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


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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 




 
 
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The last six months has been spent working on manifesting an idea. In that process we have learned so much in the realities and innumerable ways this project could take shape. Not just what we are creating but how has been a present mantra. The relationships we have built with foundations, organizations, non-profits, farmers, artists and most importantly the Ohlone people are invaluable. These relationships give us energy and the true belief that this project will happen. 

Last week we made our counter offer of $1.7 million with due dillegence to be had and assessment of equipment. Another group the Ananda Church of Self-Realization of Palo Alto came in with a little bit more money but no terms of sale, thus going into escrow immediately. Although the Wolf Ranch is an excellent location there are unknowns that the process of due diligence in a land acquistion provides so that a project can begin with knowing the truth about water and access issues, adjacent land use and land profiles. 

Given this new unfolding I am finding myself more determined to make this happen and learning more about non-attachment to the place.  However our core idea of transferring land ownership from POST to an Ohlone Community Land Trust with a regenerative farm lands perfectly upon the upper watershed of Frenchman's Creek where Wolf Ranch sits.

We hope to reach out the Ananada Church and ask them to retract their offer on behalf of the Ohlone people or if they want to purchase the land, then do so but then donate the land over to us to create our project,the latter seeming highly unlikely.  

I can imagine they would like to set up an nice Ashram for yoga retreats and self-realizing workshops. Having managed the farm at Esalen for two years and living with that community, I know the energy that gets generated , and the good feelings that people experince at these type of retreats. Being so close to the Bay Area, they will create a nice yoga farm like the one they have in the Sierras and probably make alot of revenue with all those seeking happiness. Especially as the tech industry generates alot of money for the people working so hard in office buildings, alot of wealth, yet empty often in overall purpose of life. The Ananada Church then fills a vital role for these people as they seek something with more meaning, going to a farm and eating the food there while deepening your spirtual practice is an ideal recipe to meet that need, yet often it is temporary and some become "workshop junkies" or end up abandoning their lives to live at the ashram and follow the teachings. Interestingly enough this is the same group that gave Oceansong in Sonoma County it's name in mid 1980s. I was the farmer there many years later from 2003-2007. 

Cornerstone Farms is to fill the needs of physical and spiritual hunger yet in a very different way, without a religion at it's core. We realize we come from all walks of life and practices, yoga only being one of them, thus no prescribed ashram schedule or guru would commandeer the purpose of our project, nor would we allow people to abandon their lives as they awaken to all the un justices. Instead we will work on making connections, living by examples, saving seeds, discussing deeply and encourage people to re-awaken their own lives by participating more within their own food system. More community meals in their own homes, garden days in their own neighborhoods, solar on their own roofs and meaning in the work they are doing. Our farm will be a cornerstone as we all build in these transformative  ecological and economical landscapes. What an amazing place and time to be alive. Our farm is to be a bio-regional hub of organic seeds, art and culture. 


So what to do?
 We met tonight with our Ohlone friends and came up with a way to move forward 

If you have any resources, ideas or contacts to help materialize this in a good way, 
please contact me at csfarmhub@gmail.com 

we will see...





 
 
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Last week I was able to join Steve Peters with some of his trials he is doing over at Fifth Crow farm in Pescadero. Steve was the seed production manager at Seeds of change before they were bought out by Mars and closed their operation. I met Steve at Seed School in Arizona in 2010 wil Bill McDorman and we have been conversing since. Mostly about the revolution that is needed within the seed industry and how to collaborate in making that happen. 

Steve is a wealth of information and inspiration and was one of the first i reached out to when thinkin of how we were going to create a bio-regional seed hub here on the central coast, and he and his wife Moria live just over the hill in San Mateo! 

Steve started a couple of seed selection trials of Broccoli, Chinese cabbage and now some peas and is selecting for the size, vigor, posture and resilience  in a couple of beds at Fifth Crow. This last week we took out any remaining straglers who weren't making the cut and were left with a little over 100 plants of each after her had started with 700+.
The best part is you get to eat the rejects! Made a huge batch of kraut from the cabbage and the broccoli is outstanding! Below are a few pictures from the selection process.

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Nicely forming Broccoli head,  OP variety marked for seed. Will harvest the central head and then allow side shoots to flower. Not as massive and tight as the hybrid varieties but the flavor is out of this world!

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Broccoli after thining

Counter to the counter....

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So those of you who have been apart of the California real estate market in the last decade have an idea of time, energy, money, hope and higher callings you have when buying a piece of land. After a few months of visioning, creating and many discussions we have officially partnered with The Peninsula Open Space Trust  in the land acquisition of Cornerstone Farms which we are very excited about. POST has been preserving open space for the last 35 years.

The staff at POST have been very supportive and are excited about what we are creating. Two weeks ago we did a basic walk through of the farm, it's infrastructure, mapped the site and painted the picture of what we were envisioning. Last year POST had launched a farmland protection program and our model fits nicely into their goals. 

 We all first met in February and have cultivated a great relationship. POST is very interested in collaborating in our ideas of building a new model of land stewardship through Regenerative Agriculture practices in combination with Ohlone practices in tending the wild. The plan is within a 5 year timeframe the ownership of the land will transfer into an Ohlone Community Land Trust that is lead by a collective tribal council. This council represents the fracture bay area Ohlone community. The land we are working for in Half Moon Bay will give the Ohlone a space to come together and dance and have ceremony to build story again in a good way for generations to come. 
We are the keepers of seeds for the field of our culture. The food we eat makes us who we are and the inherient potential is nested within the genetics of those seeds. As a farm we will farm ideas, art, organic seeds and alot of fun along the way. We also realise this will take time in this transitional period we find ourselves in. Transitioning 
This is the root of all modern day depression:the loss of the ability to feed the Divine in Nature by our inborn Human Beauty of speech and culture. This abilty is a seed and endangered, These are the seeds we must keep alive." Martin Pretchtel 

 
 
June, the solstice and summer begins with rain. 
The ground opens and breaths and plants are refreshed. 
After a series of meetings and tours and numerous phone calls, things are moving forward as POST steps up in making an offer on the land as apart of their farmland protection program, now the real work begins with a land management plan and contacting all those whom we have built alliances with over the last few months, The RCD, local farmers, foundations and inspired artists. 
Rupa and I are diving into the organizational structure of how this will be set up and look forward to sharing with those inspired to help in this regenerative farming revolution. many ma
 
 
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As we enter the third month of trying to secure the land for Cornerstone Farms I reflect on the incredible learning that seems to place everyday in how our current system of real estate, non-profits, farming projects and investors overlap and weave together to create a complex matrix of ideas and strategies to raise $1.5 million dollars to secure a 67-acre farm in half moon bay. Our partnership with the  Rumsen Ohlone Tribe, descendants of the native people of this land, will re-establish a permanent  presence for them and their tribe on the San Francisco peninsula since the horrific genocide that took place in the early 1800's that caused a huge dispersion of the Ohlone.  Our hope is in the creation a Ohlone Community Land Trust in which our farm will have a long term ground lease. These structure will allow the land to be tended by the Ohlone in collaboration with regenerative agriculture in which we share and learn how to tend the wild. I can imagine the days of harvesting Tule from the pond with A Tonio....

In creating the reality of a working farm it has been great working with Steve Peters on the seed side of things,and getting guidance from the folks at Organic Seed Alliance, Don Tipping, Michael Abelman and my good friend Ken Dickerson from the Ecological Farming Association. This has been inspiring and as I wake everyday and try to piece the puzzle together more, it sometimes feels overwhelming, yet I know it is the work that is needed in order to build out something new, a revolution in regenerative agriculture. 

 To date we have been able to secure about 1/3 of the asking price in our partnership with the Peninsula Open Space Trust, POST as they will help us place a agricultural conservation easement on the property and be a partner and sponsor of the project. POST will be the buyer of the land, with a transition to the Ohlone Community Land Trust as it is established in the first 5 years. This will allow foundations and individuals to  donate funds to help secure the land. 

As we figure this out and build our relationships with the numerous foundations, organizations and groups that work in this field we hope to provide a model of how other can do similar projects. Soon I will start to build a resource page here on our website. 

Thank you friends and family for your support, it has been a challenge to wade through the possibilities, yet the opportunity exists to collaborate in a very positive way and build an amazing farm.  Onward and upward!  

 
 
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 Our inquiry of the Silva Farm for Cornerstone began at the end of January 2013 when Rupa came across this farm in an early morning web search. We have been doing a feasibility assessment on the 67 acres since then and have created a comprehensive business plan that we are feeling confident with and now seek more partners and. investors in the project. 

Cornerstone farms is an LLC with 10 memberships valued at $200,000 each. We have 7 left, 4 active members and 3 silent partners. Active memberships are secured with a $20,000 deposit and will be contributing $20,000 a year in equity for 9 years. Silent members secure with a $40,000 deposit and $20,000 a year for 8 years. LLc members will benefit with a 2% increase is assets every year and a  40% of all profits (i.e. each member receiving a 4% share of total profit) which will begin in year four. 

We are also seeking personal financial backing along with the partnership we have with Peninsula Open Space Trust, POST, who has given us a verbal agreement of support as we await final board approval in early May. We will be placing an Agriculture Conservation Easement on the property and will be receiving an additional loan with POST. They will be investing $500,000 to collaborate in the purchase.

The farm we are creating is one that is so needed in our day and age. Our food system has been industrialized and even our very seeds have become privatized. At Cornerstone Farms we are providing a platform to engage in a social and ecological transformation towards that of a vibrant local food system that confronts the challenges we face as a culture. We are very confident in what we are doing because of the team we have assembled, the significance of the mission and the location.

If you are interested in additional informational documents, like our prospectus and business plan please contact me directly and we will be happy to share with you. We hope to hear from you soon.