Let them Eat Oysters, and preserve the Planet!

Drakes Bay Oyster Company, photograph by Kim Steele

From Photographer & Publisher…Kim Steele

I have been a passionate aquaculture conservationist for years, having grown up in Seattle. I grew up at Oyster Bars with my Dad, and developed a life long passion for crabs — which I have eaten world-wide!  A recent meeting with former Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, was a disappointing end to the life of a vital oyster farm (Drakes Bay Oyster Company) in Inverness, CA. Fortunately, Secretary Salazar’s decision against renewing the lease of Drake’s Bay Oyster Company is not the full voice of sentiment around the world. The Ninth Circuit just stayed the order for the time being!!  And we have hopefully a more enlightened Secretary, Sally Jewell, the ex-CEO of REI! The post below is keeping the embers glowing.

Drake’s Bay Oyster Company, photograph by Kim Steele

The body of my work dedicated to this subject takes many different forms, written and photographic:

Kim Steele’s Green Blog

Pickleweed Oyster Farm

                               Fresh Fish, Chile, Photograph by Kim Steele

Catch of the Day, Seafood Market, Chile, photograph by Kim Steele

We have already experienced many closures of fisheries. The abundant backbone of the Northeastern U.S. fisheries, the almighty Cod is albeit gone. Several years of cessation of Dungeness Crab catching in Northern California have become necessary. The once abundant Salmon in the Northwest is almost gone, and the cost of wild salmon reaches $25 a pound, all destined for the fancy restaurants back East.  How much more warning do we need?  Yes… fishermen are hurting, but over-fishing brought this pain about.

The tuning fork that is the  Monterrey Bay Aquarium’slist of sustainable fish is a bellwether of what we can comfortably consume…they even offer a wallet-sized card to give gastronomic guidance in the field!

Baycrete Mixture

                                      Oyster Shells, photograph by Kim Steele

Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, views Drakes Bay Oyster Company first-hand

Secretary Salazar and the owners of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, photograph by Kim Steele

With the impending expiration of Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s lease with the National Park Service, on November 31, 2012, Secretary Salazar sat down with the Drake’s Bay Oyster Company family owners.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company foreman, Lunny family, photograph by Kim Steele

Present in support of sustainable farming were: Tom Moore, Manager California Department Of Fish And Game; Marin County Supervisor, Steve Kinsey; and Tod Friend, Tomales Bay Oyster Company. All agreed that the importance of maintaining this lease was essential to the economic health of the Point Reyes community.

Representative Pete McCloskey, photograph by Kim Steele

Lifetime environmental activist, including Founder of Earth Day in 1970, Representative Pete McCloskey provided convincing dialogue to the Secretary to renew the lease. “In two years the Bush administration has tried to roll back almost all the environmental advances that were made in the last 33 years,” he says in an interview in his Redwood City law office. “I’m almost embarrassed to be a Republican.”

Secretary Salazar, Kevin Lunny, Bud Abbot, Kim Steele, photograph by Kim Steele

Salazar reiterated that this is a compelling and precedential decision which requires great consideration. The jury is still out, Secretary Salazar is expected to make a decision this week.

Tod Friend of Tomales Bay Oyster Company, Bud Abbot, Kim Steele, photograph by Sally Wilson

The farm tour was accompanied by numerous members of the press and dedicated supporters.

Ginny Cummings, Secretary Salazar, Kevin Lunny, photograph by Kim Steele

Help Save family-owned Drake’s Bay Oyster Company


Drake’s Estero, an expansive estuary on the Point Reyes peninsula, is in danger of losing one of its most prominent and ecologically conscious residents: the Lunny Family-owned Drakes Bay Oyster Company. The oyster farm produces 40% of California’s oysters. As stewards of the land, the Lunny Family is driven by a deep respect for the earth and the waters of the Estero ecosystems. The oysters and seafood are raised in the most pristine body of water of any area grown in California. The farm provides jobs, housing, and income to many locals, and is a significant part of the history and diversity of the region’s thriving agricultural community. Now, the forty-year lease for the Drake Bay Oyster Company is set to expire November 30th! So please join Senator Dianne Feinstein and others in showing support for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

Kim Steele is a photographer and concerned environmentalist living in San Francisco. Please sign his petition to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar: Renew the lease for Drakes Bay Oyster Company at Drakes Bay Estero.                                                                          

Kim Steele, oyster farmer

Oyster watercolor by Alek Kardas

Please visit Kim’s photography websites here and here, and his Oyster aficionado site for more on his photography, work and activities.

Sierra Orchards — sustainable farming in California

Sierra Orchards, photograph by Kim Steele


Sierra Orchards was established in 1980 and is located in Winters, CA within Solano County, in Central California. The orchard is approximately 450 acres in size and produces primarily organic walnuts and olive oil.

“We strive to incorporate sustainable practices into every aspect of our farming operations including many conservation techniques and educational programs.” — Craig McNamara, President & Owner

Organic Production

Sierra Orchards is entirely based on an organic system. Sierra Orchards utilizes many sustainable practices in production. Half of the fertilizer on the farm comes from cover crops, such as: vetches, clovers, and magnus peas., the remainder comes from green compost. It is a no tillage or zero tillage operation which increases the amount of water and nutrients in the soil. Furthermore, it employes an Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which has the least hazard to people, and the environment.

Sierra Orchards, photograph by Kim Steele


Sierra Orchards also incorporates conservation techniques. A majority of the farms irrigation is through buried drip irrigation, which not only reduces the use of water, it also minimizes the nutrient loss. Sediment traps & tail water ponds are used to keep the good topsoil and nutrients on the farm rather than loosing it in the runoff.

When a single crop covers a vast landmass it can provide a large resource for pollinators. This resource is only available to the pollinators during a small period of time–when the crop is blooming. Hedgerows for native pollinators are employed on the farm to keep pollinators around all through the year. Solar energy powers the main pumps on the farm, in addition to the hulling operation. Stream conservation has been an important part of the conservation efforts on the farm.

With the help of the Solano County streamkeeper, Sierra Orchards has invested heavily into promoting a healthy stream. In order to have an active fishery the stream needs aeration and shade to cool the water. To accomplish this Sierra Orchards assisted in the creation of a W-Weir by bringing in off-site boulders to create an aerated stream. Sierra Orchards also spent large amounts on removing Arundo donax or Giant Cane (a fake bamboo) and large trees. To make a faster rushing cooler stream the stream-bed was narrowed by laying large logs parallel to the stream and bulldozing gravel on top, a natural resting place for migrating fish  such as salmon.

Educational Programs

Sierra Orchards also promotes educational programs for outreach to farmers & professionals, including high school and college students. The FARMS program started in 1993, has led to the formation of the SLEWS program, which was formed in 2001. This effectively effort has doubled the number of students served annually. In February 2001 FARMS Leadership, Inc. a 501(c)(3) non-profit was formed and moved to new headquarters at The Farm on nearby Putah Creek in Winters, California. In 2004, FARMS Leadership, Inc. was renamed as the Center for Land-Based Learning. The program now reaches nearly 2,000 students annually.

Farms Within the Farm

Sierra Orchards also houses other farming operations such as: Free Spirit Farms, and Mish Olive Oil.

Free Spirit Farm, photograph by Kim Steele

Free Spirit Farm

Free Spirit Farms is a 5-acre farm nestled amongst orchards of walnuts just outside Winters, California. Harvests include mixed fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers–all grown and harvested sustainably. The produce is sold to over 30 restaurants throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento region, and through a CSA (community supported agriculture program) from UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

Extra Virgin Organic Mission Olive Oil Planted 1886

Sean and Toby are men on a mission, to wring extra virgin brio from Mission olive trees 100 years older than themselves.  Bringing you a divine oil that ventures beyond the said and done. Creating this nectar is no small feat: the fruit is volatile, the crude dangerously potent, and the production, well, in a word…severe.

ALL ABOUT SIERRA FARMS  owner & president 


Craig McNamara, photograph by Kim Steele

Craig McNamara, is the president and owner of Sierra Orchards, a diversified farming operation that includes field, processing, and marketing operations, producing primarily organic walnuts and olive oil. McNamara also serves as the founder and president of the Center for Land-Based Learning. The goal of this innovative program is to assist high school students in becoming lifelong learners, overcoming barriers to change, and building greater social and human capital in their communities. Craig McNamara is currently the president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

Early Life and Career

Craig McNamara was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is the only son of three children of the former United States secretary of defense, Robert McNamara (d. 2009) and Margaret Craig (d. 1981).

McNamara enrolled at Stanford University in 1969. After McNamara left Stanford, he spent several years traveling through Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. After working on local farms across South America, including starting a dairy cooperative business on Easter Island, he discovered his passion for sustainable farming. He returned to the United States and enrolled at University of California, Davis and graduated in 1976 with a degree in plant and soil science. After a 3-year apprenticeship with Ton Lum, Craig McNamara founded Sierra Orchards.

President and Owner of Sierra Orchards

McNamara established Sierra Orchards in 1980. Sierra Orchards is located within the limits of Winters, California, a small city in Yolo County, on the border with Solano County. The orchard is approximately 450 acres in size and produces mostly organic walnuts. Sierra Orchards is recognized for its use of sustainable practices and conservation techniques. McNamara has also been recognized for his outstanding agricultural work and commitment to ensuring a healthy, sustainable food system for California and the nation.

Craig and Julie McNamara are the founders of the FARMS Program, a partnership that started in 1993, joining Sierra Orchards (the operational farming entity of McNamara’s family), UC Davis, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and the Yolo County Resource Conservation District. FARMS is now integrated as a curriculum of the Center for Land-Based Learning.

Center for Land-Based Learning

Sierra Orchards, photograph by Kim Steele

The SLEWS Program was formed in 2001, after partnering with Audubon California’s Landowner Stewardship Program. This effectively doubled the number of students served annually. As a result of this dramatic growth and increased demand, in February 2001 FARMS Leadership, Inc. a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization was formed and moved to new headquarters at The Farm on Putah Creek in Winters, California. In 2004, FARMS Leadership, Inc. was renamed as the Center for Land-Based Learning. The program now reaches nearly 2,000 students annually.

President of the California State Board of Food & Agriculture

Craig McNamara has served on the State Board of Food and Agriculture since 2002. On February 1, 2011 Governor Jerry Brown appointed Craig McNamara president of the state board. McNamara is working to ensure that the goals of Ag Vision 2030 are met. McNamara is passionate about sharing his knowledge of sustainable agriculture and leadership with the world around him.

Ripening Walnut, photograph by Kim Steele

Other Affiliations

McNamara is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Program and a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum

His professional activities include: board member of American Farmland Trust, Roots of Change Stewardship Council, University of California, Davis Dean’s Advisory Council and Agricultural Sustainability Institute advisory board member, Public Policy Institute of California advisory board, past member of the Foundation Board of Trustees University of California, Merced.


Craig McNamara is the recipient of several awards including the Leopold Conservation Award, the California Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, the UC Davis Award of Distinction and Outstanding Alumnus Award.

All photographs in this post are by San Francisco photographer Kim Steele, more about Kim’s work go here, and here and here

Kudos for Science!


                         Photos by ©Kim Steele for San Francisco Magazine

The U.S. Green Building Council presented the Academy this fall, with its 
second LEED Platinum award, making the California Academy
of Sciences the world’s first “Double Platinum” museum and the world’s largest Double Platinum building.

The Academy’s operations and maintenance practices were evaluated and earned points across six different categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources.  They excelled in all three categories to earn this prestigious rating.


Designed by award winning Italian architect Renzo Piano, the Academy building houses an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and world-class research and education programs under one living roof, standing as an embodiment of its 158-year-old mission to explore, explain, and protect the natural world.

The Year of The River

The Elwah Dam

The Elwah Dam on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington. ©Kim Steele

“The biggest dam removal in history begins September 17, 2011 on Washington’s Elwha River. Removing the two dams on the Elwha will restore a free-flowing river, abundant salmon runs, and deliver significant cultural, economic, and recreation benefits to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and surrounding communities. American Rivers has dubbed 2011 “The Year of the River” because our country will reach the significant milestone of 1000 dams removed nationwide. The Elwha’s Glines Canyon Dam, at 210 feet tall, will be the tallest dam ever removed.”
Andy Maser


Read more about dam removal on the Lower Snake River at Save Our Wild Salmon.


An Insider’s View

The most frequently visited and familiar country in Africa is suffering tremendous, and potentially irreversible damage to its culture and fauna in the near future, unless the elements now in place are pressured by international forces to curb their encroachment.

It is these forces that I propose we document and interpret their individual impact.

Firstly and most importantly, the future of the elephant population is terribly at risk.  This subject is close to the writer’s heart. There are organizations monitoring the ivory trade that we intend to cover. Also, various efforts to protect the population, from raising elephant orphans to protecting grazing lands will be addressed.

On a more worldwide platform, the Chinese are developing projects throughout Africa, with the local governments, in the interest of gaining access to minerals vital to the world’s development, as they have in their own country.  They are active in Kenya with the same motivations, while offering to provide some community services, e.g. bridges, schools etc, in exchange for mineral rights.

The Samburu people of Kenya are facing increasing challenges from the twin scourges of climate change and globalization. Can these tribal groups whose ethos of bare subsistence and knowledge of a millennia of stewardship survive the next decade? The tribe has exhibited a successful archetypal  relationship to the land, now being challenged by commercial interest.  They were strafed last year from the air in an attempt to contain their nomadic patterns.  In the same way that indigenous peoples have been rooted from their homeland thought the world, from Australia to the US, governments have no tolerance for groups that they cannot control.

The most physical invasion of Kenya’s culture and wildlife is the plan to construct a cross county highway that will bisect the migration of the abundant animal life and the nation’s largest source of revenue: tourism.  The world’s uprise to block it has met with local dismissal – how does the world know what Kenya needs?

We are in a unique position to cover this shifting landscape, due to our special access to individuals who are vital in these issues. This article will touch on issues that face many developing countries in the world.  The article will provide insight to internal politics, foreign exploitation and the stress on wildlife and agriculture, with powerful color photographs, as we experience the effects of globalization and climate change.

Respectfully submitted,

Kim Steele, Photographer

Cyril Christo, Writer