It looks at me – Derrick Jensen


From Derrick Jensen
Endgame Volume II Resistance

May 22, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

It’s a beautiful day, and solitary bees are flying low to the ground, buzzing around their homes, then crawling underground to deliver food to their unhatched babies. Small black spiders scurry everywhere, and I see an ant carrying an impossibly large piece of wood from who knows where to who knows where for who knows what reason.

There’s a slight breeze, and the tips of redwood branches sway softly. A small blue butterfly lands on my elbow. I walk to the pond. Tadpoles hang beneath the surface, and if I get too close they dive and wriggle their fat bodies into the mud. Caddisfly larvae, looking for all the world like clumps of wet duff (probably because their armor is clumps of wet duff) trundle along reeds. Bright blue dragonflies dip their abdomens into the water, laying eggs, and tiny mayflies hover there, too. A couple of mayflies must have been caught earlier in spiderwebs, for now they’re motionless, suspended.

I sit cross-legged on the ground a couple of feet from the edge, and begin to edit this morning’s work. A quick movement catches me, and I see that a gray jumping spider has landed on my hand. Fearful of accidentally crushing it, I try to wipe it off on a piece of grass. It slips around my hand, always away from the grass and toward me. I let it stay.

It turns to look at me, and I look back at it. I lift my hand so I can better see its gray face and many black eyes. It shifts, too, to keep my face always in view. I shift my hand. It shifts its body. I put my hand back on my knee, and begin to write with my other. The spider moves to the edge of my right hand that is closest to my left, clearly considers the distance, and finally jumps.

It makes it. I stop writing. It peers again at my face, then walks to my wrist. I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt, and the spider crawls in and out of the folds, stopping now and again to look up at me. It gets to my shoulder. It stops. It looks at me. I look at it, eyes straining to focus this close. I don’t know how long it stays there. Maybe five minutes. Maybe ten. Then it makes its way back down to my wrist, to my hand, and jumps off into the grass.

Life is really, really good.
~~
Spider photo from PBase.com

So what do we propose instead of a dumb growth Monster Mall?


From DAVE SMITH
Ukiah


From Downtown Ukiah Form-Based Planning Project


Ukiah Farmers Market Saturday, May 23rd


Zion Canyon, Springdale, Utah

From SCOTT CRATTY
Ukiah

May 21, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Friends of the Market,

Greetings! Should be another booming Market this Saturday .. downright remarkable for this time of year.

Your scoop for the week is that I expect Haehl Creek Ranches to be back to the market this Saturday with locally-raised lamb. They will be next to the Fords.  We will also be having chicken at the market in a few weeks.  So, your options for obtaining meats from our local area is getting better every month.  Local egg options have also increased substantially this season.

We will also have some new crafts plus we will be partnering with Ukiah’s first Art Faire. Overall it may be another record breaking range of choices.

Another first is an out of Mendocino musical group. The Don Giovannis will bring the music of Italy to the Ukiah Farmers’ … all the way from Sonoma County.  You can get a teaser at www.thedongiovannis.com

Getting your own garden going?  You can compare prices and offerings from about 10 different sources at tomorrow’s market.

Holly sends along this article about cancer fighting herbs.

She has also been packaging up a range of great organic herbs at the Westside Renaissance Market. Check it out at 1003 W Clay St.


[DS]

Adam and Paula at Mendocino Organics report in their blog that Bridget and Craig at Patrona Restaurant, Standley and School Street in Ukiah, are starting to use their biodynamic veggies. You can find their produce at Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op and Mariposa Market in Willits. Please be sure to request their vegetables there, as they rely on these retail outlets when the winter CSA is not in progress. 

On their website: “The mission of Patrona is to create a sustainable business that benefits the people with whom we work, supports the communities in which we do business, protects and sustains the environment and achieves economic prosperity. We aspire to honor, embody and reflect the grace, beauty and generosity of the earth and let her spirit guide us in each decision that we make and action that we take.”

~~

Instead – Madeleine Peyroux


[With Dean Parks' gorgeous guitar backing, this song is pure heaven ... New album just out. -DS]

Instead of feelin’ bad, be glad you’ve got somewhere to go
Instead of feelin’ sad, be happy you’re not all alone
Instead of feelin’ low, get high on everything that you love
Instead of wastin’ time, feel good ’bout what you’re dreamin’ of.

Instead of tryin’ to win something you never understood
Just play the game you know, eventually you’ll love her good
It’s silly to pretend that you have something you don’t own
Just let her be your woman and you’ll be her man.

Instead of feelin’ broke, buck up and get yourself in the black
Instead of losin’ hope, touch up the things that feel out of whack
Instead of bein’ old, be young because you know you are
Instead of feelin’ cold, let sunshine into your heart.

Instead of acting crazy chasin’ things that make you mad
Keep your heart ahead, it’ll lead you back to what you have
With every step you’re closer to the place you need to be
It’s up to you to let her love you sweetly.

Instead of feelin’ bad be glad you’ve got someone to love
Instead of feelin’ sad, be happy there’s a god above
Instead of feelin’ low, remember you’re never on your own
Instead of feelin sad, be happy that she’s there at home
She’s waitin’ for you by the phone
So be glad that she is all your own.

Get happy
She’s waitin’ for you by the telephone.
So get back home.
~
Video here (but not as good as recorded version)


From King of the Hill – 1972 by A.E. Hotchner (also Paul Newman’s partner in Newman’s Own)

I tried every which way to get my mind off food. I had read all my books, so I got out the pile of old Woman’s Home Companions that my mother had stored in the back of the closet. Looking through these was how I started to eat roast beef and chocolate cake. There was this absolutely gorgeous roast-beef-and-gravy ad a whole page high with little potatoes and carrots, and I took a scissors and cut it out and began to eat it. What was amazing was how the paper actually tasted like roast beef. The same with the chocolate cake. I cut that out and then found an ice cream ad, and I put the ice cream on top of the chocolate cake and it really tasted like chocolate….

~~

Will Israel Become an Apartheid State?


From JIM HOULE

May 21, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

The semi-annual Israeli trek to the Oval Office took place this week and was a wonderful success – nothing changed, no one moved, and all is as deranged as ever. Bibi Netanyahu, with a most diverse Cabinet and an almost-fascist Foreign Minister, is said to have arrived hoping to get “fundamental redefinitions of the regional dynamic”, Stratfor 18 May – George Friedman, such as a re-examination of the ‘two-state solution’ and a “finite time frame for talks with Iran, after which unspecified but ominous-sounding actions are to be taken”.

With Obama up to his ears in torture, the AfPak War, and a broken economy, Netanyahu’s expectations seem quite demanding. Exactly why Obama agreed to the visit at this time is strange in itself, but Bibi is new at the job, and he needs to demonstrate his “special US relationship” in front of constituents. Israel has lost a lot of friends lately after their murderous treatment of the Gazans. Recent figures show emigration now outpacing immigration while between 700,000 and 1 million citizens live outside of Israel proper. A 2007 poll showed only 69% wanted to stay in the country and this included half of all young people. These figures are a bad omen for Israel” says John Mearsheimer in the American Conservative 5/15/09.

“Progress towards a two-state solution”, the assumed rationale for all talks between Palestinians and Israelis for years now, “is a total chimera” in the view of George Friedman in Stratfor 5/18/09. “It is a fiction that serves US purposes”: Geographically it is impossible to implement and control. Israel will never agree to return to the 1967 Truce Lines upon which the two-state plan is based. Furthermore, the major Arab powers are not supportive: The Jordanian royal family does not want to see Fatah in charge of a new Palestinian State on the West Bank, expecting that they would quickly overthrow the Hashemites that tried to annihilate them way back in Black September, 1970. President Mubarrak of Egypt views Hamas as a descendant of the damned Moslem Brotherhood that he has tried to eliminate for 20 years. Certainly the Saudis have no particular interest in according Palestinians any power or voice. So, the gentleman’s agreement has been to make comforting noises about Palestinian rights while being careful not to achieve anything much beyond food handouts and periodic payoffs to political leaders.

“The various Israeli-Palestinian peace processes have thus served US and Arab interests quite well: they provide the illusion of activity with high-level visits breathlessly reported in the media, succeeded by talks and concessions – – all followed by stalemate and new rounds of violence, thus beginning the cycle all over again”. George Friedman Stratfor 5/18/09.

The Israeli prime minister is now asking that the various Arab states become directly involved in a conference wherein they would be forced to reveal publicly their very different public and private positions on Palestinian statehood and their lack of any real interest in pressuring the US to demand a viable two-state arrangement with Israel and a return to the 1967 borders.

How Local Stores Get Chomped By Monster Malls


Why Local Sustainable Enterprises are at Competitive Disadvantage, and What to Do About It

May 20, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

The Small-Mart Revolution
Michael Shuman
Reviewed by Dave Pollard

MICHAEL Shuman has written an excellent book diagnosing the reasons entrepreneurial businesses face an uneven playing field and an unfair competitive disadvantage versus the multinational corporatist oligopolies (MCOs). This book, The Small-Mart Revolution, also prescribes 95 ways we can help rectify this damaging distortion of the ‘market’ economy — as customers, investors, public policy-setters, community members, citizens, and entrepreneurs ourselves.

Shuman introduces a useful acronym to differentiate the types of entrepreneurial business we need to encourage and support: LOIS (local ownership & import substitution). Only when owners live and work in the communities they operate in do they really care about the people and environment in those communities, he argues. And only by replacing shoddy products and services transported half way around the globe (at enormous social and environmental cost) with goods and services produced right in the community can we hope to build strong, healthy and resilient local economies where people can both live and make a reasonable living.

The first part of the book outlines the 13 market distortions that multinational corporatist oligopolies (MCOs) have been able to create and exploit to enormous advantage, to the great detriment of entrepreneurs who actually add value to the communities in which they operate — and offer customers much greater value for their dollar:

1. Government Subsidies: More than $300B in corporate subsidies, almost all of which go to MCOs, are paid by North American and European governments each year to protect and incent these rich and powerful corporate goliaths. These subsidies are ‘purchased’ with MCO campaign donations, junkets and lobbying.

2. Access to Cheap Capital: MCOs can borrow money much cheaper and under much more favourable terms from the big financial corporations than entrepreneurs can. These rates reflect formulaic conventional lending wisdom and not actual risk.

3. Labor Negotiating Power: MCOs have the clout to smash unions and bully employees into accepting lower wages and fewer benefits, with the threat of outsourcing and offshoring jobs if the cuts are resisted.

4. Supplier/Retailer Negotiating Power: With their corner on the markets for supply (oligopoly) and big box retail distribution (oligopsony), MCOs are in a position to bully big, brand name suppliers into offering their products exclusively through the MCOs, at hugely discounted prices. These ‘deals’ force suppliers in turn to outsource and offshore their operations to afford these prices, and often force these suppliers into bankruptcy in the futile attempt to endlessly reduce costs.

5. Subsidized Transportation and Energy Infrastructure: Because the cost of gasoline is suppressed by political deals with OPEC, and energy and highway projects are heavily subsidized with tax dollars to favour long-distance transportation carriers, the true cost of imports is hugely distorted, to the advantage of MCOs.

6. Undervaluing of People’s Time: Because we are too busy to find and visit small local suppliers, and because we undervalue the time and energy it takes us to drive to big box malls, we overvalue the ‘savings’ we supposedly receive from MCOs.

7. Deceptive Advertising: Huge MCO advertising and PR campaigns delude us into believing we are getting value from overpriced, poor-quality imported junk that MCOs sell us. And if you try to get your money back, the armies of ‘customer care’ and the armies of corporate lawyers are ready to dissuade you.

8. Addiction to Consumption and Debt: MCOs and their handmaidens in the lending industry and in government spend a fortune to persuade you that irresponsible spending and borrowing beyond your means is socially necessary and good for ‘the economy’. Once you’re hooked, there’s no way out — especially now bankruptcy laws have been tightened up.

9. Lack of Consumer Protection: Under the guise of ‘deregulation’ and blocking ‘frivolous’ litigation, consumer protection laws in many countries have been weakened or gutted, encouraging poor quality production and services and other irresponsible MCO practices.

10. Naive Local Planners and Zoners: Because they’re unaware of the multiplier benefits of LOIS enterprises, local zoners and planners often offer huge incentives to attract MCOs that yield little local return on that investment, and actually destroy local employment and manufacturing.

11. Oligopoly Network Power: MCOs, by striking exclusive deals with other MCOs, cut LOIS enterprises out of the bidding for major supply contracts, effectively starving them out of all distribution channels except local independents’. You won’t find small local food vendors’ products in large chain grocery stores, for example, because the Big Agribusiness producer oligopolies won’t let the chains carry small competitors’ products.

12. Lack of Environmental Regulation: Thanks to heavy ‘deregulation’ lobbying by MCOs, environmental regulations in many countries have been weakened, or are unenforced, allowing megapolluting MCOs to ‘externalize’ (pass off to taxpayers and those who have to live in the polluted communities) the heavy environmental costs of their operations.

13. Lack of Training in Entrepreneurship: As I have been harping on in these pages for years, there is little or no reasonably-priced training available to entrepreneurs on how to establish and operate a responsible independent business effectively. The consequence is huge entrepreneurial failure rates and millions of enterprises that could easily, with a bit of coaching, be much more effective, successful and happy places to work.

If these distortions could be overcome, Shuman argues, we have a lot to gain from an economy in which LOIS enterprises compete fairly and effectively with MCOs:

* LOIS enterprises are closer to the customer and hence better attuned to their needs, and able to be more innovative and adaptable to meet those needs.
* LOIS enterprises are less vulnerable to spikes in energy and transportation costs, which are certainly on the horizon (though Grist argues that this is offset by the endemic lack of infrastructure that LOIS enterprises must live with).
* LOIS enterprises are better able to customize products to meet the unique needs and opportunities that are present in each local market (One size never fits all).
* LOIS enterprises are better able to leverage virtual and peer production and distribution networks because they are less committed to and invested in older physical networks and infrastructure.
* LOIS enterprises, thanks to the personal touch and local ownership, generally have much lower turnover (and hence more knowledgeable staff) and greater employee loyalty (and hence better service) than MCOs.
* LOIS enterprises are less dependent on corporate subsidies and low interest rates, and if, as many suspect, the US dollar and economy soon tanks and interest rates spike, they will have the resilience to continue to operate when many MCOs go under.

The balance of the book prescribes the 95 actions we can take to remedy the market distortions:

* As customers — e.g. by buying local and creating local buying networks
* As investors — e.g. by investing in local enterprises and creating local investment funds, networks and capacity
* As public policy-setters — e.g. by appreciating the economic advantages of LOIS enterprises and leveling the playing field for them
* As community members — e.g. by creating local community-based economies
* As citizens — e.g. by combating the wealth and power of MCOs politically (e.g. by voting out corporatists) and economically (e.g. through boycotts)
* As entrepreneurs ourselves — e.g. by creating local Natural Enterprises and networking them with others

There are two disturbing and enduring myths about entrepreneurship:

1. That franchises are a healthy form of local entrepreneurship; and
2. That entrepreneurs need to compete on price with MCOs by offering customers the same imported, subsidized low-price crap as MCOs, instead of local, high quality, non-mass-produced (‘unaffordable’) products

Shuman tackles the first misconception well, but sidesteps the second. One of the most frustrating experiences of enlightened customers is to go into locally-owned retailers and discover everything on the shelves is imported (mostly from China) when good local sources of similar goods are available (just invisible). Or to hire a local service provider only to discover that they buy all their supplies from a wholesaler’s catalogue, most of which is imported products that by-pass local producers.

But we have to start somewhere, and this book provides a good blueprint on how to do so.

What will be even more essential than a grassroots buy local movement will be entrepreneurs and local activists researching, cataloguing and creating networks of LOIS enterprises, and acting as organizers and intermediaries to help customers in local communities become aware of, and arrange to buy from, LOIS enterprises.

Just as important will be encouraging and coaching new LOIS enterprises to get properly and sustainably established, and helping them appreciate (and explain to their customers) the benefits and value of buying the goods on their shelves, the service that support them, and replacement and supply parts and accessories, from local suppliers.

This book is the perfect antidote and response to the corporatist apologists’ argument that “no one is forcing you to buy from Wal-Mart”. It’s time for responsible, enlightened LOIS entrepreneurs to break ranks with the corporatists in chambers of commerce, the anti-Kyoto forces, and the cynical ‘deregulation’ lobby, and realize that MCOs are not their allies but their worst enemy. The Small-Mart Revolution is long overdue, and needs our support and collaboration to make it happen.
~

See also The Masonite Monster Mall series

…and Michael Shuman An Urgent Call to Buy Local
~~

Ukiah City Council Meeting Tonight 5/20 at 6:00 pm (Post-meeting update)



[Update: A good time was had by all. Language of resolution will be tweaked for sure passage next meeting. -DS]

From Save Our Local Economy (SOLE)

May 20, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

This Wednesday May 20 the Ukiah City Council will consider a resolution about Developer Diversified Realty’s (DDR) ballot measure to change the Masonite site from industrial zoning to a huge shopping mall.

One of the versions of the resolution before the Council will urge the public to vote “No” when DDR’s measure goes before the voters in November.

The presence of those of us who oppose DDR will be essential.  Please attend if you can.

The item will come up early on the Council’s agenda, possibly 6:15 to 6:30 p.m.

The outcome could have a MAJOR effect on the upcoming election campaign.
~
See also The Masonite Monster Mall series

[I didn't move to this beautiful valley to shop. -Guiness McFadden]

The economic structure that mega-retailers are propagating represents a modern variation on the old European colonial system, which was designed not to build economically viable and self-reliant communities, but to extract their wealth and resources. Yet many cities eagerly usher in these corporate colonizers.

Some envision a tax windfall, only to discover that these sprawling stores impose a significant burden on public infrastructure and services. Or worse, after their local economies have been bulldozed, they find that they are utterly dependent on a few big boxes that might raise prices, lay off employees, or threaten to move to a neighboring town if they don’t receive a tax break…

As retail sprawls outward, running errands entails more driving. The 1990s saw a jump of more than 40 percent in the number of miles driven by the average household for shopping—which translates into an increase of almost 95 billion miles a year for the country as a whole. Mega-retailers are thus fueling smog, acid rain, and global warming. Retail sprawl has also emerged as a top threat to our rivers, lakes, and estuaries…

Keep reading Big Box Swindle

Take Action! Summary of the Monster Mall Ballot Measure



From Save Our Local Economy (SOLE)

May 19, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

•   What it does

The ballot measure would amend the County General Plan and zoning code to adopt a Specific Plan covering DDR’s 76-acre Masonite site.  The Specific Plan was written for DDR by an Orange County consultant and is 310 pages long.

It allows DDR to build “Mendocino Crossings” with any combination it wants of big box retail stores, residences and other facilities.  The limit for big box stores is 800,000 square feet [B-41], which would make Mendocino Crossings a tie with Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa as the largest shopping mall on the North Coast.  The parking lot would hold more than 3,000 cars.

The Specific Plan would also allow DDR to build up to 150 residences.  Although the Specific Plan provides 3 different “Conceptual Plans” of how the shopping center might look, it also states that “The exhibits shown are conceptual and do not reflect what may actually be constructed on the site.  The actual development of the site is subject to change based on market and regional demands.” [B-42]

•    Could the Specific Plan ever be amended?

Only by another ballot measure [Initiative text, Section 8].  Once adopted, the Specific Plan is law and the County’s elected officials would have no control over what DDR does with the property, within the broad limits established by the Specific Plan.

•    How does the Initiative affect the County General Plan?

If enacted, the Initiative would require that everything else in the County General Plan would have to be revised to eliminate any inconsistency with DDR’s Specific Plan [Initiative, Section 5-B].

•    Will there be an Environmental Impact Report?

No.  Rezonings that are put on the ballot by petition are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), since there is no public agency which is responsible for approving the project [B-228].

•    How did DDR qualify the Initiative for the ballot?

DDR, under the name “Mendocino County Tomorrow,” hired a professional signature-gathering company, H&H Petitions, which brought approximately 20 signature gatherers here from out-of-county, beginning April 9, 2009.  They were paid $2 per valid signature.  According to numerous citizen reports, the petitioners mostly told the public that the petition was to “clean up the Masonite site.” There were 4 letters to the editor in the Ukiah Daily Journal from different individuals who stated that they had been misled in this way, and 82 people who had been misled by the signature-gatherers sent letters to the County Clerk asking that their names be removed from the petition.  Nevertheless, DDR was successful in submitting its petition to the county on April 29, 2009, claiming it had sufficient signatures to force a special election in November on its Initiative.

•    What is the history of the property?

The site is zoned for industry and was used by Masonite Corporation for 50 years.  DDR bought the site in 2005 and demolished the plant facilities, despite appeals to save it for new industrial uses.  The 76-acre property is the largest industrial parcel in the inland county and has rail access and other features that make it ideal for new industrial development.

•    Why should the site stay in industrial zoning?

Because industrial employers offer better wages and benefits than the minimum-wage jobs offered by big box stores.  Also, industry creates a stronger local economy because it brings money into the area, instead of draining it out like big box stores do.  There is good potential for future industrial use of the Masonite site, if it stays in industrial zoning.  About 27 acres of new industrial buildings have gone up just north of the Masonite property just since 2001, showing the demand for industrial property.  Many timber industry officials believe that the regrowth of the county’s forests will create a need for a new wood byproducts facility.

•    How would DDR’s mall affect traffic?

The County’s draft Ukiah Valley Area Plan found that major traffic improvements are needed if there is more development around the Masonite site, including a new north-south road and a new freeway access off Brush Street.  But DDR’s Specific Plan doesn’t include any of these new roads.  Instead, the Specific Plan dictates that North State Street will bear all of the burden. DDR’s Specific Plan specifies 5 new traffic lights on North State Street, bringing the total to 7 traffic lights in the ½ mile stretch from Orr Springs Road to Ford Road [B-65].  While this forest of red lights will make North State Street a nightmare for thru-traffic, DDR apparently figures that it can still get shoppers off and on the freeway.

•    Besides North State Street, would DDR pay for other off-site road improvements?

Almost certainly not.  The Specific Plan says DDR will pay for the new traffic lights and road widenings it wants on North State Street.  Beyond that, the County must prove by a “nexus report” that any fees imposed on the project are justified by impacts created by the project, AND THEN, whatever DDR has paid for the North State Street alterations will be DEDUCTED from those fees [B-223].

•    How would it affect the water shortage?

DDR says that it would meet the large new water demand for the shopping mall from an existing well (Masonite well #6) near the Russian River [B-73].  How this pumping would affect the total demand on the river and on Lake Mendocino isn’t clear, since DDR is circumventing the requirement for an Environmental Impact Report.

•    What development standards would apply to the project?

Only what DDR has written into the Specific Plan, which substitutes for all County Zoning regulations [Initiative, Section 3].  In other words, DDR has written its own rules.  Not surprisingly, these conflict with the existing limits and aesthetic standards that are common in Mendocino County.  For example, DDR gives itself the right to erect a 100-foot tall lighted sign next to the freeway, four times taller and eight times larger in area than allowed by County zoning [B-124].   Signs on the stores themselves can be up to 500 square feet, three times larger than allowed by County zoning. [B-120].   There is no provision whatsoever for design review by the County of the buildings or other features.

•    How can this area support such a huge shopping mall?

Only by capturing the lion’s share of all retail business in Mendocino County.  With about 12 big box stores and numerous smaller shops, the development would be designed to be a “magnet” destination sufficiently compelling to attract shoppers and keep them on site for most of their shopping needs.  The impact on downtowns and existing shopping districts throughout Mendocino County is obvious.  An economic study commissioned by the county in 2007 concluded, “The prospects for new regional retail [center] depend on its ability to capture expenditures from a trade area larger than the Ukiah Valley.”  [“Ukiah Valley Area Plan Economic Background,” Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., p. 37]  DDR claims that its shopping mall would create hundreds of new jobs, but there is every reason to believe that these new jobs would be offset by lost jobs at existing stores in Mendocino and Lake counties.

•    But don’t we need DDR’s shopping mall to get a Costco store?

No.  Costco was in advanced negotiations to build a store in Ukiah’s Redwood Business Park and detailed site plans had been submitted to the city in both 2003 and 2007 for a 15-acre parcel.  As soon as it bought the Masonite site in 2005, DDR went to work to persuade Costco to give up on the City of Ukiah site.  Finally DDR succeeded, and Costco suddenly stopped talking to the city in June, 2007. But when DDR’s ballot initiative is defeated, Costco can still build on the original City of Ukiah site if it still believes the local market will support its store.  The City of Ukiah has 95 acres of vacant land zoned for retail.

•    DDR is experiencing financial distress.  How could DDR build a new shopping mall when it is trying to sell property to raise cash?

It’s true that DDR is shaky.  Last year its stock plunged to only $2 a share, and its debt was recently reduced to junk bond status by the rating agencies.  But the ballot measure is a potentially lucrative speculation for DDR, even if the election campaign costs $1 million.  A rezoning could increase the market value of the DDR property by as much as $30 million.  Then DDR could sell it to another developer.

•    But isn’t it the democratic way to let the voters decide?

Only if there is full information fairly presented to the voters.   As DDR showed in the signature-gathering campaign, lies succeed when they are aggressively disseminated without opposing information.  DDR figures it can spend so much money painting a one-sided picture of the Initiative that it can drown out all opposition.  Even before the Initiative drive, DDR mailed 5 fancy brochures to all county voters, projected a false image of their plans.  DDR will circumvent the normal requirement for an Environmental Impact Report, which is an essential source of objective analysis on any project.  DDR seeks to lock its 310-page Specific Plan into law and prohibit any public hearings or review by our elected officials.  This can’t be described as democratic.  It’s more like direct corporate rule.
~

Go to Save Our Local Economy

See also The Masonite Monster Mall series
~~

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books


From The Shadow of the Wind (2005)
Carlos Ruiz Zafón

May 19, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

The man called Isaac nodded and invited us in. A blue-tinted gloom obscured the sinuous contours of a marble staircase and a gallery of frescoes peopled with angels and fabulous creatures. We followed our host through a palatial corridor and arrived at a sprawling round hall, a virtual basilica of shadows spiraling up under a high glass dome, its dimness pierced by shafts of light that stabbed from above. A labyrinth of passageways and crammed bookshelves rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive woven with tunnels, steps, platforms, and bridges that presaged an immense library of seemingly impossible geometry. I looked at my father, stunned. He smiled at me and winked.

“Welcome to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Daniel.”

I could make out about a dozen human figures scattered among the library’s corridors and platforms. Some of them turned to greet me from afar, and I recognized the faces of various colleagues of my father’s, fellows of the secondhand booksellers’ guild. To my ten-year-old eyes, they looked like a brotherhood of alchemists in furtive study. My father knelt next to me and, with his eyes fixed on mine, addressed me in the hushed voice he reserved for promises and secrets.

“This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here.

In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth, books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. Now they have only us, Daniel…”
~~

Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Community Development Plan for Masonite Site (Part 9)


From TIM EASTERBROOK; EARL BROWN contributing

May 18, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

An integral aspect of the Eco-Village and a sustainable future will be re-cycling. This is not limited to today’s meaning of separating the tin from the plastic, the green glass from the clear, and the paper from the rest; this is waste separation, re-cycling will take on a deeper and broader meaning as we move into the challenging years ahead.

Waste separation is an aspect of the process of recycling, yet, most importantly in the process is using the end waste product, or products, from one industry to feed a part, or parts, of another; re-using, possibly for reasons other than originally intended; re-manufacturing new materials, or structures from part, or parts, of the waste stream, and reclamation of usable components (oils, water, chemicals, nutrients) from objects and solutions before their final (for us) resting, composting, place.

By building “Zero Waste” into our planning as an ideal to work toward, while understanding we are in a transition phase and unlikely to achieve such a lofty goal quickly, we can open our individual and collective creativity without thinking we have to have all the answers before beginning.

Being in transition means action; something is happening and movement is involved. In Mendocino County we can feel the burden of the past blurring into a questionable future and wonder what we will transition into; a peaceful, sustainable group of interdependent communities living within their means, supporting each other through the lean times, celebrating the abundant, or, the opposite. Climate chaos, economic collapse, civil strife, or a number of other causes, which may be beyond our control, may make our future choices futile and meaningless; moot. Localization, now, is our best, most logical course of action and it is time to ask ourselves which of the options above we want to transition into.

We, in Mendocino County, may not be able to provide all of our wants, but we can certainly see to our needs. Fulfilling wants before needs has gotten us into this mess as much as greed, political incompetence, and ignorance. It is time for a transition and we need to decide which way it will go.

Only a certain amount of fiber can be extracted from the forests without depleting the soils. Until our forests have recovered we need to develop other means of supplying ourselves with fiber from alternative sources. Mendocino County can support the production of fiber in many forms; wool, wood, plant fibers, bamboo, willow, fungi, all grow well in Mendocino County and in Northern California. As the health and productivity of our forests decline and the threat of catastrophic forest fire increases these other fibers will become more valuable and necessary in our area. As work is done in the watersheds that helps the natural healing power of nature rehabilitate the landscape— returning streams to natural functioning capabilities, and, as the larger trees mature, the removal of small diameter poles and understory fuel loads to supply a source of useable building materials, bio-fuels, and fiber— the amount is limited by the need to re-cycle nutrients in the forest soils to maintain fertility. Other sources of fiber will need to be developed, many of which we already know and which have higher fiber content that provides superior structural strength when compared to traditional wood sources.

This post explores the use of several plant sources of fiber and gives some background of their use and properties. Below I list Bamboo, Kenaf, and Hemp. Other forms of fiber, such as wool, straw, fungi and willow are also good sources of fiber and vital to a sustainable future, although I do not include them here to save space. For the Bast plant section below I am quoting sections from the 1996- Bast Fiber Applications for Composites Report, authored by, Erwin H. Lloyd (biocomp@comcast.net) and David Seber (organic@organicseed.com). This 1996 document does not look at Bast fiber in terms of clothing and fabric but for composite (wood and plastic) building materials which are very strong for their weight.

Bast fiber plants, as well as other fiber producing plant species, provide a means to supplement for traditional forest products and even capture new markets through the use of alternative raw materials which possess unique and beneficial properties. Bast plants include flax, kneaf and hemp, and have been used by many civilizations for a period of at least 4000 years. Fibers such as bamboo and hemp are also exceptional for clothing yet I only make short reference to these uses. This “Potential Community Development Plan” is not intended to be complete but to stimulate community dialogue.

From the 1996- Bast Fiber Applications for Composites
“Bast fibers have been grown for centuries throughout the world. Bast plants are characterized by long, strong fiber bundles that comprise the outer portion of the stalk. Bast plants include flax, hemp, kenaf, sunn-hemp, ramie, and jute. The focus of our research has been on the species that can grow in temperate regions of the world, namely flax, hemp, and kenaf. These fibrous plants have long been noted for their exceptional strength in cordage and paper.

The word “bast” refers to the outer portion of the stem of these plants. This stringy, vascular portion comprises 10 – 40% of the mass of the stem depending upon the species of bast plant, as well as the particular variety, or cultivar, within a bast plant.
The remainder of the stem inside this bast layer is a different type of fibrous material, which has different names depending upon the species selected. This inner material is known as shives when referring to flax and sometimes hemp, as hurd in the context of hemp, and as core when from kenaf. For the purpose of simplicity and consistency, we will use the word “core” when discussing this portion of the bast plant.”

Overall Advantages of Bast Plants
“In general, bast plants possess the following benefits:
1. High tensile strength in bast portions, especially in fiber varieties.
2. Bast plants have a relatively low specific gravity of 0.28 – 0.62, yielding an especially high specific strength, i.e. strength to weight ratio, (Kozlowski, Mieleniak, Przepiera, 1994).
3. Generally high fiber productivity rates, rivaling and even surpassing that of the most commercial tree species.
4. Potential for even greater productivity, bast portions, and mechanical properties through focused genetic breeding.” (I hope they mean hybridizing, evb)

Overall Limitations of Bast Plants
“In general, bast plants also have the following limitations:
1. Rotations at least every other year generally required.
2. Limited research for composite applications in North America.
3. Lack of related agricultural infrastructure in North America.
4. Relatively high absorption of moisture in core portion.
5. Diminished board properties when using core for particleboard.
6. Difficulty in handling long fiber bundle lengths for processing.
7. Difficulty in applying binder to long fiber bundle lengths.”

Hemp
Advantages of Hemp:
“Hemp shows the following strengths:
1. Hemp requires less moisture to grow than kenaf.
2. Hemp’s fiber-bundles are stronger and tougher than those of kenaf, generally comparable to varieties of flax, and most other known fiber species.
3. Hemp is generally pest resistant, drought resistant, and light frost resistant.
4. With proper leaf removal, hemp has low net nutrient requirements and requires minimal cultivation.
5. Hemp provides greater fiber yields in areas generally north of the 40th latitude than most other fiber crops, generally surpassing flax by 10%.”

Disadvantages of Hemp:
“Hemp also has the following weaknesses:
1. Restrictions of its growth and cultivation in North America, especially in the United States.
2. Lower fiber yields than kenaf and other tropical species in the warmer portions of the United States and more southerly regions.
3. Lower bast fiber portions relative to kenaf and flax.

Table 1 compares the chemical composition of these bast plants with that of wood.

Table 1: Comparative Chemical Composition:
FIBROUS MATERIAL:    CELLULOSE    HEMI- CELLULOSE    LIGNIN    EXTRACTIVES    ASH
FLAX     78.5    9.2    8.5    2.3    1.5
HEMP    68.1    15.1    10.6    3.6    2.5
KENAF (bast)    60.8    20.3    11.0    3.2    4.7
CONIFEROUS    48.0    15.0    25.3    11.5    0.2
DECIDUOUS    52.8    21.8    22.3    2.7    0.4
Source: Danforth International, and TAPPI

Table 5 illustrates the fiber bundle tensile strength properties of the various bast fibers are significantly higher than those of wood species. (Douglas fir, Southern Pine, Aspen vs. Hemp, Kenaf, Flax). In light of this issue, higher structural applications appear the most promising. This value is an excellent measure of the structural performance we can expect in a particular size and configuration of a product.”

Table 5: Comparative Mechanical/Physical Properties of Bast and Wood Materials:
FIBROUS MATERIAL     DENSITY (g/cm3)     LENGTH (mm)    DIAMETER (um)     L/D RATIO    TENSILE STRENGTHS (psi)
FIBER    BUNDLE    RANGE     AVG    RANGE    AVG
FLAX    1.51    1.2    10 – 65    32    10 – 25    18    1,778    51,000
KENAF (bast)    –    1.2    1.4 – 5    2.6    14 – 23    21    124    58,000
KENAF (core)    0.31    –    0.4 – 1.1    0.6    18 – 37    30    20    -
HEMP    1.48    1.2    7 – 55    25    13 – 30    18    1,087    118,000
S.Y. PINE    0.51    –    2.7 – 4.6    3.7    32 – 43    38    97    11,600
D. FIR    0.48    –    2.7 – 4.6    3.7    32 – 43    38    97    15,600
ASPEN    0.39    –    0.7 – 1.6    1.2    20 – 30    25    48    7,400
Sources: Wood Handbook; Danforth International; W.S.U., WMEL; Columbus, 1996, Institute of Natural Fibers, U.S.D.A., A.R.S.; The BioComposite Center.
KENAF:

Kenaf
“Kenaf, Hibiscus cannabinus, originating from Africa, has traditionally been a source of bast fiber in India, China, The Commonwealth of Independent States, Iran, Nigeria, and Thailand. Kenaf is a newer crop to the United States that shows good potential as a raw material for use in composite products. Presently, around 4,300 acres of kenaf are cultivated in the United States. 2,000 acres are grown in Mississippi, 1,200 acres in Texas, 560 acres in California, with lesser amounts in Louisiana, New Mexico, and Georgia. Traditionally, kenaf has been known as a cordage crop or jute substitute. Research on kenaf first began in the United States in 1957 and has continued sporadically since that time, (White, Higgins, 1964). Newer advances in decortication equipment which seperates the core from the bast fiber combined with fiber shortages has renewed recent interest in kenaf as a fiber source.”

Advantages of Kenaf:
“Kenaf possesses the following benefits:
1. Excellent yields in southern regions. For example, 15 tons/acre were grown at College Station, Texas in research plots, (Berger, 1969). Actual production yields of 7 -9 bone dry tons/acres can be expected in the warmer regions of Texas.
2. Low harvested whole stalk costs in favorable climatic regions such as southern Texas.
3. Genetic strains have been developed which yield 35% or greater bast portions. This is a relatively high proportion.
4. Considerable progress has been made in developing nematode resistance in the Texas growing region. Nematode susceptibility has long been an encumbrance to the viability of kenaf development.
5. Is competitive showing favorable weed control characteristics.
6. Is viewed favorably by the USDA as a prime candidate for alternative fiber development and has consequently received greater research funding.
7. Strong federal political support.”

Limitations of Kenaf:
“Kenaf also has the following limitations:
1. Low productivity in cooler climates. Its growing season can be as short as 90 – 120 days, and consequently it will grow in almost any region of North America if sufficient moisture is available. The yields of kenaf in Rosemount, Minnesota, south of the Twin Cities, yielded only 2.5 tons/acre in a research plot, compared to the 15 ton/acre yield in College Station, Texas, (Le Mahieu, Oplinger, Putnam, 1991; White, Higgins, 1964). Actual production yields are roughly 60-70% of those in test plots, (Blodsoe, 1996; Cook, 1996).
2. High moisture requirements. 600 mm, (23.6 in) of water is preferable during its growing cycle of 120-150 days, (Vannini, Venturi, 1992).” (end quotes)

Bamboo
Bamboo is actually a grass that grows to a harvestable height of 60 feet in about three to five years and can grow as much as two feet per day. It has an extensive root system that continually sends up new shoots and does not require replanting. Bamboo, as the Bast plants mentioned above and other fiber sources, holds the promise of sustainable, cost effective and ecologically responsible alternatives to short sighted management and the clear cutting of our timberland. Bamboo can be spun into yarn, or processed as a fiber. It has a unparalleled micro-structure of pours that absorb human sweat rapidly. If left in it natural state, not roasting it to change the color (caramelizing the starches and sugars), the fiber makes a pleasant green colored fabric that is bio-degradable, cheaper than cotton and wears as well, or better.

Composite products for building materials made from the plants mentioned in this post include, but is not limited to: Low-density insulation boards, Ceiling Tiles, Substrate for lightweight furniture, Components in manufactured housing, Office partitions, Core materials for doors, and particleboard. These plants offer reinforcing fibers to other materials such as concrete, wood, straw, pultrusion products; reinforcements for thermoplastics and insulation; and cordage, especially jute, sisal, and hemp, has historically been strong. Fabrics for clothing, bedding, drapes, upholstery and more can be added into the value items for these fibers. This also does not include food fibers and their benefits to the human body.

There is a great deal of creativity in our area and much we could do to supply our local fiber needs with a fiber processing and manufacturing facility as a foundation of the Eco-Village/Transition Park concept.
~

A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site – Part 1
Eco-Train, Rail and Depot – Part 2
Ecologically-Oriented Tourism – Part 3
Rail to Trail – Part 4
Autonomous Waste Water Treatment System – Part 5
Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center – Part 6
Food Processing Facility – Part 7

Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill – Part 8
Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Part 9
~~

Greenpeace: Polluters to get massive giveaways in climate and energy bill


From Greenpeace

Washington, D.C., United States — Greenpeace is calling for renewed leadership from President Obama and Congress following the release of the drastically weakened Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill today. The American Climate and Energy Security Act (ACES) was already in need of improvement when first released as a discussion draft in March, and has become severely worse as members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee actively worked to weaken the bill on behalf of fossil fuels industries and other corporate polluters.

Following the release of the legislation, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford issued the following statement:

“Despite the best efforts of Chairman Waxman, this bill has been seriously undermined by the lobbying of industries more concerned with profits than the plight of our planet. While science clearly tells us that only dramatic action can prevent global warming and its catastrophic impacts, this bill has fallen prey to political infighting and industry pressure. We cannot support this bill in its current state. We call on President Obama and leaders in Congress to get back to work and produce a bill, based on science, which presents a clear road map for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, transforms our economy with clean, renewable energy technology, generates new green jobs and shows real leadership internationally.”

Masonite Monster Mall – Letters to the Editor


From DAVE SMITH

May 18, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Editor:

A recent letter to the Ukiah Daily Journal 5/15/09 decries the “lack of logic” and “emotional arguments” of anti-Monster Mall citizens, saying that “All these objections disappear when the same stores are proposed inside Ukiah’s City Limits and are not objectionable at all. Pure hypocrisy.”

Citizens oppose bad projects for many different reasons. Some of us oppose any big-box or chain store to save our local economy and downtown merchants; others oppose the Monster Mall at the Masonite site to save our best industrial land for good-paying jobs; and still others oppose it because there is land already set aside for retail stores in town.

As a self-described, life-long developer, the letter writer knows perfectly well that our opposition is by a united coalition of diverse interests.

Nothing at all hypocritical about that.
~~

Ol’ Mister Doom and Gloom


From Jim Kunstler
Author, The Long Emergency

There are plenty of things you can state about the economy past and future with some confidence right now:
— Cheap energy is over and our wishes for alt.energy are currently inconsistent with reality, meaning we have to live differently.
— We have to downscale and re-localize our major economic activities: food production, commerce and manufacturing, banking, schooling, etc.
— We can’t hope to have a stable money system unless we allow a workout of unpayable debt to proceed.
— Even if we can do this, universal easy credit is a thing of the past. From now on, we have to save for the things we want and run our businesses and households on accounts receivable.
— Major demographic shifts are inevitable as it becomes necessary to let go of suburbia and reactivate our derelict towns and smaller cities (and allow our giant metroplexes to contract).
— We have to face the truth that our major social contracts cannot be met, namely the continuation of social security as we know it and probably all pension arrangements. We’ll probably have to change household arrangements to make up for these losses.

Switch to mercury light bulbs to stop climate change? Uh, have you read the label fine print?


From ROSALIND PETERSON
Redwood Valley

May 15, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Flourescent light bulb warning

There is a movement by many states and localities to ban incandescent light bulbs and convert to total use of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL) to save energy.

And yet there are few who have read the small print on the tiny inside package label of fluorescent bulbs or heard about the EPA’s problems with regard to mercury contamination.

What should you know about fluorescent light bulbs?

  1. Heat resistant glass is used in these bulbs. The quartz arc tube, when operating creates light by generating a considerable amount of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. How much exposure to this UV radiation goes through the heat resistant glass and what are the human health problems associated with this exposure? How does the public know that the exposure is safe for children and adults?

Support the fight to stop the Masonite Monster Mall


From DAVE SMITH

May 15, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Thanks to Darca Nicholson, you can support the fight to stop the Masonite Monster Mall by having the above machine-embroidered on t-shirts and other pieces of clothing.

Take them to Jana at Encore Fashions, 109 W Church St in Ukiah (707) 463-5590, along with a suggested donation of $25 each to Save Our Local Economy (SOLE).

Thanks!!
~~

Time to start growing your own bread


From Gene Logsdon
Garden Farm Skills

[Gene's long-awaited, and much-anticipated 2nd Edition of Small-Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains, for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers is now available. -DS]

No sooner had the news come out that rice stocks worldwide were at an all time modern low, and that the price of wheat had hit historic highs, when I started getting calls and letters from all over. Modern homesteaders wanted to know where they could get a copy of my old book, Small Scale Grain Raising.

It is gratifying to know there are still Americans who, instead of wringing their hands at a possible problem headed their way, start figuring what to do about it. I only wish I had some copies of that book left. It was published in 1977 and was as high as $300 a crack on the Internet. But I am happy to report that a new edition is now available.

I don’t really know if the high grain prices have anything to do with renewed interest in that book. What seems to me more likely is that self-reliant people are taking a look at what is happening in our financial world and wondering if it is time to plow up the backyard or that old horse lot and plant some food.

In my little world of writing books about rural life and culture, this is all the talk right now, as it was in 1973, 1982, and 1995 when the economy did “readjustments” like it is doing now, only not quite so profoundly. (In an economy ruled by interest on “pretend” money, as I call it, about every ten years there has to be a shakeup to bring the dreamers of riches, floating around in their bubbles, back down to earth again.) The idea of growing and threshing out several bushels of wheat (a bushel makes about 50-60 loaves of bread) in the backyard makes sense to self-reliant people. It isn’t really that difficult to do.

My wife and I first tried it in the late 1960s when living in the suburbs of Philadelphia, just for fun. We scythed the wheat we grew in our backyard, made bundles of it, shocked up the bundles and when the grain was dry we beat the bundles on a bed sheet with plastic ball bats, threshing out the grain. The kids thought it was great fun. We winnowed out the chaff by pouring the grain slowly from one bucket to another in front of a window fan.

Spiritual Shopping


From Bohemian.com

Going local and the Pearl of Great Price

Shopping is a religious experience in the United States. In fact, it may be the biggest drink-the-Kool-Aid church of them all. Sadly, it ignores the parable attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, the one about the Pearl of Great Price, which is something inside you that you cannot buy at a mall. But let’s not get preachy. We all have to go to the store now and then.

Commercial enterprise is a helpful thing; it just happens I am someone who despises corporate greediness and also hates to shop in multi-acre stores offering styrofoam-packed stuff made with exploited labor in China and bearing environmental footprints bigger than San Bernardino and New Jersey combined. Give me instead a farmers market and a few little mom-and-pop places where there seems to be some real personality and environmental thinking expressed. This is why I am so happy to know that like-minded people across the country are organizing commerce groups that strengthen communities and weaken bad-boy corporations—they are intentionally going local.

In Sonoma County, the hub of this movement is a nonprofit group unambiguously called the Sonoma County Go Local Cooperative. It works as an empowering organization for county residents and for businesses that are at least 51 percent locally owned. This means that bullies can’t join. For example, you will not find among the membership any of the following, recently blacklisted by Green America: Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Monsanto, General Motors, Dominion, Citigroup, Shell Petroleum or McDonald’s.

Instead, Go Local has a membership that includes the likes of Redwood Hill Farm, the Post Carbon Institute, Zazu Restaurant and Farm, Village Art Supply and a host of other reasonably sized, mostly locally owned enterprises, most of which have some claim to sustainability. What jumped off the list for me was the Sonoma County Meat Buying Club, a cooperative within a cooperative that will no doubt get a huge boost in membership if this swine flu epidemic is in fact linked to the unsanitary conditions of hog farms that supply meat to chain stores. But this is what going local is all about—knowing where your food comes from and getting services from people who live in your community and want to keep it a nice place…

Presently, about 800 million people in 85 countries are served by cooperatives, nongovernment groups presently focusing on recovering from economic crisis around the globe. The localization movement is not only good for business; it’s good for community spirit. And maybe it’s good for the soul as well. Because when you go local and shop responsibly, you also care for your own community, and you chip away at the corporate superpowers whose unsustainable business practices result in making life so miserable for so many people. Sure, you get stuff, but you also get a better glimpse of the Pearl of Great Price, which is really not for sale.

See complete article here.
~~

Growing Power in an Urban Food Desert



From Yes! Magazine

At the northern outskirts of Milwaukee, in a neighborhood of boxy post-WWII homes near the sprawling Park Lawn housing project, stand 14 greenhouses arrayed on two acres of land. This is Growing Power, the only land within the Milwaukee city limits zoned as farmland…

…Since 1993, Allen has focused on developing Growing Power’s urban agriculture project, which grows vegetables and fruit in its greenhouses, raises goats, ducks, bees, turkeys, and—in an aquaponics system designed by Allen—tilapia and Great Lakes Perch—altogether, 159 varieties of food.

Growing Power also has a 40-acre rural farm in Merton, 45 minutes outside Milwaukee, with five acres devoted to intensive vegetable growing and the balance used for sustainably grown hays, grasses, and legumes which provide food for the urban farm’s livestock.

Allen has taken the knowledge he gained growing up on the farm and supplemented it with the latest in sustainable techniques and his own experimentation.

Growing Power composts more than 6 million pounds of food waste a year, including the farm’s own waste, material from local food distributors, spent grain from a local brewery, and the grounds from a local coffee shop. Allen counts as part of his livestock the red wiggler worms that turn that waste into “Milwaukee Black Gold” worm castings.

Allen seems to take a particular delight in thrusting his steam-shovel-sized hands into a rich mixture of soil and worms in Growing Power’s greenhouses. “You can’t grow anything without good soil,” he preaches to a group touring the project.

Allen designed an aquaponics system, built for just $3,000, a fraction of the $50,000 cost of a commercially-built system. In addition to tilapia, a common fish in aquaculture, Allen also grows yellow perch, a fish once a staple of the Milwaukee diet. Pollution and overfishing killed the Lake Michigan perch fishery; Growing Power will soon make this local favorite available again. The fish are raised in 10,000-gallon tanks where 10,000 fingerlings grow to market size in as little as nine months.

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