Thursday, March 1, 2012


The only quality food that we can ever produce is food that is a by-product of our relationship with the soil.
                        ~Vandana Shiva

DIRT! was produced in 2009, so it is a few years old, but as I watched it again tonight, I was reminded how essential soil is to our very existence.  It is living and breathing, it is a part of our chemical makeup, and we are one.  Go to to watch it for free!


Monday, February 13, 2012

GM(wh)O(le) Foods

The Organic Elite Surrenders To Monsanto: What Now?
Posted: 01/28/11 10:56 AM ET
February 3, 2011 - Ronnie responds to reader comments with a new article (submitted but not yet published here at Huffington Post): Monsanto Nation: Exposing Monsanto's Minions
"The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. True coexistence is a must." -- Whole Foods Market, Jan. 21, 2011
In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto's Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation's 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America's organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it's time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto's controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for "coexistence" with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.

In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and "seed purity," gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the "conditional deregulation" of Monsanto's genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Beyond the regulatory euphemism of "conditional deregulation," this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.
In exchange for allowing Monsanto's premeditated pollution of the alfalfa gene pool, WFM wants "compensation." In exchange for a new assault on farmworkers and rural communities (a recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workers' and rural residents' risk of getting cancer), WFM expects the pro-biotech USDA to begin to regulate rather than cheerlead for Monsanto. In payment for a new broad spectrum attack on the soil's crucial ability to provide nutrition for food crops and to sequester dangerous greenhouse gases (recent studies show that Roundup devastates essential soil microorganisms that provide plant nutrition and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases), WFM wants the Biotech Bully of St. Louis to agree to pay "compensation" (i.e. hush money) to farmers "for any losses related to the contamination of his crop."
In its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for "public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry," even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government "oversight" of Frankencrops such as Monsanto's sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: "The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well True coexistence is a must."
Why Is Organic Inc. Surrendering?
According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack's previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as "Governor of the Year" in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.'s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it's time to reach for the consolation prize. The consolation prize they seek is a so-called "coexistence" between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto's unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.
WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called "natural" foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI's sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.
From their "business as usual" perspective, successful lawsuits against GMOs filed by public interest groups such as the Center for Food Safety; or noisy attacks on Monsanto by groups like the Organic Consumers Association, create bad publicity, rattle their big customers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Supervalu, Publix and Safeway; and remind consumers that organic crops and foods such as corn, soybeans, and canola are slowly but surely becoming contaminated by Monsanto's GMOs.
Whole Food's Dirty Little Secret: Most of the So-Called "Natural" Processed Foods and Animal Products They Sell Are Contaminated with GMOs
The main reason, however, why Whole Foods is pleading for coexistence with Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and the rest of the biotech bullies, is that they desperately want the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops to go away. Why? Because they know, just as we do, that 2/3 of WFM's $9 billion annual sales is derived from so-called "natural" processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs. We and our allies have tested their so-called "natural" products (no doubt WFM's lab has too) containing non-organic corn and soy, and guess what: they're all contaminated with GMOs, in contrast to their certified organic products, which are basically free of GMOs, or else contain barely detectable trace amounts.
Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as "natural."
Unprecedented wholesale and retail control of the organic marketplace by UNFI and Whole Foods, employing a business model of selling twice as much so-called "natural" food as certified organic food, coupled with the takeover of many organic companies by multinational food corporations such as Dean Foods, threatens the growth of the organic movement.

Covering Up GMO Contamination: Perpetrating "Natural" Fraud
Many well-meaning consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as "natural," and those nutritionally/environmentally superior and climate-friendly products that are "certified organic."
Retail stores like WFM and wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers about the qualitative difference between natural and certified organic, conveniently glossing over the fact that nearly all of the processed "natural" foods and products they sell contain GMOs, or else come from a "natural" supply chain where animals are force-fed GMO grains in factory farms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
A troubling trend in organics today is the calculated shift on the part of certain large formerly organic brands from certified organic ingredients and products to so-called "natural" ingredients. With the exception of the "grass-fed and grass-finished" meat sector, most "natural" meat, dairy, and eggs are coming from animals reared on GMO grains and drugs, and confined, entirely, or for a good portion of their lives, in CAFOs.
Whole Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left without certified organic choices while genuine organic farmers and ranchers continue to lose market share to "natural" imposters. It's no wonder that less than 1% of American farmland is certified organic, while well-intentioned but misled consumers have boosted organic and "natural" purchases to $80 billion annually-approximately 12% of all grocery store sales.
The Solution: Truth-in-Labeling Will Enable Consumers to Drive So-Called "Natural" GMO and CAFO-Tainted Foods Off the Market
There can be no such thing as "coexistence" with a reckless industry that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world's 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers. There is no such thing as coexistence between GMOs and organics in the European Union. Why? Because in the EU there are almost no GMO crops under cultivation, nor GM consumer food products on supermarket shelves. And why is this? Because under EU law, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to choose GMOs; while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are safety-tested and labeled. Of course the EU food industry understands that consumers, for the most part, do not want to purchase or consume GE foods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald's and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the concept expressed by a Monsanto executive when GMOs first came on the market: "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."
The biotech industry and Organic Inc. are supremely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don't want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by out-of-control chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont - the same people who brought you toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and now global warming. Industry leaders are acutely aware of the fact that every single industry or government poll over the last 16 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on GMO foods. Why? So that we can avoid buying them. GMO foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from getting a public discussion in Congress.
Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don't hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers' right to know what's in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called "Citizens United" case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent. Perfectly dramatizing the "Revolving Door" between Monsanto and the Federal Government, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly chief counsel for Monsanto, delivered one of the decisive votes in the Citizens United case, in effect giving Monsanto and other biotech bullies the right to buy the votes it needs in the U.S. Congress.
With big money controlling Congress and the media, we have little choice but to shift our focus and go local. We've got to concentrate our forces where our leverage and power lie, in the marketplace, at the retail level; pressuring retail food stores to voluntarily label their products; while on the legislative front we must organize a broad coalition to pass mandatory GMO (and CAFO) labeling laws, at the city, county, and state levels.
The Organic Consumers Association, joined by our consumer, farmer, environmental, and labor allies, has just launched a nationwide Truth-in-Labeling campaign to stop Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans.
Utilizing scientific data, legal precedent, and consumer power the OCA and our local coalitions will educate and mobilize at the grassroots level to pressure giant supermarket chains (Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, Safeway, Supervalu, and Publix) and natural food retailers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's to voluntarily implement "truth-in-labeling" practices for GMOs and CAFO products; while simultaneously organizing a critical mass to pass mandatory local and state truth-in-labeling ordinances - similar to labeling laws already in effect for country of origin, irradiated food, allergens, and carcinogens. If local and state government bodies refuse to take action, wherever possible we must attempt to gather sufficient petition signatures and place these truth-in-labeling initiatives directly on the ballot in 2011 or 2012. If you're interesting in helping organize or coordinate a Millions Against Monsanto and Factory Farms Truth-in-Labeling campaign in your local community, sign up here.
To pressure the nation's largest supermarket chains to voluntarily adopt truth-in-labeling practices sign here, and circulate this petition widely.
To pressure Whole Foods Market to take the lead, sign here, and circulate this petition widely.
And please stay tuned to Organic Bytes for the latest developments in our campaigns.
Power to the People! Not the Corporations!

"Nothing is Impossible"

I had the opportunity to see Eliot Coleman in Reno last weekend.  The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has been a great source of education for its farmers.  A small group of us from Truckee represented the Tahoe Basin gardeners.

"Passion and enthusiasm make things possible, not easy."  ~Paulo Coelho

In 1957 The Nose was freed on El Capitain in Yosemite.  It took 47 days to climb it by three men.  In 2008, it was climbed in 2:38:46.  The point that Mr Coleman was making is that something that was deemed impossible at one time, has now become a feat done by many~and well.  The more it is practiced and refined, the more efficient it can become.  This holds true in any type of seemingly "impossible" desire.  Today he joined us to talk about gardening year round in a winter climate.  Impossible?  Nah.  You just have to have passion and desire.

"Passion" is the key to success.  As long as there is passion, there will be success.  The grower just has to get really creative, use greenhouse techniques, efficient watering techniques, and aquire much knowledge about soil, plants, marketing, sales, equipment, etc.  He spoke of simplicity.  "If something seemed too complicated around our farm, we figured it was probably wrong."  Keeping life simple" was another main point he made.

It was, as it always is, very inspiring to gain new ideas and share information with others.  After the lecture, we headed off to the new Great Basin Co-op Building.  It has become a hub for local Nevada farmers to drop off and distribute their goods.  What an asset to our Reno/Tahoe Community.

As Whole Foods spearheads the "coexistence" movement with GMO seeds, I figure it is the perfect time for me to back away from my once beloved market...

I really wanted to ask Eliot Coleman, "Where do you do your grocery shopping?"

Great Basin Co-op' is first downtown Reno grocery in nearly 20 years

Tony Basile stocks the shelves of the Great Basin Community Food Co-op’s new location at 240 Court St., on Thursday Feb. 9, 2012. / Marilyn Newton/RGJ

At a glance

Great Basin Community Food Co-op

New location: 240 Court St.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day


At the same time Thursday morning, volunteers emptied the umpteenth pickup truck, loaded with goods from the Great Basin Community Food Co-op’s former store to stock its new store on Court Street.
Others unloaded shopping carts from a tractor-trailer rig parked in the middle of Flint Street. “Real shopping carts!” said Robin Dechent, a volunteer and co-op member. “In the old store, you could never get a shopping cart around.”

Taylor Mirich, a local arborist, parked his boom truck over the sidewalk. Later, he helped local artist Erik Burke into a harness and Burke was lifted to the top of the building to finish painting the Great Basin logo.

Inside, volunteer Wes Lee asked no one in particular: “Does anybody know where the pickles go?”

It was moving day for the co-op and dozens of volunteers answered Amber Sallaberry’s call for “all hands on deck.”

When it opens, most likely on Saturday morning, it will be the first local grocery store in downtown Reno since the Mayfair Market made way for the Silver Legacy casino in 1994.

After that, a grocery store became a rallying cry of downtown condo owners before the condo boom went bust in 2007.

“We are very excited,” said Karen Henderson, who lives around the corner from the co-op in Park Towers. “It will be a big plus for those of us living downtown. With the expansion, I’m hoping they can lower their prices a little bit and become competitive.”

With 7,000 square feet of space, the new store at 240 Court St. is 14 times larger than the little yellow house on Plumas Street that was crammed with goods.

Loans and donations from members as well as grants totaling $750,000 have gone into the new location, said Sallaberry, general manager and co-founder.

With the extra space, Sallaberry said the store will carry hundreds, maybe thousands, of new products. She expects the co-op’s membership of more than 4,000 to grow. More than 120 have helped with the move and renovation work.

The new store is in a Spanish mission-style building with a red-tiled roofet to the community! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Inspiration 2012

Happy New Year! I wish everyone a joyous 2012.  Mine, so far, has started out with a bang.  Pun intended!  Last week I was accidentally hit by a skier, so I have been pretty busy healing during this time.  My friend loaned me her book, Farmer Jane~Women Changing the Way We Eat, by Temra Costa, which I intend on finishing by the end of this week.

This book illustrates a number of women: farmer, activist, author, political figure, seed saver, world traveler, filmmaker, the impressive list goes on and on an all in the name of food rights.  These women are the pioneers and leaders in bringing back our basic freedoms within democracy that every human has the potential to have wholesome food. 

I like this book because at the end of each chapter it breaks down various actions as to what the reader can do to participate as an Eater, a Farmer, or a Food Business Owner.  It empowers everyone.  I guess I really like that they call the Consumer...the Eater.  That is all of us.  That means we ALL have the power to change the food systems, government corruption, and the way we access food.

In the words of Joel Salatin, "We can change the world one meal at a time."

Over the weekend the Nevada County sustainable farming conference was held in Grass Valley.  Because of the snowstorm and the physical condition of my body, I was not able to attend, however, I have watched many many videos for inspiration.  Here is just a short clip from the speaker whom I wish to see one day.  His passion for the land is like non other.

This week I went to a presentation that a gal in our town shared.  She has been on a 6 month hiatus learning about food, from grower to government.  Her blog is  She is learning a lot, and is super fired up.  So much so, that she has helped me get off the couch during my healing process, to get going on "planting the seeds of intention" for round two: Summer 2012!  So thank you Suzie.

This winter I am planning on figuring out succession cycles, transplanting, and utilizing all the space that I do have.  This includes cutting down on the medicinal herbs and upping the vegetable crop production.  I hope to see Eliot Coleman on Feb. 11 in Reno for further inspiration and understanding.

That's all for now.  Everyday brings a new opportunity to learn.  Today I am reminded that sometimes we choose the subject and other times the universe chooses it for you.  Be present and gain what you can from it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


2011 was truly a year of growth.  Lots of small successes and lots of humbling.  After going to my last small farm workshop for the year in Fallon, NV,  I feel re-inspired to grow upon the strengths of what worked and learn from what didn't to turn it into a success next year.

I wish I would have known to do this last year, but I know now.  These are aspects to remember and good points to keep in mind to help stay focused.

#1.  GOAL:  My goal is simply to sustainably grow and sell produce in a Market Garden at elevation.
DID I ACHIEVE THIS GOAL THIS YEAR?  Yes and No.  I grew a healthy food in a Market Garden at elevation, but not in a sustainable way.  My time wasn't accounted for, lots of garden space wasted, rotations were not accurate, and lots of mistakes, which are to be expected during the first year.  I did sell at Farmer's Markets and New Moon Natural Foods.    GOAL provides CLARITY so stay FOCUSED.

#2.  VISION: (Long-term focus.) To run a small sustainable farm using better than organically certified practices, selling my produce at a fair price, and teaching others in an informal way.

#3.  MISSION:  BIJA Gardens offers high quality market crops with altitude!

#4  CORE VALUES:  Sustainable
                                     High Quality

#5  MARKETING:  My goal is to produce such a high quality tasty food that it will sell itself effortlessly.

#6  COMPETITORS:  Know the competitor better than your allies.  Friendly competition ends up being good for everyone.  Who are my competitors? I tried to not have any competition this year because I didn't want to step on any toes, and felt a need to respect my mentors.  Next year I will, however, jump into the ring and grow some of the same products.  It will  all sell and people will appreciate the products because of the fact that they are local and taste better than something grown in SoCal or Mexico.  I know my competitors very well because they are my mentors and my friends.

#7  PRODUCT:  What did I grow this year?  Wild Baby Arugula
                                                                            Quinoa Greens
                                                                            Medicinal Herbs
quinoa will stay unwashed for now
What will I grow next year?  Same, but more and a few more hot crops that are not found as of right now at the market.      

Where can people find BIJA Gardens?  New Moon Natural Foods & Truckee Thursdays Market

#9  BRAND:  Mountain Grown~Pesticide Free~Local

#10  WHY AM I DOING THIS?  I created BIJA Gardens to become part of the local and global food movement.  I want to practice what I believe and to do what I can, with what I have, from where I am, and to show people that it is possible to grow food at altitude with some creativity.


*Size  (For next year~6, 3x30' beds under a hoop house; 3, 4x6' beds, 2 small greenhouses)
*Labor Costs, what are they?  Are other activities compromised? Family time?  Do you have support from family i.e. financial help if it comes to that?
*Be prepared for disaster.
*Do you have another job for additional income?
*Have a plan for success and growth.
*Do you have money going into this year to get back on your feet for year two?

Information from

****Are you still having fun???*****

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's About the Journey

Well, here we are November 6 and three days into snow!  Temps have been low and frigid.  I picked maybe the last Spinach on Thursday afternoon before the snow came in that evening.  There are still beets hanging on and tomorrow I will go check on them underneath their double layer of Agribon.

Today I am so happy to announce that I have finished two out of the three steps towards finishing the production of my Quinoa.  After feeling very tired, burned out, and extremely frustrated,  I finally contacted a friend of a friend's in Colorado at the White Mountain Farm.  They were so helpful! Why can it be so hard to ask for help?  Earl, the gentlemen that I spoke with extensively, laughed as he told me his insights as to more efficient steps to take in order to finish sooner than later.  It was so relieving and re-inspiring to chat with someone who knew my frustration and could relate with what I was telling him.

If you decide to grow Quinoa, too, here are some helpful hints for what comes after the harvest:

Poly Feed Bags work great for "de-stemming" plants


Moved the operation in the garage due to snow

Refining the chaf, seed, and stem pile

"Refined" Pile ready for sifting 

Turn fan on low, pick from refined pile, and drop into colander~current blows chaff away

Sift through seeds many times in front of fan~here I am putting seeds into Mason Jars until Phase III: Rinse

12 Lbs and Approx 20 hrs later: Quinoa!

Before I started trimming, I let my plants dry out completely.  There was no moisture left in the stalk at all.  I tried "threshing" but to my dismay, it wasn't working out as easily as I had thought it would.  The seeds were sticking in the outer covering of the plant and were also flying all over the place!  I was only really getting a very little bit of seed.  Once I used the bags, my time was significantly decreased for this process.  The Poly bags worked well for stepping, rubbing, mushing the trimmed plants!  (Thanks Earl!)  I made some refining decisions, sifting multiple~multiple times into the colander.  Notice all the chaff at the top of Picture #3. 

So here I am at the end of Phase 2.  I am delighted, but am reminded of all that I have learned during Phase II of Processing~patience, a sense of humor, sheer exhaustion and frustration, perseverance, and remembering it IS indeed, ALL ABOUT THE JOURNEY!