Friday, February 03, 2012

Losing the Farm

LOSING THE FARM. After almost thirty years of farming vegetables on forty acres in Carpinteria, Tom Shepherd is losing the farm. It was leased land all this time, and the owners’ divorce has forced the sale of the property and that means Tom’s departure after such a long tenure.

He seems to be taking this quietly, but there was a palpable sadness in the air when I stopped by the farm office last week and spoke with the manager. Maybe a dozen workers who have made this place their life’s work will have to go elsewhere – oh, they will find something because the demand for fresh organic produce is growing yearly and there is a need for those skills. But it is sad.

Tom has been a presence at the Santa Barbara farmers market every Saturday, and he made the farm fun by doing things like having a pie contest last autumn. People brought their pies for judging, and the rest of us bought tickets to taste all the pies and cast ballots for the winner – eating pies in the midst of an herb garden bursting with aroma and succulent, savory tastes. Well, it’s a movable feast.

Shepherd’s Farm has made no official announcement, but I have talked with the farm manager and a Shepherd family member about the closing.

Let them know you care – they’ve been growing wonderful vegetables for many years and they are good people.

NORM'S HEIRLOOM TOMATOES. Norm Bauer, along with his brother Roland and his son Karl, grow some of the finest heirloom tomatoes in California, grown hydroponically in their greenhouses on the Oxnard Plain, sold in ten-pound flats to the finest restaurants in Los Angeles, under their brand name “West Coast Nurseries.”

I stopped by last week to pick up a sample flat, to carry up to a catering company in Santa Barbara. Norm has four varieties – Great Whites, Cherokees, German Striped, and Brandywine….. so much good flavor. Norm also sells to the public on weekends at the Camarillo farmers market.

LOVE HOUSE DAHLIAS. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, sweet peas are popping and dahlias are perking up. It’s an early spring here in Southern California. Blossoms are coming out ahead of schedule. There has not been enough rain, but the natives tell me this is how it is. Some years are dry, and some years are even drier, and every now and then it gets wet.

Okay, that’s the farm news. Now I will mention the recent boisterous weekend in Oakland where the wild folk had a dustup with the police. This gives me a chance to retail my own story of arrest and detention back in the day.

OCCUPY OAKLAND: Arrests may top 400; City Hall vandalized

“Officials surveyed damage Sunday from a volatile Occupy protest that resulted in hundreds of arrests the day before and left the historic City Hall vandalized after demonstrators broke into the building, smashed display cases, cut electrical wires and burned an American flag.” -- quote from the LA Times.

Hmmm ..... "smashed display cases" ? -- what fun! – perhaps the arrestees issued taunting remarks directed at the gendarmes – add a bit of spray paint here and there, and a few tossed bottles -- ah the joys of shouting "we're taking over" !

LAURA SAID The haves and have-nots are gonna clash because there is too much disparity. I am not for entitlements without working but when jobs are not available and you don't see any prospects...anger gets in the way!

I agree. Too much income inequality causes a great deal of social friction, i.e., smashed display cases. I don't have a solution, but I'm not breaking any glass either.

CAROL SAID most of the protesters have never paid taxes, but use all the roads, schools, and libraries -- freedom good men and women are dying for. Not a good way to make their point.....

They don't need anyone's permission to make their point. I remember when I smashed a window in 1968. It was at the US consulate in Toronto. I was a student at the University of Toronto and I was opposed to the war. So, not being good at participating in organized opposition, I made my own statement, to wit, I got up at 2 a.m. and walked the mile or so across the urban landscape of Toronto, from my student apartment, to the somewhat imposing US consulate.....with no plan, but when I got there at about 3 a.m. and it was totally quiet on the street, I somehow found a LARGE ROCK and heaved it through the plate glass window on the front door of the building. After surveying the damage, I quickly departed.

That was the only time in my life I deliberately damaged something..... I think, years later, maybe I shouldn't have done it..... I mean, Toronto was such a sleepy crime-free big city at that time, so I was truly disturbing the peace.... now US consulates and embassies are like armed fortresses, and I contributed to that necessity.

I was arrested for sleeping in the park in New Orleans along with my good buddy Mark Mikolas. It was Audubon Park and we bedded down near the seals in the zoo, we could hear them barking at night. It seemed innocent enough, we just didn't have a place to stay and we had bedrolls and it wasn't very cold, so we got a good night's sleep........ But our mistake was we didn't get up and move out at the first light or morning. No, we were still sleeping at 9 a.m. when the cops rolled up and put the cuffs on us. From that I learned a lesson -- the cops can look the other way and you can sleep in the park, but get your ass out of bed and be on your way --- unless you think you have a right to a longer term presence, like you say to the cops we ain't living here we're protesting ..... and so on.

Anyway, you could be arrested in this situation. We got arrested that time, but they were easy on us -- on the way downtown to the lockup, they let us stop at a convenience store and cash some travelers checks -- what we would need to pay a fine -- they waited patiently outside the store while we cashed the checks, then they drove us down to lock up, booked us, put us in the holding tank for a few hours, and then we paid our fine and walked out ..... walked out of New Orleans altogether .... and never went back. I tell this story to illustrate some of the logistics of Occupation. I could give a learned seminar on this topic.

Ah yes, I remember my old days as a Hooligan, back in the the 1970s. I suppose nobody was watching at the time, but I was often arrested for challenging the police -- arrested for disorderly conduct, vagrancy, loitering, failure to identify, and having no visible means of support. How many nights did I spend in county jails from California to Florida? -- In California alone, I was in the following jails -- San Luis Obispo, arrested for hitchhiking on US 101, San Bernardino -- arrested for riding a freight train, Riverside County jail -- I don't why they arrested me, but I was there, Grass Valley -- basically for insulting a police officer, Stockton -- not sure why but I was in that jail too.

Anyway, I never got my name in the newspaper because I was not a part of anyone's movement. I'm my own man. I put on my own demonstration, and I got arrested because of my own fight for freedom.....You would think these occupiers in Oakland invented resistance to authority, but it's all happened before, and it will happen again.....I spent enough time with criminals and layabouts and ne'er do wells, and when you spend time with felons and hustlers you inevitably have many encounters with the police. And after several years of consorting with street people, I decided that the police, on the whole, were a better class of citizens, far less likely to act out violently..... so that was my personal research and my conclusion is that cops are better than criminals. But don't take my word for it, go out on the street and spend some time with low lifes -- you will meet all kinds of interesting and dangerous people.

This makes me look like I’m against the Occupiers, but I am not. I’m only saying that most of the police are just working stiffs trying to get through the day. Most of the time they will treat you fairly if you give them a chance.

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