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Briefs: CHANGING ORGANICALLY, FUND ZONE

newsbriefWhen Sylvia Prevedelli of Prevedelli Farms began growing apples in Corralitos in 1945, the aim was not so much to grow “organic,” but to farm and produce natural foods like she was accustomed to eating in her native Italy.

“I prefer food in the natural way,” Prevedelli says. Over the years, Prevedelli has seen a growing number of Americans come to espouse similar preferences for natural foods, especially in Santa Cruz County, a home to the modern organic food movement. “More people are looking for food produced naturally—a way to eat healthy and protect the soil,” she says.

Protecting the soil is a big issue for farmers, but what if the soil can do more than just grow crops? What if it can actually help combat climate change?

Many people know that plants and trees play a significant role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But at this year’s EcoFarm Conference, which starts on Wednesday, Jan. 21 in Pacific Grove, attendees will get the scoop on recently published scientific studies that show how biologically healthy soil is also effective in removing and trapping carbon that might otherwise heat up the atmosphere.

“The solution to climate change is beneath our feet,” says Ken Dickerson, executive director of the Ecological Farming Association, which puts on the annual event where Prevedelli will speak.

One acre of urban land emits 70 times more greenhouse gasses than an acre of irrigated farmland, and organic farming systems offer some of the best opportunities in agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon, according to the California Climate and Agricultural Network.

Researchers have begun to see, over the long term, that common organic farming practices, such as cover cropping and using animal manure and compost, can trap significantly more carbon in the soil than conventional operations.

One eight-year study showed that soil-organic carbon increased 19 percent in organic and low external input systems—meaning no pesticides or fertilizers—versus 10 percent in conventional systems.

In his most recent State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown recognized the importance that California’s more than 80,000 farms and ranches have in mitigating the effects of climate change by calling for agricultural solutions.

“We must manage farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon,” he said.

Consumers may soon be thanking their local organic farmer for more than just a tasty apple—how about saving the planet?

EcoFarm is from Jan. 21-24 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove. Day registrations are available. Visit www.eco-farm.org for more information. RH

FUND ZONE

It was a big year for local giving this past holiday season, and Good Times readers were exceptionally generous. In response to this year’s annual “Giving” issue, the five nonprofit organizations we selected to highlight reported an exceptionally successful season—approximately twice what they normally raise during the holiday season collectively.

A super-cool GT-reading couple from the San Lorenzo Valley donated a truck to Pajaro Valley Loaves & Fishes (PVLF), and the group raised nearly three times its holiday fundraising goal.

Another GT reader gave $5,000 to Mountain Community Resources (MCR), a program of Community Bridges, even though she had already donated to MCR before getting inspired by GT’s cover story.

Community Action Board said the campaign was “huge,” in dollars, and more so in the impact of awareness around their work as the premier agency fighting poverty in the county.

CAB had lost a major source of funds, and was expecting donations to be down from last year, but instead doubled its holiday fundraising over 2013.

Some nonprofits noted effects beyond cash. Grey Bears, for instance, found that nearly half of its donors were new this holiday season. Plus, 91 new volunteers signed up for holiday work.

Homeless Services Center also reported many in-kind gifts of clothing, blankets and other items, many new Facebook likes, and the return of 108 donors who had given in previous years but not last year.

When it came to selecting five nonprofits to receive funds, the goal was to choose organizations that serve the neediest cases, as well as cover all corners of county—outlying areas often are underserved. After six years of a slow-to-resuscitate economy, some of our neighbors who might have been able to get by for a few years on savings, family support, and going without all but basic necessities, find themselves relying on local nonprofits for just that: basic necessities.

The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County was an invaluable partner in helping GT select organizations that are highly effective and would make the most of your investment. (We wouldn’t ask you to participate in anything less.) The Packard Foundation kicked in $30,000, and, really, it’s their mission that directs funds toward the neediest cases. Where would the entire Bay Area be without them?

The campaign officially ended on Dec. 26, but don’t let that stop you if you didn’t get around to donating yet. Gifts from GT readers are still trickling in—and needed. Visit SantaCruzGives.com. JH


PHOTO: Sylvia Prevedelli at the Prevedelli Farms stand at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market. Prevedelli will talk on her farming experiences at a workshop session on Saturday at EcoFarm. ROSEANN HERNANDEZ

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