The Business of Farming Against the Odds

Civil Eats | November 28, 2016

Kitchen Table Advisors meets with Fifth Crow Farm

Kitchen Table Advisors founder Anthony Chang (R) provides business guidance to Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero, Calif. Photo credit: Jonathan Fong courtesy of Kitchen Table Advisors

As an immigrant farmworker in California who started her own organic farm in 2007, Bertha Magaña considered herself a success. Magaña Farms brought in stable income and generated enough revenue so that her husband was able to quit his job and join her.

But when the nine acres of land where she grew strawberries and a variety of vegetables went up for sale last summer, Magaña knew she might have to move—and she didn’t know where to turn. As a first-generation farm owner, she lacked connections to land and capital. And as a monolingual Spanish speaker, she couldn’t tap into many of the services offered to help farmers, since most are offered in English.

Enter Kitchen Table Advisors, a nonprofit organization providing business coaching and tools to farmers in Northern California who don’t have easy access to these resources. Along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and California FarmLink, Kitchen Table Advisors helped Magaña secure the loan she needs to buy the land.

“Before I started working with Kitchen Table Advisors, I was lost on how to manage the administrative parts of the farm,” Magaña said. “But now, I don’t have doubts and I feel better because of the support I have from them.”

Kitchen Table Advisors founder and executive director Anthony Chang said Magaña’s situation was an against-all-odds scenario.

“But our business advisor, David Mancera, was able to sit down with her and make sure it was a prudent move from a financial perspective,” Chang said.

After spending over a decade running small business support programs at Opportunity Fund and California FarmLink, Chang launched Kitchen Table Advisors in 2013. He was moved to act after discovering that many of the farmers at his local farmers’ market in Mountain View were barely getting by—and didn’t have anywhere to go for help.

“There are land trusts, farm incubators, and nonprofits that are dedicated to farmers’ markets,” Chang explained. “But business planning and financial management are the weaker parts of the ecosystem of support.”

After researching the economy of farming—an industry plagued by slim profit margins—he realized there was a need to support small farmers who were already growing their businesses, but faced challenges expanding further and establishing a sustainable income.

Eighty percent of the farmers who work with Kitchen Table Advisors are women, people of color, or immigrants.

“These folks face more barriers because of racism, sexism, or language in addition to all the other barriers faced by small farmers, and we help level the playing field,” Chang said. “While the USDA’s Farm Service Agency tries hard to help with its bilingual offices, the fact is there are fewer services available for non-English speakers.”

And even if there are services in different languages, being able to connect with someone who understands your background and experience is necessary to build the trust and relationships needed when borrowing tens of thousands of dollars, he said.


Anthony Chang (L) sits down with New Family Farm in Sebastopol, Calif. as part of a regular business consultation. Photo credit: Jonathan Fong courtesy of Kitchen Table Advisors

That’s exactly how Mancera—a bilingual Salinas Valley native from a farmworker family with a strong background in business—made the difference for Magaña in her bid to purchase her farmland in Royal Oaks.

Although the cost per acre was steep, Mancera used his local knowledge of the area and nuanced understanding of the pressures on farmers in Central California to help assess whether buying the land made sense for Magaña in the long run.

And he trust that Mancera had developed with Magaña and her family was the other essential part of the equation.

“There was a part of the loan process where they might have backed out if they didn’t have anyone they trusted to explain it to them,” he said.

Instead of providing a business plan template, Chang and the group’s three business advisors (based in and around the Bay Area) work with clients over a three-year period to identify their needs, develop a plan of action, and assess how well the plan is working. Advisors meet with the farmers at least once a month.

In order to work with Kitchen Table Advisors, a farm or ranch must be certified organic. Qualifying ranches must raise their livestock on pasture. Chang adds that while it’s not a hard and fast rule, his organization is also looking for farmers that are at an inflection point in their business—either scraping by to make a living between $10,000 to 25,000 a year, or making more, but looking to gain long-term land stability by buying the land on which they’re farming.

During its first three years, Kitchen Table Advisors worked with 10 farms. The results were positive. On average, the farms’ net income increased by more 60 percent in three years. The group also increased their sales collectively by $1 million each year.

Farmers don’t pay for the group’s services. Instead, they work out an agreement with Kitchen Table Advisors that pays the group back by hosting farm tours and fundraising dinners, or through speaking at events aimed at both educating the public and building relationships with the partners and volunteers with whom Kitchen Table Advisors works.

Kitchen Table Advisors itself relies on funds from three main sources: Fifty percent of its budget comes from individual donations and 30 percent comes from tech companies (such as Adobe) and benefit corporations like Patagonia. The remaining 20 percent comes from large foundations and food businesses such as Bi-Rite Market, organic produce distributor Veritable Vegetable, and Delfina restaurant in San Francisco

“[Our supporters] share our values in terms of the food systems we want to see,” Chang said. “And they have a business interest in what we do, because we have a part in their supply chain.”

Now, as Kitchen Table Advisors expands its reach—in the past year it has taken on 15 more farmer clients and will start working with 14 more in January—it’s looking toward the future. The original 10 farms will continue to work with Kitchen Table, but will mainly focus on two large projects a year.

“We’re looking to collaborate more closely with food hubs, land trusts, and finance partners,” Chang said. “And as more U.S. farmers near retirement, we’ve just started talking about how we can help to support the next generation as land changes hands.”

As a “graduate” of Kitchen Table’s three-year program, Magaña may not be working as intensively with Mancera as before. But he will still play an essential role in her business—from helping her determine which crops to plant next season to serving as a translator with produce marketers and government agencies.

“When you are older like my husband and me, it’s much more challenging to have a stable job working for other people,” Magaña says. “But since we work for ourselves, we have more control over our work and our future. David helps me keep my business going.”

A Local Grain Economy Comes to Life in California

Civil Eats | June 9, 2016

Bread made from local whole grains at Ponsford's Place Bakery

Whole grain loaves for sale at Ponsford’s Place Bakery in San Rafael, Calif.

When it comes to buying a local loaf of bread, most food conscious consumers find that supporting a small neighborhood bakery fits the criteria just fine.

But for longtime restaurateur Bob Klein, the owner of Oliveto in Oakland, California, that wasn’t enough. Klein, whose restaurant draws from Northern California’s bounty of vegetables, fish, and meat for its Italian-inspired meals, was troubled that he couldn’t find a local source of whole grain flour to make pasta.

“There’s no fully formed local grain economy in the U.S.,” Klein told Civil Eats after his company Community Grains hosted a conference that brought together farmers, plant breeders, millers, bakers, and researchers. (The first conference took place in 2014). “It takes lots of land and capital to be economically viable.”

Now Klein and his organization are making strides towards putting in place the missing components needed to advance that vision. What’s behind his quest to get locally grown and milled whole grains into the mainstream? Better nutrition, greater consumer availability, and higher prices for grain farmers, Klein says.

Last fall, Community Grains completed a feasibility study (funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) showing that bakers were willing to pay over 25 percent more for their organic heirloom wheat flour (grown and milled in California) than the going market price for standard organic wheat.

Most of the so-called whole wheat bread found in grocery stores and artisan bakeries today isn’t made with a very high percentage of whole grains, says Craig Ponsford, a champion artisan baker based in the Bay Area who transitioned to baking with 100 percent whole grains six years ago.

“That’s because the market is geared towards white flour,” he says. “It’s really difficult for the consumer to read ‘whole grain’ labels and understand [what they really mean].”

Because of the industrial food system’s appetite for white flour, grain processing facilities in America are almost exclusively comprised of machinery that strips down the whole grain to its starchy white endosperm as quickly as possible—which effectively gets rid of its more nutrient-dense bran and germ. (The air classifier mill that Community Grains uses at Bay State Milling to grind its flour keeps the bran and germ intact).

This means that farmers have no incentive to grow higher quality wheat, such as organic or heirloom varieties, Klein says.

And what about the few who were doing just that? “The price [the wheat] commanded was 15 to 20 percent less than what the crop was worth,” Klein says. “It’s the disparity between the industrial model and what people value.”

Educating the public about the value of whole grains, Ponsford and Klein agree, is their biggest task in starting to shift the U.S. supply, infrastructure, and market demand needed for local, whole grain economies to thrive. There are a few exceptions, such as Camas Country Mill near Eugene, Oregon, which grows, mills, and sells whole grain; Farmer Ground Flour, located in upstate New York, a collaborative enterprise where the grain is grown, milled and baked for locals to enjoy; and Wild Hive Farm Community Grain project, which operates a farm and mill in New York’s Hudson River Valley.

So in 2009, Klein formed Community Grains with the intention to make that economy a reality. Since then the organization has been producing the grain for its “identity preserved” flours, polenta, and pastas. Each batch is branded with both the name of the grain (such as Hard Amber Durum) used entirely to make the pasta, as well as the farm that grew it, such as Fully Belly Farm). It’s available in Whole Foods Markets specialty grocers across the U.S.

Back then, when Community Grains first approached farmers Fritz Durst (Tule Farms) and Full Belly Farm’s Paul Muller about growing whole grains for the identity preserved products, Klein says he had no problem getting them on board.

“[Farmers] know better than anyone how broken our commodity food system is,” Klein said. “So, I think we all started from the same place, and it had to be a completely alternative system to succeed.”

Other Northern California farms (including Healdsburg’s Front Porch Farm and Coke Farms in San Benito) grow for Community Grains as well.

But there was no large granary that could both clean and store their grain. And Klein soon discovered that this lack of infrastructure restricted the venture’s efficiency and profitability.

“Right now we have kernels of wheat that have been thoroughly cleaned and they’re sitting in a defunct winery facility,” he says. “But we’re concerned about bugs in the warm months, so are so moving it into a rented refrigerated storage facility. If we had our own [cleaning and storage facility], we wouldn’t have to pay for storing it, and moving it in and out.” But, he adds, that’s going to be an expensive addition.

To address this issue, Klein brought on Heather Crawford, a business-minded colleague with the background to determine just how Community Grains can build this infrastructure. The two have found that building a granary and getting it online in California could cost anywhere between $500,000 to $1 million. But with donations from a crowdfunding campaign, as well as help from several investors and banks, Klein says there’s a chance Community Grains could get the structure up and running by 2017.

And while Community Grains has yet to work out the exact details of the business model, Klein says that the goal is make sure it’s profitable and 50 percent owned by the grain farmers themselves.

In the meantime, Ponsford is continuing to experiment with these whole grains. For the last five years, he’s run Ponsford’s Place, his bakery in the North Bay, where he uses only uses 100 percent whole grains such as hard white whole wheat and spelt.

Inside Ponsford's Place Bakery

Ponsford’s Place Bakery in San Rafael, Calif. Photo credit: Kristine Wong

“I’m incredibly disciplined about not using white flour,” he said. “I’m trying to prove a point.”

On a recent Friday morning, his tiny (800 square foot) bakery was filled with customers buying bread and choosing from a display case full of fruit turnovers, cinnamon morning buns, cookies, and quiche.

But what the customers don’t see is the experimental side of the bakery, when Ponsford works during the wee hours of the night with whole grain flour dropped off by several of the same farmers that work with Community Grains as well as a few others. He tests them by making different types of dough and experiments with a variety of final products. “The whole point of this place is to develop skill sets around whole grains and find the best use of each grain,” he said. “Wheat is complicated.”

That’s in part because the type and quality of the soil impacts the quality of the wheat, which in turn can determine if it will be better suited to, say, a loaf of bread or a tortilla.

Ponsford says that he has also been putting pressure on other bakers to start using whole grains. And he thinks he’s having an impact.

“I see a slow shift happening,” he said. “Five years ago my peers weren’t interested. But now I’m seeing more and more bakers using whole grains all over the world.”

This story was reprinted on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog on June 9, 2016. Lead photo of wheat by Community Grains.

Getting Crafty: Brewing Beer From Wastewater

The Guardian US/UK | March 14, 2016

In autumn of 2014 – three years into California’s devastating drought– architect Russ Drinker became fixated on brewing beer from recycled greywater (that is, water that’s been treated after use in sinks, showers and washing clothes).

He was increasingly frustrated that the media paid little attention to water recycling. “They were focused on conservation instead. But if Californians really want to have an impact on our water use, we have to recycle our freshwater … and get over our psychological resistance to that.”

While some microbrewers have been working hard to get their water usage down – some to three gallons of water for every gallon of beer – the industry has a high water to beer ratio. Despite this, it took Drinker about a year to find a brewer up for the challenge. But when he broached the idea with the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, a craft brewer located south of San Francisco, owner Lenny Mendonca didn’t hesitate.

Last October the brewery unveiled a version of its regular Mavericks Tunnel Vision IPA made with recycled water after a blind taste test at an urban sustainability conference in the Bay Area.

Can you tell which of the brews was made with treated wastewater? (It's on the left).

Can you tell which of the brews was made with treated wastewater? (It’s on the left). Photo credit: Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

Made using the same NASA water recycling technology as astronaut Scott Kelly used during his year long stint on the International Space Station, the tasting panel couldn’t detect which of the two pints was made with recycled water.

“This is the product [where] people think that water is the most important ingredient,” said Mendonca. “So if I can demonstrate to people that not only is [greywater beer] good, but it’s great, then why wouldn’t you use that water for everything else?”

Mendonca has only made the greywater beer available for sampling twice and says commercialising the product isn’t his first priority. California can’t legally directly pump treated recycled water back into the drinking water supply, so it’s currently not practical (shortage of supply) or cost effective. His focus instead is on using the beer as a tool to catch the eye of both policymakers and the public.

Getting the legislation to bring recycled water directly into the drinking water supply, would be the first step for mass application, just as Singapore has done with its recycled water plant.

Craft brewers turn green

Brewing beer from recycled water is an unusual approach. But a growing number of craft breweries in the US are finding new ways to reduce their environmental footprint.

Weak wort, a type of sugar wastewater generated by Colorado-based Avery Brewing Co, will be donated to the city of Boulder for use in its wastewater treatment plant to break down nitrogen. This will save the city $500 (£350) per day on the acetic acid it would have purchase to do the same job, said Chris Douville, Boulder’s wastewater treatment manager.

“We were looking for a local carbon source that others see as a waste,” he said. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Boulder is currently outfitting its plants to treat nitrogen using weak wort, says Douville, and should be ready to put the new equipment online by the end of the year.

Other craft breweries, such as Lagunitas Brewing Company and Bear Republic Brewing Co in Sonoma County, California, are using a new onsite wastewater treatment system housed in a shipping container.

In spring 2016, the EcoVolt was installed at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, Calif.

In spring 2016, the EcoVolt was installed at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, Calif. Photo credit: Cambrian Innovation

The EcoVolt, developed by Boston-based startup Cambrian Innovation, is powered by electrically active bacteria that use anaerobic digestion to scrub the breweries’ wastewater of up to 90% of pollutants, according to Baji Gobburi, the company’s director of sales and marketing.

Each EcoVolt unit, which is targeted towards other boutique food and beverage operations such as wineries and dairies, can process up to 300,000 gallons of wastewater per day, and enables the breweries to reuse water in their cleaning operations and produce methane that is converted into heat and electricity.

“When Lagunitas completes the installation of its second EcoVolt, its water footprint will drop by 40%,” said Gobburi. “And the systems will also recover 20% of its facilities’ energy needs.”

It’s also been a money, time and petrol-saver. Previously, Lagunitas had to truck over 50,000 gallons a day of its concentrated wastewater to a treatment plant in Oakland over 40 miles away.

In Dexter, a town of about 4,000 people nestled in the corner of southeast Michigan, the Northern United Brewing Company has installed a smaller version of EcoVolt to treat its wastewater onsite, helped by a $200,000 (£140,000) innovative technology grant from the state of Michigan.

The technology has saved the city the millions of dollars it would have cost to give Dexter’s wastewater plant the capacity to process yeasts and sugars, said Michelle Aniol, the city’s community development manager.

“Food production here in Michigan is more of a cottage industry,” Aniol said. “So this test of the [EcoVolt] system can have implications that could be utilised throughout the rest of the state – at [cost] levels that can be more affordable for communities and businesses to grow, but get their waste within the permitted limits for discharge.”

Drought dowsing goes hi-tech

California Magazine | Aug. 11, 2014

Wellntel pilot

Wellntel is conducting its first pilot with farmers and residents in the drought-stricken town of Templeton, Calif. Photo credit: Wellntel

This year, groundwater is serving as California’s pinch hitter, supplying about 60 percent of the state’s needs during this historic drought. But until now, it’s been an impossible resource to manage.

We don’t have enough data to know just how much groundwater is hanging out below any given house or farm. Because it’s unregulated by the state, anyone can pump as much water as they want—a point of contention between those who think people own the water underneath their property and those who believe groundwater is a communal resource. To make matters worse, groundwater hasn’t been replenished during these dry times, and there’s been a recent rush to drill more wells in the San Joaquin Valley.

But while we can’t make it rain on California, nor force the legislature to pass two bills currently being considered that would mandate local governments to regulate their groundwater, new technology is allowing us to better “see”  the water beneath the ground and could help us make smarter decisions about how best to use it.

A recently developed sensor-based device that measures groundwater is helping UC Berkeley researchers understand just how much of this resource we’ll have in the coming decades. Developed by Wisconsin-based startup Wellntel, the product attaches to the top of a well and uses sonar to measure water levels and a well’s pumping rate every 30 minutes, then sends the data to the computing cloud, allowing researchers to make use of it.

In the last few months, geography department professor Norman Miller and recent Ph.D. graduate Raj Singh have started incorporating data from the devices into the computer-based groundwater model they’ve been developing for the last four years. “One of the big problems I see is the availability of water due to land use stressors under climate change,” says Miller, a hydrometeorologist. “So one of the outstanding questions is how much (groundwater) is left on planet, who’s using it, and when. But there’s a lot of water that we can’t see.”

The current problem, the researchers say, is that while satellite data can show how much groundwater there is on a regional level—in the Central Valley, for instance—it can’t capture how much there is under a city, or at the farm level. There just isn’t enough data from U.S. wells to get a deep understanding of how groundwater flows. The predominant techniques used to measure well water levels—measuring tapes or pressure sensors—are labor-intensive and costly. The U.S. Geological Survey monitors less than 10 percent of its 20,000 wells, California’s Department of Water Resources monitors a few hundred.

But by integrating the Wellntel data into their current model, the Cal researchers believe they can provide a deeper understanding of how much groundwater we have now, and how much we’ll have in the future as climate change takes its toll.

“It’s like moving from a black-and-white to an HD television,” Singh says of the difference in resolution—which with the new data has advanced from gathering data at the 10-20 kilometer level down to a 100-meter level. At that resolution, he says it’s possible to discern the land’s topography and groundwater level differences from houses a few blocks apart.

With this knowledge, farmers and landowners could be better equipped to allocate their consumption, plan their growing seasons and save for dry times—not unlike the way we manage our bank accounts.

Wellntel is partnering with Miller and Singh on a pilot research project in Templeton, a town just outside Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast. The area has sprouted a number of vineyards and hobby farms in recent decades after its almond groves turned fallow.

“There’s been a huge increase in vineyard development in Paso Robles, and many residents saw dramatic declines in their water levels and had to dig new wells because the water table dropped,” says Wellntel co-founder Nick Hayes. “And some of the new wells have had to go so deep that they have to tap into mineral and sulfur-smelling water—it’s pretty severe and it feels dire to them, and their property values are tied to water in the area.” Some even have had to truck in their water, Hayes adds.

Every two weeks, Miller and Singh receive data (stripped of any identifiers) from 12 Wellntel sensors installed every half-mile throughout the 9-square mile pilot area.

By assimilating this data into their current groundwater model, the researchers say they’ll eventually be able to predict how groundwater levels will change from season to season over the next few years, as well as over the coming decades based on a range of greenhouse gas emissions scenarios up to 2050.

Miller says it’s not clear right now just when they’ll be able to make those predictions. But the Cal researchers have met several times and shared their model with Frances Chung, the chief of the modeling branch at the state’s Department of Water Resources, and they say the state is interested in making use of the new technology. Such an ability to collect information about groundwater levels could boost the state’s pro-regulation movement.

“If you limit water it has to be based on what you know, and right now it’s extremely difficult to control and monitor,” Singh says. “But as we get more information and it becomes more scientific—and more objective based on facts—it will be easier to regulate.”

View the original story here.

The unexpected way beer is helping a town…

TakePart | February 4, 2014

bottlesThe unexpected way beer is helping a town get through a historic drought

If Cloverdale, Calif., makes it through one of the worst droughts in state history, it will be in large part due to the efforts of an unlikely source: beer.

The recent installation of an innovative water treatment system at the Bear Republic Brewing Company, along with the ongoing construction of two local wells in part paid for by the company, could go a long way toward keeping Cloverdale afloat before it’s estimated to run out of water in a few months.

“We hope to weather this drought, and with the help of this technology and the support of the city of Cloverdale we feel we have a pretty good chance,” Bear Republic owner Richard Norgrove Sr. recently told The North Bay Business Journal. The company is famous for its tasty IPA, Racer 5.

Originally designed for the U.S. military, the treatment system, named EcoVolt, will use recycled wastewater to supply about 10 percent of the 7.8 million gallons of water the brewery uses each year to produce 72,000 barrels of beer. It will also generate enough biogas to slash the facility’s electricity use by 50 percent.

Here’s the nitty-gritty of how the proprietary process works, according to the National Science Foundation:

The system sends wastewater through a bio-electrochemical reactor. As the water filters through it, special bacteria in the reactor eat the organic waste in the water, releasing electrons as a byproduct. Those electrons travel through a circuit to generate methane.

This very high quality methane is then piped out to an engine, where it’s burned with a small amount of natural gas. It then generates heat and energy.

Even before installing the EcoVolt system, for which it reportedly paid $1 million, Bear Republic was already well ahead of its competitors in terms of water conservation. The average brewery uses six gallons of water for every one gallon of beer produced, but the Cloverdale facility boasts a ratio of just three and a half to one.

In November, the brewery lent Cloverdale $466,000 to hasten the digging of two new wells, which would provide more water for the city’s residents and also enable the brewery to increase supply for a planned expansion, reports The San Francisco Chronicle.

Scheduled for completion in July, the wells will increase local water capacity by 600,000 gallons a day, a 40 percent increase over current supplies. Bear Republic currently uses up to 2,000 gallons of water a day to make beer—meaning beer will be directly responsible for city residents getting access to an additional 598,000 gallons. But since the volume of water used by the brewery is based on the city’s ability to provide, that number could change.

Last week, the need for the new wells became more acute: State officials said Cloverdale is one of 17 California cities estimated to run out of water by May without the new supply.

“The Russian River is where we get our water, and it’s just about dry,” said Cloverdale Vice Mayor Robert Cox. “There’s no rain. About the only good news on the horizon is those new wells. We’d be in really bad shape without them.”

View original story here.

Scenes from an Aquarium

Scenes from an Aquarium from kristine a. wong on Vimeo.

A delicate universe under the sea is revealed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium located along California’s Central Coast. Meet undulating jellyfish, waving kelp, rising fish schools and an elegantly unfurling squid.

I filmed this on a regular point and shoot camera during a trip to the aquarium in Fall 2010, and edited this short in August 2011.

Gray Whale Washes Ashore Pescadero State Beach

Gray Whale Washed Ashore Pescadero State Beach from kristine a. wong on Vimeo.

In the first half of June, a 25-foot female gray whale washed ashore Pescadero State Beach in Pescadero, Calif., south of Half Moon Bay.

A necropsy performed by the Marine Mammal Center revealed that the 1-2 year old animal had sustained trauma to its head and thorax, likely due to colliding with a ship, though the exact cause could not be determined.

This video was shot on June 16, 2011.

This is the second time in eight months that a whale has washed ashore the California coast at a beach in Pescadero. In October 2010, an 85-foot blue whale and her fetus washed ashore Bean Hollow State Beach. (See video video posted here).

I produced this video (camera, video editing, writing) for Half Moon Bay Patch.

Steer Show at San Mateo County Fair

Steer Show at San Mateo County Fair from kristine a. wong on Vimeo.

The showmanship competition at the San Mateo County Fair evaluates entrants not just on the way he/she presents a steer, but on his/her poise and professionalism throughout.

Half Moon Bay, Calif. Future Farmers of America member Kelly Noland wins with Duke, a 1,140-pound steer she bought at a Napa, Calif. ranch in November.

The competition took place on June 14, 2011 at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds in San Mateo, Calif.

I produced this video (camera, video editing, writing) along with an accompanying print article for Half Moon Bay Patch.

Preserving the Tradition of Letterpress Printing

Letterpress printing is both an art and a craft to be preserved for those who treasure the written word and favor the uniqueness of objects produced by hand.

The Stow family of Half Moon Bay, Calif. has practiced this art for more than 25 years at their local gift and card shop The Paper Crane. Doug Stow and his son, Robert, produce custom-designed posters, cards, booklets, and invitations. One of their specialties is printing poems in broadside form. (A broadside is material printed on one side of a single sheet of paper). The elder Stow has been printing broadsides of poems read at Half Moon Bay café M Coffee throughout the years.

Recent projects include a broadside of a poem by poet and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, as well as a booklet of baseball haikus printed midway through the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 World Series season.

I produced (camera, interview, video editing) this video — along with an accompanying print article — for Half Moon Bay Patch.

Preserving the Tradition of Letterpress Printing from kristine a. wong on Vimeo.

Blue, Green and Ready to Roll

It’s blue, green, and ready to roll: In March 2011, coastal residents in San Mateo County, Calif. got a new bookmobile powered by biodiesel and solar panels. It’s also wheelchair accessible. The bookmobile will serve unincorporated communities in the 25-mile stretch between Pescadero and Montara (with the exception of Half Moon Bay, the only incorporated town in the area), and go as far inland as LaHonda.

The new bookmobile debuted in Pescadero on March 5. I produced (camera, interviews, video editing) this video of the event for Half Moon Bay Patch.

Blue, Green, and Ready to Roll from kristine a. wong on Vimeo.

51 Tons and 100 Wheels

51 Tons and 100 Wheels: Phyllis J Crabbing Boat Transported Up Highway 1 from kristine a. wong on Vimeo.

At approximately 1 a.m. on January 4, the Phyllis J crabbing boat overturned at Francis Beach, a segment of Half Moon Bay State Beach on the California coast. The owner of the boat, Larry Fortado, and two crewmembers escaped safely. The trio was in the midst of a crabbing trip. (All of the 10,000 crabs estimated to be on board escaped as well).

A joint response team comprised of the Coast Guard, Fish and Game, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and private environmental response and vessel salvage/recovery specialists worked to upright the boat in the surf zone and avert the potential hazard of an oil spill by successfully draining 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 500 gallons of residual contaminants from the boat.

Because the owner decided to salvage the Phyllis J, it was dismantled for transport into two pieces. The wheelhouse (passenger cabin area) was cut off separately from the 51-ton hull.

The hull was pulled up Highway 1 by a truck and rested on specialized trailer with 96 wheels. Permits from the city, county, and state were required before the operation could begin.

Its transport on January 28 marked the end of a 24-day stay at Half Moon Bay State Beach.

I produced this video (camera, video editing, writing) for Half Moon Bay Patch, which provided comprehensive coverage the story of the Phyllis J from when it beached to its removal and delivery to Fortado’s yard in Princeton almost a month later.

How to Make a Pear Tart

How to Make a Pear Tart from kristine a. wong on Vimeo.

Pastry Chef Juan Marquez shows how to make a pear flambe tart at Caffé Mezza Luna in Princeton, Calif.

Marquez was trained by an Italian pastry chef. Each day, he works with a small crew to make a wide range of desserts including gelato, cannoli, meringues, macarons, mousse cakes and tarts.

I produced this video (camera, video editing, writing) for Half Moon Bay Patch.

Blue Whale and Fetus Wash Ashore California Beach

During the first weekend in October 2010, an 85-foot blue whale washed up on the shore of Bean Hollow State Beach in Pescadero, California. Blue whales are known to be the largest species living on earth.

On October 7, scientists announced that the cause of the whale’s death was due to the blunt force from a collision with a passing ship. The whale was pregnant at the time, and her fetus washed up close by.

I produced this video (camera, video editing, writing) for Half Moon Bay

Blue Whale and Fetus at Bean Hollow State Beach, Pescadero, California from kristine a. wong on Vimeo.

blue whale at Bean Hollow State Beach

A still from the video.

The fetus of the blue whale at Bean Hollow State Beach

A still from the video of the whale's fetus on shore.

Blue whale and fetus wash ashore on Bean Hollow State Beach, Pescadero, California