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Apr 23rd
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News - Business

Business Basics - GT web exclusive

Business Basics - GT web exclusive
Classes teach freelancers and small business owners how to grow
"We can't really compete with cupcakes," says Ryan Coonerty, a trifle wistful. The former mayor and current City Council member is sitting downtown at NextSpace, the shared office space and networking center he co-founded with Jeremy Neuner. He's here to talk about their newest project, a series of classes for freelancers, consultants, and entrepreneurs, meant to teach people how to create and grow their businesses. They're being held at NextSpace, through a partnership with Cabrillo Extension. But he acknowledges that they've got serious competition from other extension courses: "The cupcake decorating class has, like, 70 people already."
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News - Business

Strawberry Farms Forever

Strawberry Farms Forever

Farmer of the Year talks about the history of Watsonville, agriculture, her family and more

Diane Porter Cooley’s roots run deep in this region. Her forebears first arrived in Santa Cruz County around 1850, and were instrumental in different agricultural and institutional developments in the years since. She grew up on a farm in north Monterey County, where she remembers happily helping her father, a strawberry farmer. She moved away to go to Stanford University and spent the next few decades living everywhere, from San Francisco to Phoenix, Santa Monica to Connecticut. But she eventually found her way back to the land where she was raised, and has been living on her own farm in Watsonville for the past 30 years.

Now 80 years old and spunky as ever, Cooley has been named the 2009 Farmer of the Year by the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau. And although her modesty won’t allow her to accept this fact (“It’s totally undeserved. I’m a totally fraudulent farmer,” she says, alluding to the fact that she rents out her farmland to other farmers to do the growing), there is copious evidence that suggests otherwise.

“Because [the award] says ‘farmer’ of the year, a lot of people think you have to be out on a tractor,” says Jess Brown, executive director of the Farm Bureau. “But our definition of a farmer is someone who maintains an agricultural business for a period of time, and Diane and her family have done so and are committed to continuing agriculture on the land they own. She is a farmer for that reason.”

Brown adds that the award, which is in its 30th year, is given to a person who has gone “beyond just farming.” Cooley fell under this category because of her dedication to land conservation and establishing agricultural easements, as well as her involvement with countless organizations – the Cabrillo College Foundation, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, State Park’s Castro Adobe Restoration, Women in Philanthropy, Second Harvest Food Bank and a throng of others. In fact, Brown recalls the moment her name came up for consideration for this year’s award, and several Bureau members saying, “She hasn’t been given it already?”

Home on the Range

Cooley is standing at the kitchen sink in her airy Watsonville home, a vast stretch of strawberry field framed in the window behind her. She washes off a ripe selection of handpicked strawberries and arranges them on a plate with walnuts from her walnut tree, homemade ginger snaps and a pitcher of ice water from her well. She’s determined to feed me during our interview, for which she hopes to provide a “cultural Watsonville experience.” You can relax here, she says. The town is a very industrious, “blue-collary” kind of place, but there is a prevailing air of tranquillity.

She pauses on her way from the kitchen to the backyard and, as if to prepare me for the conversation we’re about to have, turns and says, “I have a lot of opinions about everything. You can take them or leave them.”

Most of her opinions turn out to be about how things change – farming, Watsonville, life. Sounding much like a local historian (“History greatly interests me, but I’m full of baloney,” she says), she talks of how local farming has transformed, how it went from cattle land to wheat, potatoes to sugar beets, roses to row crops – the latter of which was what was around when she was growing up. At that time, the advent of the refrigerated car (“just an icebox on wheels”) allowed for successful produce business, and the adoption of irrigation methods and soil and methylbromide treatments made it possible to grow strawberries on the land for long periods of time. She gestures to the plate of berries sitting between us on the patio table, “Try one of my fresh berries, just for you.”

Cooley remembers farming before being “organic” was of any concern, and the evolution of the method’s popularity. “There was definitely no organic interest, then there was organic scepticism, now there are true believers,” she says. Although she is supportive of people growing organic, she does not – her commercial strawberry effort is just too large.

“There are many people successfully growing organic strawberries – but on a much smaller scale,” she says. “But people like to eat strawberries even if they live in Minneapolis, or all over the world, where they normally would not be able to grow strawberries.

“Here, have another,” she adds.

Her opinion is less favourable for another popular notion amongst progressives in Santa Cruz County: eating local. She encourages the act “when it’s possible,” but then I tell her that many “go local” folks believe Santa Cruz County should transition from growing luxury crops like strawberries to more substantial, staple crops in order to achieve a local food system.

“No, that’s not going to happen,” she says. “Are you kidding? To take this valuable soil and put something that you can grow better and cheaper somewhere else? It’s a very interesting question, but it leaves soil, climate and economics out of it.”

The conversation drifts to the diversification of Watsonville, a type of change Cooley finds more agreeable. Growing up in the area, there was a decent sized Chinese and Japanese population, but the demographics have expanded exponentially since that time. She boasts of the area’s multi-cultural population, and the valuable contributions of Japanese-American and Mexican-American farmers. “Being a good farmer has nothing to do with your ethnicity, neither does being a bad farmer,” she says. Slipping into history once again, she details the waves of immigration of Croations, Italians, Portuguese, and Hispanics to the area, and their roles in the local agriculture industry.

The history lesson halts. “Stand up a minute, I want to show you something,” she says. She leads me to the edge of her crystalline pool, and motions toward the backdrop of soft brown and green hills behind her yard. “You see where the hills drop down abruptly, like a cliff? That’s like the toe of the San Andreas Fault, which is moving slowly across here all the time.

“I’m used to change, but I like it slow,” she continues. “We’ve got to remember that in our lives – if you change a little bit all the time it’s not such a shock.” As for the evolution of farming and diversity in the area, she says, “It’s all geology, just like the fault. The Pajaro Valley is moving slowly and revealing its structure.”

The visit wraps up as the warm afternoon yields to a breezy evening. Cooley has a busy night ahead of her: dinner with her 23-year-old grandson, also a Watsonville farmer, and her English as a Second Language class, for which she is a tutor. She shoves another handful of plump strawberries into my hands as I walk to my car. We say goodbye, but before I pull away she says, “My father was a strawberry farmer. So am I. Strawberry fields forever.”

News - Business

What Now?

What Now?

One agency ponders its future now that both the city and county reduced funding for non-profits

As the state of California crumbles beneath an unprecedented fiscal failure, and local governments stagger and sway from the blows of their own budget fiascos, agencies throughout their jurisdictions are facing the repercussions.

 

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News - Business

Green or Greenwashing? Announcement from Home Depot sparks enthusiasm and controversy

Green or Greenwashing? Announcement from Home Depot sparks enthusiasm and controversy

An eco-conscious approach to pest management is now up for debate thanks to a memo recently released by a Home Depot senior executive.

After a year and a half of persistent negotiations with the Santa Cruz nonprofit Ecology Action, Home Depot released a memo in early May that supports integrated pest management. The approach uses low-toxic methods to curb the critters that munch on garden veggies and dash across the kitchen counter.

Sent by Senior Vice President Ron Jarvis, the memo gives the green light for California Home Depots to participate in eco-minded training programs lead by environmental nonprofits and government agencies. Fliers and product labels made by environmental groups can be dispersed in stores, so long as individual store managers approve.

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News - Business

Community Brew AgroEco Coffee links Santa Cruz and Costa Rica

Coffee is no mere drink. It can be a crutch, sometimes a drug, a social lubricant and a cash cow, the tissue of many a first date and a multitude of jittery sleepless nights. Throughout history, it’s been both banned and consecrated, outlawed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shunned by many Seventh-Day Adventists, and elevated to a sacrament by 16th century Sufi mystics. It’s one of the most traded commodities in the world, as well as one of the most valuable, second only to petroleum.

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News - Business

The Magic Stick

The Magic Stick

UCSC grad works his way behind the scenes of the latest note-taking technology

“Let me show you.” Robbie Suk shoves a hand deep into his briefcase, and after a moment of blind digging, pulls out a thick, coal-colored pen.

We were talking about the pen —not just any pen, but a Livescribe mobile computing pen— when I got lost in his technological jargon and said, “Yes, but what can it do?”

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News - Business

Rules of Attraction

Rules of Attraction

Santa Cruz is working harder than ever to keep the tourists coming despite economic hardship

It’s easy to gauge the start of tourist season in Santa Cruz — the beaches begin to fill with big umbrellas and families toting heavy coolers, the screams from the Boardwalk become inescapably audible, and in-town traffic jams turn into a daily nuisance.

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News - Business

911: Fiscal Emergency

911: Fiscal Emergency

Not a single tax to pay for 911 services via the phone bill passed. What does it mean?

Although there was a lot to celebrate after last week’s election, Scotty Douglass spent his post-election days consoling his “troops.” Douglass is the interim general manager at the Santa Cruz Consolidated Emergency Call Center (SCCECC), otherwise known as 911 headquarters, where the troops are the dispatchers. The center had been vying for the passage of Measures B and C, which were both shot down by voters.

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News - Business

Learning in a Gamers' Paradise

Learning in a Gamers' Paradise

UCSC's computer game design program receives a $457,000 donation from Sony

Don’t let the association with toys fool you. Designing video games can be hard work.  Such hard work, in fact, that a group of Sony employees found themselves working nights, weekends and holidays without receiving proper overtime pay. They filed a class action lawsuit against their employer, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), in 2005, and in July 2007, they won $8.5 million in overtime from the company.

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News - Business

Sole Mates

Sole Mates

They gave corporate America the boot and launched an online, custom- design shoe business. Three years later, the entrepreneurs behind Santa Cruz-based cmax.com are ready to try success on for size

They have a bond tighter than any knot you’d find on a pair of swank sneakers, and enough traction to sprint on the business treadmill for years to come. Most of all, David Solk, Irmgard Kreuzer and Dave Ward have got sole—a lot of it ... enough to make tens of thousands of shoes and then some.

Hear that? It’s Imelda Marcos sighing with envy.

To fully grasp the story of how Santa Cruz became home to three entrepreneurs who kicked corporate America on its rear end only to launch the country’s—perhaps the world’s—hippest cus- tom design online shoe buying business, cmax.com (also known as customatix.com), it’s best to simply put yourself, well, in their shoes. There you are ... working at a behemoth called Adidas, and although you’ve been enjoy- ing your job as an über executive in the high- paced and often frenzied industry, you just crave more. Something’s missing. What, exact- ly, is it? You’ve got a sweet income in a job that allows you to travel around the world. You’re also savvy with marketing and know how to really mass-produce athletic footwear. When you find yourself chatting with colleagues—com- pany employees who are also on the management end of things, a few of them living over- seas—ideas are tossed around. Why not branch out ... form your own company, sell shoes. But take it to another level: do it online and do it in a way nobody else does. You want your e-tailing adventure to allow the customer to design his or her own shoes, really get involved in the process ... make it an inti-mate, personal experience. It would put conventional shoe buying on a tilt, but would it fly? Got $2 million?

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Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).
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Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.

 

Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?