Saturday, October 29, 2011

At Shepherd's Farm in Carpinteria

FARM NEWS, Halloween Edition

By Fred Owens

I toured Shepherd's Farm in Carpinteria this week. They grow 40 acres of organic vegetables and have been doing that since 1973. It is a beautiful and tidy farm, well-managed. They sell vegetables at six farmers markets and provide more than 150 CSA boxes each week to customers in nearby Santa Barbara. They also wholesale to local restaurants.

I tasted Shepherd's strawberries. I picked them right in the field -- quite tasty and just sweet enough. They grow the strawberries through a white plastic sheet for weed control. These were first year plants, just set out this summer, and it was a pretty little patch of fruit.

I spoke with Antonio and Mark, two Hispanic gentlemen, brothers, who have worked for Shepherd for twenty years. It's good to have steady hands like that. I also spoke with Ricky and Josh, two interns who had been working there for several months -- they are part of the WOOF program.

And Kjessie, the farm manager, who keeps the ducks not lined up in a row, but quacking to the same tune.

A lot of Happy Campers are working at Shepherd's Farm. And last I met old Tom Shepherd himself. I asked him did you ever grow too much of something and then you can't sell it? He said, yes, that happens.

We had that happen at Love House Dahlias this year. We grew more sweet peas than we could sell, and then we grew more dahlias than we could sell.

This is so typical of American agriculture -- farmers are much better at growing than selling.

Autumn Comes. It's getting cold in the morning these days. I use the space heater for a bit. Pretty soon I'll be using the propane furnace. I live in a spacious motor home. The propane furnace really cranks out some good heat on a frosty morning. I was warm here all last winter. But I don't use the hot water heater -- it's too wasteful. Why would I heat up 10 gallons of water in the morning? It's better to go over to the big house and take a shower there. And then I only have a few dishes to wash, so I heat up some water on the stove for that chore.

I set out more winter vegetables this week -- red and green cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, romaine lettuce. We started all that from seed, but yesterday I bought a six pack of white snapdragons and a six pack of stock -- got them at Flora Gardens in Ojai as a treat, and I will plant them today.

We have two new dogs on the premises -- I want to be careful about what I say -- they bark a lot. Yesterday I was out weed-eating the aisles between all the raised beds -- there's about 75 raised beds here -- so this takes a while. And the dogs kept barking while I worked. They will just have to get used to the sound of the weedeater -- I hope. But I was muttering dog-threats under my breath.

Jobs and Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs eliminated thousands of jobs. His computers launched the era of desktop publishing and self-publishing, which has resulted in the loss of thousands of editorial, typographic, and graphic design positions.

I think the greatest loss is the editorial positions. The editors were the grown ups, the ones who said let's stop and think about this. Now anybody can say anything to everybody else. It's all freedom and no discipline. It's self-esteem with no self-restraint.

Under the old scheme, we had the writer/journalist -- he was a teenager, rambunctious and idealistic, but a bit out of control. The editor was the grownup, the adult.

And the publisher --- this is key to the understanding -- the publisher was infantile. One can function at a very high level and still be motivated by the infantile ego. Me! Me! Me! That's the theme of Citizen Kane -- he with the monstrous, infantile ego. And this was not a bad thing -- that driving force -- as long as you had that editorial control to keep the train on the rails.

But now, in the era of self-publishing, we have become increasingly infantile. We can mess our pants and no one can judge us for doing that. No one will clean it up either.

Steve Jobs and Being a Father. Steve Jobs, who accomplished so much and changed our lives, said, in his biography, that he wished he had been a better father to his children. I agree with that. If he had been a devoted father and in doing so not created any of the fabulous Apple computers, then the world would have been a better place. Being a good father is the best way to change the world.

Income Inequality. Severe income inequality has often resulted in social upheaval. That's an historic pattern, not an opinion. Just ask Marie Antoinette. Conservatives argue that income inequality is a good thing or at least harmless and that we should not indulge in resentment against our wealthiest citizens. But the pattern persists. Just ask the Czar -- oh they don't have a czar in Russia anymore. He was overthrown. It should never have come to such violence. And the Russian people made an even worse choice after getting rid of the Czar.

But we can do better than that. In America, the great industrial age of the late 19th century led to the fabulous wealth of the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers. But we did not give in to a violent revolution against the upper class. Instead, we introduced progressive regulation, such as the income tax -- which prevented "class warfare." As did FDR's New Deal, which saved capitalism.

So, to repeat, resentment against wealth is human nature. We should not envy those who have so much more than we do, but we are not angels, we are Democrats.

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