Sunday, 20 December 2009

Winter Solstice on the Slow Coast

Winter Solstice 2009 from Wallace J. Nichols on Vimeo.

Annual Winter Solstice Party at the Rowley's on California's SLow Coast, with Jay Salter on bagpipes

Friday, 18 December 2009

In Slow We Trust

by EZRA KOCH, Good Times Weekly

A walk with Dr. Wallace J. Nichols illuminates the Slow Coast Movement, the ‘long now’ and what's really in a name

We all know the area. That long stretch of Highway 1 that weaves along the cliffs, between hills, forests and farmland beginning just north of Santa Cruz at Wilder Ranch and ending south of Half Moon Bay just past San Gregorio. It's a region of undeniable beauty and tangible calm. A place where time seems to move a little slower, perhaps on an older more natural cycle. A certain Dr. Wallace 'J' Nichols, his partner Dana Nichols and other like-minded people in the area are working on keeping it that way.

"We're lucky here," says Nichols, walking in the crisp morning air along Swanton Road with his black and white Newfoundland, Fisher. "This isn't about rebuilding something, it's about hanging onto it."

A large part of the Slow Coast movement is simply to give a name to an area that people (both residents and passers-through) have come to cherish.

"When you name things, it gives them status and stature in human society," says Wallace. "When you give it a name it's a something. If it goes unnamed it in a way is invisible ... This is a very special stretch of coast and region of the world and its name is not well established, not really clear."

The stretch of coast and surrounding farmlands and preserves is known as the North Coast to Santa Cruzans and as part of the Central Coast to most everyone else. Nichols and others believe the name “the Slow Coast” could serve to define and unite the area geographically as well as ideologically.

"I think the name can [add] more identity to it," says Dana. "Our hope is that we'll put a little light on these beautiful places and have people enjoy, care for, and recognize it the way that we do."

So why the Slow Coast? There is a broader slow movement afoot (perhaps encapsulated best in Carl Honore's book "In Praise of Slowness"), Wallace explains, between pointing out houses along Swanton and telling with endearing pride what the people who live within them do. A certain way of taking one's time, using handcrafted and hand-grown goods and being involved in the local community. "It's not a new idea," he says. "It's the way things are done in lots of places still and the way things were done most places not too long ago."

Wallace was careful to express that the Slow Coast movement isn't an attempt to change or shape the region in any way.

"It's not 'we discovered this slow movement let's become a part of it.' I think this area is sort of the epitome of it, it's not trying to become it, it's just trying to stay it. It's not about slowing things down here," he jokes, gesturing to the tranquil empty road, "as you can see!"

The region the Slow Coast could come to represent is known throughout the state, if not the world, for its organic farming methods and sustainable ranching and forestry practices. It's home to many already revered stops, such as Swanton Berry Farm and the Pie Ranch, known for their uniqueness and character second only to the quality of their goods.

"Well, I think it's great," says Jim Cochran, owner of Swanton Berry Farm of the Slow Coast idea. "It really sort of captures the way a lot of us feel about the coast. Most everybody who lives along here has a real sense of protectiveness about what it is that we have here."

Cochran, who began Swanton Berry Farms as the first organic strawberry producer in the state more than 25 years ago, and Wallace converse in the rustic honor-til system shop, parts of their conversation bespeaking the connectedness of the community perhaps more than their outright statements. ("You know Mike, the fish guy?" "Yeah, from up on?" "Yeah.")

Cochran is optimistic about the future as the Slow Coast. "You have to look around at all it is that we could do,” he says. “Let’s think about how we could do a little more work together."

Indeed, another big part of the Slow Coast movement that could facilitate people working together more is the idea of having a local currency in the area. So far the idea is in its beginning phases but the Nichols have begun talking with friend-of- many-friends Christopher Lindstrom, a local-currencies theorist who has worked on many different local currencies including the successful Ithaca Hour.

"Organic farmers, because of competition, undervalue their products," says Dana. "Part of what alternative currencies really help protect is the value of what people produce. You're not dealing with dollar value, you're sort of thinking about the items and hours it took to make and produce something."

Wallace gives an even more empirical take on the subject: "You can go to Safeway and get a pie for $4.99 and save a lot of money. It's got a whole bunch of calories, tastes pretty good. Not that good but it'll do. So people need to slow down and think 'well why is that one worth $20 and that one worth five?' And I think having that local currency is sort of like an ambassador to that idea in the form of a piece of paper."

Leaving Swanton Berry Farm to continue the trek along the coast, Wallace admits he feels slightly hesitant about being labeled as spokesman for the Slow Coast movement. He does live in the area (though for "eight years, only" in his words) with Dana and their two daughters and did come up with the name for the region quite appropriately on a four day walk up the coast to San Francisco, but remains sensitive to those he regards as his seniors in the area.

"It was interesting to think about how to present this idea to a group of people who are working on the Slow Coast, farming everyday—they are what makes this a special place—and not come across as an outsider,” he says. “It's like 'you guys know way more [about] what you're doing than I do, and here's what I think we can offer to the mix'."

What Wallace modestly offers are undergrad degrees in biology and Spanish, a master's in natural resource economics, and a doctorate degree in evolutionary biology. He travels much of the world as a researcher and keynote speaker on marine biology (among other things) and as an organizer of conservation efforts from Indonesia to Baja. All of this, combined with his easygoing attitude and love of the Slow Coast region and its inhabitants, seems to suggest he's cut from the right cloth for the task at hand.

Dana is no second-fiddle herself (forgive the colloquialism) with training in organic food production and preparation, a keen interest in and understanding of health, and a finger on the creative pulse of the region. "There's so many artists of incredible talent here," she says. "All hidden."

What, I ask, coming to the end of a long walk along the coastal cliffs just north of Santa Cruz, would you say slow thinking is really all about?

"There's an enlightened sort of movement to get people to think in the now and there's this parallel progressive movement that's asking people to think in terms of seven generations, or at least one generation," says Wallace, stepping in uneven steps along the railroads tracks. "It's just interesting that both of those things are happening at the same time. So maybe slow thinking is about combining both of those things at the same time ... the long term now."

This way of life isn't for everybody, Wallace admits, but that's not what the Slow Coast movement is about.

"The world is not gonna slow down. It's just gonna keep getting faster, and the solution to our biggest societal problems is not just telling everybody to slow down—they're not gonna," he says, smiling as he looks up the coast.

"This isn't a 'save the world' idea, it's just a 'take care of here' idea."

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Enjoy the Long Now on the Slow Coast

About Long Now

The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996* to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide counterpoint to today's "faster/cheaper" mind set and promote "slower/better" thinking. Long Now hopes to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

The term was coined by one of the founding board members, Brian Eno. Upon moving to New York City, Brian found that "here" and "now" meant "this room" and "this five minutes" as opposed to the larger here and longer now that he was used to in England. We have since adopted the term as the title of our foundation as we try to stretch out what people consider as now.

Guidelines for a long-lived, long-valuable institution:

Serve the long view
Foster responsibility
Reward patience
Mind mythic depth
Ally with competition
Take no sides
Leverage longevity

Friday, 11 December 2009

Pie Ranch Barn Dance on the Slow Coast

Special Holiday Sale, potluck and Barn Dance Dec 19th in the Roadside Barn. Sale @ 1pm w/ live music, potluck 5pm, dance 7-10pm.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

slow coast veterinarian

Hannah Good is a wonderful slowcoast affordable veterinarian and makes house calls to part of the slowcoast region
Veterinary Housecalls (831) 427-2077

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Slow Coast: Kitchen Witches Local & Organic Meals Delivered

Kitchen Witches is a Slow Coast centered home-cooking wonder.

They deliver yummy food, made from local and organic ingredients to you and your family at a very reasonable price.  Beautiful entrees and delicious desserts.

Kitchen Witches certificates also make a great gift.

Call Robyn at 831-332-0879 or email her at for more details and to place your order!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Geocaching on The Slow Coast

The Slow Coast is chock full of hundreds of geocaches!

Make a day of hiking or biking to them, logging your visit and leaving a bit of something behind.

Then stop in for some great local, organic food at one of the Slow Coast's farms or eating establishments.

Spend the night, and go geocaching the next day!

Happy hunting...

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Rancho Siempre Verde Christmas Tree Farm on The Slow Coast

Welcome. For 45 years family and friends have made Rancho Siempre Verde a lively and beautiful place to enjoy the Christmas season.

We invite you to come swing to your heart's content, picnic overlooking the Pacific Ocean, take a tractor ride, roast marshmallows by the fire, romp in the hay, make a wreath, and stroll leisurely through the fields in search of your perfect tree.

We promise no plastic Santas, no long lines, and no parking-lot-style Christmas trees. Just a relaxed rural farm with a diversity of beautiful trees and lots of very friendly people.

So, please come with family, friends, dogs and good cheer and join us in celebrating this cherished holiday tradition.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Jim Hightower | Giving Thanks for America's Good Food Movement

t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

What better day than Thanksgiving to celebrate our country's food rebels!

I'm talking about the growing movement of small farmers, food artisans, local retailers, co-ops, community organizers, restaurateurs, environmentalists, consumers and others -- perhaps including you. 

This movement has spread the rich ideas of sustainability, organic, local control and the Common Good from the fringes of our food economy into the mainstream.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The New York Times Praises The Slow Coast

Setting aside the park’s 4,000 acres was a start. But it has taken another 50 years to begin to protect the landscape in which Año Nuevo Point is set. What you see there now is a steadily developing patchwork of protections, the remarkable result of private efforts, state and municipal programs, reclamation trade-offs, and the gradual substitution of small organic farms for the old toxic monocultures. The protections are by no means complete. But it’s hard to imagine a more vivid demonstration of the value of coastal protection and the ways in which it can be done.

More on the New York Times

Friday, 20 November 2009

On Food and Connections

We all want to live sustainably. 

We want to live simply and make healthy choices. 

The problem is most of us just don't know how. 

That's why, for me, when I meet a person who really embodies a that kind of life. I want him/her as a friend. I want a little of that mojo to rub off on me. 

Same holds true for things. The other day I brought home a bag of Lays potato chips from Safeway. My wife said, " let's eat them quick. I don't want that 'brand' around the house". I didn't have to ask why ( that's why we're married ). 

The Lays emblem doesn't align with who we want to be.  I guess, we're more of a Kettle Chips family. That package can live on our shelf and interact with our kids. 

Why?  Because somehow we've came to think that Kettle represents a different set of values. Ones that are more in line with the kind we want in our friends and the kind we want to instill in our kids. Until now, I wasn't even sure if our perception of Kettle was, in fact, correct. Maybe we were wrong.  Maybe Kettle is just another brand that hooked us in with savvy earthy-looking packaging. Not so. I just visited the web site . It has a whole section committed to sustainability with news about building "green plants" and running trucks on biodiesel. It seems like a pretty cool company doing good things. 

But really, do I know these guys? In fact, when you get right down it, Ketlle chips are one more highly processed product that comes from a long way away. Not really a friend.So as I sit drinking my imported beer and eating my Kettlecchips, I get to thinking. Wouldn't it be great if we made our own potato chips... from potatoes we grew ourselves... And then used the left over grease to fill up our car. 

And this beer? I could even brew up my own beer. 

I sip and munch and dream and I draw inspiration from my friends on the Slow Coast.  

Can I trade my beer and chips for your cheese and pie?

Dave Bernard

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Our Road

Sometimes we just pull over on the side 
to watch birds
or waves.

Here each cow has a name, 
like Petey
or Stripey.

We clutch our cups of coffee,
eat strawberries and apples 
and talk about puma sightings 
in the hills.

And when there’s a baby 
or cancer 
we cook for each other.

-Wallace J. Nichols

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Traversing Swanton Road, by Jim West

Although synthetic in origin, Swanton Road, like its fluid counterpart Scotts Creek, traverses a substantial part of the watershed and reveals an informative cross-section of the region’s flora. Without leaving the tarmac, one can journey the entire length of “Old Highway One” and observe/study some of Santa Cruz County’s rarest, most horticulturally desirable, and just plain overlooked plant life! The Scotts Creek Watershed is more than an aggregation of 600+ native species representing 282+ genera and 88+ families: it is that rare occurrence, a living window into California’s evolutionary past, still relatively undeveloped by human activity and spared the habitat degradation that has befallen much of the coastal ecology elsewhere in our state.
Read the entire document HERE:

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Slow Coast*

slow, adj. def. moving a short space in a relatively long time; not swift; not quick in motion; not rapid; moderate; deliberate; gradual; as, a slow stream; a slow motion; as, the slow growth of arts and sciences.

I've started calling the place I live The Slow Coast.

Some people call it the North Coast, since it's north of Santa Cruz. To some, it's the central coast of California. My town, Davenport, is at the very mid-point of the California coast.

But technically the Central Coast of California spans Santa Cruz Co. south to Santa Barbara/north Ventura.  With all due respect, that just doesn't cut it as a name for here.

"The Slow Coast" is a better name.

It’s not just because things are mellower here compared to the supersonic pace of Silicon Valley just over the mountains, the busy coast up north of us in San Francisco or southern California’s “Fast Coast”.

The stretch of coast and mountains from Wilder Ranch to north of San Gregorio is beautiful, quiet, productive and mostly devoid of people and major highways. A bit inland you'll find slow-growing redwoods, meandering creeks, slow-crawling newts and the slowest of all: banana slugs.

Farms and ranches produce luscious organic strawberries, apples, wine, cheese and pie.

Here the fog pushes up between the trees, then gives way to sun. Waves travel slowly across the Pacific to meet the land, at the bottom of a steep trail. Salmon and steelhead push upstream. Grey whales hug the shoreline on their annual migration between Alaska and Baja California.

A few months ago I walked the coast from Santa Cruz up to San Francisco to attend Slow Food Nation, a massive gathering of farmers, growers, ranchers, producers of wine, beer, honey--you name it--people who produce food in traditional, organic ways. It took four days and I took my own sweet time. Few people take long treks up our coast, so I was alone with the sea to my left most of the time.

A slow walk on the Slow Coast.

Come visit The Slow Coast. There are a few wonderful places to lodge, camp or hostel. Take some time to walk the trails and beaches, watch the newts and slugs, the hawks and herons, the bobcats and deer, and pick some berries and apples. And be sure to eat some pie. Lots ofpie!

It’s not just Slow Food and leisure walks, aimlessly exploring back roads, lighthouses and watching wildlife. We have great surf, tough hiking and excellent biking trails. Places called Bear Gulch, Pigeon Point, Gazos Creek, Waddell Beach.

The Slow Coast is an antidote to your fast life. A place that you know will be there, more or less the same. Even when you aren’t.

[Bring along a copy of Carl Honore’s book, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed]

Take it easy. Keep it slow.

*The place we call the The Slow Coast encompasses the beaches and coastal range from roughly just north of Santa Cruz to just south of Half Moon Bay, including the communities of Bonny Doon, Davenport, Ano Nuevo, San Gregorio, and Pescadero.

Some of the folks making a living on the Slow Coast and waiting for you to stop by are listed in the links to the right.

By the way, our efforts to highlight our Slow Coast community parallel other Slow Coasts around the world, such as those in the UK and Canada.  We hope to visit them, and to enjoy their coast, and to someday return the favor.

-Wallace J. Nichols

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Slow Coast Potluck Notes by Katherine June

Below are the notes I took the other night at the Slow Coast potluck. I organized them into two sections: 1) that of general comments and ideas, and 2) questions/concerns. 

I think I was able to jot down the gist of what people were saying, but since I haven't studied economics, I was grappling a bit with some of the ideas as they were being discussed. I hope my interpretation of what was shared is at least close to what was actually meant...let us know if you have any questions if somethings not clear by adding to the comments.

And thanks again for the invite...I'm excited to have the opportunity to take part in the evolution of Slow Coast endeavors!

Sitting fireside daydreaming about some slow apple pie from Pie Ranch!



JIM COCHRAN welcomed us to Swanton Berry Farm.

J. NICHOLS introduced the Slow Coast idea.

-Gravitating towards the clarity of simplicity

-Unique opportunity to NOT market, but TO BE the ideology as a community

-Make it work for us as a community, then watch it ripple outward

-Reduce (as much as possible) the use of US dollars, using Slow Coast Cash as the main currency...and do so by using the least amount of bureaucracy...let it be a community-building commerce; have fun with it!

-Let the Slow Coast Cash be a conversation starter

-A foggy area of inquiry: an hour of service=how much squash, for example?

- One of the farmers said, "To start things off, perhaps we could try inviting a cross-section of the Slow Foods community (farmers, bakers, cheese and wine makers, etc.) to an event and have them bring goods to barter... somehow introducing the Slow Coast Cash into the equation." (HOW though, is the question!)

-PAUL GLOVER is the name of the man who organized the Ithaca Hour alternative currency. Debbie from Freewheelin' Farms said that he makes himself very available to people who are trying to start similar projects and that it could be worth reaching out to him.

-DAVE GARDNER: "Slow Coast currency as a slow step towards succession!"

-PHILLIPE LECONTE (the french man visiting UCSC) who has studied alternative currencies had this to say:

"It is important for alternative currencies to arise. They protect the local economy and defend the well-being of all neighbors. They can be difficult to start, but once they are going, have proven to be quite sustainable. There are 2 critical points that need serious examination within the community: 1) How will the people come to value their time in exchange for goods (what amount of time equals what goods or services) and 2) Are the people ready to be without "speculation", that is, are the producers willing to change the programming of all prior thought about how much food is worth in US dollars, and begin to view the value in a new way, without constantly interpreting the exchange through regular-currency-exchange-colored-glasses."

He also mentioned the question of taxes and that the possibility of alerting the government is important to consider.

Leconte recommended researching the Swiss alternative currency model (that of the WIR vs. the franc).

Finally, he stressed the importance of keeping the currency flowing vs. saving it/trying to have it appreciate... it will not work if people begin to horde it.

-The idea of creating a Slow Coast website in order to organize/network/list activities/trades etc. was mentioned and that it would be helpful to include not only food producers, but those who provide services such as mechanics, healers, artists, etc. so that the wider community can participate. [This blog is simply a placeholder for now]

-JIM COCHRAN: "This requires an open will be a fun challenge to twist my mind into these new ideas of participating in an alternative currency and to let go of all prior conditioning around money and business." He continued, by offering a 10% premium on Swanton Berry goods, using Slow Coast Cash, to get the ball rolling.


-What about the "gold standard"? What could be the equivalent? Do we need an equivalent? [a Slow Coast organic pie = twenty Slow Coast Cash?]

-Where do we start? How is this established? How do we go about tying alternative values to goods/services? What is equitable when viewed outside the box?

-Would farmers be interested in trading goods for various services (i.e. tutoring for their children, car repair, acupuncture, etc.)?

-What about relying on a small, local bank to create a small scale reserve? Could all participants somehow be part of an account that would create new/different values on goods/services but would still provide/assign actual monetary value on them that felt fair?

-What about migrant workers? How can we get them involved and have their standard of living increased and their other needs met, as well (such as trading for healthcare/ car care/ etc.)?