Exploring New Heights - Women Owned Adventure Companies

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Gift of Green

The Gift of Green

Making a Real Difference for All of Us

Story by Lynn Leissler

Thrift and conservation were once common virtues in America. The average person made do with less, and food production did not involve chemicals. Still, people didn’t understand the long-term effects of industrial waste and depletive farming practices. Over time damage resulted, and now our environment could use some healing. The following individuals, businesses, and concerns—whether involved with food or animal production, living environments, education or research—are making dedicated efforts to take care of the precious planet we’ve been given. The process isn’t just for specialists, however. Everyone can pitch in, from recycling to avoiding chemicals whenever possible to cutting down on water usage.

Bee Girl

The Bee Girl organization’s mission is to inspire and empower communities to conserve bees and their habitat by educating the public on their importance. The non-profit is the unintended outgrowth of Sarah Red-Laird’s lifelong love of bees. As a little girl, Red-Laird picked up honeybees to pet them and impress neighborhood kids. She worked with bees as a scientist at the University of Montana, pleased her career focused on what she loved.

Upon returning to the Rogue Valley, she kept mentioning bee facts in casual conversations—bees can be trained to find things you hide and to detect landmines, for example. Then she taught a class, designed a kids’ program and in 2011 the Bee Girl organization was born. She teaches beekeeping classes and speaks around the country and the world. Much of her information comes from her research background, but by interacting with beekeepers—some with two hives in the backyard and others with 30,000 hives—she broadens that base of knowledge. She tends 50 hives of her own.

Without honeybees, the consequences to our planet would be dire. Wind pollinated food plants allow a diet of rice, corn, oatmeal and so on. Good pollination—and bees are the rock stars of pollinators—makes our plates exciting and our food taste good. Bees bring color, flavor, nutrition and life to our dishes—think strawberries and fruit trees, among many.

Red-Laird considers herself a spokesperson on behalf of honeybees, but that is only half of the story. She tells people to pay attention to what bees eat. “What isn’t good for them isn’t good for us,” she says, and urges people to use fewer chemicals and to plant more pollinator flowers. Everyone, whether a rancher or a city dweller, can make individual choices that will make the world a better place.

Bee Girl



The Farming Fish

At The Farming Fish the process of organic vegetable farming and farm-raised fish join through aquaponics, a system that utilizes the water in which fish are raised to supply nutrients for plants grown hydroponically (in water), which in turn purifies the water as it recirculates through the system. The process emulates the symbiosis of a stream feeding plant life in and around it

Michael Hasey was working in pond and lake care when he discovered others using his techniques of vegetative filtration and bioremediation in aquaponics for food production. He sought a suitable location, climate and community and set out to build a sustainable farm that combines nature and technology. The Farming Fish practices large-scale aquaponics on 40 certified organic acres in Evans Valley. Olivia Hittner directs the organizational side as saleswoman and office manager, while Hasey serves as farm manager, engineer, naturalist and inspiration.

Aquaponics is an ancient form of farming still practiced around the world. The process requires 95 percent less water and 50 percent less space than typical inground row crops. The Farming Fish primarily grows red and green butter lettuce, watercress, bok choy, spinach and basil. Other crops include an orchard and free-range chickens. The tilapia go to restaurants and individuals by direct order, and the produce to local grocery stores through Organic Produce Warehouse, as well as to local restaurants.

Excess biomass from the fish and produce become compost to feed the inground garden. Occasionally some of the living nutrient rich muck is mixed with other organic fertilizers, then brewed as a microbe rich compost fertilizer and put through the drip irrigation system.

The systems at The Farming Fish loop one to the other just as nature does, creating sustainable agriculture with environmental benefits for all. By saving water, reducing waste, and producing quality produce and seafood, Hasey and Hittner are working hard to move sustainable farming to the next level.

The Farming Fish

14855 East Evans Creek Rd., Rogue River




Liongate Farm and BillyGoat Mountain Ranch

When Karen Svewc (pronounced “chef”) and her husband Jon Updegraff moved to their small ranch, Svewc discovered in neighbor Ellie Gregory a woman with common interests—and gained a true friend. Svewc raises blue-faced Leicester sheep, while retired veterinarian Gregory raises angora goats. The husbands, Updegraff and Dave Norton, operate tractors, build barns, and offer moral support and extra hands when needed.

Liongate keeps between three and five rams and a dozen breeding ewes, which produce up to 30 lambs a year—they sell the best and keep the rest. They do their own shearing, mostly by hand, a process Svewc finds kinder to the animals and allows her to check their condition. She washes, dyes, cards, and spins or felts the wool. Some is sold, and with some she creates critters (see: liongate.etsy.com).

BillyGoat Mountain has upwards of 72 goats. Gregory sells mostly raw fleece, some finished yarn and roving (wool that’s been carded but not spun). The majority of her mohair fleece goes to Canada for doll hair

Both ranches are start to finish businesses. They grow the animals, process their wool and in Gregory’s case, make products. The animals are mostly pasture fed, and their manure goes into their own and friends’ gardens. Since bringing in livestock guardian dogs as natural deterrents, they’ve had no more animal loss to predators.

On August 23 the two farms will host Fiber on the Farm, with goods for sale and demos. Bring what you’re working on, and plan to spend the day. Follow the sheep signs on East Evans Creek Road.  


Liongate Farm

14314 E. Evans Creek Rd., Rogue River




BillyGoat Mountain Ranch

4663 East Evans Creek Rd., Rogue River




Middle Rogue Farm

Middle Rogue Farm is a collaborative project located west of Grants Pass. They believe in community, education and ethical food grown naturally. Christopher Frederick, one of many involved with the project, says, “I love working with a group of people dedicated to beginning with the ‘here and now’ and taking responsibility for developing better practices to live in balance with our local ecosystems and the larger community.” This project desires to model an integrated local community functioning as a financially successful business. One long-term goal is to become a land trust or conservancy, insuring the land remains dedicated to its intended use.

Another long-term goal is to create a food forest—a land management system that mimics a woodland ecosystem by planting fruit and nut trees in the upper level, while berry shrubs, perennials and annuals fill lower levels.

Each Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m., Middle Rogue Farm opens its indoor/outdoor dining area for a community-wide potluck. Feel free to pack a picnic and join your friends, or come by and meet new folks. While you’re there, step up to the family style open mic. Their commercial kitchen is where they prepare value-added goods to stock the onsite farm stand and market through local retailers. One such array is fermented foods—food good for gut health. The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with extended hours during special events. Middle Rogue is also open to catering private events.

Though still in its initial stages of development, Middle Rogue Farm operates as family farms did generations ago, and as many farms still do in other countries. It models a way to focus on being family and community oriented, and implementing natural farming techniques.

Middle Rogue Farm

2315 Upper River Road Lp., Grants Pass




SOU Center for Sustainability

Vincent Smith, director of the Center for Sustainability at Southern Oregon University, defines sustainability as something that will last in terms of environmental stability (resilient and renewable), is financially maintainable, and as something that will socially empower and create opportunities for everyone.

The Center offers a learning laboratory for applied research and projects of sustainability. Its purpose encapsulates technology, agriculture and business by focusing on issues in ways to make them resilient to change and to make them lasting.    

Located in Ashland, the Center for Sustainability occupies five and one-half acres adjacent to Science Works, making it a laboratory available to students in environmental studies, construction management (sustainable design) business and biology. Art students and internees take advantage of the space, as do individuals conducting research. Volunteers also engage in various projects onsite.

The project is only one year old, and much of that time has been spent in building the infrastructure. The dream list is long, and students often become the driving force behind projects. One individual is researching an outdoor kitchen to teach children where food comes from. Another is interested in bees, so the center is constructing an apiary. They recently launched SOU’s first on-campus farm, and held their first farmer’s market, selling food to students at 10 percent of cost.

Though a young project, Professor Smith sees significant potential to train and engage students in the years to come. 

Vincent M. Smith, PhD

Assistant Professor, Sociology and Environmental Studies




Regenesis Ecological Design

“Cities are a part of nature. Our urban parks, backyards, boulevards and parking lots should provide habitat for wildlife, clean the air and filter stormwater—just like a natural ecosystem does,” according to Zack Williams, founder of Regenesis Ecological Design. Regenesis is a landscape design/build company providing design, installation and management services for a range of environmental projects. Their approach is to use what works best in Southern Oregon.

Before a project begins, the site, slope, sun, shade, wildlife and owner’s needs are analyzed. Then the firm develops illustrations, CAD drawings, and 3D models in keeping with the customer’s goals. Regenesis manages the installation of all their design projects to maintain the highest standards.

Given the region’s average rainfall of 18 to 24 inches, the firm relies heavily on native and locally adapted plants that are able to thrive where thirstier plants cannot. High efficiency irrigation systems, rainwater collection and greywater reuse systems are becoming popular alternatives to conventional methods. “By taking advantage of these otherwise under-utilized resources,” Williams says, “We can help stretch our local water supplies as far as possible.”

For patios, retaining walls, water gardens and hardscape elements, the company utilizes locally quarried materials—shale, sandstone, basalt and granite. They also install large-scale permeable pavement systems for driveways, plazas and patios, which help recharge the groundwater and reduce pollution in streams and rivers. When using steel and wood for projects such as decks, fences, arbors and outdoor kitchens, Regenesis uses sustainably harvested, salvaged or recycled materials.

A well-conceived landscape creates beauty and offers opportunity to be ecologically wise. Where we live and work is where we can make the most difference—differences that add up.

Regenesis Ecological Design

426 A Street, #102, Ashland




Electric Cars at Jim Sigel Automotive Center

Plugging in your car was once a thing of science fiction. Today it’s reality. There are several varieties of electric cars, produced by Nissan, Honda, Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet and more. The Nissan LEAF, Honda Fit EV and Chevrolet Spark, for example, run entirely by battery. Hybrid vehicles have an electrical assist motor and work well for rural, town and short-distance driving. The Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in vehicle whose electric motor propels the car, but if the battery runs low, the onboard gas generator provides electricity. 

Their initial price is higher, but there are several factors to consider. Mileage costs come out at 100 mpg for some vehicles, less for others. Some charging stations have no fee, while at others the cost is minimal. Over time, real savings can be realized, and new owners get a one-time several-thousand dollar tax credit.

The thought of running out of gas is one thing—there are gas stations everywhere. But if you need to plug in your vehicle, that could be another matter. Planning ahead is necessary, plus the vehicles have onboard navigational systems that show the location of charging stations. If you drive from Southern California to Seattle, you will find a station approximately every 40 to 50 miles.

Is this concept the car of the future? According Jim Hubbard at Jim Sigel Automotive Center, ownership will increase, but an electric car is not for everyone. Current owners are environmentally conscious and drive shorter distances. Still, it is worth considering. Do your research, talk to current owners for their input, then talk to folks at Jim Sigel Automotive Center or other dealerships in the valley. You might surprise yourself with your next car purchase.

Jim Sigel Automotive Center

1601 NE 7th St., Grants Pass




Oregon State University Small Farms Program

The goal of the Small Farms Program, a division of Oregon State University Extension Service, is to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of small farms. They offer a wide variety of farming and farm management classes on subjects such as: help to improve stewardship practices for small acreage landowners, land management to improve soil and water quality and conservation, opportunities for alternative and specialty (niche) marketing, and to facilitate farmers getting to know other farmers.

Maud Powell, Jackson County director, says the program serves beginning farmers, commercial growers, and small acreage landowners. For the beginning farmer, they offer information on enterprise selection, how to start a small business, and information about soil and water. The commercial grower can learn about marketing opportunities, and marketing in general. Those with small acreage have the opportunity to learn about pasture management and noxious weed identification. Other information might let folks know about the impact of new legislation, the latest research on innovative crop management or other topics, soil fertility management and crop rotation. With the current emphasis on improved environmental farming practices and sustainability, the Small Farms Program offers related resources and information.

No matter the number of acres, farming is a multifaceted endeavor, and the Small Farms Program, like all Extension programs, is there is serve and educate.

Oregon State University Small Farms Program

569 Hanley Rd., Central Point

541-776-7371 ext 208



Kriselle Cellars

Some businesses are able to utilize green technology in highly visible ways, while others go about it in more subtly. Kriselle Cellars is one of the latter. When owners Scott and Kris Steingraber designed the tasting room, they opted for reclaimed lumber. The barrel shaped tasting bar and the siding, both interior and exterior, are recycled fir. That not only saved trees, but revealed the character and history displayed by nail holes and dings. The floors throughout the building are reclaimed oak. They made other decisions that enable them to leave a softer footprint on the planet, such as heating and cooling the building with geothermal energy. While initial installation costs were higher than for conventional power sources, the savings add up each month, and their business puts less demand on the power grid.

They buy recycled paper for the office and use both sides, then recycle. Every wine bottle and kitchen container is recycled. Many businesses do that, but most are able to put things outside for weekly pickup. Kriselle doesn’t have curbside recycling, so each week they load and haul the materials to the recycle center.

From the kitchen to the vineyard and winery to the adjoining cattle ranch, organic matter is composted and used onsite. Kriselle’s practices are proof that both big things and ordinary little things add up to make an overall difference—that sound environmental protocol can be practiced by anyone. 

Kriselle Cellars

12956 Modoc Rd., White City




Stewart Meadows Village

Historic agriculture and lumberyard practices used chemicals that left contaminates in the soil and industrial debris, rendering the property environmentally degraded. The first step to reclaiming the land is soil bioremediation and spot removals, a complicated process.

Stewart Meadows Village is a mixed-use development at a former mill site on 88 acres in Medford, bounded by Garfield and Steward, Highway 99 and Myers Lane. Condos and townhomes will take advantage of adjacency to the golf course, with businesses and restaurants in a “Main Street” setting along pedestrian walkways. Hansen Creek is the centerpiece of the development, the revitalized ditch turned into a healthy 100 x 3,000-foot riparian corridor and stream system. The developers worked closely with local, state, and federal agencies that oversee the protection of waterways, fish and wildlife and human safety. “The whole project has been driven by strictly green design and development practices,” says Kerry KenCairn, landscape architect for the project.

All buildings designed by architects ORW (Ogden Roemer Wilkerson) must meet Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design standards, a green building-certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. Some of the latest green technology will be showcased through heating and energy systems, reflective rooftops and paving, source material choices and site design and landscaping requirements.

Because of intensive stream restoration requirements, all storm water that falls on the site must be treated. Treatment methods include bioswales, detention ponds, flow-through planters, and other landscape features designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. The developers are including winter water features—features resembling sculptural wall structures in dry times, but get exciting during storms and rainy times.

According to KenCairn, Stewart Meadows will offer a place of beauty where people can live, work and recreate, while at the same time fixing a past misuse of the landscape. They plan to break ground this summer.


KenCairn Landscape Architecture

545 A St., Ashland




Ogden Roemer Wilkerson Architecture

2950 E. Barnett Rd., Medford



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