Mendocino County is beautiful – stretching from forested mountains overlooking river valley vineyards to the rugged Coast. The coast itself is a study in contrasts – from the banana-belt in the south to the foggy redwood forests in the north with sweeping beaches, lighthouses and historic villages. In many respects Mendocino County is a “sustainable destination.”
The Stanford Inn engages in sustainable practices. And we are not the only business and family to do so. Nor were we the first. In 1956, the Lolonis family of Redwood Valley chose to purposely manage their vineyards using traditional, sustainable methods – no chemicals and lots of ladybugs. They are the oldest purposely organic vineyard in the United States.
Mendocino County’s story is one of benign neglect – after the heyday of lumber after reconstruction of earthquake ravaged San Francisco 100 years ago, the County was forgotten. Many residents moved to the Bay area for college educations and jobs. In the 1960’s artists and “back-to-the-landers” discovered the County, buying land, building cabins growing their own food and seeking to make a living by creating arts and crafts including food products.
Arts groups and galleries were founded, beginning with what the National Endowment for the Art designated a “rural miracle” – the Mendocino Art Center. Throughout the County newcomers created cooperative galleries and performing arts companies.
Many of the newcomers sought to preserve what they found here. They argued for sustainable logging practices (they lost that one and most of the mills are closed due to over-logging as large scale logging has left the County leaving the forests to recover). They helped lead the organic movement. They initiated the creation of State Parks – in particular Mendocino Village’s Headlands State Park and Big River State Park.
The following is a brief history of Mendocino County Sustainability
- 1978 Real Goods founded to support those seeking to live a more natural lifestyle – often off-grid, growing their own food, producing art, crafts, canned goods, jams and jellies, etc.
- 1970’s Thanksgiving Coffee Company founded to provide “not just a cup, but a just cup” adopting organic and fair trade practices.
- 1980 The Frey family established Frey Vineyards producing organic wine.
- Beginning in1980 – We began our “rural” inn – originally Big River Lodge – in part based on principles I learned as an anthropologist.
- 1982 John Jeavons brought Ecology Action to Willits from Palo Alto, featuring “biointensive” farming methods originally developed by Alan Chadwick. John writes: “Our work grew out of a concern about worldwide starvation and malnutrition. If we could determine the smallest amount of land and resources needed for one person to supply all of his or her needs in a sustainable way, we might have a personal solution to these challenges.”
- 1985 the Fetzer family began adopting organic practices as did The Stanford Inn.
- In the mid 1980’s the Schmitts who created Napa’s French Laundry restaurant began the Philo Valley Apple Farm in Anderson Valley. Tim Bates, their son-in-law ran the farm and has figured prominently in the organic movement, including helping begin Mendocino Renegade – a more sustainable organic certification. By the way, he and his family offer classes at the farm.
- 1998 Solar Living Institute was founded by Real Goods founder John Schaeffer.
- 2001 Ukiah Brewing Company certified organic brew pub.
- 2001 Yokayo Biofuels founded in Ukiah by Kumar Plocher. Yokayo’s biodiesel is made from used vegetable oil.
These and more created an ethos in the County for which it is largely known – e.g.,
- First and only jurisdiction – County, in our case, to ban farming genetically modified organisms – GMOs.
- The Stanford Inn’s Ravens’ Restaurant – One of the first vegan/vegetarian eco-properties in North America.
- First carbon neutral winery, Parducci built on the principle that, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Norwegian former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.)
- In 1996 Anderson Valley Brewing created their solar powered brewery.
- Local Sea vegetable harvesting provided products for which The Ravens’ had to create a use – sea palm strudel which led to a world-wide market for sea palm from no market at all.
- Mushroom foraging – Mendocino mushroom entrepreneur, Eric Schramm, found many patches of “candy cap” mushrooms. Although fresh candy caps look like and have an earthy odor similar to many mushrooms, dried candy caps have an intense maple flavor. Eric created an entirely new dessert base – and we have used candy caps for many year.
- Mendocino County is “America’s Greenest Wine Region.” Many vineyards are organic or biodynamic and many of the tasting rooms are manned by the families who grow the grapes and makes the wines.
The County through the authentic activities of some residents is a destination focused on more sustainable lifestyles. The Stanford Inn and its staff are leaders in this. The most sustainable action a single person can take is to adopt a whole food, plant based diet and the Inn’s Ravens’ Restaurant primarily features whole food plant based cuisine – with about half the produce grown on the property. Produce here is enriched with compost from plant and kitchen wastes. Rather than tear through the forests and fields on ATVs, the Inn provides mountain bikes at Catch A Canoe & Bicycles, too! and also specializes in another human powered recreation – paddling. Catch A Canoe’s redwood outrigger canoes are built in the County and provide easy access to the Big River Estuary – an undeveloped river canyon with abundant wildlife.
Sustainability at the Inn is a state of mind that permeates every aspect of life.
This article was written by stanford