‘First Course on Sustainable Tourism at Harvard University’

I am thrilled to witness as this “industry” broadens and becomes “mainstream”… =)

via ‘First Course on Sustainable Tourism at Harvard University’.

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Suisun Valley in the Winter

The rains had stopped for a few hours on a Sunday in January.  I say “rains”, plural, because in a month we had four, five, or more storms roll across our skies; pouring rain, drizzling rain, steady rain.  There was a feeble suggestion of a sun break from my local weather forecast, but rain or shine on this day I was going out just to get away for awhile.  I was craving the ease of a Sunday drive, pulled out my colorful map of Suisun Valley and ventured forth with sunny memories of the summer and the farmer’s markets.

Suisun Valley is a small agricultural jewel just off Hwy 80, west of the city of Fairfield.  The farmers and vintners of the valley have worked together to welcome visitors to their rural community.  There is an excellent website, www.SuisunValley.com that offers plenty of information about the farm stands, wineries and events of the valley.  You can download a map of the area and local attractions, or pick one up at the Suisun Valley Wine Coop, on Suisun Valley Road where the journey begins. I started out on Suisun Valley Road to make my way from Rockville Corner north and loop around the valley.

My mission was to find the farm stands that stay open year round.  The website and map lists the farm stands and the days and hours

The Vegetable Patch

they are open.  From Suisun Valley Road I turned east onto Rockville Road and headed to The Vegetable Patch.  I was planning to gather winter root veggies for roasting.  Family owned and operated for over 29 years the bright indoor farm stand is well-stocked with veggies, dried fruits, jams, fresh farm eggs and local breads.  I consider it a special opportunity to get out in the blustery, winter weather and be able to pick up farm fresh produce right from this stand.  From The Vegetable Patch I doubled back toward the roundabout on Rockville Road, turning onto Abernathy Road to continue north. Satisfied with my veggie purchase, I was headed next to Cal Yee Farms for their famous dried fruits and nuts.

As I drove along Abernathy Road I experienced the remarkable environment of this valley; a bit of a step back in time.  Large wooden farmhouses surrounded by fruit trees, a classic 1953 Chevy parked in the driveway, the smell of wood smoke from a fireplace or stove in the air. In January the yellow mustard blossoms were already covering the fields between the bare gray trees and brown grapevines.  A damp drizzly mist hung low over the fields, the atmosphere brightened by the sunny mustard. The Suisun Valley is what sustainability is all about.  The residents of this small rural area are bestowed a country life just fifteen minutes from the suburban bustle of Fairfield and Vallejo. In the 20th century this area provided an abundance of fruits, nuts, vegetables and dairy products for the surrounding counties.  Some orchards have been replaced with vineyards, still important agriculture that sustains the open, pastoral environment while providing hospitality and world-class wines on into the future.  The Suisun Valley Vintners and Growers Association are working together to enhance the opportunities for locals and visitors to enjoy, literally, the fruits of their labor.  Throughout the winter months several wineries offer special events and regular weekend hours for wine tasting.  The “kickoff” in spring for exceptional wine tasting is the Suisun Valley Passport Sunday in April.  Sign up for the valley’s e-newsletter at www.SuisunValley.com to keep informed of what’s happening in the valley throughout the year.  For information on the Suisun Valley Vintners and Growers Association visit www.SVVGA.com

Along Abernathy Road I found Ledgewood Creek Winery and just had to stop in for a tasting.  I was delighted to try their first Pinot Noir, the grapes grown right in the Suisun Valley. I will return in the spring and summer to lounge around the outdoor patio with expansive views of the vineyards and hillsides.  http://www.LedgewoodCreek.com

When I arrived at my final destination of Cal Yee Farms I stocked up on a colorful assortment of dried persimmons, sulfate-free dried papaya and bags of almonds.  Cal Yee Farms is a long-standing Suisun Valley family business.  They have provided generations with their vibrant holiday and special occasion gifts and baskets of fruit confections for over 50 years.

Suisun Valley is easily accessible by car and better yet, quite easily accessible for beautiful bike rides throughout the spring, summer and fall.  From San Francisco and the East Bay you can take your bikes on BART and Amtrak and within an hour and a half arrive at the Fairfield Amtrak station.  As noted on the SVVGA blog: “The Amtrak station is in Suisun City, just a couple miles southeast of Suisun Valley.  There is a local bicycle shop on Suisun Valley Road if mechanicals arise.  This journey is also feasible from the Sacramento metro, not to mention a quick day trip down from Davis, the bicycle capital of the west coast.”

As I headed back out to Hwy 80 to return home I was so pleasantly satisfied with my Sunday drive! The rain held off for me and not only did I get a chance to get out and about, I was returning with a bounty of locally grown produce, fine wine and stocked up with healthy snacks for a couple of weeks. Never fear the doldrums of a dreary winter, Suisun Valley beckons with warm hospitality and tastes of sunshine, perfect for a weekend journey.

Cal Yee Farms

Ledgewood Creek Winery

Take a Look Up and Around Downtown Napa

Generally my main form of exercise has been walking.  Not a lot of hoopla about it, just a regular routine, two days a week with a good

Gordon Building on First St.

friend and an occasional outing with my hubby on the weekends.  With the riverfront development and promenade, one of my favorite walking destinations is downtown Napa.  Whether I start out at the Hatt Building or the Oxbow Market, I can create an interesting loop around the heart of downtown.  In this tumultuous time, some favorite dining and retail establishments have gone away and some new and exciting places have opened up; it all adds interest and intrigue to how our downtown area is shaping up.

My personal preference is to preserve what we have, sustaining the beauty of our historical architecture; polishing and refining it so that generations ahead can sense the pride of those who have worked and lived in this town. I am not an architect or engineer with the knowledge of what structures must be overhauled, and which ones will not make it much farther into the 21st century, but I have noted some beautiful pieces of construction that I thought I would point out. When you’re downtown again, you may pause and look up and around at these lovely points of architecture; artwork really, and treat yourself to a self-guided tour of the outdoor gallery of Napa’s downtown history.

As we hurry along First Street, with our shopping and dining destinations in mind, we are usually under a large awning structure that juts out over the sidewalk on most buildings. Many of the store fronts still exhibit the architecture of the 1960’s and 1970’s; aluminum framed windows and not so interesting to behold. One day, as I was walking along First Street, I happened to look up at the building across the street. It was 1130 First Street, the Gordon Building, circa 1929.  Up above the cumbersome awning is a display of intricate Spanish Colonial Revivalist architecture, with beautifully carved tile work, dramatic arched windows and blue and green accents that remind me of the ethereal paintings by Maxfield Parrish. The tile work and beauty of this building wraps around the corner into the Coombs Street Plaza, where across the plaza is a building of mixed eras and façades, commonly known as the Merrill’s drugstore building.

On the north corner of the Merrill building there remains a very Spanish colonial style of façade with terracotta tiles, faux-adobe surface and wrought iron bars on the small windows.  Although not intricate and beautiful architecture, the “jail house” look sparks my imagination.  I like to ponder what this quirky piece of architecture meant to someone, and I know that in time it will be redeveloped and erased, tucked away in distant memories. The good news is that “distant memories” and information about our history can be found at the Goodman Library, circa 1901, a native stone beauty that is home to the Napa County Historical Society at 1219 First Street.  For complete information about the library visit the website:  http://www.NapaHistory.org.

As I walk around downtown Napa I admire the work that shows our dedication to restore and revitalize our historic beauty.  The colorful Art Deco tile work at Downtown Joe’s, originally the Oberon building, circa 1934; Wells Fargo Bank, circa 1923, the Napa Valley Opera House.  Each project has that heartfelt commitment to sustain our history, recycle, re-use and showcase what we have.  Another beloved project is underway at 813 Main Street, restoring the mysterious Fagiani Bar.  This building is one of the few remaining native stone commercial buildings from 1908.  In November of 2007, Steve and Johanna Hasty bought the building and Noble House Construction and Development is painstakingly restoring it back to a lively bar and restaurant.  The vision is to maintain the stone structure, as well as the captivating 1940’s Art Moderne tiling on the entrance to the bar.  The goal is to open the new restaurant and bar in the summer of 2010.  Inquiries about the project are welcome by phoning 707-257-3482.

As we turn each corner downtown, we may come upon a sacred old space that we can’t help but overlook during our daily comings

Fagiani Bldg on Main Street

and goings.  Taking a walk in downtown Napa can become a treasure hunt eliciting mystery as well as acquainting us with our ancestors of a hundred years ago.  If interested, visit the Goodman Library, as mentioned above.  Visit www.PreservationNapaValley.org to learn how you can become involved in preserving our historic communities.  Maps and historic guides are also available from the Napa Downtown Association located at the Visitor’s Center, 1310 Napa Town Center, 707-257-0322.

Oberon Bldg/Downtown Joes, Main Street

Walking the River

Every year I am dazzled by the autumn views along the Silverado Trail.  Breathtaking, awesome, splendiferous, are words that come to mind.  The gold, scarlet and green, with the late afternoon sun glowing through the vines bring a surge of gratitude to be able to live in this valley.  In November I was on my way to Rutherford for a special opportunity to get up close and personal with the Napa River.  As I drove north on the Silverado Trail, marveling at said vines and views, I realized that many of our visitors may not even be aware that the Napa River meanders this far north through the valley.  Gazing out over the vineyards the river is hidden; one might think the land just stretches solid and flat, straight across from the Vaca Mountains in the east to the Mayacamas in the west.  But down in its well worn trench, crossed by our historic stone bridges is the artery of life as we know it in our famous Napa Valley.

In our history the river was used for its bounty of stone for buildings, dredging the rocks which left too sandy a bottom for the natural habitat of salmon and trout.  The flow of the river has been controlled by building up the banks to protect one property, only to send it flowing too high to another; and so it goes as we worked with and against our Napa River.  I believe that for centuries the people living and thriving in the Napa Valley have held the Napa River close to their hearts and fortunately, we learn from our mistakes.  People will take a stand to repair and restore what seemed like a good idea at the time.

Since 1994 the Rutherford Dust Society has stood firmly committed “to encourage and promote the highest quality standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford Viticultural Area.”  (www.RutherfordDust.org)  In 2002 a subcommittee of the Society was formed to initiate a plan to manage and restore the Napa River that is so vital to their land and community: the Rutherford Dust (Napa River) Restoration Team, RDRT, or think of it as “our dirt”!  The restoration project will manage and restore the 4.5 mile stretch of the Napa River and its watershed between the Zinfandel Lane Bridge and Oakville Cross Road.  RDRT has successfully pioneered an innovative partnership with Napa County to realize this vision.  With over five years of detailed engineering and ecological studies the project construction commenced with Phase I in July of this year.  The team is chaired by Rutherford Dust Society board member, Davie Piña of Piña Vineyard Management, LLC and includes over twenty five riverside property owners.  The project is coordinated by leadership from Napa County, the Napa County Resource Conservation District, and Napa County Water Conservation.  To review the details of the project please visit the project website at:  http://www.napawatersheds.org/Content/10027/Rutherford_Dust_Society_Project.html

For my “river walk” experience I met with Gretchen Hayes, of Tessera Watershed Partners, and facilitator of the RDRT team.  Gretchen’s professional title is “Geomorphologist”; geo = earth, morph = change, and “ology” being the study of such.  Studying the changes in the earth and bringing her expertise to monitor the flow and erosion of our Napa River.  Gretchen represents the folks I admire that get right down in the dirt of our land to figure out how to support nature and give back what we have taken away.

I wriggled into big rubber waders, cinched them up to my chest and followed Gretchen down the bank to a section of river.  Our objective was to be able to walk right into the river and be surrounded by the trees, bushes, rocks, gravel, birds and critters that make their home along the banks.  I learned that a river “pools, riffles and glides”.  Create in your mind the meandering line of the river, as the water pushes through a gravel bank (a riffle) and then rushes into an open space (a pool) then gently glides to the next riffle.  “Pool, riffle and glide” sounds like a graceful dance step doesn’t it?

The section of river that we explored exhibited how the river banks have eroded below the land surface, down 15 to 20 feet.  Great oak and willow trees, root systems exposed will inevitably break away and fall into the river.   “LWD” was pointed out to me: “large, woody debris”; tree trunks, stumps and limbs as we know them.  These logs, pushed to the side, form a new extended bank and eventually become a beneficial habitat for fish and wildlife.  If needed the restoration team will introduce logs into the river for this purpose to aid the flow of the river.

We’ll have more salmon swimming and spawning and flourishing in our river!  There are many ripples winding around the gravel banks, providing the perfect environment for spawning.  As the Rutherford Dust Napa River Restoration advances there is a plan for a salmon ladder at the Zinfandel Bridge.  Our Napa River, often chided for being sluggish, will be brought back to a thriving natural habitat for wildlife and our community.

Most areas of the river are on private property, and not accessible for the public.  Therefore, I encourage everyone with a curiosity and love of our Napa River to contact the Napa County Resource Conservation District to participate in their programs that bring people to the river throughout the year.  Visit: http://www.naparcd.org/programs.html or call the Napa County RCD at 707-252-4188 x100.

Success from the Heart – The Heart of the Mendocino Coast, Part 1

I’ve visited the Mendocino coast nearly every year; as far back as I can remember.  My dad was passionate about the Northern California

Village of Mendocino, CA

Village of Mendocino, CA

coast and the rugged shores of Mendocino.  We headed there on summer road trips, to brave the bracing winds and stinging-cold water and watch my mom comb the beaches for shells and pretty pieces of glass.   In my early adolescence I became fascinated with the bohemian lifestyle of the village of Mendocino: a grocery store in an old church, charming bookstores in funky water towers, and colorful people and their artwork all over town.

This year I traveled to the Mendocino coast again as I planned and assisted the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce with a press trip for travel writers.  I was meeting and working and getting to know a few people who live and work in Mendocino and Fort Bragg.   As I listened to them I somehow began to sense what it feels like to live there.  I could feel how different and unique it is to dwell on this coastal edge; edging up against the rocky beaches, cold and windy days, forest roads and rural living.

It’s not completely easy to live on the Mendocino coast.  The town of Fort Bragg, the village of Mendocino and a few small hamlets along Hwy 1 are on their own for providing all of the modern conveniences that we, in the 21st century, take for granted.  Cell phone service is limited, having just landed in Mendocino about two years ago; still, most likely, you have to duck around a corner, or go outside on your porch to pick up a signal.   There are not a lot of choices for employment; working and making a living takes creativity and diligence. Keep reading

Connecting with Butterflies – Carole Peccorini’s Success from the Heart

I interviewed Carole Peccorini in April of 2008.  Since then The Butterfly Project has raised over half of her goal of $60,000 to fund the college education of Uganda girls.  The Butterfly Project works in collaboration with Village Volunteers, a non-profit organization that works in partnership with rural village and capacity-building programs to support the development of sustainable solutions for

Carole Peccorini and Evaline, Uganda

Carole Peccorini and Evaline, Uganda

community survival, education, and growth.  www.VillageVolunteers.org

Carole Peccorini was my first inspiration to create interviews with people that are working and living from their hearts.  Whether making tons of money or not, it is truly Success from the Heart.  www.TheButterflyProject.com

1.         For your first trip to Uganda, how did you “get the nerve” to go to Africa?

Since childhood I have had a longing and connection with Africa.  My heroes are Albert Schweitzer, Jane Goodall with the chimps, Diane Fossey with the gorillas and the Leakeys searching for the oldest human remains in the Oldavi Gorge. I just love all of the wildlife and the new knowledge based on their long-term research and discoveries.  Over a ten to fifteen year period  I probably read every book they published about Africa.  So it was already in me; a sense and longing that got ignited.  It seemed to be my destiny.

The trip to Uganda in 2005 was with MannaRelief, a non profit program of a biotech nutraceutical company called Mannatech.   I have an independent business with Mannatech.  MannaRelief is devoted to children, providing vital nutrients to the orphans in the developing world.  Their first team went to Uganda in 2005.  I’ve been a pediatric nurse, with a passion and commitment for children.  I got the email about the pending trip to Uganda just 5 or 6 weeks before they were scheduled to depart.  I talked it over with my friend Leta, who also had a lifelong dream to go to Africa and we just said, “Should we say yes?” and we took the leap!  I didn’t have a clue how to come up with the money, had to clear my calendar and didn’t know how it would all work.  But I knew in my heart it would work.  I had made a commitment to myself that in my 60’s I would have life-opening experiences.  The decision came from my heart.  The majority of time you just do what is reasonable and keep things working.  But sometimes an inner self just knows when to make a leap. I trusted that inner self to say “Yes” to something that was transformational and life-changing.

2.         It was during that trip that The Butterfly Project evolved.  Do you remember a  specific incident that sparked the idea for  The Butterfly Project?

Probably a handful of things.  While there, we met with, Dr. Nsaba Butero, the Minister for Information & Broadcasting, in the Office of the President.  He had a PhD in Social Sciences.  I just loved this man! What he said touched me deeply: “We don’t need charity. We’re not looking for handouts. What we need are partners to solve problems.” This conversation happened early in the trip.  Uganda has amazing bio-rich resources and wonderful people. They need partnerships to develop what they have.  They not only want to solve problems for their people, but to participate in the global economy.

In addition to that experience, we were with the kids, the orphans, teaching them about the nutrients.  I had brought 1200 Blue Morpho butterflies, small replicas, to delight the children.  The butterflies were easy to include in my luggage.  The kids just lit up when they got a butterfly!  It was very joyful.  And then, when I would begin to leave, the kids would always hug us and say, “I love you”. They would also say, “When you go home, please tell everyone I love them.”  They made an extraordinary connection to people everywhere.

And, of course, I met Eveline, a young orphan girl who was very bright and engaging.  I asked about continuing school for her and could she go to the university. I found out from Bob, the orphanage director, that it cost $6000, total, to attend the university.  I said to him, “That’s doable!”  From that point I knew the funds would be there for her to go to college if she chose. And while in Uganda, it was my 62nd birthday. I met Bette, also an orphan since six.  She had been trained to be a masseuse and as a gift I was given a massage from Bette.  From learning her story and knowing about all the other girls, by then I just knew that I’d send 10 Ugandan girls to college. It was done and complete in my heart.   It was another big “Yes!”

3.         What’s the most daunting hurdle you’ve had to conquer to get The Butterfly Project going or keep it going?

At some point, transformational vision has to move back into the realm of reasonable.  It was about four of five weeks after I returned before I had the name, The Butterfly Project. In that transformational arena, connections and solutions come magically, but I had to go back and forth between practical actions and transformational connections.  The story made the connections.  The biggest hurdle was turning my vision into a non-profit organization, in addition to running my regular business!  It is an arduous process.  Three main things are needed to establish a non-profit that involves another country: it has to be a legal non profit; there have to be people on the ground in Uganda to make it happen; and there has to be a fundraising division.  I partnered with Global Partners for Development to establish the non profit status and I’ve been learning what it takes to bring The Butterfly Project into a mature, sustainable program that works.

4.         What keeps your commitment going?

The fact that the decision came from my heart, from that sense of spirit within me.  It actually feels sacred, like a covenant.  With that it takes the will to get it going and the passion for it and then the results. There are policies to develop, strategic plans to be made and funds to be raised.  Whenever I do a presentation, the magic of the story re-ignites my commitment.  More stories will develop as the girls attend the universities and have opportunities in their lives that will benefit their villages and the world.  This keeps the juice and joy

Carole and kids, Uganda

Carole and kids, Uganda

going; people’s lives being changed and saying “yes”.

5.         Do you have a specific joyous result or incident that has come from The Butterfly Project?

My vision and prayer for what would happen in my 60’s is happening. My life opened and I have new amazing people in my life.  On a personal level, this is a very powerful result.  And my heart leaps for joy for Evaline!  For her progress in school and knowing she will be able to go to university if she chooses. I’ve seen friends’ lives open from the story and this has allowed them to say yes to transformational possibilities in their own lives.  These opening often arrive unplanned and they usually are not reasonable. But then to see it in action is joyful, to see the results ripple out to many.

1. For your first trip to Uganda, how did you “get the nerve” to go to Africa?

Since childhood I have had a longing and connection with Africa. My heroes are Albert Schweitzer, Jane Goodall with the chimps, Diane Fossey with the gorillas and the Leakeys searching for the oldest human remains in the Oldavi Gorge. I just love all of the wildlife and the new knowledge based on their long-term research and discoveries. Over a ten to fifteen year period I probably read every book they published about Africa. So it was already in me; a sense and longing that got ignited. It seemed to be my destiny.

The trip to Uganda in 2005 was with MannaRelief, a non profit program of a biotech nutraceutical company called Mannatech. I have an independent business with Mannatech. MannaRelief is devoted to children, providing vital nutrients to the orphans in the developing world. Their first team went to Uganda in 2005. I’ve been a pediatric nurse, with a passion and commitment for children. I got the email about the pending trip to Uganda just 5 or 6 weeks before they were scheduled to depart. I talked it over with my friend Leta, who also had a lifelong dream to go to Africa and we just said, “Should we say yes?” and we took the leap! I didn’t have a clue how to come up with the money, had to clear my calendar and didn’t know how it would all work. But I knew in my heart it would work. I had made a commitment to myself that in my 60’s I would have life-opening experiences. The decision came from my heart. The majority of time you just do what is reasonable and keep things working. But sometimes an inner self just knows when to make a leap. I trusted that inner self to say “Yes” to something that was transformational and life-changing.

2. It was during that trip that The Butterfly Project evolved. Do you remember a specific incident that sparked the idea for The Butterfly Project?

Probably a handful of things. While there, we met with, Dr. Nsaba Butero, the Minister for Information & Broadcasting, in the Office of the President. He had a PhD in Social Sciences. I just loved this man! What he said touched me deeply: “We don’t need charity. We’re not looking for handouts. What we need are partners to solve problems.” This conversation happened early in the trip. Uganda has amazing bio-rich resources and wonderful people. They need partnerships to develop what they have. They not only want to solve problems for their people, but to participate in the global economy.

In addition to that experience, we were with the kids, the orphans, teaching them about the nutrients. I had brought 1200 Blue Morpho butterflies, small replicas, to delight the children. The butterflies were easy to include in my luggage. The kids just lit up when they got a butterfly! It was very joyful. And then, when I would begin to leave, the kids would always hug us and say, “I love you”. They would also say, “When you go home, please tell everyone I love them.” They made an extraordinary connection to people everywhere.

And, of course, I met Eveline, a young orphan girl who was very bright and engaging. I asked about continuing school for her and could she go to the university. I found out from Bob, the orphanage director, that it cost $6000, total, to attend the university. I said to him, “That’s doable!” From that point I knew the funds would be there for her to go to college if she chose. And while in Uganda, it was my 62nd birthday. I met Bette, also an orphan since six. She had been trained to be a masseuse and as a gift I was given a massage from Bette. From learning her story and knowing about all the other girls, by then I just knew that I’d send 10 Ugandan girls to college. It was done and complete in my heart. It was another big “Yes!”

3. What’s the most daunting hurdle you’ve had to conquer to get The Butterfly Project going or keep it going?

At some point, transformational vision has to move back into the realm of reasonable. It was about four of five weeks after I returned before I had the name, The Butterfly Project. In that transformational arena, connections and solutions come magically, but I had to go back and forth between practical actions and transformational connections. The story made the connections. The biggest hurdle was turning my vision into a non-profit organization, in addition to running my regular business! It is an arduous process. Three main things are needed to establish a non-profit that involves another country: it has to be a legal non profit; there have to be people on the ground in Uganda to make it happen; and there has to be a fundraising division. I partnered with Global Partners for Development to establish the non profit status and I’ve been learning what it takes to bring The Butterfly Project into a mature, sustainable program that works.

4. What keeps your commitment going?

The fact that the decision came from my heart, from that sense of spirit within me. It actually feels sacred, like a covenant. With that it takes the will to get it going and the passion for it and then the results. There are policies to develop, strategic plans to be made and funds to be raised. Whenever I do a presentation, the magic of the story re-ignites my commitment. More stories will develop as the girls attend the universities and have opportunities in their lives that will benefit their villages and the world. This keeps the juice and joy going; people’s lives being changed and saying “yes”.

5. Do you have a specific joyous result or incident that has come from The Butterfly Project?

My vision and prayer for what would happen in my 60’s is happening. My life opened and I have new amazing people in my life. On a personal level, this is a very powerful result. And my heart leaps for joy for Evaline! For her progress in school and knowing she will be able to go to university if she chooses. I’ve seen friends’ lives open from the story and this has allowed them to say yes to transformational possibilities in their own lives. These opening often arrive unplanned and they usually are not reasonable. But then to see it in action is joyful, to see the results ripple out to many.