Monday, October 22, 2012

An Update-Better Late Than...

I have finally put the movie online for viewing.


In Seach of Good Food
from Antonio Roman-Alcala on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Urban Homestead Skillshare Festival May 26

Homestead Skillshare Festival

Sponsored by Bay Area Community Exchange

A festival to educate, inspire and spread sustainable living and self-sufficiency skills

Sat, May 26th from 10am-6pm

Hayes Valley Farm, 450 Laguna Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

Live bands!

Alma Desnuda (folk) will be headlining
with Fog City Brewers (blue grass),
Lea Grant (folk) and Nicco Tyson (African).

Learn how to backyard compost, create an urban garden, grow fruit trees, raise chickens, grow herbs for medicine, create cohousing, cultivate oyster mushrooms & more! There's something for everyone!

40 Scheduled Workshops!

Cohousing * Urban Power Foods * Soil Fertility * Worm Bins and Composting* Gift Circles * Qi Gong * Chickens * Ducks * Bike-Powered Machines * Cob Ovens * Urban Composting * Urban Gardening in the Bay Area * Container Gardening * Homestead Design Lab * Fruit Trees * Seed-saving * Food Preservation * Wine-making * Disaster Preparedness * Beginning Herbal Medicine * Herb Growing * Teas & Tincture-making * Bee-keeping & Pollination * Making Community Meetings Fun * Solar Ovens * Mushroom Cultivation * Soap-making * Cheese-making * Candle-making * DIY green cleaning * Natural Health and Beauty * Activist Communication Skills * Water Catchment * Place-making and more!

Tenative schedule here. Open space discussion during dinner from 5-6pm.

Tickets: You may do one of the following:
1) If you are a current BACE Timebank member, you can donate 2 hours to Hayes Valley Farm through the Timebank. To pay Hayes Valley Farm in hours, please log into your Timebank account, then search in the search box for Hayes Valley Farm and under their logo, click "give credit", enter number of hours and "Homestead Festival".
2) You can bring cash at the door or pay on Eventbrite by credit card in advance. Kids 15 and under are free, families welcome! No refunds.

Presenters and Sponsors:

The BACE Timebank, Hayes Valley Farm, SF Permaculture Guild, Cohousing California, SF Urban Agriculture Alliance, PODER (SF), Occupy SF Sustainability Working Group, the Institute for Urban Homesteading, Transition SF, KitchenGarden SF, SF Bee-Cause,Just One Tree, the Connection Action Project, SF Free School, Ohlone Herbal Center, Planet Drum, Shoe Shine Wine, Urban Permaculture Institute, Connection Action Project, Rock the Bike, Briones Self-Sufficiency and Urban Homesteading Circle, Taproot Medicine, Mushroom Maestros, Canticle Farm, Tatiana Florentina Craft Almendral, Institute for Urban Homesteading, SF Bee-Cause, Kitchen Garden SF, SF Seed Library, Alemany Farm, Living Earth Structures, Urban Homesteading Institute, Ohlone Herbal Center, Mira Luna, Gabriel Cole, Jennifer Fernandez, Apryl Uncapher, the San Francisco Milk Maid, Alpha Lo, David Glaser, Urban Worm, Just One Tree, Chong Kee Tan.

Please contact for more info.

Food: Arizmendi on Valencia, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative.

Limited food will be available on site. Stay for dinner for a benefit for the Timebank.

Thanks to our media sponsor.


Do you have a great Timebank Story? We want to hear it.

Write to us at and we will post it to our new blog -

The next Timebank Volunter meeting is on Wed. May 9th at 8pm, Noisebridge 2169 Mission St. 3rd floor SF. For meeting announcements, click on the "Calendar of Events" link on the right side of the home page, follow our Twitter feed @timebanksf, join the volunteer listserv, or contact

The Bay Area Community Exchange Timebank
is a free, regional online directory and accounting Timebank that encourages community self-help by facilitating exchanges of services and goods through trading equal hour credits.

Through the Timebank, we are building a better system, a community caring network that rewards people for helping and supports an abundance of services so that everyone's needs get met regardless of their place in the socioeconomic strata. It seems like a simple act, but every time you share your skills or ask for help, a thread of relationship and trust is woven through our social fabric. This fabric is our future, it's our security blanket. Help us weave it together. Post an offer or a request today and search the directory for things you might need or might be able to offer. Thanks!

This is our Timebank! Grow with us!

Love, The Timebank Collective

Visit the BACE Timebank today

Visit the BACE Timebank on Facebook.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Occupy the Farm

Check out this recent post I wrote for Civil Eats, about the effort to

We all know that “Every Day is Earth Day” and many environmentalists feel that their eating habits are their daily affirmation of a commitment to the planet. But what does it look like to take action for the environment, beyond the fork? There are many options, of course, but one particularly inspirational tactic manifested this past Earth Day in Albany, CA.

On April 22, a week after the International Day of Peasant Struggle, hundreds of Bay Area food sovereignty activists and community members broke the locks on a huge piece of urban agricultural land, tore up mustard weeds, and planted veggies. “Occupy the Farm” was organized as an occupy-style protest, including tent encampments and a “farmers assembly,” but with one very meaningful difference: This act of “moral obedience” (AKA civil disobedience) was the direct outgrowth of years of neighborhood organizing around the piece of land in question.

The “Gill Tract” is a 10-acre parcel that has been owned by University of California, Berkeley since 1928. The university’s founding as a land grant college made the purchase of this Class 1 agricultural land an obvious choice for experimentation, and for years much of the property was used for biological and chemical pest control research. By the late 1990s, however, the future of the site was unclear, and UC began seeking other uses.

Then came the formation of the Bay Area Coalition for Urban Agriculture (BACUA), composed of UC professors in the College of Natural Resources, food justice and sustainability organizations, and local citizens. They petitioned UC to consider a proposal to develop the site into a community-focused educational farm showcasing sustainable practices. According to their mission, “The center would conduct fundamental technical, economic, and sociological research and education into ways cities can create food systems that serve citizens and the environment well through localized, economically healthy and ecologically sustainable production and distribution.”

The UC administration completely ignored this effort (and many similar efforts: see here and here) and instead made plans to sell development rights to various interests, including Whole Foods Market and a for-profit home for the elderly. This move might be a surprise for someone under the impression that a public institution’s mandate is to serve the public, not private interests. But understanding the force of “neoliberalism” on governance in the past 40 years means that we instead can expect such acts: governments are now expected to solve societal problems with increasingly austere budgets, and to turn to entrepreneurship (like the sales or rental of their assets) to bolster those budgets. Privatization and the dismantling of public programs in favor of “public-private partnerships” are only logical outcomes of this condition. Austerity (seen in reduced state funding for UC and resulting tuition increases) combines with deregulation (which led to the most recent recession) and the consolidation of corporate power within the government to create the neoliberal framework.

“Occupy the Farm” poses an alternative framework: Food sovereignty. Instead of profit seeking as the ultimate factor in decision-making around land use, food sovereignty puts public benefit in the foreground. Instead of distant bureaucracies headed by neoliberal capitalist heroes like Richard Blum (i.e., the UC Regents), food sovereignty demands local and democratic control over our public institutions. And instead of a historically and logistically impossible division of “government” on one side and “markets” on the other, food sovereignty promotes a market that is accountable and humane because it is built up from the lives and decisions of those who are affected by it. This may all sound very theoretical, but land occupations like the effort to Take Back the Tract make these ideas real, immediate, tangible, and imaginable.

Discourses of “growth” and “development” on the world scale are mirrored in fights like the one over the Gill Tract. Like World Bank and IMF promotion of a constantly growing world economy and the supposed “trickle down” of benefits from neoliberal policies, UC apologists are likely to react to the Gill Tract takeover by arguing that selling the land is the most “reasonable” act, and one that will benefit the public…eventually.

They will demonize the protestors as much as they can, belittling their image, intent, or naiveté–much like neoliberals belittle “protectionist” or “socialist” government moves (see the Economist’s recent critique of Argentina renationalizing its previously privatized oil company). If neoliberalism myopically seeks to grow markets, its opponents push for real development: of democracy, equality, and environmental health, and yes, of markets which can coexist with these values. We could attempt, as the BACUA did, to petition those in command to support development over growth. But as the Occupy Farmers decided, waiting around for powerful people to “do the right thing” can be a fools’ errand and at times it takes people rising up in powerful acts of disobedient love to force the hand of defensive elites.

In this particular case, UC elites in question are already reeling from many recent losses of legitimacy: A massive student movement perpetually protests their fee increases and union busting; their mishandling of these protests with overly zealous police violence reaps world and official condemnation; reports on the Regents’ financial conflicts of interest breed further distrust; and the general occupy movement has put the one percent on the defensive. Combined with the thoughtful planning that went into the Earth Day action (and the clear community support for it), UC’s hands have been relatively tied, and its only retaliatory act thus far has been to shut off the new farm’s water supply. This is itself a powerful show of how an occupation can be daring, illegal, inspiring, and strategic; challenging the power of a delegitimized elite while building up power from below.

Land takeovers have been more common in parts of the global South, and Occupy the Farm was enacted in solidarity with La Via Campesina, an international peasant’s movement whose largest organizational member, the Landless Peasant Movement (MST) of Brazil, has settled over 150,000 families on land expropriated from that country’s largest landholders. The action can also be linked to the struggles of independent farmers in Honduras (who took land this past week, in a political move that ties in to their already-pressing concern for the reintroduction of their democratically elected president who was deposed in a coup 2 years ago).

The Berkeley occupation may seem anomalous for it having occurred in a first world country. People have said these kinds of actions couldn’t work here: After all, we lack the peasant population of most third world countries, and we are stricken with a deep cultural commitment to the sanctity of private property. Less than one percent of the U.S. population is full time farmers. Many Americans when they hear about the Gill Tract action will probably be incapable of seeing beyond “trespassing.”

Still, no matter how important property rights are to society, their primacy must be challenged if we are to achieve a sustainable future. With such extensive control of the global food system by profit-minded corporate conglomerates, it’s an act of faith to expect them to suddenly prioritize environmental, consumer, or worker concerns. It’s equally naïve to expect our public institutions to stand up to those corporate interests, considering how deeply vested the neoliberal ideology is, and how completely beholden elected officials are to moneyed interests.

Occupying the Farm is a valuable tactical next step for the Occupy Movement, the Food Movement, and all those who care about creating a just, sustainable, and democratic life for our children. Let’s continue to occupy the food system in creative, loving, challenging, and unexpected ways.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Quick Action!

April 23, 2012
Call Your Senators and Let Them Know You Want Mandatory Funding for Socially Disadvantaged  and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers!
Last Friday, the Senate Agriculture Committee released its draft of the 2012 Farm Bill. There were several successes for CFSC's priorities including the reauthorization of the Community Food Projects program at $10 million per year through 2017 and an increase in funding and expansion in scope for the Farmers Market Promotion Program to $100 million over five years.

This draft bill, however, does not authorize mandatory funding for the 2501 Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program. The bill alsoreduces funding by $25 million for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). In the 2008 Farm Bill, both the 2501 program and BFRDP received $75 million in mandatory funding.

Take Action!
Call your Senators right now and and ask them to reauthorize the 2501 program and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program each at $75 million in mandatory funding. The 2501 program is essential for providing outreach and training for minority and limited resource farmers and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is needed to help support the new crop of America's farmers.

It’s easy to call. You can get your Senator’s name and direct number by going and typing in your zip code. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard, provide your Senator’s name and be directly connected to their office: (202) 225-3121.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Friday, November 25, 2011

Food, Farms, and Jobs Act

This is an interesting time for the Farm Bill, with Supercommittee nonsense and Occupy Wall Street craziness. BUT THERE IS HOPE, in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act! See below for what it does.

PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND URGE CO-SPONSORSHIP of the LOCAL Farm, Food and Jobs Act. And ask your colleagues, supporters and networks to do the same.

The larger number of co-sponsors, the greater likelihood that provisions in this bill will be included in the 2012 Farm Bill—assuming that Congress actually writes a Farm Bill in 2012. Either way, it is very important to build support for these measures among the California delegation. We especially need support from Representatives Baca, Cardoza and Costa, our three California representatives on the Ag Committee who have not yet signed on to the bill.

If you don’t know who your representatives are, you can find them at this website: In addition to your representative, please contact Senators Boxer and Feinstein.

The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act

sponsored by Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Sherrod Brown

The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act will improve federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farm and food systems. This legislation will help farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs and will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food and direct and retail markets. And of utmost importance, this legislation will provide more secure funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities, and invest in the local agriculture economy.

The Benefits of Local and Regional Food Systems

Local and regional agriculture is a major economic driver in the farm economy. There are now more than 7,000 farmers markets throughout the United States—a 150 percent increase since 2000, direct to consumer sales have accounted for more than $1.2 billion in annual revenues. Now, on the heels of that expansion, we are witnessing the rapid growth of local and regional food markets that have scaled up beyond direct marketing. Together these markets represent important new job growth and economic development.

The Local Farm, Food, and Jobs Act will:

Boost Income and Opportunities for Farmers and Ranchers by –

  • Improving access to Farm Service Agency credit programs for farmers and ranchers producing for local and regional food markets.
  • Requiring Farm Credit Services institutions to enhance lending opportunities for farmers and ranchers producing for local and regional food markets, beginning farmers, and small farms.
  • Funding Value-Added Producer Grants at an annual amount $30 million and expands the program to include food hubs and outreach to underserved states and communities.
  • Authorizing the Risk Management Agency to develop a whole farm revenue insurance product for diversified operations, including specialty crops & mixed grain/livestock or dairy operations.
  • Directing the Risk Management Agency to eliminate the organic premium surcharge and to complete the development of organic price series.
  • Funding the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program at an annual amount $7 million and raising the maximum cap per participants from $750 to $1,000.
  • Expands the production of fruits and vegetables by allowing greater planting flexibility for commodity program participants.
  • Funding farmer food safety training through the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance program at an annual amount of $15 million.
  • Improving opportunities for local and regional food producers to participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Farmland Protection Program, Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, and Technical Assistance.

Improve Local and Regional Food System Infrastructure and Markets by –

  • Increasing the Business and Industry loan funding set-aside for local and regionally produced agriculture products and food enterprises.
  • Providing authority for local and regional food system funding under Rural Business Opportunity Grants, Rural Business Enterprise Grants, & Community Facility Grants & Loans.
  • Funding the Local Marketing Promotion Program — the former Farmers Market Promotion Program plus funding for larger scale, non-direct local marketing — at $30 million per year.
  • Funding the Specialty Crop Block Grant program at an annual amount of $90 million and creating an annual allocation for local and regional crop and market development.
  • Improving Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) outreach and technical assistance to small and very small livestock processing plants.
  • Requiring FSIS to create guidance for small and very small livestock processing plants to better enable compliance with food safety requirements.
  • Requiring FSIS to provide an electronic submission option for the meat label approval process and to create a searchable database of existing meat labels.
  • Directing USDA to produce a report to Congress on additional steps that can be taken to better meet the needs of small poultry growers and processors.

Expand Access to Healthy Foods for Consumers by

  • Improving SNAP participant access to farmers markets, CSAs, and other direct marketing outlets by creating a level playing field for electronic benefit transfer among vendors.
  • Improving SNAP Education and Outreach by encouraging states to use farmers markets and other direct marketing outlets as a venue for nutrition education activities and providing states the discretion to include nutrition incentives as part of educational efforts.
  • Funding the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program at $25 million a year.
  • Providing $10 million for the Community Food Projects program and increasing the maximum grant term from three to five years.
  • Allowing schools the option to use a portion of their AMS school lunch commodity dollars or DoD Fresh program dollars for the purchase of local and regional foods.
  • Bolstering requirements that specify AMS purchases use a geographic preference for the procurement of locally produced foods.
  • Amending Section 32 to support the development of local and regional agriculture markets.
  • Encouraging States to include community-supported agriculture programs as eligible to participate in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

Enhance Agriculture Research and Extension by

  • Establishing local and regional food systems as an added new priority area within the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
  • Authorizing an Extension technical assistance initiative to help create sustainable local and regional food systems in the neediest parts of rural America.
  • Creating a new initiative for the collection and production of critically important research data on local and regional food systems.
  • Directing USDA Research, Education, and Extension Office to coordinate classical plant and animal breeding research activities and projects to develop locally-adapted cultivars and breeds.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Right to Know and GMO Report Release


After the success of the conference Justice Begins with Seeds & GMO Awareness Week, California Biosafety Alliance would like to invite you to attend the West Coast launch of:
A Global Citizens Report on the State of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)—

False Promises, Failed Technologies
Published by Navdanya (India), Navdanya International, the International Commission on the Future of Food with the participation of the Center for Food Safety and contributions from other partners and groups around the world.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, Philosopher, Environmental Activist and Eco Feminist
Debbie Barker, International Program Director, Center for Food Safety
Miguel Altieri, Associate Professor of Agroecology at UC Berkeley and Associate Entomologist

These new reports highlight scientific research and empirical experiences from around the globe demonstrating how genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops have failed to deliver its advertised promises. The reports document and expose how contrary to the myths of feeding the world and protecting food and environmental safety, GMOs have increased the prevalence of herbicide resistant 'superweeds' and pests, have led to farmer debt and suicides from the high price of seeds, have degraded ecosystems and have benefitted the corporate industry while failing to increase food production.

The reports further illustrate the alternative solutions we need to see real food security, just agricultural systems, and outline how we can act together to see this necessary transition.

The release of these reports will take place:

October, 13 2011: 7:00pm to 9:00pm at
San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center.
(401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102)

In addition, we are hosting a press conference at the San Francisco City Hall at 12:00 Noon, featuring Dr. Vandana Shiva, elected officials and other speakers.


There is also a right2know march/ride to Sacramento next weekend. Details below from Miguel Robles:

On Friday October 13th at 9:00 AM we will depart from San Francisco City Hall, our first stop, will be in around 10: AM. West Oakland, from there we will ride to the Rising Sun Entrepreneurs/ La Placita Commercial Kitchen in Oakland, where we will have a presentation and around 1:pm we will go to City Hall to Deliver the Report to Mayor Jean Quan's Office.

Around 1:00 PM we will be at Peoples Park in Berkeley to have a gathering and Berkeley University to pass some stickers and flyers, then we will walk to the City Hall where some members of the California Biosafety Alliance are arranging a meeting with a City Council Member, we will drop a report at the Mayor's office.

Around 4:00 PM, we will ride to The City of Richmond, where we will be making a presentation at a urban garden, then we will give a report to Mayor Gayle McLaugin and maybe we will screen a movie during the evening.

We will stay over in Richmond.

On October 15th during the morning, we will cross Vallejo Bridge and the plan is to meet with people in Vallejo, Vacaville, Fairfield, Davis.

We don't have anything confirmed yet in this area, so it would be good to have local contacts if you have.

We are riding to Sacramento on Sunday morning to join the rally.

On Monday we are delivering the report at Governor's Jerry Brown office.

Please let us know if you have any suggestion, we are still working in the details, so there will be some changes.

What do we need?
Support, support, support!
Outreach, forwarding the invitation to join us, this will be a weekend action!
If you can organize a meeting at any venue, we can add it to our route.

Contact for more info:

Miguel Robles etereas [at]

Lastly, check out this video for the trailer to a new movie about the attack on scientists who dare to question the safety of GMOs.