10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY january 18-24, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Each year for 43 years, the Soquel-based nonprofit Ecological Farming Association has hosted the EcoFarm conference. It’s become the largest organic farming conference for small and medium-sized farmers from across the country to network and learn from each other about how to manage their business from the ground all the way to the shelf. When this year’s 44th annual conference meets from ThursdaySaturday, Jan-18-20 at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, the programming will shine a light on farmers from minority groups including David Mas Masumoto, an organic peach and grape farmer in the San Joaquin Valley; Maria Ana Reyes, owner of Narci Organic Farms and an alum of the Salinas nonprofit Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA); and Doria Robinson, executive director of Urban Tilth, a nonprofit that promotes community supported agriculture in Richmond, California. “This year we have, more than ever, more diversified participation,” says Javier Zamora, owner of JSM Organics in Watsonville, and a former EcoFarm board member. Zamora supports the Spanishlanguage workshops and keynote speakers. “A lot of farmers in our area, their native language is Spanish and they might speak a little bit of English, but they feel a lot more comfortable when you are conducting workshops or seminars in Spanish,” Zamora says. Zamora says learning the legal aspects of running an ag business is critical to success. “That’s really, really critical for farms, especially for Hispanic farms, so they understand all the legalities that are necessary to run a business, whether it’s accounting, food safety, or all the regulations that we have to adhere to,” he adds. The event features over 60 workshops, both in English and Spanish, about topics from organic cropping to pest management, marketing, regulation and more. The EcoFarm expo, meanwhile, will showcase the latest technology in ag equipment, including tractors and automation. A beer and kombucha tasting returns this year, and highlights local producers. Pre-conference events, which started on Jan. 16, included a tour of farms in Santa Cruz County including Rancho Soquel, Esperanza Community Farms and the Center for Agroecology at UC Santa Cruz. If the faculty of the California State University system had any doubts about carrying out a one-week strike authorized back in October for the first week of Spring Semester, Jan. 22-26, while labor negotiations were still ongoing, those doubts evaporated in a dramatic moment during a bargaining session on Jan. 9. About 20 minutes into the session, CSU administration representatives announced an ultimatum: Take a 5-percent salary increase or face massive layoffs. Then they walked out. “It was shocking,” says Meghan O’Donnell, a CSUMB lecturer and member of the California Faculty Association negotiating team. She describes the confrontation as the ugliest she’s seen. “Anger doesn’t even express where the faculty are. They feel like [CSU Chancellor Mildred Garcia] has just turned their back on them and is indifferent to how it will impact students,” O’Donnell says. The CFA is asking for a 12-percent increase, among other demands. “Anything less than that is a pay cut in real dollars,” O’Donnell says. The union wants the lowest paid workers, lecturers who teach most of the classes, to make more than the current average for a lecturer with an advanced degree of less than $60,000 a year. In a statement released by the CSU after its representatives walked out of the meeting, the university announced a 5-percent increase would go into effect on Jan. 31. Anything more would lead to “massive cuts to campuses—including layoffs” and would jeopardize “the CSU’s educational mission.” O’Donnell says an independent analysis of the CSU’s finances—including reserves and investment accounts—shows otherwise. The union will take the 5-percent raise, “but we’re going to strike the rest,” O’Donnell says. “Our goal is to shut the system down.” CSUMB had the highest percentage of faculty on any CSU campus that voted for the strike, 95 percent. Members plan on picket lines at all entrances to CSUMB. A notice on the university’s website states that the campus will be “fully operational” and that “students should return to campus as planned.” Farm Team The 2024 EcoFarm Conference spotlights farmers from diverse minority groups. By Celia Jiménez news College Aid If you’re enrolling in a two-year or four-year college and need help with your Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act (CADAA) applications in Gonzales, Gonzales High School is partnering with local colleges to offer several workshops. 6-7:30pm Thursdays, Jan. 18 and 25. Gonzales High School cafeteria, 501 5th St., Gonzales. Free. 675-2495. Prom Ready Project Prom Salinas is organizing a prom dress drive to ensure students can look their best during this special celebratory night. They are collecting new and used prom dresses, suits, shoes, jewelry, purses and accessories. Even if you don’t have a dress to give, you can still donate by purchasing online at bit.ly/promdresssal. 11am-3pm Saturday, Jan. 20. Star Market parking lot, at the intersection of Main Street and Blanco Road, Salinas. For more information or donation pickups, contact projectpromsalinas@gmail.com or 293-4428. coffee with a cop The Monterey Police Department invites you to join them for a cup of coffee and friendly conversation in a non-confrontational setting. 9-11am Wednesday, Jan. 24. Plume’s, 400 Alvarado St., Monterey. Free. 6363914, monterey.org. Pizza Party If you want to get to know the people who are patrolling your streets, check out Pizza with Police in King City. Residents can enjoy a slice of pizza and the opportunity to talk with local police officers in a conversational atmosphere. 5-6pm Wednesday Jan. 24. King City Pizza, 500 Canal St., King City. Free. 385-4848, kingcity.com. Needles and Thread If you like knitting or crocheting, the King City branch library offers a space for a knitting club. BYO supplies, and meet other local enthusiasts at these gatherings. 1-3pm third Thursday of each month. First meeting is on Jan. 18. Free. 3866885, catalog.emcfl.org. Free Pass The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a wonder to behold, but the cost of entry can be a barrier. To that end, the Aquarium offers winter/spring passes in partnership with the Salinas Public Library for families who otherwise can’t afford to visit. Those who received a fall season pass are not eligible. For more information, contact the Salinas Public Library at 758-7311, or go to your nearest Salinas branch library. At Odds A one-week CSU faculty strike is on after administrators walk out on negotiations. By Pam Marino Javier Zamora at JSM Organics. He shares his success story at EcoFarm of growing the business in 12 years from just his four-person family to about 50 employees. e-mail: publiccitizen@mcweekly.com TOOLBOX “We have, more than ever, more diversified participation.” Daniel Dreifuss