In July we almost acquired a incredible farm in the Half Moon Bay area. After 6 months of relationship building and the Peninsula Open Space Trust made an offer of $1.7 million it looked like our project was to have a home base to work out of. At the same time the Ananda Church of Self Realization made a similar offer yet with no terms of sale; meaning no due diligence. We contacted them to explain our project and the significance of the Ohlone regaining ancestral land. They welcomed us into their home as a gesture of good relations but their response was disappointing. Our team consisted of 4 Ohlone tribal members including Corinna Gould whose life work is to form a Ohlone Community Land trust and return the remains of her ancestors into the land they were taken from. POST's Noelle Thurlow showed up along with EFA executive director Ken Dickerson. Our partnerships and project impressed them, yet they continued. Below is the conversations we had with them and the letter we presented to them in July.


Ananda Church of Self Realization 
2171 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 323-3363, inform@anandapaloalto.org

July19, 2013 


Dear Directors of the Ananda Church of Self-Realization, 


We are writing to ask you to consider working with us on the land acquisition of the Wolf Ranch, which you have recently made an offer on, in order to collaborate instead of compete. We have been working for the last six months to acquire this land and have been building crucial alliances with indigenous groups and educational, environmental and ecological farming organizations, which takes time. This project is a notable partnership between organizations such as the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), Cornerstone Farms, UCSF, the Ecological Farming Association, the Organic Seed Alliance, Native Seed/SEARCH, Ohlone community members and a number of international groups working to create a rich ecological and cultural hub for the greater Bay Area, a landed place for indigenous gathering of the native Ohlone people, and a foundational place to establish a Bay Area farmers' collective focused on the protection and cultivation of heirloom and heritage seeds.

We are asking that you retract your recent offer and allow POST along with Cornerstone Farms to continue our work to acquire the land on behalf of the native Ohlone people in order to create our regenerative agricultural project that re- establishes an Ohlone presence on their native peninsula land, through the formation of an Ohlone Community Land Trust. We need to continue with our due diligence to see if our project can be manifested on this particular site. If we find reasons that do not work for our farming and cultural purposes, we will withdraw, and you can then continue to purchase the land. As stated above, the process of working with these impactful organizations has meant our work takes more time, but what we are building is significant, completely unique and desperately needed in this troubled time. We are building a model of how groups can work together to acknowledge and repair relationships between peoples, our food, water and land.

As a tribe that lived here and tended the land for over 10,000 years, the Ohlone were removed by the Spanish missionaries and experienced a tragic transition of their culture. Many triblets experienced complete genocide. By the time the US pushed into California, it had stopped acknowledging native peoples in order to divide up the land more easily. The Ohlone, along with many other tribes in California--the Pomo, Miwok, Chumash, Esselen, Washo, Yokuts--59 in total, were fragmented and became homeless in their own world.

Slowly in the last 50 years some of these tribes have gained their independence, become federally recognized, and many have built casinos to generate revenue. However this unsustainable model only encourages habitats and habits that continue to alienate the native people from place. Many destructive social issues have been forced upon the native people of this land, and we want to contribute to building another way. After 200 years, this is a homecoming long overdue. Please consider the significance of what we are creating and what we are asking of you. We hope you will support our efforts. We look forward to seeing what potentials might exist. If you have any questions or thoughts, please let us know.

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

In Sincerity,

Benjamin Fahrer- Ecological Builder, Farmer and Co-Founder Cornerstone Farms
Rupa Marya, Professor of Medicine at UCSF Global Health Group, Artist, Co-Founder Cornerstone Farms

A Tonio Moreno, Native Ohlone tribal member, Traditional Humaya Dancer, Tule Boat Builder Charlene and Anthony Sul - Ohlone Confederation, Tribal Member and tribal elder
Chief Tony Cerda - Spiritual and Artist director and Chief of the Carmel Rumsen Ohlone Tribe Corrina Gould - Native Ohlone tribal member Bay Area Ohlone activist

Noelle Thurlow -Peninsula Open Space Trust
Raj Patel -Author and Economist
Ken Dickerson - Executive Director of Ecological Farming Association;
Bill McDorman and Belle Star - Executive Directors of Native Seed/SEARCH Steve and Moria Peters - Seed Revolution
Michael Abelman - Foxglove Farm
Kevin Bayuk - LIFT business design
Tarun Marya - Homegrown Urban Farms
Gonzalo Hildago - Artist and Builder

Organizations:

Ecological Farming Association http://www.eco-farm.org/
Native Seed/SEARCH http://www.nativeseeds.org/
The Agricultural Land Based Association http://www.albafarmers.org/
The Organic Seed Alliance http://www.seedalliance.org/
UCSF Global Health Group http://globalhealthsciences.ucsf.edu/global-health-group The Peninsula Open Space Trust http://www.openspacetrust.org/
The Red Poppy Art House http://redpoppyarthouse.org/
NOSOTROS in Athens Greece http://nosotros.gr/
EDELO in Chiapas Mexico http://www.edelo.org/


The email we received from 'Asha' 

Dear Benjamin and Rupa:. 

All reflection and prayer brings us still to the same conclusion: that we need to finish what we have started and not stand aside.
Still, our joy is shadowed by the knowledge that our progress means that you are temporarily halted. And that is a sadness for us.

We are comforted by the recollection of how many times in our own efforts to manifest our ideals, that obstacles -- unsought and unwelcome at the time -- turned out to be just grist for the mill of our ultimate success.
You have put in so much hard work and have accomplished so much. It is impossible to imagine that effort will prove to be for naught. Far more likely, this will give you strength to finish the journey and bring your vision to reality, and will just be one chapter in the exciting birth story of Cornerstone Farms.
And speaking of births, we hope that all continues well with the soon-to-be-born friend who is coming as your baby. A fortunate birth indeed for that soul.
With sincere good wishes for your happiness and success,

David & Asha



We had a "miss" within these meetings and communications in that they really didn't understand the larger goals and perspective we were bringing to this project and that this land was ideal for our operation in location and how it was equipped. Our portfolio was built around this farm and hundreds of hours were spent in getting to the point where we had POST behind us as well as all these organizations. Our efforts were not lost as we have these relationships now, yet it was dissappointing to let go of this site. Rupa replied with the letter below and we did not hear anything back from them. 2 weeks later the sale went through and now they are in possession of the farm. 




Dear Asha

Thank you for writing. And again thank you for taking time to reflect on what we are asking. My heart is truly heavy as I accept where you are at in your leadership and where those who you surround yourself with are at in your community. 

I am not sure you understood, likely because of a lapse in my ability to communicate, that our work with this land is not idealistic.  It is restorative and deeply pragmatic. It is to restore a people who have experienced genocide---both physically and culturally. It is to restore their spirit to the land, where it belongs. In the 200 years since the Spanish arrived under the misguided divine will of Christ, the fate of the people of this land has been one of horror, dispossession, loss and the spiritual and physical diseases that become manifest when a people undergo such tragedy. 

What makes my heart heavy is that in speaking with you and your community, we were not approaching a church that has a reputation of colonization and turning a deaf ear to indigenous peoples. We were not approaching a tech company that simply wants a land grab. We were approaching a group that bases its spiritual practices in the spirit of my own native land, where awareness, compassion and working to end suffering not only in the self, but in the world, is at the core of all practices.

I am sad that hearing the lifework of Ohlone leader Corrina Gould did not move you with its significance, her desire to protect and properly bury the 30,000 remains that lie waiting in universities, remains that were dug up as colonizers built and continue to build in this area. I don't say that you didn't feel something for this significance, but it didn't move you to stop and redirect your energies.  You and your church have the resources to find another place for your idealistic activities. It is with relative ease and rapidity that you engaged this process to buy the land. We don't have those resources and so our time course is much slower. 

I am sad that that the plight of a people who have been dispossessed and who have finally made the alliances and won the trust and hearts of those of us in positions of privilege to alter the course of their suffering, that this plight should fall on deaf ears.

Our work with the seed farm, with UCSF, with the global alliance of artists, activists, thinkers, and farmers will continue as it has continued our entire lives. I am not concerned with that. I am concerned with how this decision has been made and what it says about the state of human spirit. 

I am troubled by the fact that instead of finally having a resting place and a landed place here on the peninsula, the Ohlone will have to wait. This pricks my consciousness in a way that makes me ask the question: what is the point of a spiritual community, if not to teach us how to walk in ways that do not prolong the suffering of others?


The Ohlone have experienced genocide here in the San Francisco Bay Area. This particular land at Wolf Creek Ranch was to be a resting place for their ancestors remains and a place for reinvigorating their culture, heritage and presence here, through the acquisition of that land and the handing it over to them as landowners.

My heart is sad and I have shed many tears since hearing your decision as I reflect again on my own work, which watches this kind of behavior--the promotion of self-interest over the suffering of the invisible people--continue all over the world. It is not a surprise, because this is what people do here, no matter if they are part of a church, a tech company, or some other enterprise. 

I do find solace knowing my soul is still shocked by the lack of compassion I witness, the world over. That shock is my salvation because it causes me to true my own wheel and stay in alignment with my own life purpose--to alleviate suffering around me and inside me.

We will continue and wish you no ill will. And I hope you consider, after 27 years of your own community being here on this land, that there can be no harmony where there is deep dissonance and to not recognize that is to live in a bubble of denial. And there can be no end to that dissonance until there is true restoration of a people who have experienced genocide and continue to suffer. And that restoration cannot happen by taking the name of a tribe,  giving a nod to their suffering or inviting them on your land for a ceremony. It can only happen by returning to their blood what belongs to their blood, that which is actually physically built by their blood---this land. It requires sacrifice, vision and much hard work. 

We did not find partnership for that work in you and Ananda. And I accept that with sadness, for the past generations, for this present world and for the future I carry inside me. 

Rupa


Picture
So now we are in search of a new farm site to house our project. POST is supportive under the farmland protection program of acquiring land along the San Mateo Coast, we are looking throughout the bay and even in urban settings. We believe our project will continue and we are excited to take the next steps with Eco-farm and our other partners. We hope to gain some funding for capacity building for the next steps in building our project. 

Please contact us if you are interested or know of a good place to build such a vision.

In good relations and in good practice, Benjamin 




 


Comments

10/31/2013 3:29am

Dear Benjamin and Rupa
This is a fascinating story and feel your disappointment in the lack of willingness and ability for people to work together. I know the amount of work it takes to get a design together that is inclusive and realistic and its really a pity that you lost a piece of land by following design processes and probably requirements to receive funds. However the people selling the farm could also have taken cognisance of your position, but like the rest of the world its fear based and motivated by money and a deep denial of the past. After all how can we be responsible for our forefathers actions and genocide? we are just trying to make our way in the world ! . . as for the self realisation well California has been and is home to so many of these find yourself 'cults' that are focused only on their own agenda and can't see past it so its amazing that you actually received a reply at all. We all have our own paths to enlightenment and there are many pitfalls and false hopes and indeed prophets on that journey. I can can only think that for some reason this was not meant to be and as difficult as it is to accept, we have no choice but to continue. Im sure a lot of the work is not in vein and can be applied to alternative land. This of course doesn't even start to address the genocide that occurred or the reparations that are due, or even a vision for a more sustainable world, it is simply an accurate mirror of where humanity finds itself, so self absorbed in our own little movies as collectively we accelerate towards our own demise. There is a massive and fundamental shift required in how we see people and how we see value, we live in critical times where the light grows as does the darkness as we teeter in this duality toying with oneness, touching a new nature based reality, yet it remains behind the veil. We can only open our hearts and forgive for they know not what they do. I do feel however that we are getting very close and the time will come when everything falls into place and we will be called on to pioneer the way and to lead, so this time with all its challenges needs to be put to good use in designing and refining and dreaming, for the task is enormous and true revolutionaries are few. We need to think into the future, and keep dreaming for when the time comes, our world will look different and our focus will shift from dreaming to dreaming the dream awake, and our lives will change for ever. With love. Keep the faith, your time will come.

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Moria Peters
10/31/2013 3:04pm

What a perfect response. Thank you both for all the time and energy and care you have put into this project. Of course, we too were broken hearted at the outcome of all this. One note that I hope will be a positive thought: We have become increasingly aware that the coastal area offers some challenges in terms of seeds. Drying and storage are more difficult in this area of cool humidity. A few miles further inland could be much easier for the seed operation. Just something to consider. It doesn't mean we'd turn our noses up at a coastal farm!

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12/06/2013 12:00pm

I am so disaapointed. I have been holding this project in my heart since I first heard about it, and biding my time to become involved when you opened it up for more volunteers. Rupa's response says everything. I will continue to share her ability to be shocked at the lack of compassion by some, but heartened that people like Rupa and the other project people here exist....Pues, vamos adelante compas-let's find a better place. Let me know how I can help....

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Carol
09/25/2014 9:41am

Does Ananda need the entire acreage? Why not both operations on the land?
Montrese Etienne and her husband are selling their ranch near Pescadero. It's windy and foggy, like most land around there.

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