The Politics of (food) Politics

Farm bills in da house!

“Contentious,” “spirited,” “nail-biting” . . . another instance of the little guy against the Man . . . that’s what we’ve seen in the first session debates of the 2011 legislature. What we talking here, prisons? Taxes? Moral turpitude? Heck no, what we got ourselves is some contro-vershal agricultural legislation.

House Bills 2336, 2222, 2872 and 2947 all address the concerns of small farmers and producers, and ultimately affect you, the eater. So far, three of the bills have made it past the House and are now in the Senate (“I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill sittin’ here on Capitol Hill . . . now I’m stuck in the Senate . . .” remember Schoolhouse Rock?), while 2222 remains in process in the House. Here’s the gist and why you should care.

HB 2336 Pickle Bill

A committee bill that goes like this: farmers/growers can sell their products directly to consumers, either at stands or markets without the hassle of having food establishment licenses. This includes veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes and grains that you cook before eating, jams, fruit-based syrups, shell eggs, honey, popcorn, salsa, pickles, and so on. Producers must make less than $20,000 per year on these products; must process the goods themselves; pH levels must be below 4.6; and labels must show ingredients, address of producer, and the ominous “This product is homemade and is not prepared in an inspected food establishment.” If offenses occur, the Dept. of Ag can require producers to get a license. Basically the bill just clarifies the law, which was fuzzy, about what constitutes a “food establishment.” It’s good for the farmer because they can make small batches of value-added products without having to have a commercial kitchen, as well as sell their wares without having to worry about licensing. A plus for the eater ‘cause the goodies will be available at market.

HB 2222 Family Farm Act

The (relative) big guns showed up to fight the first hearing of the “Family Farm Act,” including the Oregon Dairy Farmer Assoc., Tillamook Creamery, the Northwest Food Processors and the Farm Bureau. The raw milk provision of the bill really got the debate underway; it is already legal for farmers with three cows (nine goats) or fewer to sell raw milk to Oregonians who physically go and pick up the milk themselves. The bill ups the allowable animal totals. Many states are looking to ease legislation for raw milk and raw milk products even as the Feds are cracking down on regulations for raw milk cheese. Though much of the population couldn’t care less about raw milk, those consumers that want it want it bad, and drive a quasi-underground market all around the country.

The bill also allows for small farms to slaughter up to 1,000 chickens for use as people food, without having to be inspected. Federal law already allows this exemption for small producers, but Oregon has failed to recognize it, making it illegal for anyone to sell poultry that hasn’t been processed in either a state or USDA inspected facility—of which there is only one in Oregon. This bill is, again, friend of consumer and farmer alike, allowing eaters to get fresh local poultry direct from farmers, and create more of a supply for the growing demand for raw milk.

HB 2947 Honey Bill

This bill also passed the House, and basically requires the Oregon Department of Agriculture to adopt rules and establish standards of identity, quality requirements, and labeling requirements for honey sold in Oregon. Small scale honey producers benefit as do consumers who want pure honey as opposed to honey with undesirable stuff added (i.e. high fructose corn syrup).

All these bills help small farmers keep their costs down by not having to meet regulations created for industrial models, and they ultimately create more product diversity for the consumer. Local is the buzz these days and good reason: increased health and prosperity for us as individuals, small businesses, and communities.

The fears of legislators come in the form of food safety concerns, but as Cannon Beach Rep. Deborah Boone pointed out in the debate, few food recalls come from cottage industries. Recent recalls of eggs, peanut butter, and milk all have come from large producers who are supposedly inspected and “safe.” At the end of the day, knowing who you buy your food from and what kind of a show they are running is the best guarantee for consumers.

For info on small farms issues in Oregon,


The Artisanal Amateur

Cheese GuyA ROLLING STONE gathers no moss, but an aging cheese does grow some mold. Which ain’t to say it isn’t tasty. Mold is just one interesting and colorful component of making cheese.

Erich Miller is a food enthusiast. Specifically, this once-vegan-Midwestern-farm-boy-fluent-in-Thai-world-traveler is a cheese enthusiast. Though he didn’t grow up making cheese, his background in local and homegrown encouraged this transplant to Manzanita to sample a different form of culture.

“Cheesemaking appeals to many different sides of me. I love to cook, eat, and I love science. It’s like the twelve-year old boy with a chemistry set meets good food. And it’s a wonderful local food; it ties me to this area and this climate.”

Erich started making the most difficult cheeses that he could: camembert and cheddar. He made and put into the aging process several batches of cheddar before he was able to try one; they were all “a little bit off.” Bacteria are the secret agents of cheese, and in a damp climate keeping the good bugs from the bad in the cheese is quite tricky. Camembert only ages for a month, so after the cheddar debacle Erich switched to a cheese he could slice into sooner. This allowed him more frequent adjustment to recipes and less waste of product. “It can be a pretty steep learning curve at first, but that’s part of the process, and the fun of it. Seeing what works and what doesn’t, what creates a certain flavor or texture.”

Camembert is temperamental too, and needs very specific conditions that make it hard to do at home. Inoculated molds must out-compete the native molds to get a “clean” camembert. Never daunted, Erich took a class at OSU and learned that one of his favorite cheeses to eat were also one of the most foolproof to make by the amateur: Swiss-style cheese. The process involves heating the milk to 130°, “which means that most of the bacteria that’s just floating around in my kitchen will be killed by the time the cheese is ready to be drained and formed.”

Cheese guyErich has a local source for raw cow’s milk, and occasionally will make goat cheese from another local source. “I go and get the milk at milking time, and it’s cheese within a few hours. Now that’s fresh and local! I love that aspect of the process.”

The basic soft cheeses, such as Mascarpone, Fromage Blanc, Paneer, crème fraiche, or cream cheese, are the easiest to make, involving milk heated to a certain temperature, an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar, and an eventual draining/straining of the curd to form a mild, usually spreadable product. They can be successfully made with milk from the store, but raw milk is fresher, and therefore preferable. It has it’s own unique bacteria and flavor that influence the cheese. Fresh mild cheeses, such as mozzarella, are best with raw milk. That being said, “No one who has access to any milk should ever buy Mascarpone. Especially if you can get tartaric acid . . . it is simple to make and so delicious!”

Erich ultimately would love to sell his cheeses, but stepping from home cheesemaking to a small scale commercial venture is a enormous leap. Getting the animals and facility costs a minimum of $150,000 (for goats). Even if you don’t plan to supply the milk yourself, there are many regulations and costs associated with buying milk from another source. At the moment Erich is interested in learning as much as he can and sharing his cheeses with friends.

Foodies and anti-corporate anarchists alike find the idea of DIY food exciting. From beer to pickles to cheese, making one’s own food is the new sign of both hip and sustainable. And why not? If making a good crème fraiche for your homegrown raspberries is as simple as lemon juice in cream left on the counter a few hours, what’s to lose? Homemade artisanal foods deliver not only taste but satisfaction of a job well done. Its not a new concept—our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were DIY by necessity.

“Anyone can make basic cheese,” Erich says. “It’s one of the easiest things to do, and just requires a little time and patience.”

Next weekend project? Say cheese!”

Getting started

Basic equipment: a stainless steel pot, a big whisk, a large knife to cut curd, a colander, thermometer, cheesecloth, and a spare fridge for aging. Semi-hard and hard cheeses require a mold and press to facilitate the draining and create the form of the cheese.

Resources: Home Cheesemaking 3rd ed, Ricki Carroll, Storey Publishing 2002.  This is the all purpose beginners book that includes the basic of home cheese making and a good array of recipes.

The Cheesemakers Manual 3rd Ed., Margaret Peters Morris, published by Glengarry Cheesemaking Inc.

[Fun Fact]: The bacteria b.levins is the same bacteria that creates body odor, and is the main bacteria present in the “stinky cheeses.” It makes the cheese more meaty and robust; the cheese itself doesn’t taste or smell like the rind.


Passion for Pasture

Onion Peak Dairy
Mike Grauwen of Onion Peak Dairy, Nehalem, Oregon

Organic: From Onion Peak Dairy to your refrigerator

BUYING ORGANIC is a lot like wearing designer jeans. Some of us are driven by substance, some by style, still others ‘cause everyone else is doing it. For every foodie-anarchist-dirt-under-the-nails consumer out there, there is at least one image-conscious shopper who has no idea where their food is coming from. We trust labels; life is busy, who has time to research everything they buy? But what does that organic label really mean?

Dairy products are one area where consumers see the highest price difference between conventional and organic. What’s really happening on the ground in organic dairies, and how do those factors affect cows, consumers, farmers and the planet?

Organic Valley signLocal Flavor

Mike and Melinda Grauwen are one of four organic milk producers in Tillamook County, selling their milk to the Organic Valley co-op. The Grauwens own Onion Peak Dairy, with a view of same plus their expansive pastureland in the Nehalem Valley. With 200 cows, Onion Peak isn’t a big operation, and Mike manages with just four employees, help from a daughter or two, and the moral support of several energetic dogs.

“I want to stay small. I still have the ability to be a part of the active work of the farm and connect with my workers and the cows daily.”

Staying small is one reason why Grauwen switched to organic. Farming is a gamble at the best of times, and he believes the way to be successful and make a living as a small farmer is to find a specialty market. Onion Peak transitioned from conventional five years ago, taking one year to make the switch. “It was an expensive year,” he remembers with a rueful smile. “I fed my cows organic feed for a year but got conventional prices for my milk. In hindsight it would have been easier to just get a new herd, but I couldn’t part with the cows. Not really.” The cows had “been in the family” so to speak, for years.

Grauwen is quietly passionate about dairy farming, and has a tremendous amount of knowledge. He breaks the differences between organic and conventional down to this: 1) feed—OG is 30% pasture or more, 70% grain; 2) growth hormones—OG prohibits; 3) antibiotics—OG says no go.

Helper guy
Farmhand Jake Donaldson

Corn is for tortillas, Grass is for cows

Feed is a key aspect to animal health, the taste of the product, and ultimately the health of the planet. Organic cows must have access to pasture 24 hours a day (though in fact larger dairies regularly violate this) and 30% of their feed must come from grass. The other 70% is mainly corn, which is not a part of their natural diet and which causes many of the health issues that necessitate antibiotics. “Bad” bacteria—like Ecoli 157—proliferate in the gut of primarily grain fed cows. “Cows historically don’t eat grain. If you take away the grain you take away that bacteria. When you look at all cows as a group, it’s definitely true that the less grain you feed the healthier they are,” explains Grauwen. He pastures his cows as much as possible, and feeds well over the 30% grass stipulation.

Corn, organic or not, is a monoculture crop, and is a participant in many evils from world food shortage to the colony collapse of bees. Organic pastureland—free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers—is hardly wilderness, but at least can be part of a viable living system.

Grauwen is passionate about his grass. “It’s why I moved to Tillamook County,” he laughs. “Our primary business here, really, is to grow grass. The grass tells us everything.” And, because his cows were mainly pastured anyway, another reason he switched to organic.

Organic dairying leads to robust soil and grass. Cows can be pastured earlier, longer, and stay healthier. Grass-fed cows=sweeter milk=happy consumers. “I’ve seen my pastures improve over 15 years . . . everything is interconnected . . . you make one step, and then everything kind of rearranges, then you make another step, and things rearrange, and you are changing your management and philosophies and these new things come about.”

Keeping it clean

Dropping antibiotics was the biggest change for Grauwen. Though grass-fed cows tend to be healthier, they still become unwell or sustain injury. In organic rules, sick cows must be removed from the herd and treated in isolation. If she gets well she still must be sold. Not a lot of motivation for farmers to treat sick animals. “It’s one of the flaws within organic,” Grauwen admits. “Costs a lot of money to treat one cow, and she’s lost to you as a milker no matter what.” As long as the animals aren’t in pain or losing weight they are still viable for meat but they cannot be rotated back into the herd.

Hormones are the biggest turn-off for consumers. Even though conventional milk producers can claim to be BST free, there is little enforcement of hormone use within the industry. The hormone isn’t easily detectable without expensive tests. Of course, it can therefore be in use in an organic setting too, especially the mega-cow factory dairies that supply the likes of the Horizon and many store brands. But the small organic farmer has much to lose by taking such a risk, and most small dairyfolk have a commitment to the ethics and standards of organic practice.

Papers, please

Certification is one big expense for farmers and a powerful cue consumers look to when making a buying choice. But it doesn’t guarantee quality or ethical practice.

If a farmer doesn’t get certified, he doesn’t have to pay the certifier. Thus the certifier is inherently invested in deciding the farm passes muster. Certifiers typically aren’t farmers, and when they come to a site they spend “10 minutes looking at the farm and 2 hours on the records. They aren’t farmers… only farmers can really come onto another farm and see what’s wrong,” Grauwen states.

Single cowCertifiers and processors are dependent on the big factory farms that provide a large quantity of product and pay top dollar for certification. The engine of the organic dairy industry is the factory farm—they help write the rules, sweeten the cash flow and keep the price down for end users—so there is no incentive to get rid of them.

“I think the bottom line is that consumers need to make their own assurances. They think they are getting so much more for their money buying organic, and in many cases they are, but there’s a lot of misinformation and holes in the system,” Grauwen admits.

Organic Valley is the best brand available to denizens of the North Coast. Unless you have a clandestine local milk source (most commercial dairies, OG or not, are contracted only to sell to their co-ops), the OV label will at least give consumers some chance for local organic milk. Onion Peak milk is picked up every other day and trucked to McMinnville. Cornucopia Institute ( is a non-profit watchdog for the dairy industry and rates Organic Valley with 4 out of 5 cows for quality.

At the end of the day

Despite the vagaries of farming, Grauwen clearly wouldn’t have life any other way. Descended from a Dutch dairy family, he grew up milking cows, and is the only child in his family who stuck with farming. Of his own family, one daughter stays on the farm and helps raise calves and milk. Being outside, doing diverse and physical work, seeing the changes in his land and animals—this is what Grauwen ruminates on, standing in the winter rain. “It’s good work, if you are cut out for it. Not easy, but . . .” he gestures to the land around him. “Look at all the life here. It’s a complex ecosystem, and we’re a part of it.”

Some Like it Raw

Raw milk enthusiasts are serious about their milk. Like other raw foodists, these folks claim that pasteurized dairy products are a spurious knock –off of the pure goodness cows have to offer. And they aren’t afraid of the potential health risks, because they know their farmers.

While raw milk is legal for sale in Oregon under certain regulations, farmers with more than 10 cows and who are contracted to sell to a co-op can get in big trouble for selling even a gallon of raw. The risks aren’t worth it, but often folks with one or two cows don’t have the means to keep their milk sterile. Still, a network of cow sharing and milk delivery car pools exists in Oregon and Washington. Farmers cannot advertise or deliver their raw product, so a kind of black market feeling pervades the raw milk scene. Cowsharing is one way around the delivery issue, and works kind of like a CSA where customers buy a share in a cow.

The Weston T. Price Foundation is one of the biggest proponents for raw milk. “Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.” (from their raw milk project website,

Weigh that with the info put forth by the ag industry: dozens of infectious diseases have been linked to the consumption of raw milk, including salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis and one of the more deadly strains of E. coli that can cause kidney failure and sometimes death.The E. coli toxin basically destroys the internal organs from the inside out. Hmmmm . . .

Will you go raw?



Local Fare

Revolution Farms
Volunteers at Re-Evolution Farm in Manzanita. Photo: BrianSchulz

R-evolutionary Education

R-EVOLUTION FARMS in Nehalem is getting’ their education groove on, with affordable, accessible, and practical classes for all y’all putting on your food security hats. Ginger Salkowski and Co. get down to basics of chickens, beekeeping, small scale farming, marketing strategies for small farms, farmtech (infrastructure), solar technology and other off-the-grid bidness. This fantastic small farm, only a few years old, is burgeoning with food, energy, ideas, and community-building zest. The farm offers a new expanded CSA this year, for coast residents from Rockaway to Cannon Beach. Two new acres under cultivation extends the CSA season from May through Thanksgiving. Want to look around? The farm offers tours on Saturdays from noon-3.


  • Introduction to Permaculture for small farms & gardens. Saturday, April 9th: noon to 4pm, $40.
  • Raising chickens for eggs and meat. Saturday, April 16th: 1-4pm, $40.
  • Coming up: Loving your dirt; soil amendments, cover cropping and organic fertilizers: May 1st; Intro to Biodynamic compost and DIY compost tea brewers: May 8th; Building your own Mud Rocket stove: May 28th; Learn to Build Stuff, 7 day long farmitechture intensive: June 13-19th

Classes take place on the farm, 77281 Hwy 53—call or email for driving directions. Web: Email: Tel: 503-368-3044.

• • •

Food Roots: On the job, online and on sale!

Move over Peace Corps, Uncle Sam’s got a brand new bag. FoodCorps is a new national service program being piloted in ten states this year. Good for Oregon as one of the many-called-few-chosen states, and the Oregon Dept. of Ag who is the sponsoring host for five FoodCorps Service Members. Tillamook County’s very own Food Roots has been selected as the only rural community service site (out of five state-wide sites). Service members will toil in the soil throughout Oregon, developing and tending school gardens, creating Farm to School programs and conducting hands-on nutrition education in communities of need. The ultimate goal of FoodCorps is to increase the health and prosperity of vulnerable children while investing in the next generation of farmers and public health leaders. Sound groovy? Check out for info on how to apply for member positions.

Food Roots also has a fresh new website. The new design is at the same address (, and provides a direct link to the North Coast Food Guide on the home page. Another new feature on website is the Beginning Farmer’s Resources page which provides links for individuals interested in pursuing a career in food production, farm internship/job shadowing, Federal and State Agriculture resources, and other food system related resources.

Food Roots Annual Incredible Edible Plant and Fruit Tree Sale! Fruit trees, veggies, flowers, and herbs. All veg starts grown in Tillamook County using organic methods; many heirloom and native varieties.

Saturday, April 23rd from 10 AM – 2 PM at Food Roots’ Office location, 2105 Fourth Street in Tillamook. Web: Email: Tel: 503-842-3154, x2

• • •

Growing Edibles on the North Coast–Theresa Retzlaff

On Saturday, April 30, at 1:00 p.m. the Seaside Public Library hosts Organic Farmer Teresa Retzlaff as she speaks about Growing Edibles on the North Coast. Thes event will take place in the Community Room and refreshments will be served.

Teresa Retzlaff is an Organic Farmer, Nursery Grower, and Gardener who has been growing on leased land at Ostman Farm in Seaside for many years. She recently purchased a new piece of land called 46 North Farm and is in the process of turning it into a working operation. On the new acreage Teresa will be growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, and of course she will be selling her great edible plant starts for all of you coastal gardening enthusiasts.

If you are stumped about growing vegetables in our short and cantankerous growing season, Teresa will be sharing her expertise on the subject. 1131 Broadway, across from the Swimming Pool and Youth Center. (503)738-6742 or visit us at and

• • •

Lamb with mumLambs=Springtime; Help them out at Lamb School

Love the sight of young lambs gamboling in the field as one of the heralds of Spring? Ever think that you could be involved in bringing the fleecy darlings into the world? Or thinking of starting your own farm and want a little hands-on? Look no further than the Wahkiakum County/WSU Extension Lamb Management School.

April 29 or 30: 9am-4pm. At the Patrick & Hollie McKay-Beach farm on Puget Island, WA. Contact Loren and Caroline Jennings, Tel: 360-849-4023.


CSAs • Your Community Supported Agriculture Food boxes

CSA boxThe North Coast grows more and more food sovereign and secure! Now coastal residents have even more choice for their Community Supported Agriculture food boxes. CSA’s support small farms in good times and bad, and offer a fun, regular, “grab bag” of veggies and other items as specified. Lower prices than market plus the investment in your local farm make a CSA make sense.

  • R-evolution Gardens: Sign up for multiple seasons, 7-week blocks, whole or half shares. Seasons runs May through November and include veggies and an option for eggs. Rockaway to Nehalem delivery on Wednesdays, Manzanita to Cannon Beach on Saturdays. Limited to 30 shares per delivery date. Work for trade options available. Excellent website has all the details:; 503-368-3044.
  • Green Angel Gardens: Shares available in 8-week blocks year round, weekly or every other week. Boxes may include organic veggies, fruit, Blue Scorcher bread, local eggs. Delivery to Long Beach, Gearhart, Astoria & Ocean Park on Fridays. Work for trade options available. Website:; 360-244-0064.
  • Walluski Organics: Shares for this new, primarily indoor-grown organic CSA can be purchased for the whole season or three month blocks (5/5-7/28, 8/4-10/28) and will include plenty of customizable options: eggs, and preferences for specific veggies from week to week, depending on availability. Delivery for weekly boxes in Astoria and Warrenton; half shares are available as a bi-weekly box or weekly ½ box. Email:; 503-470-5530.

Astoria Indoor Garden Supply – Grow Grow Grow Your Own

Astoria Indoor Garden Supply
Oscar Nelson and Gary Reynolds at Astoria Indoor Garden continue to expand at the Corner of 13th and Exchange. Look for Disk Frisbee opportunities this spring/summer in the large parking area, and hydroponic demos in their adjoining retail space.

Mention hydroponics, grow lights, and reflective surfaces in the context of indoor gardening and many minds will travel in one direction. While plenty of folks garden inside for recreation, even more are looking at the food security and self-sufficiency factor. In challenging climates or urban settings, or for those without other access to community gardens or land, setting aside that spare bedroom for a bit o’ lettuce, peas, and beans makes economic sense.

Of course, indoor gardening, with its dependence on electrically powered lights, hydroponic/aeroponic systems, and ventilation, isn’t the logical method for the post-tsunami getting-back-to-nature scenarios. But in the interim, in the interests of perking up our long gray winters (and summers!), tomatoes beckoning from the walk-in closet don’t sound half bad.

Astoria Indoor Gardening is the bright idea of Oscar Nelson and Gary Reynolds. The two North coasters, strangers until being introduced by a mutual acquaintance last summer, each had the idea to start an indoor garden shop. Nelson found the backing, and together he and Reynolds performed a kamikaze remodel of their location. “Seventeen very adventurous working days” turned the storefront from raw concrete and junk into the bright colorful space that now greets the customer’s eye.

Nelson and Reynolds are excited about indoor gardening, whether it’s houseplants, veggies, or flowers. And they’ve got big plans.

“We want a greenhouse on the roof, a community indoor garden, get a whole room for starts planted for the Sunday market. Oscar and I are going a different route than almost any indoor shop around. We are actually showing people that you can do this,” states Reynolds.

Some starts are at the shop now, and gardeners can find all the equipment they need to begin growing indoors, from simple ebb and flow systems to more complex set-ups. Seeds, fertilizer, bulbs—Astoria Indoor has all you need to get up and growing.

Look for their booth at the Master Gardener’s seminar on April 16. Astoria Indoor Garden Supply is open 7 days a week, from 10-6. Oscar and Gary are sincere, friendly, and willing to help with all your indoor gardening needs and questions. Tel: 503.468.0606 web: email:
Hipfish finds Astoria Indoor Gardening owners Oscar Nelson and Gary Reynolds at home, as it were, at their several-month old venture in Astoria.

Hipfish: So why indoor gardening? Why you? Why now?

Oscar Nelson: I came from the auto industry, but ultimately wasn’t happy working for someone else and the constant consumerism. I wanted to do something on my own, more in line with my values and beliefs. I found a private investor, got business plans together, and was brought together with Gary. With some money behind us, we were able to turn this garage—in about 17 very adventurous working days—from raw concrete and just a lot of stuff to what is here now. Our customers and community have been awesome. We’ve had some ups and downs with folks thinking we’re something we’re not. But overall people are just ecstatic that we’re here. More and more people want to grow their own food, take control of their lives.

Gary Reynolds: I couldn’t do construction anymore and had the idea for the store for a while. A friend brought me together with Oscar and here we are. We’re living our dream—we both show up, slap each other and say, ‘are we really doing this?’ It’s great to be a part of the community here, with the Co-op and Astoria Hempworks, the Fort George . . . We want a greenhouse on the roof, a community indoor garden, get a whole room for starts planted for the Sunday market. Oscar and I are going a different route than almost any indoor shop around. We are actually showing people that you can do this.

HF: What can people expect to find here?

ON: We have all the supplies for people to do indoor gardening.  We have simple systems for people starting out—ebb and flow containers that will fit in the corner of a room—to more elaborate set-ups. A variety of lights, heirloom, non-GMO seeds, nutrients, and soil. “Smart pots,” made of a special polypropylene fabric, that supply more oxygen to the plant roots—lots of things people have never seen before. As Gary said, we are getting geared up to do starts for the Sunday market, and we’ve got houseplants, vegetable and flower starts in the shop right now. We have a big vision. There is a so much to know and do with gardening indoors. You know, you are basically playing Nature. The roots have different requirements being grown inside . . . the lights, temperature, everything needs timing. It’s a delicate balance, almost like an artwork getting these things in line.

HF: Seems like indoor gardening is a trend; there’s a few shops in place or getting started here on the coast. So why would I garden indoors? What is the basic space requirement I would need?

GR: 4’ by 4’ for someone that is just beginning is really the way to go. So you don’t get overwhelmed. We advise people to start small, see if you like it, and if it fits your lifestyle. I hate to see people buy thousands of dollars worth of equipment and then they never use it. You can get a lot of food out of a 4’ x 4’ space–like a walk-in closet.

ON: The reason to garden indoors is to have control over it. Outdoors you are constrained to seasons and times; having the lights indoors enables you to garden on your time. The lights affect your mood and the whole indoor space where you use them. Plus there’s less watering with the automatic systems, and virtually no weeding. It’s great for folks who can’t do all the physical labor of outdoor gardening.

GR: Different systems are available, from reflective tents to basic ebb and flow systems. You can get started for about $350. You can grow a lot of food for that.

ON: Like outdoor gardening it’s really about seeing life from the plant’s perspective. Once you get the details down of timing, nutrients and so on, you can have incredibly productive plants. And many people think plants grown indoors taste better.

HF: Do you find people using indoor systems to augment outdoor gardens?

GR: Well, for example, last year we had a really bad summer. If you want to grow tomatoes say, it’s almost impossible to grow them outside. With this system, you can grow them year round if you want. It’s a great winter project. It’s a trend for people up north, like Alaska.

ON: Being able to provide for yourself at least something, especially in the coming years, is going to be imperative. You can’t rely on big corporations to give you everything you need.

HF: Is there anything that you just can’t grow inside?

GR: Not really—space is the issue. Pumpkins and squash might be a challenge . . . you just have to have the space. You can grow peas, beans  . . . as long as you’ve got a way for them to grow up the wall.

ON: The grow boxes we have, you can grow 10 stalks of corn in one of them. Eggplant, potatoes. It’s amazing what you can do, and all with less work than traditional gardening.

GR: We’re not the average joe indoor garden shop you come into. Give us some time, be patient, and you’ll see us grow. We welcome everyone’s interests: orchids, veggies, whatever. We’re happy to help in any way. We really want to be a part of the community. We’ll be at the Master Gardener’s seminar at the fairgrounds on April 16, with information, starts and equipment—come say hello.

Astoria Indoor Garden Supply is open 7 days a week, from 10-6. Oscar and Gary are sincere, friendly, and willing to help with all your indoor gardening needs and questions. Tel: 503.468.0606 web: email:

Fun Fact:
Growing orchids indoors cleanses the air of volatile compounds—plus it’s hip!







Yes Virginia, Spring is coming! Master Gardeners annual Seminar April 16 CC Fairgrounds

Sean Hogan
Sean Hogan of Cistus Nursery

Seed catalogs not doing it for you anymore? Need even more of a promise of Spring shot in the arm? Mark your calendars for the Clatsop County Master Gardeners “Spring into Gardening” seminar at the Clatsop Co. fairgrounds, Saturday, April 16 from 9am to 4pm.

The day focuses on the topic of coastal gardening, and features keynote speaker Sean Hogan. “Amazing Plants for the Northwest” is Hogan’s topic; this Portland born, world-traveling, and mega-knowledgeable horticulturalist owns Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island. Hogan has lectured extensively in North America and Europe about his explorations of South America, South Africa and the western regions of the United States and northern Mexico. His writing and photos can be found in a wide range of horticultural and botanical literature and magazines. In addition he has edited approximately 20,000 entries of Flora (2003) and Trees for All Seasons (2008) both published by the Timber Press.

Seminar hi-jinks include a plant sale, vendor area, classes, advice (the Dr. is in!) and a raffle. Local land-girl extraordinaire Teresa Retzlaff, co-owner of 46 North Farm and Development Director for the North Coast Land Conservancy will advise on coast-loving edible plants. Beating back the bugs organically will be addressed by OSU Extension agent Chip Bubl, and Joy Jones, also of OSU Extension service, will be on hand to sow encouraging words, tips, and practical information about soil amendment.

Register before April 11 for $15, or ante up $18 at the door; Seniors $12 and students are free with a valid ID. Contact the OSU Extension office to register: 2001 Marine Dr., Astoria; 503-325-8573.

Scholarship Award For Seniors

Clatsop Co. Master Gardeners are greening up more than your thumb and your garden. The group also offers a scholarship for graduating seniors interested in horticulture. Awards go to one or two county graduates, and range from $500 to $1000. Candidates can pick up an application from their high school counselor or OSU Extension. Applications due April 15, 2011.


Oh Rescue bee, honey…

BeeSLOGGING THROUGH knee deep, fine-as-sand soil, sweating under the noonday sun, panting with the sweet thrill of making it to the top and boy weren’t those sandwiches going to taste good . . . the hike to the summit of Mt. St. Helen’s was arduous but worth it. We had just settled on the edge of the crater, mountains stretching up and down two states like the vertebrae of a huge slumbering earth monster, when your friendly neighborhood law enforcer tripped over to our picnic site.

“Hi folks. Beautiful day, isn’t it? Can I see your permit?”

Uh. Yeah. Permit . . . yes, my hiking date had mentioned that we were supposed to have one to be up here, but . . .

“Well . . .”

And out of nowhere came a pint-sized stripy superhero, flying smacko! into my arm.

The bee buzzled off and I was left shouting ow! while ranger lady worried about band-aids and anaphylactic shock, hiking permit totally forgotten. I’m grateful to bees for more than a sting, of course (though in all probability my little hero wasn’t a honey bee). Honey, often called the “food of the gods,” is truly one of the most miraculous and delectable foodstuffs we get to eat. Thinking about the process of how honey is made—basically by bees sucking up nectar and then having other bees suck the nectar from their stomachs and “chew” it before spreading it into the combs—one might not be inclined to want to ingest it. What other products chewed by bugs do we eat? But the delicious syrupy goldenness of it, flavored uniquely by season and flower, is too good not to enjoy.

My favorite way to savor honey is on English muffins, corn bread, or a bowl of cereal, or occasionally right off the spoon. Raw, unprocessed honey is a superfood that provides antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients. Many commercial “big brand” honeys are pasteurized and even contain high fructose corn syrup. Heating honey can destroy its beneficial qualities, so while it’s often used in baking

and cooking, the most healthful way to enjoy honey is right out of the jar, or simply paired with other foods. Try a good blue cheese, with crisp rye toasts drizzled with buckwheat honey. Or pears and smooth, deep miticrema, a soft, sheep’s milk cheese from Spain, accompanied by lavender honey. True vanilla bean ice cream with raspberries and wildflower honey—what could be sweeter? And an idea I’d like to try: robust buckwheat honey drizzled over chili (never mind the cornbread!)

Ancient civilizations had varied ideas for this golden elixir, and used honey as embalming fluid (only for the elite), to make the honeycakes necessary to cross to the underworld after death (Cerberus was hungry), as an antibacterial agent to heal wounds and burns, a gold equivalent to pay taxes, and a secret weapon to defeat armies. “Mad honey,” made by bees from the nectar of laurels, rhododendrons, and azaleas, contained compounds that could put one alternately in an ecstatic trance or complete nervous system collapse. Hmmmm . . . seems there’s more to this substance that sweetening tea!

[Fun Facts]:
+ Honey was used to preserve the head of Vlad III Tepes, better known as Dracula, in route to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
+ Almost all bees we see gathering nectar are females.
+ The average person is not dangerously allergic to bee stings; in fact said average person can tolerate about 10 bee stings per pound of body weight. But maybe don’t try this at home . . .


Is There an Angel in the House? Help sustain sustainable Green Angel Gardens

Larkin Stentz, venerable organic gardner, will save the farm. Photo: Dinah Urell

WE’RE NOT in Kansas anymore, Toto. Hurricane Failed Economy has been blasting homes, farms, businesses and families to bits for a while now. Larkin Stentz and his teaching farm Green Angel Gardens, in Long Beach , WA, has been valiantly trying to keep his head above water. But the storm surge is rising high, and the precious community resource that is Green Angel Gardens is about to be swallowed under a wave of foreclosure.

Ah, the F-word, common enough theses days, especially in the agricultural community, but none the less tragic for its seeming everyday occurrence. Stentz has been eye to eye with his banks for over a year, working to responsibly negotiate a new arrangement that would allow him to keep his business and residence, and continue the community work that Green Angel Gardens is known for. Stentz was challenged to navigate his way through the inhuman “press one for English” maze of corporate banking until he contacted his state senators on advice from Oregon Senator Betsy Johnson.

Stentz’s story was then passed along by Senator Maria Cantwell to the Office of the Comptroller and Currency in the US Treasury Dept., who in turn contacted the lending institution. From there Stentz was able to actually begin to negotiate the terms of his first mortgage. But the bank collecting on his smaller second mortgage is not willing to talk. Stentz received his notice for foreclosure auction: April 15.

“What I have learned is that the banking system is totally overwhelmed, and the only practice they have in place is foreclosure. It has nothing to do with humanity or the world situation,” Stentz laments.

But he refuses to spend valuable time and energy on the what-ifs presented by the looming auction. Instead he focuses on possible solutions and hopes that there will be a miracle to save Green Angel Gardens.

Green Angel GardensSearch and Rescue

Washington State has some creative folks fired up and taking things into their own hands to help stall small farm/business failure. Two organizations, based in more northern counties in Washington, are successfully matching investors with small farms and ranches to help local food sources stay afloat. Such opportunities keep investors’ money local and often offer a more significant return than other traditional investments. Slow Money Northwest ( “catalyzes investment and donation opportunities that strengthen the Pacific Northwest’s sustainable food economy.”

Another group of citizens interested in facilitating financial investments to help local businesses and individuals has formed a Local Investing Opportunities Network, or LION.

LION connects investors to businesses in their area. This organization is a part of Local 20-20 (, which is committed to sustainability, economy, community, and ecology on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Stentz would love to see local area investors come up with their own approach to these models. “The local investor group, that would be my favorite option,” he says. “I only need to raise $9,000 to satisfy the one lender. Then I could regroup and focus on what I do best, which is running Green Angel.” A local investor group could then negotiate its own loan with Stentz, or possibly buy the farm outright and then lease it to him. Stentz’s eventual goal is to turn Green Angel into a non-profit community resource that isn’t dependent on one individual. “I’m trying to create a new spiritual and energetic model for planet earth—and show people, hey, this sustainability stuff isn’t that hard. It can be done.”

Green Angel KidsVisions of Green

Green Angel Gardens is fundamentally a teaching farm. Born over a decade ago as a sideline to Stentz’s successful landscaping business, the site serves as the one place on the Long Beach Peninsula where children can come and learn about sustainable gardening and technologies. More than 200 local schoolchildren have toured the farm to learn stewardship principles. Green Angel is registered with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and has hosted many international interns; Stentz has annually made internships possible for young people to come and work in exchange for room and board (legal in Washington; interns must be paid in Oregon).

“It’s been invaluable having all the help, the young people here. I want this place to be a community resource. When the school kids come, they love it. Especially the chickens. It’s a joy to be passing on ways to take care of the earth to them. I don’t want that to end—for their sake.”

Green Angel Gardens is also home to the only county-approved wind turbine and makes much of its own electricity. Solar energy heats the water, and composting toilets create usable “humanure.” The CSA has fed many a family in Astoria and on the Peninsula, and currently has 25 families subscribed. The Farm Store is open from 10am to 4pm every day and stocked with organic veggies.

Green Angel PhotoStentz is busy with spring plant starts, running the CSA, and will be helping create WIC gardens as part of a grant he wrote with the Pacific County Health Dept. He’s active in getting a farm to school program started locally, and has all the usual daily chores of a gardener with hundreds of plants under his care. One intern on the farm helps, but Stentz is feeling the strain.

“I need help,” he says. “I’m hoping for a green angel to help me rescue this farm.”

Concerned folks who want to see Green Angel Gardens weather the storm are encouraged to donate through the website, send a check in the mail, or call or email him directly to talk about ways to help. The Fort George Brewery will host a FarmAid event on April 9 where locals can raise a glass to community and drop off a few dead presidents.


Green Angel Gardens is located on 6807 Sandridge Rd., Long Beach, WA 98631 Located just North of 67th on Sandridge. Tel: 360-244-0064 Email: Web:


Surya Healing Arts Healing Services and More

Surya SignWith seven pointed crystals aimed toward a table, cables snaking here and there, and the variations of colored light pulsating from one clear, pointed wand to another, the Vogel Crystal Table may look straight from the set of Star Trek, but is, in fact, an extraordinary healing system. Pioneered by IBM scientist Marcel Vogel, these crystals utilize different colors and frequencies to aid in healing. Combined with other modalities, the Vogel crystals can offer folks suffering from emotional or physical pain some literal light at the end of the tunnel. And the best part is, curious clients needn’t travel any farther than Cannon Beach to take advantage of this unique alternative therapy.

Deborah Anderson is the resident healer and proprietor of Surya Healing Arts. Though her retail shop has had a few incarnations on the coast, the most recent is a cozy building in mid-town Cannon Beach. Upon entering, treats for the body, mind and spirit beckon from every corner: essential oils for aiding chakra attunement, coral and lapis ‘teapots’ from Tibet, healing arts books, jewelry, and more. But the heart of the business, for Deborah, is toward the rear of the shop, in the treatment room. “I love the retail, and try to stock only things which really contribute to healing—like the jewelry, all the stones have therapeutic properties. But the real satisfying work is with people, assisting their healing.”

Enter the Vogel table, and Deborah’s impres- sive list of studies and experience in the realm of alternative energy therapies. Originally a coastal gal, Deb left home to pursue what became a calling in healing arts. She began with Reiki, the simple and powerful energy modality discovered by Dr. Mikao Usui in 1922. Open- ing to the possibilities afforded by Reiki, Deb found a hunger in herself for more knowledge. The School for Enlightenment and Healing, in Asheville, NC, offered a rigorous and intensive three-year program in energy work, and after completing this course Deb began her own practice in New York City. “It was a busy time, a successful time—immensely rewarding. But like everything, it [the practice] had its life span. I was called to come back to the coast.” Return she did, in 1999, reconnecting with family and the landscape of home.

Like any practitioner of alternative healing, Deborah’s method is unique to her skills, and includes the Vogel crystal work. The crystals (man-made and specifically faceted quartz) are aligned to the chakras, and emit light with different frequencies depending on the work being done. Clients feel a deep relaxation and a “lifting” of energy when under the lights. Deborah uses sound recording in conjunction with the crystals, to encourage clients to reach the deep brainwave states (delta, theta) that assist healing. She also uses her hands-on techniques. “The crystal work essentially helps people get out of their own way,” she explains. “Deep relaxation and the light energy allows the clients to let go of what is currently blocking them on physical, emotional, or spiritual levels.” Deborah feels that clients should walk away with tangible results in the first session, but like all healing work, there is generally a need for ongoing treatment and the client must bring their own willingness to heal.

Intuitive reading is part of Deborah’s practice too, and most treatments begin with time spent in conversation with the client. “The healing takes place, really, while we are talking. And they will have shifted several times before we even get to the table. It’s amazing, and you can just see their energy transform.” Sessions typically last 1.5 to 2 hours.

Deborah is starting a Reiki mastery program as well. Her approach is high integrity and will require a level of commitment from her students. To receive mastery, students will be required to receive a certain amount of healings from her to aid their own personal process work, as well as have a practicum requirement. Deborah will provide practice clients, one-on-one time with all students, as well as the healings with her as components of the mastery package. “I feel confident that by the time you get your Reiki certificate from me, that you are going to be confident and your clients will be confident in you. There will be time and practice behind it.” Though every one has the innate ability to be a healer, proper apprenticeship is crucial to navigate the very complex world of working so deeply and intimately with others.

Vogel WandSurya Healing Arts is more than just another Cannon Beach gift shop. The store offers a visual oasis of international items and opportunities for customers to enter into healing on a variety of levels. From purchasing the perfect item for a personal altar, to indulging in essential oils, to working with Deborah on specific issues, there is an access point for everyone. Deborah’s friendly and open manner is inviting and easy to be with.

“We’re not broken, we just need to unfold. With the type of work I do, that occurs slowly, gently, and kindly,” asserts Deborah. “There are all kinds of ways for healing to happen.”

Surya Healing Arts is located at 115 Sunset Blvd. in Cannon Beach. Web: Email: Tel: 503-436-8818.

ALSO: In-house Henna Artist Ann Perkins is available by appointment, and shop Surya for a great selection of yoga DVDs.