Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the Road Again

Hey Folks,

As 14 volunteers head out in the veggie oil powered fleet to plant 11 new school orchard in 12 days I wanted to share with you one of the under-explained reasons why we work the way we do. After spending the last 3 days training the new volunteers, on my way back to office I stopped for a moment to read the back of the bus.

"Working together we can make the future better"

This longtime saying at Common Vision has become somewhat of a mantra for the organization. From our beginnings as a small group of friends with a big vision we've always strived to model how people working together can change their community and the greater world.  While training the crew this week, I stopped in the middle of curriculum components like 'fruit tree biology' and 'how local foods impact carbon footprint' to remind the crew that really the most important lesson they could impart on our students is that by learning to cooperate towards a common goal of positive change individuals and communities have been able to make incredible changes to the world. That, in summary, "Working together we can make the future better."

-Leo Buc

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fall Fruit Tree Tour 2012!

It's that time again, the beginning of our planting season.  This year we're kicking it off with a two and a half week planting tour of schools in Northern California.  We'll be visiting 11 schools and planting over 200 new fruit trees in Santa Cruz County, Richmond, Sacramento, and Nevada City.  As always, we'll be bringing an all-star volunteer crew on the road (there's still a few spots) and infusing school orchard plantings with science and arts education. 


Thursday, September 20th:   Del Mar or Live Oak Elementary  
Friday, September 21st:   Happy Valley Elementary   


Sunday, September 23rd: CCAA, CCAA High, Serna Village Return Visits for TreeCare
Monday, September 24th: Deterding Elementary   * with Big Tadoo Puppet Crew
Tuesday,  September 25th: Language Academy   * with Big Tadoo Puppet Crew
Wednesday, September 26th: Jebediah Smith Elementary* with Big Tadoo Puppet Crew

Thursday, September 27th: Grass Valley Charter School  * Local Performance TBA
Friday, September 28th: Nevada City Charter School of the Arts   * Local Performance TBA
Saturday, September 29th:  Nevada City Community Planting TBA

Monday, October 1st: Washington Elementary   * with Big Tadoo Puppet Crew
Tuesday, October 2nd:  Lovonya DeJean Middle * with Big Tadoo Puppet Crew

Monday, September 3, 2012

Good Food Movement Growing Everywhere!

When I arrived at the office this morning, there was an Associated Press article titled "Food Hubs Connect School Districts with Farmers" waiting in my inbox.  The article overviews ways that non profits, farmers, for profit businesses, and governmental agencies from school districts to the USDA are working to get healthier food into the hands of students across the country.  From a web service that sources and provides purchase and delivery of local produce to San Joaquin Valley schools, to new federal school lunch guidelines requiring serving leafy greens, to school gardens and orchards producing food right on site, it seems like there is the inertia to make broad scale change to the American food system.  It's been a long time coming, and there is a long way to go, but we're finally all getting on the same page and making a change from top to bottom, and bottom to top.

Check out the article.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Pruning

For those of you with mature or over-vigorous orchards, now is a great time to get out in the orchard and do a little summer pruning.  When done properly, summer pruning can help to maintain an optimal size and structure for your trees.  Check out this great new how-to video from Dave Wilson Nursery. 

Monday, August 27, 2012


As students come back to school this fall, a variety of fresh and organic fruit will await them.  Late season peaches, and early season apples and pears will all be coming on just as students come back from summer vacation.  Its always exciting to watch a young person pick a piece of fruit fresh from the tree for the first time, connecting planting, watering, harvesting, and enjoying the fruit.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Narrowing Down Fruit Tree Varieties

There are so many considerations for what trees to plant where, soil type, pollination, disease resistance,  the list goes on and on. This week, Faith, our tree specialist is putting in countless hours narrowing down our list of citrus varieties to 5 or 6 cultivars (sub-species tree types) that are the best fit for schools across the state. Mandarins, grapefruits, navel oranges, lemons, and limes can all make great additions to an orchard and a school cafeteria system, so we're gonna make sure to bring the best varieties out with us this planting season!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mob Grazing Intensive

We've all heard of over grazing and seen the resulting land degradation but the fact is, contrary to popular opinion, grazing animals are not  negative for the environment when they are managed properly.  Conventional range management has encouraged the spreading out of animals over larger areas which promotes continuous grazing resulting in under grazed and over rested land.  Holistic Management has shown us that managing grazing animals in a herd and grazing land intensely for short durations with long recovery periods mimics the natural system that got us here by building soil and advancing the ecosystem.  This means that the problem is actually the solution.  In reality we are the problem which is fortunate because we simply need to change our thinking and make new decisions to heal the land around us.

Livestock and Holistic Decision Making are the most effective tools available to heal land and ecosystems.

• Transition dry hillsides to green perennial grasslands
• Bring water sources back to life
• Sequester carbon in deeper and healthier soils
• Improve soil health and biodiversity of rangelands, pastures and savannas.
• Increase grazing and wildlife capacity
• Boost orchard health and fertility
• Reverse desertification
• Increase economic profitability

A unique hands-on opportunity to participate and learn from the most experienced instructors in high density Holistic Planned Grazing on the West Coast.  Participants will collaborate for two days of planning and execution of ultra high stock density grazing.  Management decisions will be based on the holistic goal of the M.A. Center. 

The GreenFriends Farm at M.A. Center's HOLISTIC GOAL is to alleviate poverty, hunger, and assure ecological resources for future generations and to advance innovation and integration of ecologically-conscious farming and land management practices through education and demonstration. 

GreenFriends Farm sees high density grazing as the tool to demonstrate:
~ eliminating upstream erosion
~ creating microbial rich soils and deep-rooted perennial pasture/grassland
~ increasing water cycles for wells and springs
~ provide a fertile understory for sustainable design and food production

Pasture work in the morning and afternoon with classroom sessions after lunch.
Lunch will be prepared by True Grass Farms part of the Valley Ford Young Farmers Association.

Topics of instruction include:

Stewarding a Pleistocene Ecosystem - Understanding the critical relationship of grass and grazers in the balance of ecology.
Holistic Decision Making - Animals have been the scapegoat of poor decisions in a dysfunctional agricultural paradigm.  Our decisions can change that.
The Grazing Plan - Creating and editing a road map to a functional ecosystem.
Low Stress Animal Handling - How to work with your animals not for them.
Stock Density VS Stocking Rate - Understand how resource allocation is the key to increased residue, recovery and  production.
Water and Fencing Infrastructure - Turn obstacles and limitations into assets.

More info and registration:

Richard King spent 36 years with the USDA NRCS as a rangeland specialist, ecologist, and biologist assisting landowners with restoration or  enhancement of ecosystems and is a Certified Holistic Management® Educator teaching individuals or groups the simple framework for making decisions that are ecologically regenerative, economically viable, and socially sound, both short-term and long-term.

Richard King spent 36 years with the USDA NRCS as a rangeland specialist, ecologist, and biologist assisting landowners with restoration or  enhancement of rangelands, wetlands, cropland, and woodlands, including riparian stream corridors.  He is also a Certified Holistic Management® Educator teaching individuals or groups the simple framework for making decisions that are ecologically regenerative, economically viable, and socially sound, both short-term and long-term.  Specific areas of experience and expertise include grazing planning, building soil organic matter, land infrastructure planning, biological monitoring, financial planning, and consensus building.  He manages his family’s ranch holistically since 1991.
CNGA Board Member, Certified Professional in Range Management (SRM), Certified Rangeland Manager #M5 (CA Board of Forestry & Fire  Protection)

Nate Chisolm has a BS in Range Management and Forestry from the University of Montana and has spent the last decade and a half working with innovative grazing managers around the world. From Holistic Management practitioners in the bush country of Africa, Bud Williams Low Stress Stockmanship School in Independence KS and three years in the Sandhills of Nebraska with Chad Peterson, managing his high stock density cattle mob and working with his large bison and goat herds.  Currently, Nate works with multiple ranches on the California coast consulting on forage management, teaching low stress stock handling and is writing a book about the alternative history of agriculture.

Jeremiah Stent is the lead Grazing Specialist at Tomkat Ranch in Pescadero CA, running a cow/calf grassfed beef operation and is responsible for implementing  the Holistic Management framework in their grazing planning. He has observed significant changes in quality, density and diversity in the forage under the new management. The combination of Jeremiah's talents as a land steward and animal handler combined with his diverse skills as a mechanic, welder and equipment operator make him an invaluable problem solver and inventor of creative solutions to portable infrastructure challenges.

Aaron Lucich, a video producer from the SF Bay Area, went on the road in the fall of 2005 to research and document the leadership of ecological agriculture.  He spent the next 3 years circling the globe with Allan Savory, Joel Salatin, Elaine Ingham and others before entering the grass farming industry.  He has since managed farming operations and brand development for Traders Point Creamery a 100% grassfed Organic farmstead creamery in Zionsville, IN and consulted to numerous land based organizations.  He is the founder of We Are What We Eat a communications entity focused on changing the way we eat and Holistic Ag a production and consulting entity focussed on changing the way we produce food.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Elaine Ingham Soil Food Web Intensive

Dr. Elaine Ingham is the chief research scientist for the Rodale Institute and is the foremost expert on soil microlife.  Her work is revolutionizing agriculture and land management.

This intensive course is for farmers, landscapers, ranchers, creators and distributors of agricultural products, waste management professionals, soil and garden enthusiasts of all types, and anyone who touches the earth.  Simply put, this information needs to be central to any sustainable agriculture or land management.
  • Understand Soil Microlife
  • Increase production through top soil health
  • Revolutionize your management of soil
  • Enlist fungi to mine rocks for Phosphorus (for real)
  • Eliminate the need for nitrogen fertilizers
  • Make biologically powerful compost and compost tea

     Feb 6 +7: Soil Foodweb Foundations  ~ $270
     Feb 8: Compost Intensive  ~  $140
     Feb 9: Compost Tea Intensive ~  $140
     Feb 10: Light Microscope ~  $160

Each day 9am - 6pm.
Organic vegetarian lunch, snacks, and chai included.
Daily BART pickups are available.

Day 1 & 2: Intro. to the Soil Foodweb – Dr. Elaine Ingham uncovers the basic principles of the Soil Foodweb, plant relationships, and bacterial to fungi ratios in this in-depth two day primer.  Not only will you gain a fundamental understanding of the way soil biology drives plant nutrition, you will learn how modern agriculture selects for disease and pests.  A must for anyone wanting a complete understanding of soil health and healthy plants.

Day 3: Compost Technology - Not all compost is created equal.   There is a  big difference between good compost and reduced waste.  One of the biggest mistakes people make when building a compost pile is not selecting the different Carbon:Nitrogen ratios for the plants they’re growing.  Learn how to select the proper ratios and composting strategies that will get the right biology based on different types of plants needs.

Day 4: Compost Tea Technology – We cover the processes that will maximize biological diversity to get the most bang for your buck.  Actively Aerated Compost Tea (AACT) and Liquid Compost Extract (LCE) are the most efficient methods for bringing back micobe diversity.  This allows you to eliminate inorganic fertilizers and herbicides which decrease diversity and degrade soil health.

Day 5: Light Microscope Training – Dr. Elaine Ignham leads this very special day of training on effective light microscope techniques and identification.  Learn from the master herself about what constituents good compost and compost tea on a microscopic level.  This part of the class is essential for anyone who wishes to gain “eyes on” knowledge of the soil universe and what really goes on under our feet.  Get the necessary training to identify the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes that drive the health and well being of our plants. Students are encouraged to bring their own microscope.  Microscopes will also be available for a group discount at the workshop.