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Growth and Decline




My congratulations to Clint Victorine, owner of Eel River Organic Beef, for landing a contract with Whole Foods, no small accomplishment.

But I’m worried. According to “Humboldt: the Brand” (Feb. 11) Eel River Organic Beef is already sold in 10 of the biggest Whole Foods in Southern California (and at Eureka Natural Foods, and where else in Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte?) And plans are for his ranch to supply organic beef to a total of 50 Whole Foods in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and even Hawaii in the next two years. I simply can’t imagine that our Eel River watershed has enough pasture land to raise that much cattle, ongoing, in a sustainable way. Never mind the shipping to thousands of miles away. This isn’t the kind of scale that comes to mind when we think of sustainable, organic, local agriculture.

Do we want to be pitting Humboldt branding and profits against our environment? Against our local natural history of ancient redwood treasures? It’s an oxymoron, given that the unique environment and natural features of Humboldt are what shape our spirit, character and also our “brand,” yet such madness is what seems to be happening. Not only with Victorine’s expanding operation, but at businesses such as Cypress Grove, Mad River Brewery and others that Jacqueline Debets spoke for at a Feb. 17 forum on regarding CalTrans’ plans to widen 101 at Richardson Grove. Debets said the road has to be widened or these expanding businesses will be hurt, their profits curtailed. Numerous panelists spoke to that issue, citing the real statistics from a business/transportation study instigated by Debets that belie that conclusion.

I request that our local and wonderfully successful businesses take another look at why they’re located here, meditate on how big is big enough and consider how they can grow sustainably, keeping Richardson Grove, the Eel River watershed and the rest of our beautiful county also healthy and thriving. Flora, fauna, current residents and future generations deserve no less.

Sara Sunstein, Arcata

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