Page 1





SPRING Cultivating Community Through School Gardens, p. 6

SUMMER A Sustainable Food System, an Abundant Future, p. 14

Evolve FALL Conscious Consumption, p. 22

WINTER Building a Better Future, p. 28




Editorial Team and Contributors ANNUAL ISSUE / 2015 03   Focusing on the Bioregional,    A Letter from Evan 05   06   08   09   11  

SPRING / GROW Cultivating Communities Essential Spring Projects Build a Raised Bed Seasonal Planting Chart

13   14   16   17   19  

SUMMER / HARVEST A Sustainable Food System Essential Summer Projects Create a Farm to Table Meal Green Feast

21   22   24   23   25  

FALL / MAKE Conscious Consumption Maker’s Market Essential Fall Projects DIY Natural Dyes

27   WINTER / BUILD 28   Building a Better Future 30   Essential Winter Projects 31   Top 5 Books in Tools for    Change


Scott Sporleder

Sara Kramer







Founder & Executive Director of The Ecology Center. With his background in permaculture and agroecology, and, having worked extensively in California and Hawaii and internationally in Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Ghana and Nigeria, Evan knows that people have the ability to directly impact the environment through individual change.

An artist with an award-winning eye, Scott travels the world capturing unique cultural and natural moments in photographs. When stateside, Scott resides in Laguna Beach, where you can find him pursuing photography and whenever possible, spending time in the ocean. GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

Jeff Davis




Ann leads marketing and communication at The Ecology Center. She studied at UC Davis and has a master’s degree in English. A weekend shutterbug, Ann enjoys documenting her explorations and experiences of nature through film and digital photographs.

Brigid Jeffers DESIGNER

Lucian Toma


David has been lending his art direction and graphic designs talent to The Ecology Center since day one. After spending five years in Paris, France David and his family now reside in Los Angeles.

curated by

Ann Nguyen

Jeff is a native of San Juan Capistrano, California. With a BA in cultural anthropology from UC Santa Barbara, he returned to Orange County after teaching abroad to further explore the relationship between humans and their environment and how to keep it healthy.

Meg Hiesinger



Sara earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Systems: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution. Before joining The Ecology Center, she worked as the marketing and outreach coordinator for an international non-profit conservation organization.

Elliot Marks Elliott contributes his expertise and design to The Ecology Center’s grounds. He also designed the Eco-Kit, a series of garden furniture and homestead essentials. With great care for sourcing, design, and production, his pieces are dedicated to environmentally conscious construction.


David Rager


Evan Marks


Brigid is a graphic designer as well as an avid baker and home cook. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in graphic design, she spent several years working in the Pacific Northwest, and now resides in Orange County.


She holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology and Environmental Studies, has over 15 years experience in environmental education, and a certificate in permaculture design.


Chelsea earned her bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Studies and Sociology, focusing on urban agriculture and youth gardens. She has also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali and worked on organic farms in Massachusetts, Tennessee, and California.

Lucian obtained a master’s degree in Global Leadership & Sustainable Development. Before joining The Ecology Center he has helped with the implementation of sustainability projects in government, non-profit and business environments.


The Ecology Center seeks to bring individuals, households, and communities together in a solutions-based educational setting to inspire and create a healthy and abundant future for all. The Center highlights empowering and cutting-edge envi ronmental perspectives that Kristin Morrison can be applied to the way we ARTIST/DESIGNER live our lives, making it posKristin is a natu- sible for us to coexist with a ral dyer, designer thriving environment. and fiber artist. Her primary inspiration stems from the ABOUT EVOLVE ability of nature to design, An eco-journal produced by heal and create. She de- The Ecology Center, Evolve signs, hand dye, and hand explores both local and make functional apparel for global perspectives on conher eponymous line, KAM temporary ecological issues. Written and supported by Textiles. a wide network of activists Kerri Cacciata and ecological professionCHEF/MARKET als, the content is unlike anMANAGER ything else being produced Kerri earned her in Southern California. For bachelor’s degree in com- comments, feedback, and munity organizing in San letters to the staff, email Francisco and studied culi- nary arts locally, finding harmony when the two subjects come together. She teaches private cooking classes, consults on edible gardens, runs a catering business, Local Tastes Better, and manages the Downtown Santa Ana Farmer’s Market.




At The Ecology Center, we believe that when we connect our daily lives and activities to the natural cycles, we will be more productive, efficient, and most importantly, healthier and happier. A seasonal shift helps focus our attention to our local environment, in other words, our bioregion. A bioregion defines a geographic space with shared resources, ultimately defining our greater community. Our fast paced lifestyles often pull us away from our environment and the realization of the many natural seasonal resources presented here in southern California. Can you describe the seasonal shift from each season? While they are subtle, each season, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, all present something special. Let us explore them. In this issue of Evolve, we’ve packaged a seasonal toolkit full of resources to inspire a deeper connection to the environment of our communities, starting in our very own backyard. At The Ecology Center, we hope to inspire backyard biodiversity one household at a time. We are here to help and ready to celebrate your success. Please join us!

The future is abundant,

Evan Marks, Executive Director

SPRING As our environment around us spring to life, this special season is most important for any backyard gardener or farmer. To take advantage of spring’s natural acceleration of growth, make sure to prep and plant your gardens just at the right time. March, throughout the month, is a great time to prep your garden for the new growing season. Remove your cover crop or past plantings and build a compost pile with this rich green biomass. Next incorporate last year’s compost, or a high-quality store bought organic compost, into your garden beds and veggie boxes. Best of all, plant your favorite spring vegetables, herbs and flowers. During March and April plant cooler weather crops such as brassicas, (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.) greens (lettuce, chard, kale, etc.), and roots (carrots, beets, potatoes, etc.). Of course you’ll want to think about your summer warm season crops as well. April and May are a good time to plant longer season crops such as tomatoes and peppers. As always, our Earth Day Festival will feature a large organic seedling sale for all of your veggie and herb seedling needs. Of course every healthy garden depends on pollinators, and pollinators depend on biodiversity. Always remember to plant companion plantings of herbs and flowers alongside your veggies. Some of our favorite examples are: fennel, chives, nasturtium and sorrel in the shade and oregano, thyme, sunflowers and rosemary for the sun. Fragrant herbs also have the added benefit of keeping away unwanted pests. Whether a small assortment of herbs in pots on your patio or an entire backyard full of veggies and fruits, Spring is the season to express your green thumb. If you’re still not convinced of your garden prowess, join us at The Ecology Center for our spring Backyard Skills workshops!





and authentic. The opportunities are right here in front of us.

THE BENEFITS OF A GARDEN Many of us are familiar with the old African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Where is the village in our modern lives? Portland architect, community designer and TED speaker, Mark Lakeman shares my belief that part of the answer lies in the school garden: “School gardens are certainly the most accessible places for anyone's re-introduction to the broadest possible spectrum of ideas and issues that affect humanity and the natural world…School gardens are literally a multi-functional form of commons, and in this way they naturally are a context for the reintegration of parts and pieces of our lives that must add up to a greater whole if we are to survive and thrive. This is the common ground that inspires people to use their bodies again, to come home in the deepest sense, and restore our most essential connection to the ground we stand upon…”


We are not just designing a garden, we are designing a culture ———————————————————————————— “What are the ingredients for a healthy life?” I ask this question to young children, college students, women’s groups and other audiences I address. I first assumed that people’s expectations would be physical needs like food and shelter. Instead, I learned that primary concerns are things like: friends, family, laughter, and spiritual support. As an educator and ecologist, I am learning from my students that the most important survival ingredient may actually be a sense of community. The place where I got to know this most vividly is in my work leading Grow Your Own!, The Ecology Center’s school garden support program.

GROW YOUR OWN! Grow Your Own! was born in 2012 to address a problem: local teachers and parents were building school gardens that were lying empty from disuse. The mission of GYO! thus became to support

school gardens and their leaders through guidance, curriculum, and resources and foster gardens that were at the same time beautiful, educational, and functional. This grassroots movement has evolved beyond every expectation thanks to hearing local leaders’ needs, and has grown from 3 schools in 2012 to 20 schools in 2014, reaching over 12,000 individuals. Based on a mentorship model, our staff regularly visit each school, offering help and knowhow with skills from planning a garden space to teaching a cooking class. We partner with local high schools to offer a Garden Mentor program where older students teach gardening to younger ones. This year we launched a new website to more widely distribute our lessons and resources. The past three years have shown what makes or breaks a school garden program, and that is people. It’s easy enough to build a garden and inspire kids through visits. The challenge for adults lies in building a network of teachers, parents, and administrators who feel connected enough to tend the plants, use the space, and do the small recurring tasks of maintenance. We all face unprecedented demands on our time but the same time, people of all ages seem hungry to connect to causes or to a community that feels deeply real

Since children spend up to 10 hours of their days in schools, the school garden can provide the most immediate, even singular, ecosystem that they will connect to in their childhood. Although kids’ time outdoors and access to open space is diminishing, experts are finding that green environments are essential to human health in all ways.[1] The complex environment of a garden provides opportunities for a wide range of learning fields, from nourishing our bodies through food growing, acquiring empathy through interaction with wildlife, learning pattern recognition through weather and elements, and developing social skills through collaborative work. At this time, educators see that workplaces are changing, and the kinds of skills required for good jobs or even survival seem to be evolving faster than we can grasp. New curriculum and initiatives focus on building holistic intelligence and capacity in children through open investigation and problem solving. These are similar to techniques that traditional cultures have been using to educate children for thousands of years. A growing body of research is proving scientifically what our ancestors knew through practicethat outdoor spaces like school gardens hold essential developmental micronutrients not easily obtained indoors. School gardens can help reduce obesity and provide exercise.[2] On the nutrition front, hands-on gardening seems to improve stu-

SPRING / GROW dents’ eating habits and fruit and vegetable consumption better than classroom education alone.[3] Research also shows that time spent outdoors by children is central to the development of creativity, social and emotional skills, and an ecological mindset in adults.[4]

GARDENS AND HEALTHY COMMUNITY The benefits of school gardens extend beyond our children. Meaningful work is an essential ingredient of adult health and is abundant in the garden. Warren Brush, founder of the education center Quail Springs Permaculture, for instance cautions us never to eliminate the physical hand-work of weeding, fixing bikes, weaving baskets, etc. regardless of how high we progress in our career ladders. In his experience, these types of repetitive bodily work create the time and space to engage in the important conversations for which many of us today feel we have so little time. The garden at Huntington Beach High School is a model of a school garden functioning as a community hub. In teacher Greg Goran’s class, teens earn income and gain social experience by raising vegetables and fish through aquaponics. The garden supplies organic produce to nearby restaurants, enriching the local economy and food web. Stu-

dents share their expertise by hosting monthly tours for other schools and community groups. It’s easy to explain the importance of eating locally-grown food. But as lead of The Ecology Center’s Grow Your Own! program, I am eager to show that ecologically it can be just as important to host a potluck or help a teacher lead a class in the garden. These small daily acts are the base of creating communitywhat I believe is the golden survival skill of this century. Whether by growing meals, saving seeds or harvesting rainwater, the garden is where we can learn to work together again. We are not just designing a garden, we are designing a culture. When people come to our school gardens, I want them to envision a new way to live. Kuo, F. E. (2010). Parks and other green environments: essential components of a healthy human habitat: National Recreation and Park Association. [2] Kimbro, R. T., Brooks-Gunn, J., & McLanahan, S. (2011). Young Children in Urban Areas: Links Among Neighborhood Characteristics, Weight Status, Outdoor Play, and Television-Watching. Social Science & Medicine. [3] McAleese, J. D., & Rankin, L. L. (2007). Garden-based nutrition education affects fruit and vegetable consumption in sixthgrade adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 107, 662-665. [4] Burdette, H. L., & Whitaker, R. C. (2005). Resurrecting free play in young children Looking beyond fitness and fatness to attention, affiliation, and affect. Archives Of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 159(1), 46-50. [1]



As part of The Ecology Center’s dedication to environmental and community change, Grow Your Own! supports school gardens and their leaders with mentorship, curriculum, materials, and resources to help create gardens that are beautiful, educational, and functional. Since its inception, GYO! has impacted over 10,000 unique students and 550 teachers, parents, and administrators. Grow Your Own! has supported its 20 schools in creating almost 30,000 hands-on garden ecology experiences for kids and adults. Grow Your Own! gardens are designed to be self-maintaining after completion of the program and to engage visitors through five core areas of sustainability- food, water, waste, shelter, and energy. Our curriculum aligns with the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. GYO! creates cumulative and lasting relationships that form a supportive and collaborative school garden network in Southern California. Grow Your Own! is a two-year grant-subsidized program free to schools selected by The Ecology Center. Recent exciting program developments include the launch of a new website, which serves as a digital hub of seasonal, standards-based curriculum and resources. To read more, look for the Grow Your Own! program link at Special thanks to Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, Tod & Linda White Foundation, Tarsadia Foundation and Boeing Employee Community Fund for supporting GYO!






SEEDS & SEEDLINGS SEEDS Seeds are cheap and abundant. You can buy seeds from The Ecology Center’s Seed Bank, your local nursery, or mail-in and online seed catalogs. A pack of organic seeds with over 100 seeds could cost you about $4. Better yet, save your own seeds, harvest from the wild, or trade with your neighboring gardeners for free. Growing from seeds is good practice, and saving seeds helps bring the act of gardening full circle. When you grow and save seeds, you help increase plant diversity, and perpetuate plant varieties that have adapted well to your local climate, personal tastes, and aesthetics. If you want to learn how to save seeds, The Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers. org) is a great resource. Starting seeds will take more work, time, money, and maintenance than seedlings. You will need to gather the right materials, sow seeds, find a warm and sunny place indoors, water daily, troubleshoot through any issues, and “harden off” (slowly introduce them into the real world). That being said, hard work always pays off in the end. SEEDLINGS If you’re anxious to have a garden— buy seedlings. This the best part— you can go to the nursery, buy veggie or herb seedlings, and plant them in the ground, all in the same day. Seedlings are the softer, easier approach to starting a garden. If you’re a first time gardener, consider choosing seedlings. Once you get home, all you need to do is transplant them into healthy soil, cover with mulch, and water daily.

You can buy organic seedlings from your local nursery for anywhere from $2 to $5 per plant. They will usually be sold individually, or in a packs of four or six. Check to make sure the plant has healthy leaves, stems, and flowers. Also check the bottom to see if it’s root bound (roots tangled around one another).

SOIL BASICS Soil is the skin of the earth. Nature does the best job at creating healthy soil by allowing organic matter, energy, and nutrients to breakdown over thousands of years to form topsoil (the upper 3”-5” of living soil). Unfortunately, things like chemical fertilizers, excessive tilling of the soil from modern agriculture, plus compaction of soil from construction, has caused over 75% of our continent’s topsoil to disappear. The good news is, you can help restore the health of our soil—starting in your own backyard. Here’s a few guidelines for getting to know your soil better: OBSERVE Soil is comprised of a mixture of sand, clay, and loam. What is yours made of? Is it hard and compact, or soft and airy? Is it dry, or is it moist? Dig your hands in and feel around! You can also perform a soil test— collect a sample and send it into a lab or perform one at home for free. COMPOST Compost is decomposed organic matter, and a key ingredient to healthy soil. You can get it in the form of manure, municipal compost, or even better, you can make your own. Build a compost bin for outdoors, or try vermicomposting (composting with worms) indoors. For compost to work, all you need is air, water, and equal parts brown (carbon-rich ma-

terial), to green (nitrogen rich materials). Good browns are straw, woody plant trimmings, bark, pine needles, and sawdust. Good greens are lawn clippings, yard waste, kitchen scraps, coffee and tea grounds, egg shells. COMPOST TEA Compost tea is a dissolved, concentrated solution of nutrient-rich compost in water. This stuff is magic. You can brew your own using finished compost and apply to your garden before, during, and after planting. APPLY MULCH Make mulch your best friend. This is any brown, dry, organic matter such as dried leaves, cardboard, straw or wood chips. A thick layer of mulch will keep moisture in the soil, provide habitat for beneficial worms, bugs and microorganisms, and add nutrients over time. COVER CROPS Cover cropping, also known as green mulching, is way of adding nutrients to the soil through plantings. Grow a cover crop in your garden using leguminous, nitrogen-fixing plants like peas and beans.

NO TILL Traditional agricultural practices rely on tilling the topsoil in between crops. This is poor practice for maintaining long term soil health as the majority of minerals, nutrients, and beneficial insects live in the topsoil. Adopt a no till policy in your garden. ROTATE CROPS To prevent mineral and nutrient depletion and disease, rotate crops regularly. Every plant craves a different amount of different nutrients. When you plant the same crop, season after season, you deplete the soil of those particular nutrients, and you put your crop at risk of disease. GO CHEMICAL FREE Healthy soil is formed over thousands of years by the process of decomposition of organic matter, not by a dose of chemical inputs. If you are adding chemical fertilizer, stop, and let nature do the work for you. If you want to fertilize, reach for good organic compost.




BUILD A RAISED BED Step-by-Step Instructions Raised beds provide a beautiful, functional space that makes growing easier for your plants. Here are the plans for the beds we have at The Ecology Center. You can purchase a prebuilt raised bed for $450 at Tools for Change or make your own following these instructions. Feel free to adapt them as your space requires. DIRECTIONS: 1. Cut boards for sides to length. 2. Cut posts to length, equal to the combined width of the boards. For example if your veggie box is going to be two boards deep at 5.5” the support post should be 11” long. 3. Working on flat surface, stand one support post and attach one of your long boards to the post allowing the board to protrude past the post 1.5 inches (the thickness of the end board). Ensure the post and the board are at right angles to each other. Pre-drill and then screw the board to the post. (Figure 1) CONTINUED ON PAGE 10

Spring Projects (Cont.)

BUILDING PLANT GUILDS No man is an island, and no plant is either. Plants grow best when they are part of a community (it’s not a coincidence that people do too). A guild is just that—a plant community, where each plant supports and benefits the others. One common guild that gardeners know is called the Three Sisters, a Native American planting technique including corn, beans, and squash. Corn provides support for the beans, the beans pull

nitrogen from the air and put it in the soil for the others to access, and the squash provides a ground cover to keep moisture in the soil, and weeds at bay. As gardeners, our goal is create a healthy ecosystem where plants, animals, and people work together. Building plant guilds will help. The first rule in building a guild is that there are no rules. We are not creating perfectly manicured rows with one type of vegetable, we are creating an ecosystem that is diverse, abundant, and even a little messy. Again, the goal is for each plant to support, and be supported by, many other plants. There are infinite number of ways to do this, but always under one set of guiding principles: THE CENTRAL ELEMENT This is your starting point. Every plant chosen after this will support

the growth of this plant. This can be any plant you love—either a fruit tree, vegetable, or your favorite native. INSECTARY & NECTARY These plants will attract beneficial pollinators and/or protect against pests. Herbs like dill, fennel, parsley, and cilantro are great for deterring pests. Flowers like yarrow, sunflower, calendula, zinnias, and marigolds will attract birds, bees, and butterflies to help pollinate your garden. BIO-ACCUMULATORS & NITROGEN FIXERS These are plants that build mineral and nutrient levels in the soil (think free nutrients). Plants like chicory, buckwheat, burdock, carrots, and beets do a great job. Nitrogen fixers also provide free nutrients by pulling nitrogen from the atmosphere and “fixing” it in the soil. Many plants like beans, clover, and alfalfa are great at this.

GROUND COVER, FERTILITY, & MULCH Ground cover plants are plants that spread across the surface of the ground to shade the soil, keep moisture in, suppress weeds, add nutrients over time, and give insects and small critters some habitat. Try easy to grow perennial plants like comfrey, artichoke, clover, and rhubarb. Fertility and mulch go hand in hand. Use cover crops that you can grow, chop, and leave on the surface of the soil to act as mulch and fertilize over time. RESOURCES: Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway









4. Now attach the end board to the post. The end of this board will slide up against the 1.5 inches of your long board that is protruding past the post. (Figure 2) 5. Now repeat the steps 3 and 4 but start with the short end board so that your boards over lap each other the opposite way on this second row. You now have one corner and two sides of your veggie box. If your box is going to be 2 boards deep the top of the second board should be approximately flush with the end of the post. Don’t worry if it’s not exactly flush, after all this is going in the garden not in your living room so don’t worry if it’s not perfect. If the post is much too long as shown in diagram 2 trim it down with a handsaw. (Figure 3) 6. Grab another post and four more boards (2 long boards and 2 short boards) and repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 to make up another corner and 2 sides. (Figure 4) 7. Now you are about to install the cap rail. Measure the longest side of the box and add on 4 inches. This will be the length of your two longest cap rails. Drill and screw the cap rails to the top of the long sides of box allowing 2 inches over hang on the inside and the outside of the box. Since the length of this cap rail is 4 inches longer than the length of the box the cap rail will extend 2 inches past either end of the box. Drill and screw the cap rail to the box by

screwing into the end of the 4 x 4 supports and into the edge the long side board. (Figure 5) 8. Measure and cut the last two cap rails and drill and screw them to the box. (Figure 6) 9. [Optional] Begin by loosening the soil underneath your bed about 6”-8” with a rototiller or rake, and dig out an indentation about 3-4” to set your bed into when ready. Set aside the native soil for mixing in your beds later. 10. Build your bed frames and set them upside down next to the spaces where they will live. 11. Unroll the hardware cloth to fit your beds, overlapping a few inches on all sides. 12. Start hammering the hardware cloth around the bottom of your raised beds with livestock staples to keep the mesh secured. Gophers can get into small cracks so be thorough. 13. Once the hardware cloth is secured around the bottom edges of your beds, flip the beds right-side up into their intended spaces. 14. Mix the native soil you removed in the beginning with your organic compost and any amendments, and add this new mixture into your beds. 15. Enjoy planting your new garden!


ECO-KIT FURNITURE SERIES Available at our general store, Tools for Change, the Eco-Kit is a sustainable series of garden furniture and backyard homestead essentials to help you build a backyard ecosystem of your own! These are the same tools and furniture we use at The Ecology Center. They've weathered the Southern California elements and multitudes of uses. They are tried and true - designed and built to last.


The Eco-Kit includes pieces that you can buy individually or together for a unified aesthetic: • • • • • •

Chicken Coop + Run Picnic Table + Benches Potting Bench + Worm Bins Rain Barrel + Stand Veggie Box, Small & Large Raised Bed, Small & Large
































Please note that actual dates may vary by as much as two or three weeks due to weather conditions, geographical location of the farm, and other factors. And since new varieties are always being developed, and farms may plant different varieties, it is always advisable to call a farm earlier than the expected beginning of a season to verify on the status of the product you are interested in. This is a general guide only!

SUMMER Seemingly the concept of endless summer isn’t only about surfing but about the heat of southern California. Indeed, our summers seem to last well beyond the reaches of a normal season. It’s in the steady summer heat that our fruit tree planting endeavors of the fall and winter truly pay off. Summer in southern California is all about the Harvest! While our peach tree are ripening and falling off the trees, we also find solace in the shade of these great species that offer much more than a few weeks of delicious fruits. Our gardens should be full of hot weather veggies including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, corns, squash, sunflowers and more. Summer is our most abundant time of year for the garden. To manage our water needs make sure to keep a close eye on your drip irrigation systems. Even better, if you don’t have one now’s the time to install a drip system and begin saving our important resources. To protect against the heat and evaporation be sure to mulch your garden with straw or wood chips. The thicker the better! Once the sun has set, be sure to savor the summer evening with garden celebrations with friends and family. Eat outside as often as possible, harvesting everything you can from your garden and our local farmers markets. Here’s a toast to soaking up the sun and celebrating the harvest!





Imagine a forest- a lush, thriving, living forest. It’s so alive and so productive you can almost feel it breathe. What creatures call it home, and what grows there? Now, imagine that this forest is filled with food. This food forest grows what you need. It is framed by tall trees that yield nuts and provide shade, smaller trees that bear fruit, and shrubs that fill the understory. Weaving through the orchard are the vegetables and grains you cook with and feed to your backyard chickens. The spaces between nurture herbs, edible flowers, and species that protect and enrich the soil and even provide natural medicine. This food forest is like any other forest— a rich, diverse, thriving ecosystem; a resilient habitat in which each species gives more than it takes. Yet there is a fundamental difference: a food forest sustains itself and provides for others. We’ve all heard the hype that modern agricul-

ture is the solution for our deeply flawed food system. However, many believe that transgenic seeds don’t adequately address the fundamental issues that destabilize farmers and contribute to food insecurity.1 While a world full of food forests sounds like the ideal rather than an applicable solution, evidence suggests that we must adapt more ecologically diverse farms or risk losing an even larger number of people to food insecurity.2 The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”3 In fact, there are 842 million people worldwide who experience chronic hunger, despite the lack of famine. Put another way, the earth actually produces enough food to feed everyone, but a myriad of social, economical, and geographical forces prevent a fairer distribution. Paradoxically, the

majority of the food insecure (70%) live in rural, agricultural areas in developing countries.4 However, even our own seemingly wealthy and urban Orange County experiences dramatic food insecurity, impacting an astonishing 400,000 people daily: 13% of adults and 24% of all children.5 In 2014 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a report timed to their International Year of Family Farming. In it, they outlined our generation’s challenge: family farms (over 500 million worldwide) produce over 80% of the planet’s food, yet have the least access to vital resources. The FAO argues urges stakeholders to work with these small farmers to avoid reliance upon high-input, external resources. Often run by women and worked with ancient technologies, small family farms are not an obstacle to reaching global food security, but the solution.6 It’s up to us to include the rest.

SUMMER / HARVEST A fifth of the world’s food supply comes from farms that are polycultures (meaning they grow more than one species), providing everything from food to firewood to animal fodder.7 Farmers who plant many varieties tend to use seeds that are more genetically heterogeneous, and better equipped to withstand stress from pests, diseases, and other environmental factors, including extreme weather brought on by climate change.8 Methods such as intercropping,9 cover cropping, crop rotation, natural soil building, and the use of shade cover further mitigate the effects of adverse weather. Such practices are the clear alternative to the high-input, resource-taxing, modern monoculture system. Instead of relying upon chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and altered seed, these farmers employ natural, time-tested methods, which mimic those found in a natural ecosystem. And for good reason: when plant diversity increases, productivity increases.10



COMMUNITY TABLE ACCORD What is sustainable food? What is considered “local”? How do restaurants support sustainability beyond the menu? For us to create a truly sustainable food culture, we need to have concrete answers to these questions. Through the Community Table Accord, a collaboration with a team of experienced sustainable restaurateurs, The Ecology Center aims to set the standard for sustainable food in Southern California. The program includes creating a network of chefs, farmers, and vendors; incorporating locally sourced items on the menus of all participating restaurants; hosting educational farmto-table events at participating restaurants;

connecting Grow Your Own! edible school gardens to local chefs; and sharing success stories, lessons learned, and tried and true recipes with our community. The Community Table Accord is a collaboration between The Ecology Center and OC’s sustainable chefs and restaurants: • • • • • • • • •

Kerri Cacciata and Local Tastes Better Ryan Wilson and Five Crowns/Side Door Rob Wilson and Montage Greg Daniels and Haven Collective Paul Buchanan and Primal Alchemy David Pratt and Brick Ryan Adams and 370 Common Paddy Glennon and Santa Monica Seafood Rich Mead and Sage

Think back to our food forest example: a true polyculture. This system of ecological gardening is not limited to those making a living from the land. Homeowners and schools can do the same. What would our food system look like if our neighborhoods’ under-utilized lawns became food forests? How would the health of our watersheds and communities change if we swapped pesticides and monocultures for companion planting and habitat-building ecosystems? Together, these practices make natural communities that are more diverse, more resilient, and more productive. We stand at a unique crossroads in the history of agriculture: the world population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion people by 2050.11 As the human diet evolves, as the population grows and the planet’s temperature warms, it is essential that we embrace both modern technology and time-tested methods to provide what we—and our planet—need. Everyone from policy makers, research and non-profit organizations, and consumers is equipped to help farmers, homeowners, and communities make this transition. Can every farm be a polyculture? Can every homeowner’s lawn become a food forest? Yes, absolutely. The knowledge is available, and the model is proven. The future is abundant. How can I be a part of the solution? Become trained in permaculture and sustainable design with our Eco-Apprentice Course. Support your local, organic growers like South Coast Farms. Learn to grow your own food wtih our Backyard Skills Workshops. Where can I learn more? The Ecology Center, San Juan Capistrano, CA Finch Frolic Farms, Fallbrook, CA The Orange County Food Access Coalition Further Reading: Gaia’s Garden, by Toby Hemenway

Bryan Walsh. “Modifying the Endless Debate Over Genetically Modified Crops.” 13 May 2014. [2] The State of Food and Agriculture 2014: Innovation in Family Farming. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations publication. 16 Oct 2014. [3] Report of the United Nations World Food Summit, Rome, Italy, 13-17 November 1996 (WFS 96/3). [4] The State of Food and Agriculture 2014: Innovation in Family Farming. UNFAO. 16 Oct 2014. [5] Orange County Food Access Coalition, 2015. Web. 20 Feb 2015. [6] The State of Food and Agriculture 2014: Innovation in Family Farming. UNFAO. 16 Oct 2014. [7] M.A. Altieri, “Agroecology, Small Farms, and Food Sovereignty,” Monthly Review 61.3 (209): 102–113. [8] W. M. Denevan, “Prehistoric Agricultural Methods as Models for Sustainability,” Advanced Plant Pathology 11 (1995): 21-43. [9] L.G. Carbalheiro, “Creating patches of native flowers facilitates crop pollination in large agricultural fields: mango as a case study. “ Journal of Applied Ecology 49.6 (2012): 1373-1383. [10] S. Naeem, “Biodiversity and Plant Productivity in a Model Assemblage of Plant Species.” Oikos 76.2 (1996): 259-264. [11] World Population Prospects: the 2012 Revision. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 13 June 2013. [1]





thick glass jars, freezer paper, or heavy foil. The quickest method is to wash, chop, bag and freeze veggies and/or fruit in a container. Using this method, produce should be good for up to two months. For a longer shelf (freezer) life, repeat the steps above, only this time blanch and cool produce before freezing.

FOOD PRESERVATION Summer brings an abundant harvest from the garden, and preserving allows us to enjoy it all year long. Preserving brings us back to our roots—connecting us to a particular place, a season, and it’s offerings. Plus, as The Ecology Center’s Chef in Residence, Kerri Cacciata says, food preservation “helps to promote sustainability. When you source your ingredients locally, you cut back on pollution from out of season importing. If you get your fruits and vegetables from local farmers, you help to build and support the local economy and community. When using methods to preserve like canning, curing and dehydrating, you reduce packaging waste. Best of all, you are in control of what you consume, and can thoughtfully feed your body and soul.” There are lots of ways to join the fun of preserving, and they all start in the kitchen! Here’s a few methods, in order of easiest to slightly more involved. ROOT CELLARING Root cellaring, or cold storage, is the original food preservation technique. It’s a fast, easy, and natural process that involves storing foods in a cold place (between 32*F and 40*F), typically underground or partially underground. FREEZING Freezing is fast, super easy, and maintains the natural color, flavor, and nutrient level of the food. You can use heavy-duty, food safe freezer bags. This will come in handy when it comes time to cook your veggies because you can do so in the same bag. Other packaging options for freezing include reusable plastic containers,

DEHYDRATING One of the simplest methods for preserving foods. You can use a dehydrator, a conventional oven, or the sun. You can use a dehydrator for most fruits, herbs, mushrooms, and some vegetables. Just wash, drain, and chop your fruits or vegetables— thin slices will dry best. Next, layer evenly onto dehydrator trays, making sure not to overlap. Drying times and temperatures will vary, lucky for you, most dehydrators come with detailed instructions and recommended drying times and temperatures. If you don’t plan on storing dried foods for very long, pretreating it isn’t necessary. CANNING The process of preserving by canning will vary depending on the food. Anything from fruit jams, chopped vegetables, pasta sauces, salsas, and pickles can be preserved by canning. The best method for highacid fruits and vegetables is a hot water bath canning. For materials, you’ll need a large stock pot and mason jars. First, sterilize jars and lids by placing them in the large stockpot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove jars from bath and fill with prepared food, leaving at least 1/4” of room at the top. Wipe clean any excess from edges and secure with lids. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. As jars cool, you should hear a “pop” sound coming from the lid. If so, you succeeded! Store in a cool, dark place and enjoy in the offseason. RESOURCES: The Beginner’s Guide to Preserving Food at Home by Janet Chadwick Preservation & Pickling Basics by The Ecology Center

ORGANIC PEST CONTROL For a gardener, the tiniest pest can quickly become the biggest nightmare. They are unavoidable, especially in organic gardens. While there’s no silver bullet for protecting your garden from pests, having healthy soil and a rich diversity of plants will always be your biggest defense. Here are a few ways to help you protect your garden from unwanted critters: HEALTHY SOIL Healthy soil is full of life—insects, worms, microorganisms, bacteria, and more. Organic compost and a thick layer of mulch will contribute to good health in your soil. Rotating crops regularly and planting cover crops will too. The healthier your soil is, the stronger your plants will be in defending themselves against any pests or diseases. DIVERSITY Diversity is key in the garden. When you plant all of the same crop at one time, you leave your entire crop susceptible to mass extermination by a single pest. When you plant a diversity of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers, that same pest can only kill off a portion of your total crop.

garden and displace critters like caterpillars and snails with your hands. For fruit trees, Dr. Doug, The Ecology Center’s fruit tree care experts says, “a thorough weekly hose washing of the underside of young leaves and fruit is very helpful against many pests. Halt washing during flowering time. The best defense against pest attack is maintaining a healthy tree.” ORGANIC PESTICIDES Organic pesticides do exist. The local nursery will have a selection to choose from if you have a specific pest or disease that you want to spot treat. Neem oil, derived from the seed of the tropical neem tree, prevents insects, fungi, and mites. Spinosad, derived from naturally occurring bacteria, protects against certain pests as well. Again, creating healthy soil is the best (and cheapest) pest protection. PHYSICAL BARRIERS Use physical barriers to block out pests. You will learn what works best as you go. In general, for fruit trees you can use adhesive tapes for mites and flies, or something reflective like CD’s to scare hungry birds away. For garden beds, line the bottom with chicken wire to block gophers, and install a greenhouse mesh on top to block birds, insects, and other small critters. For larger critters like deer, grow a hedgerow of edible berries for them to eat—instead of your almost ready to harvest lettuce. These are just a few ideas.

COMPANION PLANTING Give plants the opportunity to work together and they will thrive. Certain plants will attract and/or deflect certain insects. By placing plants together properly, they can work together to support one another. Marjoram and mustard encourage growth of vegetables, and onions help ward off pests.


MANUAL PEST REMOVAL If given the chance, a single caterpillar could eat your entire tomato plant. Spend time observing your

There is no greater feeling that picking a piece of fruit, straight from the tree, and enjoying a juicy bite. It’s life-affirming—as if it’s the only thing


AUTHOR: KERRI CACCIATA that matters. If you’re lucky enough to have even one fruit tree, then you know how special it is. If you don’t have any, the best time to plant one is now. In either case, there are a few things you can do to ensure your fruit tree (or future fruit tree) stays healthy.

CREATE A FARM TO TABLE MEAL “There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.” -M.F.K. Fisher

WATER As fruit begins to ripen, your fruit tree will love healthy, moist soil. Water deeply and infrequently, about 1” every week is great, especially for young trees. If temperatures get really hot, water more. A drip irrigation system will be best for both you and your tree, but a hose works great too. Fruits have different watering requirements—stone fruit require less than citrus and avocados, and apples will drink as much as you give them.

By now, the term “farm to table” is probably a familiar one, with connotations of locally grown produce taking a starring a role in your meal. But lets dig deeper, asking the questions of how, and more importantly, why?

FERTILIZE WITH COMPOST Apply a good layer of rich organic compost in the early part of summer as buds are beginning to form. This will offer incoming fruit a much welcomed boost of nutrients. Afterwards, apply your mulch.

When you stop to think about how many people can be touched by a single meal, it's a great way to start the conversation. Who tilled the land, and made the soil rich? Where was the lettuce grown, and with what practices? Who fed and cared for the hens, and what sort of life did they live? When we begin to understand the power our choices have, we can take thoughtful action to create and support a positive local food economy.

MULCH Mulching around the base of fruit trees helps keep moisture in the soil, weeds at bay, and adds nutrients over time. Apply a healthy dose to help fruit trees through the summer. Use what you have and be generous—dried leaves, straw, wood chips, newspaper, cardboard etc. THINNING Fruit trees will begin to bear fruit in their third year of growth, and if you’ve done a good job, you’ll see an abundance. But a branch bearing the weight of too much fruit could cause it to break. Wait until fruit drops naturally, then begin thinning. Remove small fruits and compost them—leaving the big, juicy ones to harvest later. Also remove any fruits that look diseased or infested by insects. Depending on the fruit, you’ll want to thin 1” to 4” inches apart. Though it’s sad to see good fruit go, it will only help with future fruit production. PRUNING You’ll always want to prune fruit trees in late winter or early spring, just before they take off growing. Summer is also a good time to prune. Remove any dead, diseased, bent, or broken branches—these put stress on your tree. You can also remove some branches from the interior to allow light and nutrients to filter in. Look out for new branches near the trunk, called suckers, and pluck these guys off. The same goes for new branches growing straight up from horizontal branches. These won’t bear fruit and will only cause problems.


Gustavo Esteva states it simply as “customs and rituals surrounding the growing, preparation and serving food are at the heart of community and communion”1. Coming together for meals is a celebratory way to share ideas, and find inspiration from one another.

SOURCING YOUR INGREDIENTS Challenge yourself to source ingredients that are within 250 miles of you. You'll instantly be eating within the growing seasons, cutting down on importing and all of the negative ecological affects of global transporting. In Southern California, we're blessed with an abundance of passionate farmers, ranchers and fisherman, so you can find a diverse bounty at any given time. The Local Harvest website is a great resource for discovering purveyors by zip code or ingredient. There, you can also find a listing of your local farmers' markets. When planning a menu, I like to stroll through a farmers' market for inspiration. It's not only an amazing place to source, buying directly from the farmer, and helping to support a the local economy. Of course, it's also a great opportunity and fun way to see what's in season. Let the seasons set a tone and theme for your menu. If it's November, the menu should show it; boasting apples, pears, butternut squash and brussel sprouts. Joining a CSA, or community supported agriculture, is another great way to experience the seasons through produce, while supporting a local farm at the same time. When you participate in CSA programs, it helps to ensure next season's sales, and subsidize the farmers, their land, labor, equipment and families.

SETTING THE SCENE The entire tablescape is an opportunity for thoughtful and conscious sourcing. Many local college fine art departments have seasonal ceramic sales where you can pick up vases and dishware made by the students. Monthly artwalks are another resource for picking up artisan good directly from the maker. What about the flowers? California requires all flowers sold at farmers' markets are from a grower, not reseller. And for the candles? Many local beekeepers use their honeycomb to make candles, which are both gorgeous and responsible. CLEANING UP Composting at home is easy and has a huge positive impact on not only your garden and soil health, but the greater community. It helps to reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfills, and therefore minimizing the amount of pollution from methane and leachate. Don't forget about the soaps, cleaners and detergents that you are using. There are a lot of simple recipes for natural, chemical free cleaners. By making your own, you can cut back on packaging waste and you can control exactly what they contain, avoiding harmful synthetic chemicals and toxins. There are a lot of great companies with vegetable based soaps, like Castile, that are biodegradable and will not contaminate ground water. Remember to share your efforts, ideas and resource with your guests. Telling the story of the local family farm and the neighborhood baker can paint a picture, and shed light on the interconnectedness. A simple farm to table meal can inspire and impact many, and living an everyday farm to table lifestyle can do even more. We all have the opportunity to create and support the community and help protect the planet, one bite at a time. RESOURCES [1]

Esteva: Grassroots Post Modernism,1998, p. 53





GREEN FEAST Annual Farm-to-Table Fundraising Dinner There’s no place better suited for a celebration of our region’s abundant harvest than the idyllic and historically rich grounds of The Ecology Center. Every year, distinguished chefs and organic farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and vintners gather here to contribute their bounty and knowledge in a collaborative farm-to-table dinner – all sourced within 250 miles. Green Feast is where local food meets global vision. Friends and advocates come together on this magical night to savor our regional flavors and support The Ecology Center’s mission to create a sustainable future for all. Tickets go on sale at the beginning of July.


FALL While the summer sun lingers beyond the summer months, our hope for Fall is a seasonal shift towards rain and cooler temperatures. Winter storms bring winter swells from the northern latitudes that bring refreshment and enough rain to fill our rain barrels. It’s the rainy days (if we’re lucky) of November where we begin to shift our focus inside, away from them outdoor living of summer. We nestle into a warm cup of herbal tea from our garden, grab a book or again begin working on our craft. It’s in this season that we celebrate Making. We celebrate the artisans and pledge to support the local craftsmen that build our local economy. In doing so, we are reminded of the bounty of our bioregion. The magic of southern California extends from the ocean and into the communities around us, into the backyards of our neighbors, the workshops of our craftsmen and into our own homes. Holidays set the tone for celebration, as this time of year we gather with family and friends. Remember to celebrate the local and consider modifying your holiday meals away from the packaged and towards the bioregional and local. As we know, there is bounty everywhere all the time. Here’s a toast to the gratitude of the seasons!




CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION Make Every Dollar Count The journey of our “stuff” begins long before it arrives in our homes. The final product is a result of many processes: harvesting, processing, dyeing, building, mixing, printing, shipping, etc. At every step of the way is the potential for environmental degradation, pollution, human rights issues, health risks and more. It is difficult to feel connected to the true cost of making an item and throwing it away, especially when that item is cheap. Let’s use fast fashion as an example. Cotton (used in almost half of all textiles) is responsible for a quarter of worldwide insecticide application and polyester is produced using petroleum.[1] Both materials are associated with harmful conditions for workers and chemical runoff. And it’s not just the types of materials we are using, but the sheer quantity. If every human consumed the resources of an average American, the earth would only be able to sustain 1.4 billion people.[2] As disheartening as this may seem, as major contributors to the problem, we are both responsible for and capable of generating a solution. ————————————————————————————

“We have the power to choose the world we will live in, and through the stuff we choose to live with, we reveal that world every day.” -Alex Steffen ————————————————————————————

BUY LESS Of course, the most effective way to reduce waste, environmental destruction and pollution (not to mention, save money!) is to simply buy less. Even the most sustainable, locally sourced, fair trade item loses out when faced with the alternative of not buying anything at all. Although we are grateful for the opportunity to purchase these more ethical products at a time of need, the reality is that if we don’t need it, we shouldn’t buy it at all. In a time where someone’s success is judged largely by the amount and quality of their “stuff”, this is a radical culture shift. However, it can arise naturally if we simply evaluate our needs. Do we need the newest version of something we own? Can we retrofit or repair something we have? • Avoiding single-use items is a huge step. A significant portion of our impact stems from normalization of disposability. Upon sweeping the Pacific gyre, scientists recently found six times more plastic than plankton.[3] Cut out water bot-

tles, plastic ware, non-reusable bags and excess packaging and switch to reusable alternatives

fied, Certified Organic, BPA-free, Energy Star and Rainforest Alliance.

• Borrow or share it! If there is something you only need a few times (a tool, a book, something for a special event) reach out to your community. Public spaces already provide lending systems like libraries, bike/ride shares, community gardens, and more.

• Look for materials that are biodegradable, recyclable, or made of recycled products. Choose items that are safer and healthier for your homes, and considerate of the effects of disposal.

SHOP SMART Technology has made it easier and faster to consume. However, it has also given us the responsibility of using our access to information to make more thoughtful choices. Realistically, the purchase of a single sustainable product won’t make much of a dent in the overall scheme of the world’s material consumption. However, the importance of the act is undeniable. • Use your hard-earned money to support companies that make sustainable choices. Choose vendors that adopt the slower, more complicated, or more expensive path in order to create a quality, ethical product. By being sentient shoppers, we have the power to demand sustainable alternatives in the marketplace. • Always examine the packaging of the product in question for material listings and manufacturer location. Certain third-party certifications have corresponding labels to help you understand the conditions the goods were produced under. A few examples of these are Fair Trade Certi-

• Support local artisans, craftspeople and farmers. By stimulating the local economy, you ensure that your money is being reinvested in these small business owners as well as cultivating relationships that build a strong community.

WASTE LESS An extremely significant and often ignored component of consumerism happens after the product has left our possession. Waste. Landfills and ocean gyres are out of sight, out of mind, so it is easy to lose track of the significant way in which we are altering our planet. Each year, the average American throws away roughly 68 pounds of clothing.[4] We need to attack that number from both sides--the input and the output. First, as discussed above we need to simply consume more mindfully. Second, we need to explore alternative avenues for our things once we are finished with them. Second hand stores, thrift stores and consignment stores are excellent options both for buying CONTINUED ON PAGE 24





leading cause of death for houseplants is over watering.

INDOOR PLANTS CHOOSE THE PERFECT PLANT Any houseplant that calls your name from the nursery shelf is great. If you want a houseplant that is both beautiful and great at removing toxins from the air, try bamboo palm, english ivy, ficus, mother-in-law’s tongue, or peace lily. CHOOSE A CONTAINER Choose one to match your unique style and taste. Make sure it has holes for drainage and a saucer or dish to put underneath in order to catch excess water. Give your plant room to grow by planting it in a pot that is as big, if not bigger than, the size of it’s root ball. POTTING Always start with good organic potting soil. Remember, when it comes to potting soil, you get what you pay for. With your hands, loosen the temporary container that you purchased the plant in, and remove the root ball gently. If it appears root bound (tangled, intertwined roots) cut four equally spaced cuts, or simply massage roots free with hands. Once free, place it in your container, fill in the edges with soil, and pack gently. WATER Most houseplants will come with a tag that includes the name (both scientific and common), instructions for watering, placement, and tips on special care—read it! Watering requirements will vary significantly depending on the plant, but they will all enjoy water at room-temperature in the morning. Deep and infrequently is better than light and frequently. A good test is to stick your finger 1” deep into the soil—if it’s dry, give it water. Keep in mind, the number one

DISEASE AND PESTS A plant that’s stressed out from too much, or too little, water and/ or light is at risk of disease. Always remove dead flowers, leaves, and stems. It doesn’t hurt to dust plants every once in a while (dust clogs the pores). If you see yellow, limp, and falling leaves—you’re over watering. Brown, red, or spotty leaves—you’re not giving it enough light. When all else fails, just give it more love. PLACEMENT Put your plant near a window, on a bookshelf, or on a windowsill. It’s up to your imagination! But first, refer to the plants light requirements listed on it’s tag. FERTILIZE Stay away from chemical and artificial fertilizers that pollute indoor air quality even further. Worm castings from your worm bin, or a handful of good organic compost, is your best option. REFERENCES

SEED SAVING For the last 10,000 years, people have saved and shared seeds. It’s only because of seed savers that we’re able to enjoy some of the most delicious and nutrient-dense fruits & vegetables that we do today. Unfortunately, with the introduction of modern agriculture, farmers and gardeners across the world started saving less, and buying more. This new habit of depending on commercial seeds is dangerous, since it puts our food supply into the hands of

those with commercial interests. The good news is, we can take back control of our food supply, support plant biodiversity, and preserve heirloom, organic, and GMO-free varieties by continuing the seed saving tradition. It will take each of us talking to our fellow gardener and learning new skills, but that’s the fun part! Here’s a few tips for getting started:

STORING Seeds can be stored in recycled jars or envelopes, as long as they are moisture-free. Seeds do have an expiration date, but it depends on many factors. Just know that germination rates go down with every passing year. You’ll have a higher success rate with a one year old seed compared to a five year old. REFERENCES

RESEARCH Saving seeds can be more or less difficult depending on the type. Learn what type of plant you are dealing with first. Is it open pollinated or hybrid? You can reproduce open pollinated plants, but not hybrids. Vegetables like peas, beans, and tomatoes where the seeds are self-pollinating are easy, while others like carrots and kale, are more challenging. GROWING Keep in mind that you will not eat your entire crop. Plant enough so that you can allow a portion of it to go to seed. Then, select the plant that looks healthiest and most delicious for seed saving. HARVESTING Know when to harvest seeds. Some seeds can be harvested from the plant while it’s fresh, others need time to stay on the plant and dry out. Depending on the plant, you might need a few tools to help you. It could be a seed sifter, a fork and brown bag, or maybe just your hand. PREPARING Every plant is unique, and so is the process of obtaining their seed. In general, seeds harvested when dry need to be air dried, then stored. Seeds harvested when wet need to be washed, dried, and then stored. Tomato seeds need to be fermented first. Squeeze seeds into a bowl and leave them outside. Stir twice daily. After three days or when bubbles appear, add water and stir vigorously. Pour into a strainer and scrub under running water to separate seeds. Dry and store.

UPCYCLE Upcycling is my favorite word. It means doing more with less. It means repurposing the things we consider as useless trash, and transforming them into something useful! When you upcycle, you reduce resource consumption associated with buying new products, and you reduce the size of our bulging landfills. Plus, by making something, you get a sense of real accomplishment. It’s fun, inexpensive, and the opportunities are endless. One of the most sustainable ways to buy goods, is to buy them second-hand. This means thrift stores, antique shops, and more. If you like to buy new things, that’s great too, as more and more goods are being manufactured with sustainability in mind. For example, Hurley’s “Phantom” boardshorts made from recycled plastic bottles. Here’s a few materials we commonly find in the dump, despite their infinite potential for reuse: TEXTILES Don’t toss your used bedsheets and clothing—give them new life. Give clothes a few alterations or dip into a batch of natural dyes for a brand new look. Transform your faCONTINUED ON PAGE 24





Annual Celebration of Craftsmanship With a vision to bring back local economy and making our community a vibrant place, The Ecology Center hosted our first ever Handmade: A Maker's Market in the fall of 2014. While craft fairs abound throughout Southern California, Maker's Market is the first of its kind that is strictly curated with an emphasis on locally sourced and eco-conscious products. Each of the selected makers at Maker's Market work diligently to source materials locally with integrity and design and build high-quality utilitarian goods that will last generations. Maker's Market is an amazing and inspiring celebration of community and craftsmanship. We look forward to hosting Maker's Market again this year!

Consumption (cont.) and disposing of products you no longer use. Donate your clothes, household items, electronics, furniture and more to organizations dedicated to distributing them to people in need. Swap clothes with family members and friends to keep things fresh while giving your wallet and the environment a break. Up-cycle something you no longer use into something you need.

CRADLE TO CRADLE Despite the hold consumerism has

Essential Fall Projects (cont.) vorite tee into a pillow or seat cushion cover. Bedsheets can be snipped up and turned into rags for bicycle maintenance or cleaning floors. WOOD PALLETS These are a staple ingredient to many do-it-yourself projects. You can repurpose our nations abundance of wood pallets in all areas of your home and garden. Build a threebin compost system, or create a living wall of succulents. Attach weed barrier fabric to the back, fill with potting soil, and plant. Disassemble one, and build a pallet chair. Build a temporary fence, coffee table, headboard, dining room table—the list

on us, innovation shines through. A sustainable future demands that we shift patterns to live within our means, but it does not negate growth. It simply necessitates smart growth. Designers worldwide now discuss creating projects where impacts are deeply understood from “Cradle to Cradle”. In brief, this means that products are designed in closed cycles that mimic those of natural systems. Instead of a product’s life ending at a landfill, the cycle is continuous and regenerative. This way of thinking has inspired everything from eternally recyclable carpet to

goes on. If you’re bringing pallets indoors, be aware that many are treated and/or sprayed with chemicals. Look for a stamp with the letters HT (heat treated) or MB (fumigated with methyl bromide, a toxic pesticide). Stay away from these. Many business receive a rebate for recycling pallets, so ask first before you take. Try your local feed & tack store, furniture store, newspaper company, or construction site. WINE CRATES These simple, clean, wood boxes have many uses. Stack them to create a bookshelf in seconds. Affix two together, attach 2x4’s for legs, and you have a coffee table. Place one at

intricate planning for cities with urban farms for rooftops and self-sustainable energy sources.[3] As stewards of our own spaces, we must be conscious that every decision we make has an effect on the health of our ecosystems and ourselves. By voting for quality over quantity, by acting as informed consumers and demanding smarter products, we are all advocates for a sustainable tomorrow. And in this we will find a greater connection to ourselves, our communities, and the things we call our own.

being a part of the solution. Our general store Tools for Change is carefully curated to bring you the best resources, tools, and products to empower you to live more sustainably. We also look forward to hosting our second Maker’s Market November 15--a celebration of local artisans, craftspeople, and their goods. [1] "Cotton Farming." WWF. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. [2] "The State of Consumption Today." Worldwatch Institute, n.d. Web. [3] Cradle to Cradle Design. Perf. William McDonough. TED talks. N.p., Feb. 2005. Web. [4] Wallander, Mattias. "Closet Cast-Offs Clogging Landfills." The Huffington Post. The Blog, 27 June 2010. Web.

The Ecology Center is dedicated to

your bedside for a simple and creative night stand. Fill one with soil and plant with veggies. Drill holes in the bottom, fill with worms, food scraps, and shredded newspaper for a stylish vermicompost bin. You can find wine crates for cheap, if not free, from wholesale wine distributors, wine bars, and any liquor store that carries fine wines. GLASS JARS You know the leftover jar from your last salsa binge? You can upcycle it. Use it to store leftovers, turn it into a candle holder, fill it herbal potpourri for the bathroom, or place fresh cut flowers in it. Don’t try to preserve foods by canning with recycled

store-bought jars, they are usually too thin and will shatter when heated. Reuse larger glass jars as water pitchers. Keep any glass bottles with lids to bottle your homebrewed beverages like beer or kombucha. MISCELLANEOUS OBJECTS You can always find a purpose for the random miscellaneous found object. Can you incorporate it into an art project? Can you make a home for it in your garden? If it’s something useful, but not to you, ask your neighbor to see if they can use it. RESOURCES The Self Sufficient-ish Bible by Andy and Dave Hamilton




DIY NATURAL DYES Explore Organic Colors

Turning to a natural dye source for textiles is a huge step in mitigating toxins in our water, and the environment. Since the invention of synthetic dyes, our watersheds have been bearing the weight of toxic residuals from textile factories, and clothing manufacturers.



Dye matter (such as beets, purple cabbage, onion skins, turmeric)

1. Dissolve mordant in water and let fabric sit at least 30 minutes to overnight (best)

Using plants to create color is an age-old process, but a process perhaps even more relevant today. Learning about color giving plants, is one way to help deter the runoff off of more toxins into our watershed, and one that also helps connect us to plants and nature in an unexpected way.

Distilled water/PH neutral water if possible

One of the most common natural dyes is found in many store bought foods. Cochineal, a tiny insect that lives on cacti, produces a deep red dye and is used to color many food items including meats, marinades, desserts and juices.

Alum mordant 10% to weight of fiber

Small scale Wooden spoons/stirring sticks Reusable plastic gloves (if desired) Drying rack

2. Simmer dye matter in pot until color is extracted (20 - 60 minutes). Can repeat color extraction for denser dye materials. 3. Add fiber to simmering pot and let set until desired shade is reached 5 min-30min. 4. Hang dyed fiber on rack for 10+ minutes to let set. Rinse well with Ecover or Orvus soap and lay out to dry.

WINTER While our winter soils are soaking up the moisture (fingers crossed), in this season we focus our energy towards building an infrastructure for our garden and homestead. A winter building project for every home is the installation of a rain barrel. Rain water is a gardener’s best friend; free and pure water that nourishes the entire garden. Ecologically, when we catch rain water we prevent it from running down our drains and contaminating our ocean. Our ultimate goals with all our sustainability efforts are a healthy ocean, a healthy environment, and healthy communities. Other important infrastructure projects for winter include: Building our garden boxes in preparation for our upcoming spring garden season, fertilizing and pruning our fruit trees, planting natives and perennials, designing our spring garden, planting seedlings in the greenhouse, fixing up our irrigation in preparation for warmer temperatures, and preserving our winter citrus Please join us in building healthy homes and communities!




BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE Design with Nature in Mind How do we create the healthier future we imagine? The answer, is with good design. The Ecology Center gives us a living model for what our homes and backyards would look like, if we were to incorporate the principles of good design. In this case, good design means ecological, or permaculture design. This method seeks to minimize environmental impact by integrating itself with nature. The idea is nothing new. In fact, our ancestors knew nothing different. They connected with the land on which they lived, and worked with nature to care for their community. Today, we think nature is something we can take from, and not give back to. It’s something we try to dominate over, instead of learn from. This way of thinking has expressed itself in how we design and build our products, homes, businesses, and farms, which are the cause of much pollution, disease, and corruption. This has to change, and it will. What if we changed our thinking to be more like our ancestors? What if we could work with nature to create and care for our community? Starting with our home and garden, we can use good design to create a healthier future.

Director of The Ecology Center has shared this with first-time visitors many times. The statement is always a shock. The former parking lot is now a community gathering space and edible garden. On the opposite side, the former vacant lot boasts California native plants, a fruit orchard, raised beds, a greenhouse, rain barrels, compost bins, chickens, and more. Birds commune in the elderberry trees, bees swarm a flowering agave, and hummingbirds pause to drink nectar from a pink Autumn sage. It’s clear, this is more than a garden—this is a backyard ecosystem.

Ecology Center took years to develop. It began as an empty dirty lot, then a field with cover crops, then pathways were formed, raised beds assembled, and so on.


EVERY ELEMENT PROVIDES MANY FUNCTIONS Everything in your garden should serve a purpose, or a function. Everything can serve more than one function, and the more the merrier. A fruit tree offers fruit, but can also offer shade, a beautiful aroma, or block a poor view if placed appropriately.


The effort to create a garden ecosystem was done using a set of ethics and principles, outlined by permaculturalist, professor, and author, Toby Hemenway. These ethics include care for people, care for the planet, and share the surplus. The principles are below. Follow them, and you can’t go wrong. As you read, note the many examples of how The Ecology Center has applied these principles. While the elements (or objects like raised beds, chicken coop, rain barrel, fruit tree etc.) will change depending on your space, the design principles will not.

VACANT LOT TO THRIVING ECOSYSTEM “Five years ago, this side of the house was a parking lot, and this side was a vacant dirt lot.” From underneath the palm tree, Evan Marks, Executive

OBSERVE AND INTERACT Observe your space to discover its many nuances. Remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. The diverse, 1-acre learning landscape at The

BEFORE: The Ecology Center 2008

RELATIVE LOCATION Always position elements in a way that allows them to connect to one another in mutually beneficial ways. The chickens are positioned next to the orchard because they benefit one another. Chickens can forage fallen fruit before it rots and attracts pests. They eat pests, poking holes to provide aeration and drainage, and fertilize trees with their excrement.

ENERGY-EFFICIENT PLANNING Take small and manageable steps. Consider the time, energy, and resources involved before deciding on where to place elements in your design. The herb garden is located right outside the kitchen. This makes it easier to maintain and harvest from each day. USE BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES Everything you need, you can grow. Before buying synthetic materials, consider using a natural alternative you already have. There are no chemical

AFTER: The Ecology Center 2015



inputs in The Ecology Center home or garden. Compost kitchen waste and yard trimmings to use as fertilizer. Use mulch in the form of wood chips and straw to prevent weeds and pests. ENERGY CYCLING Do not stop energy flows, but rather transform them into cycles. Water doesn’t leave the property. Runoff is directed into a depression dug in the landscape, or collected in a rain barrel for plants to drink later. Greywater from indoors goes outdoors to water plants. Leftover food is turned into compost to feed the garden. Sunlight is turned into energy using solar panels which power the house. ACCELERATE SUCCESSION Nature is sustainable. If left untouched, your backyard would heal and transform itself into a thriving habitat (though it might take many years). Good ecological design speeds up this healing process. Use what grows naturally. Start by planting species that are fast-growing, super hardy, and low maintenance. Increase soil fertility quicker with lots and lots of compost and mulch. USE AND VALUE DIVERSITY Incorporate plant guilds, or, two or more species that mutually benefit each other as they grow. The more healthy connections between elements, the better. In the Food Lab, you can find a fruit tree, a shrub, sprawling ground cover, and a root vegetable, growing together in a small patch of garden. Each of these plants work together to help on another grow.

SUPPORT AND CELEBRATE EDGE The edge, or line where two ecosystems meet is the most diverse and abundant (think of a pond’s edge, the foothills, or an estuary). Use this to your advantage in the garden. The edge of every pathway or fence barrier, is the beginning of a garden. USE AND RESPOND TO CHANGE Change is inevitable. Embrace it, rather than fight it. Adapt to varying temperatures, rainfall, pests and other uncontrollable factors. Every mistake is only a learning lesson in disguise. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE? I imagine a neighborhood where everyone knows each other by name, and they share their skills, and products of their skills, with one another. I imagine every home growing healthy fruit trees in their front yards, providing food for the hungry passerby. There’s a rain barrel beneath every downspout to capture the rain. I imagine every home creating habitat in their backyard, allowing birds to migrate from one home to the next. The future looks like each of us connecting with nature, and learning about ourselves, about each other, and about how to live better. Resources: The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture by Christopher Shein




Backyard Skills empowers our community through ecological skills training, hands-on workshops, and permaculture design certification. Backyard Skills trains participants through practical, handson topics such as: energy efficiency, lawn remediation, native plantings, greywater reuse, and edible gardens. The Ecology Center seeks to inform residents about the resources necessary to support the population, and teach hands-on skills that will reduce waste. This training empowers people to be good stewards of our environmental resources. Since 2008, we have hosted over 175 Backyard Skills lectures and workshops, successfully teaching hands-on ecological skills to over 4,000 individuals across Southern California. In addition to our weekly workshops, The Ecology Center also offers a 3-month permaculture apprenticeship program held during June through August. Eco-Apprentice trains architects, landscape designers, teachers, ecoentrepreneurs to become sustainability leaders. We have graduated 43 Eco-Apprentices. Check The Ecology Center calendar for upcoming workshops and register for a class that will help you make lasting positive impact in your life, community, and environment. Backyard Skills is generously supported by The Boeing Company, SDG&E, and Center for Living Peace.





GARDEN DESIGN DON’T FORCE IT Having ideas for what to grow and where to grow it, is great. But forcing your ideas onto your landscape is a recipe for disaster. Consider the opportunities and constraints of your space, and work within those parameters. For example, don’t plant sun-loving herbs in the shady spot of your yard. OBSERVE Spend time in quiet observation of your outdoor space. Take time for thoughtful and protracted observation of your landscape, rather than thoughtless action. Keep notes of your observations, and apply what you learned. DESIGN TIME What do you want from your landscape? What does your landscape need from you? Make a list of possible solutions for how to meet your needs, and your landscapes needs. Make a list of any available materials or resources that could help you. WRITE IT DOWN What will your design look like? How will you make it happen? Write down, or even better, draw out your vision for your garden. Of course, this can change, but it’s often very clarifying to put your ideas down on paper. This can also serve as a tool to help you share your idea with others. START SMALL A forest of fruit trees in the backyard sounds wonderful, and you can have that, but start small. When your backyard garden dreams are drastically different from your current reality, it’s easy to get discouraged. Take small, simple, and manageable steps when implementing your gar-

den plan. ASK FOR HELP Whether you are planning, designing, implementing, or caring for your garden—ask for help. You don’t need to know everything. There are plenty of folks in your community that are there to support you in your efforts of growing a backyard garden.

RAIN BARRELS The idea of capturing rainwater for reuse is nothing new. It was the third century when people starting capturing rainwater for drinking and irrigating crops. Today, we can make use of our most precious resource once again with a rain barrel. It’s simple—just place a barrel underneath your downspout, pray for rain, then reuse the water in your garden. In doing so, not only are you saving water, but you’re reducing runoff, feeding your garden, and much more. The Ecology Center offers a 55 gallon rain barrel. These are a great place to start your water harvesting career—they’re affordable, easy to install, and easy to maintain. Brook Sarson, owner of H20ME and Backyard Skills workshop instructor, mentions how “the very act of disconnecting your downspout from drains....allows you to understand better how much water is actually being washed off your roof in each rain event, and what a tremendous resource this can be.” Here in Southern California, we get between 12”15” inches of rain per year. Though it might not seem like a tremendous amount, just 1” of rain can yield 600 gallons per every 1000 sq. ft. of roof space. With the average roof size for an Orange County home at 3,000 sq. ft., that is 1,800 gallons per 1” of rain! The list of reasons to start har-

vesting every drop runs long. Here are just a few: HEALTHY PLANTS All plants love rainwater. Brook says “rainwater is superior to city water. Free of salts and high mineral content, this softer water cleans your soil and allows plants to perform better since their roots don’t have to compete with mineral build up.” ENERGY AND MONEY On average, outdoor water usage accounts for 30% of our household consumption. This is even higher in areas like Southern California where our climate is naturally dry, yet we have water-intensive landscapes like grass lawns. In the bigger picture, the utilities used to treat and pump water to our homes make up over 30% of our nation's total energy consumption. REDUCE RUNOFF A rain barrel is the number one tool to help keep our ocean clean. As soon as rain falls on our roof, it begins it’s journey to the ocean. On it’s way it collects trash, chemicals, fertilizers and pollutants from our lawns, driveways, streets, and rivers—eventually bringing it all to our ocean. Eliminate this dirty flow from the source by diverting runoff into a barrel. BE SELF-SUFFICIENT With a rain barrel and an abundant

supply of rainwater, you can depend more on yourself, and less on the public water utility company. This will come in handy during times of disaster.

BUILD SOIL COVER CROPS AND MULCH In Southern California we are blessed with mild winters. Take advantage of this time and get in the garden to build soil using cover crops and mulch. Cover crops include various plants like legumes, grasses, and cereals. When planted, legumes work miracles by pulling nitrogen from the atmosphere, and “fixing” it into the soil where other plants can access it. Grass and cereal crops like rye, wheat, and vetch don’t contribute nitrogen, but they do add carbon in the form of organic matter. In addition to their ability to add nutrients, cover crops also help to suppress weeds, prevent erosion, and keep moisture in the soil. The roots also help to loosen and improve soil texture by creating channels for air, drainage, worms, bacteria, and gases. There are many benefits that cover crops offer our soils—too

WINTER / BUILD complex for science to understand. The point is, they work. Plant cover crops by sprinkling seeds at the end of fall. They will grow through the winter, and before spring planting, can be chopped and left on the soil surface to act as a green mulch, or turned into the soil to compost. TYPES OF COVER CROPS You can buy cover crop seed premixed, or buy separate and mix your own. For grasses and cereals—try rye, barley, buckwheat, oats, or mustard. For legumes (nitrogen-fixers), try cow peas, clover, sweet peas, field peas, fava beans, or vetch. One thing to know, legumes are only able to “fix” nitrogen with the help of a special bacteria (rhizobacteria) that lives on plants roots. While this bacteria is found naturally in the soil, you’ll improve your chance of success by inoculating seeds beforehand. Buy inoculant powder in a bag, then add it to your seed mix using water, molasses, or milk as a binder. MULCH Mulch, mulch, mulch. You can never have too much mulch. This is any brown, dry, organic matter such as dried leaves, cardboard, straw, or wood chips. Adding mulch helps keep moisture in the soil, provides habitat for soil-surface dwelling worms, bugs, and microorganisms, and decomposes—adding nutrients over time. The best kind of mulch is free mulch from your own yard. For example, fallen leaves from a tree or dried grass clippings from your lawn. If you use grass clippings, be sure to give them time to break down and turn brown (fresh green grass is high in nitrogen and can “burn” plants). You can also ask your local tree trimming company for wood chips. Be mindful that you stay away from any wood originating from diseased or infected trees. Also, stay away from woods that contain allelopathic oils such as eucalyptus. These oils inhibit growth in nearby plants. Use heavier mulches like wood chips for native gardens and pathways. Consider using straw for more delicate plantings in flower and vegetable beds. Whatever type of mulch you’re using, you can apply 4-6” to established plantings, and up to 12” to areas that need more nutrients. Repeat annually.


TOP 5 BOOKS in Tools for Change

Second to getting your hands dirty and learning through experience, books are great teachers. If you’re interested in ecological design, homesteading, beekeeping, cooking, rainwater harvesting, fermentation, herbal medicine, and living a more sustainable life in general, The Ecology Center’s general store, Tools for Change, has a book for you. The following five books inspired me to move from a passive observer of the environmental movement, to a more active participant.

Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway For anyone interested in ecological design and permaculture, this book is a great place to start (and keep close for reference). What is permaculture, and how can we incorporate it’s principles into our homes, landscapes, and cities? How do we create spaces that supports the growth of all people, plants, and animals within it? This book will answer your questions.

manufacture and recycle goods. Take for example, the book itself, which is made from recycled plastic bottles instead of trees.

The Natural Kitchen

by Deborah Eden Tull When it comes to living a more sustainable life—food is the entry point. This book is the bible for how to grow, buy, prepare, cook, eat, and share food in a healthier way. As a sustainability coach and former monk of Sowing Seeds in the Desert seven years, the author’s voice offers an intelligent and by Masanobu Fukuoka zen-like tone throughout the book (especially the chapJapanese farmer and philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka, ter on mindful eating). It’s refreshing, and loaded with revolutionized the way we look at modern farming. Af- great resources to move you forward on the sustainter years of studying farming and microbiology, he reable food revolution. turned to his family farm to put his “natural farming”, or “do-nothing farming,” philosophy to the test. He was Backyard Skills Primers successful, and his no-till and no-fertilizer techniques by The Ecology Center & Root Simple are still practiced world-wide today. The book shares This series of five colorful booklets (Bicycle Care Bahis efforts, gives hope for the future, and is laced with sics, Backyard Chicken Basics, Food Preservation Baa unique wisdom gained through one-on-one experisics, Rainwater Harvesting Basics, Container Gardenence with nature. ing 101) are essential for the suburban homesteader, do-it-yourselfer, chef, cyclist, or gardener. Inside each Cradle to Cradle booklet is fun projects with simple instructions, maby William McDonough & Michael Braungart terials lists, illustrations, and tips. Each one makes a What happens to the things we buy and use after we difference. These booklets took me into the kitchen to are done with them? This book inspires us to consider make saurkraut, marmalade, and dehydrate fruit and the life cycle of our stuff. With good design and a slight herbs, into the garden to dig a swale, into the garage to shift in our thinking, we can revolutionize the way we fix my bicycle, and more.

The Ecology Center’s eco-educational programs such as Grow Your Own! school gardens, Backyard Skills workshops, the Eco-Labs learning landscape, The Water Shed mobile exhibit, are all made possible by individuals like you.

As a member of The Ecology Center you not only support important educational programs that go into schools and communities to elevate and sustain the health of our environment, you are also joining the local movement of Advocates on a journey toward a more sustainable way of living. Together, we can create a healthy and abundant future for all!


Evolve / 11 / A Year in Sustainability  

An eco-journal of obtainable and sustainable solutions curated by The Ecology Center.

Evolve / 11 / A Year in Sustainability  

An eco-journal of obtainable and sustainable solutions curated by The Ecology Center.