On Monday, Jeff, Sid, Cody (Jeff’s assistant) and I ventured out to Willits to visit the headquarters of Ecology Action, the nonprofit that runs the biointensive garden here at the inn. We set out on the hour-and-a-half drive around 12:30, and boy was I glad I took Cody’s advice to have Dramamine before I left. The roads were wicked curvy, zigging and zagging through the towering trees that peacefully shaded the road from the sun’s increasing strength. Plus, since all of the locals have been driving these roads for the better parts of their lives, they hit the unrelenting hairpin turns at 55 mph like it’s nothing.
The Ecology Action Headquarters was kind of in the middle of nowhere and the GPS stopped working about 10 minutes before we found it, so it was a bit of an adventure navigating the gravel roads that led to it. Once we got out of the car the hundred-degree heat inescapably engulfed us. I suppose had I been in Connecticut all summer it wouldn’t have been such a shock, but Willits was about thirty degrees warmer than the temps in the upper sixties I’ve been spoiled with in coastal Mendocino. At first it felt kind of good, but after a few hours of sitting in an unairconditioned classroom I was definitely thankful to get back to the inn.
John Jeavons, the founder of Ecology Action, greeted us when we first arrived. He’s a Yale alum (Class of 1964 in Berkeley College! Calhoun’s neighbor), so I was particularly excited to meet him! He pointed out a few features of the site as he led us to their classroom, where Jeff and Sid would be leading a talk with all of the interns about nutrition and veganism. The land they have is gorgeous, and wonderfully undeveloped. It spans the side of a mountain, and as we walked on the well-worn dirt path we saw John’s home, a wooden cabin looking out over the valley. A series of tree stumps arranged in various circles followed, shaded by the gentle giants looming above. We passed the camel-colored yurts that house the interns, plain in appearance but fitting well with the surroundings.
The classroom stood above the stairs that led to the farm, which was nestled into a pocket of land and trees further down the mountainside. The inside of the classroom was elegant in its simplicity, with a honey wood-paneled ceiling and sunlight alone lighting the room. Jeff and Sid began their talk to the group of interns (about 25 total, I would guess), going over why they practice veganism, and basic nutritional standards (macro and micronutrients, etc.).
As part of the Grow Biointensive program, Ecology Action’s mission is to develop methods for producing balanced human diets on the smallest amount of land possible. This lends itself well to a vegan diet, as producing meat and animal products takes up an astronomical amount of land compared to crops. They aim to grow not only food, but also soil. According to Rachel, one of the Ecology Action interns at the inn, there are only 31 years left of farmable soil on earth. I wrote more about their methods in one of my first posts, but the gist is they plant very specific crops in a very specific order to keep the land at its healthiest, a mission with a very well-developed and broad perspective of the future.
Afterwards, John took Jeff, Cody, Sid and I to have a closer look at the farm. We didn’t walk all the way down, but John brought us to a vantage point that allowed us to have this incredible birds’ eye view of the crops growing below. Here was yet another one of these spots that my camera couldn’t possible capture the magic of, hard as I tried. Mellow stalks of wheat carpeted the sloping hillside in front of us, drawing us into the compact garden below. The garden was so peaceful in the purple-tinted blues and greens of the late afternoon shade that it looked as if it could have been a part of a fairytale. Looking out further ahead brought visions of quaint farm structures studded here and there, and a river of evergreens and more grain rising and folding in on itself, following the patterns of the uninterrupted land.
After snapping a few pictures and learning a little more about how the farm operates, we headed back up to where we had parked, thanked John and his wife (who sent us off with a massive bag of DELICIOUS grapes), and began the winding trek back to Mendocino.
This article was written by monica