling with magic markers on a map will make a bit of difference to that calculus.


What might make a difference, what could make a difference, would be for us to wake up and recognize that we are part of this astonishing web of life, this vibrant blue sphere, this mote of dust in the sun. Our actions matter, for better or ill, as we choose. The oyster farm epitomizes the potential for our constructive, exuberant engagement with the full complexity of the living world. Perhaps this is why it cannot be allowed to stand by those who view mankind apart from that, who are incapable of imagining no role for our species but that of despoiler.


The discretionary elimination of the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm is but one more tragic, foolish, volitional step along our rapidly accelerating path to self-destruction. We have the capacity to build a world of abundance, but, thus far, have chosen another road.





Yes on Measure B for a Permanent Marin Farmer’s Market

On the ballot June 3, 2014, is Measure B, which will help the Marin Farmers Market take root in a permanent home at the Marin Civic Center – at no cost to the public. In 1992, Marin voters passed a measure requiring a vote of the people for any changes to the Marin Civic Center site. Yes on B will give permission to the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), the non-profit that runs the Civic Center Farmer’s Market, to negotiate with Marin County to create the permanent home.

The permanent home for the Marin Farmers Market – “The Farmers Market Canopy and Market Hall” – will be a community hub for agriculture and will benefit our West Marin farmers and ranchers as well as the community at large. “The farmers market project is an essential contributor to the future success of agriculture here in Marin as well as our entire Bay Area food shed”, states Julie Rossotti of Rossotti Ranch. “It will provide a permanent place for farmers and ranchers to sell our locally grown food directly to our community, for decades to come. To have a permanent “home” to sell our meat gives me inspiration and encouragement to continue my family’s tradition of ranching in Marin County.”

For more than three decades, the Marin Farmers Market, operated by AIM, has provided a direct market for local farmers, jobs for hundreds of people and a place for thousands of Marin residents to shop for local farm fresh goods – helping launch the farm to table movement. Each Sunday and Thursday, this town square at the Marin Civic Center brings together more than 200 farmers, specialty food purveyors, artisans and thousands of patrons to celebrate a vibrant local food movement.

For the past 31 years, the Marin Farmers Market has operated on parking lot tarmacs, moving around according to available space and lacking consistent electricity for refrigeration, access to running water, and always vulnerable to weather. AIM, with its dedication to sustainable food production and consumption, understands that this transient lifestyle is no longer sufficient. “The Marin Farmers Market is ready for a permanent home,” states Brigitte Moran, AIM’s CEO. “Measure B will allow the Marin Farmers Market to continue as an invaluable resource and gathering place for future generations – a landmark dedicated to local food, farming, and families in Marin…forever”. AIM and the County of Marin have worked in close conjunction to determine the optimal site, with design concepts from architect Buddy Williams, and a business model that supports both social and economic benefits. The project’s main features will include:

– The Market Canopy: The expanded Farmers Market will operate two days per week, with a possible third day added later, much of it under the shelter of a light-permeable cover that will provide for year-round access.

– Education and event facilities: The project will allow AIM to offer new and expanded programs – convening of national and international seminars with local agricultural leaders, facilitating donations from farmers to local food pantries, expanded WIC and food stamp programs, cooking classes, cultural events and an array of educational opportunities such as AIM’s highly popular Diggin’ the Market program for local schoolchildren.

– The Market Hall & Plaza: Central to the new facility will be its retail center where locally grown food, including cheese, meats and artisan-prepared foods, can be purchased seven days a week, directly from local producers. Day tables will allow farmers to sell local produce on off-market days.

– Eco-friendly design. The entire project celebrates natural resources, minimizes energy utilization, uses recycled materials, collects rainwater and is part of the bicycle and pedestrian master plan. AIM is both committed to providing the community with healthy food and to being a responsible steward of our environment. One June 3 Marin voters will have the opportunity to help make this a reality with the next step in the Marin Farmers Market’s journey. The Farmers Market is a treasured resource in Marin. With more than $15 million in goods sold each year, the Farmers Market is an engine of the local economy that supports our farmers and provides our community with fresh, local food.

Yes on B will help the Marin Farmers Market take root at the Civic Center.