Food Stamps, Farmers, and the Drought?

20150602greywaterDear Friends of the Ecology Center-

This year, the Ecology Center celebrates its 45th year! In my fifteen years of serving as the Executive Director, there has never been a more exciting time in the organization’s development. Now, more than ever, the Ecology Center is seen as a leader in the field of sustainability. Our strong track record of transforming good ideas into mainstream practices speaks for itself.

The Ecology Center relies on support from members like you to provide the unrestricted funding we need to pursue innovative solutions. Donations from our community allow us to pilot, build, and advocate for effective programs. Please make a donation today. You are fundamental to our success!

Recently, our members planted the seed for a BIG win. Your support enabled the Ecology Center to diligently advocate for two years to improve the federal Farm Bill, so that it more effectively lifts up struggling families and small farmers. In May, the USDA awarded the Ecology Center a major grant to expand Market Match – a groundbreaking initiative that doubles food stamp benefits when they are spent on fresh produce at farmers’ markets across California.

We are thrilled by this vote of confidence from the USDA and eager for Farm Bill funds to start flowing through us to hundreds of thousands of low-income Californians and thousands of small-scale farmers.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee stated, “This federal grant helps ensure a vital avenue for access to healthy food in our community. The Berkeley Ecology Center does amazing work contributing to the health of our community by addressing food insecurity; providing local, healthy food to the most vulnerable in our community; and promoting social equity.

At the same time that the Ecology Center is driving statewide programs for a healthier and more just food system, we are doing everything we can to bring resilience and smart, adaptive practices to a state suffering from crippling drought. We need your help to address this crisis.

Driven by climate change, water scarcity is our new normal. The Ecology Center is responding to the drought crisis with an all-hands-on-deck approach, giving the public the tools and information they need to conserve water. We are fielding questions via our hotline, and sharing fact sheets and resources widely. We are leading hands-on workshops on greywater and rainwater catchment, and hosting a wide range of informative community events.

At the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition convening, we featured presenters who dove deep into green infrastructure: innovative cityscape features that slow, spread, and sink our precious water.
The coalition’s water working group just held a laundry-to-landscape greywater installation workshop, which we filmed, to help demystify the process and encourage more people to consider this technology.

Just last month, the East Bay Express featured EcoHouse, our demonstration home and garden, as a terrific resource for learning water conservation strategies. Sunset Magazine touted the Ecology Center as the go-to place for information on which cleaning products are safe to use in greywater systems.

In addition to sharing and teaching practical approaches to saving water, the Ecology Center is raising important questions to ensure that conversations around the drought are solutions-oriented. We all need to conserve more water, taking into consideration health, jobs, food production, fisheries, and the environment. Thankfully, groundwater extraction is finally coming under regulatory control, and fracking is increasingly recognized as dangerous to our water sources.

Corporate agriculture practices pollute and leave little room for flexibility. Meanwhile, small, independent farmers are pioneering innovative ways to conserve water and modeling resilience to climate change, drought, and other threats. Many local farmers have made great strides in adapting to scarce water by shifting their planting seasons and utilizing drip, mulch, and dry farming practices. The Ecology Center is supporting legislation like AB 1321, which would provide independent farmers like those at our weekly farmers’ market with a stronger customer base all year long.

The Ecology Center relies on your support to stay at the forefront of these statewide movements. Your support allows us to lead key programs that operate at the intersection of movement building, direct services, and policy development. Please consider making your valuable contribution to our efforts today.

With gratitude,
Martin Bourque

P.S. If you are a past or current member, I hope that you will take a few minutes to fill out our member survey. Through it, we are hoping to gain a better sense of our members, their priorities and experiences of our services. Thank you!

[Photo of our recent Greywater Laundry-to-Landscape Installation Workshop]

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