The Goat Chronicles – July 5, 2011
Goat War in review
My husband and I have lived for 35 years in the Bloomfield subdivision of Arcata. Our backyard abuts the “Gilardoni” pasture, which was the site of the recent Cypress Grove goat controversy. I was dismayed by the personal attacks and trivialization of our neighborhood’s concerns in Kevin Hoover’s June 22, 2011 editorial.
Kevin criticizes neighborhood organizers for using the term “Emmi” rather than “Cypress Grove.” However, it is Emmi, an international conglomerate, who owns Cypress Grove. Despite our admiration for Mary Keehn’s entrepreneurial success and the deliciousness of her cheese, we had no reason to expect that Emmi would care about the welfare of our Bloomfield neighborhood.
The confrontational environment at Cypress Grove’s June 13 neighborhood meeting, which Kevin hyperbolizes as “barbarity,” was due to a couple of factors. First, the goat plan, which would have had an unknown but probably enormous impact on our neighborhood, had been developed in secrecy. The neighbors learned about it through a grapevine of rumors as escrow was about to close. Inevitably some misinformation circulated. When, in response to public outcry, Cypress Grove finally held a meeting to brief the neighbors, it had already lost their trust.
Secondly, the neighbors were forced into confrontation at the June 13 meeting by inadequate county zoning regulations and a lack of democratic process. The pasture’s “general agriculture” designation, allowing almost any kind of agricultural activity, is inappropriate next door to a residential neighborhood. County Planner Steven Werner had already informed Cypress Grove that it was unlikely any use permit would be required. That would mean no environmental review and no public hearings before this large-scale project was approved. At the June 13 meeting, Cypress Grove admitted that it would seek to avoid the use permit.
It is my hope that some good will come from the “goat war” we have all endured. The agricultural element of our county’s general plan must be amended to assure that agriculture in the rural/urban interface is compatible with adjacent residential neighborhoods.
Inaccurate and impossible
Kathleen Marshall’s Letter to the Editor “Recyling and Goats” (Eye, June 22) contains some misinformation.
Kathleen’s letter incorrectly states that a portion of Cypress Grove Chevre’s products are sourced from Denmark. Midnight Moon and Lambchopper are made in the Netherlands.
Kathleen also states that the standards of the third-party auditor Animal Welfare Approved (a division of the Animal Welfare Institute) are more rigorous than those of the Humane Society of the United States. The Humane Society does not have a farm animal auditing program that I am aware of and the published HSUS recommendation is for consumers to “reduce, refine and replace” their animal product consumption. Kathleen may have been confusing the HSUS with Humane Farm Animal Care, a third-party auditor endorsed by the ASPCA.
I would also like to point out that Animal Welfare Approved only certifies family farms. Recommending that a corporation follow standards designed for small family farms is asking for the impossible.
A sad and sorry affair
In reference to the goat issue in the Arcata Bottom area. I would like to respond by saying, what is wrong with people who listen to misinformation?
Cypress Grove Chevre would have been a great and honest neighbor. Plus a good addition to the community and learning experience to the school children.
I am saddened by the response of a few narrow-minded people that would threaten and be misled by others, and you know who you are. I applaud those who support bringing good business to the community.
Jobs would have been created, and you can be assured that Cypress Grove Chevre would have been a plus to the neighborhood.
I’m sorry Cypress Grove Chevre. Wish you would have tried harder. Remember it IS ag land.
Short, brutish & thoughtless
We want to go on the record thanking you for your painfully excellent piece summing up the short, brutish and nasty public life of the proposed Cypress Grove Goat Dairy in Arcata.
Your analysis should be required reading for Arcata city staff, council and committee members. County level too.
One starts to wonder if an intervention style, anti-bullying program (as in the schools) should be offered to Arcata planners and citizens, prior to going forward with proposed new projects? The lack of spine shown from elected and professional leaders boggles the mind.
Especially appreciated your paragraph giving voice to the possibilities:
“…Better yet, they might have said, ‘This is an interesting project that could bring employment to Arcata and Humboldt, boost the local dairy industry and give Arcata more worldwide recognition for something other than marijuana. Plus it could bring the Arcata Bottoms’ agricultural legacy to life in an eco-smart 21st century way. Let’s find out if we can make it work for everyone.’”
We remember hearing about this possibility from Mary Keehn herself, many years ago. The dairy was a dream put off to the future until she could first get the factory built (at the old Creamline Dairy site) and up and running in Arcata, no small feat.
She and her company will do it, and they will do an amazing job of it, somewhere else… but Arcata, what were you thinking?
Chris and Gene Callahan
Ag land is for agriculture
In reference to your piece, “Winning Dirty – The Goatbusters Defeated A Nightmare Of Their Own Imagining,” thank you for a very thorough review of a very sad story.
There’s an old saying: “You can’t save farmland without farmers.”
If we want to have Arcata surrounded by open farmland, with all the accompanying environmental and economic benefits, we have to let farmers do what farmers need to do to have viable businesses.
A little history: Back in the 1970s when I was serving on the Arcata City Council, this land was home to the Gilardoni family’s Creamline Dairy, which produced and processed, on site, local cream-top milk in returnable glass bottles, sold out of their little store in the barn on Q street. The cows that produced the milk were grass-fed on this site.
In support of this unique convergence of community economic and environmental benefits in the heart of Arcata, I and my fellow Arcata City Councilmembers and community members fought to have this land preserved as Ag land rather than having it annexed to the City and developed as a residential expansion of the Greenview neighborhood.
In other words, were it not for the intensive use and processing of dairy products, this land would have been converted to residential infill long ago.
Sadly, due to a variety of factors, the owners of Creamline Dairy eventually closed the dairy, but the land has remained zoned for agricultural uses.
Many of us were thrilled when Mary Keehn decided to move Cypress Grove to the site and hopeful that the land could be returned to its past agricultural productivity, and thus strengthen the long-term prospect for keeping the land open and reaping the economic benefit of value added local agricultural production.
It is truly a sad day when a business of Cypress Grove’s local history and demonstrated dedication to our local community proposes to strengthen that commitment but the proposals gets shouted down with no real debate or opportunity from input from the rest of the community.
By the way, lest anyone think I don’t care about someone else’s neighborhood, I and my family live in Windsong, and frequently when I walk outside my door in the morning I can smell the cow manure from the large herd of dairy cows just to the west of our homes.
I (and I assume most of my neighbors) consider this a natural side effect of the privilege of living on the edge of the Arcata Bottoms, next to land that is permanently (we can hope) designated for agricultural use.
Arcata City Councilmember, 1974-1980