Ken’s ride to the Eco Farm Conference 2013.

A photo essay of Ken’s ride to the annual Eco Farm Conference.

Terra Nova owner Ken Foster is on the planning committee for the conference and has ridden his bike there since the year 2000.


Ken on his thirteenth ride from Santa Cruz to the Eco Farm Conference in Pacific Grove. A few sights along the way: a couple of heritage goats and swallow nests under a bridge.

Amigo Bob Cantisano, the founder of the Eco Farm Conference.

Josiah Raison Cain at a workshop that Ken moderated called Edible Architecture.  

Some of Josiah’s projects.

 A good crowd showed up for the Edible Architecture workshop.

 The winners of the annual ‘Sustie’ awards. The Emmy Awards of Sustainable Farming.

Ken proposed and moderated a workshop called, Permaculture, the Transition Initiative and the future of farming. Here’s Ken with presenter Penny Livingston at the session. Penny is the co-founder of the Regenerative Design Institute.


The sunset and moon rise over strawberry fields on the ride home from the conference.

A perfect conclusion to an amazing Eco Farm adventure.


Terra Nova takes leadership……………………………………………………………………. Santa Cruz County group to study leaf blower rules

Article Reprinted from the Tuesday, January 22, 2013 Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Jason HoppinSanta Cruz Sentinel Posted: 01/21/2013 03:56:59 PM
A local task force is in the early stages of studying whether to regulate leaf blowers — the always-droning, often-jarring, go-to staple of the landscape industry.

More than a dozen California cities have special rules for the backpack-sized machines, with several — Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles among them — banning gas-powered versions outright. Critics call them a noisy headache that kicks up dust and pollutes the air.

“We see fit to destroy the sound scape in vain pursuit to perfect the landscape. It’s crazy,” said Ken Foster of Terra Nova Landscaping, who stopped using gas leaf blowers years ago. “There’s a lot of other ways we can achieve beauty.”

Foster is organizing the inaugural meeting of the task force in early February. He is hoping to draw as many interested parties and as much input as possible on what can, or should, be done.

The first order of business is to articulate the problem, Foster said. After that, he wants to research what works in other communities — whether it’s restrictions, a ban or just education — before possibly taking recommendations to local governments.

The California Landscape Contractors Association opposes leaf blower bans, while acknowledging concerns about their operation. The group makes several recommendations on their use, including noting there rarely is cause to use blowers on full throttle.

But the Sacramento-based group maintains leaf blowers
are fundamental tools and time-savers that efficiently clean rock, gravel or bark-covered areas.
“Leaf blowers are essential for landscape maintenance professionals,” the group said in a statement.

Phil Roberson, owner of Aloha Landscape, said leaf blowers are a necessary evil, particularly when it comes to large commercial clients. He said he instructs employees about proper leaf blower operation, but without them “there is no business.”

“I actually can’t stand leaf blowers,” Roberson said. “It’s the most efficient way, when you’re paying employees, to clean up a job.”

There are electric leaf blowers — though Santa Monica bans even those — and while Foster said they’re preferable, they still don’t address the issue of kicking up particulate matter, which can include pesticides, fecal material or brake dust.

“It’s a little bit like organic heroin. No matter how much effort you put into being ecological, it’s still a bad idea,” Foster said.

While the primary driver of regulations is noise — the machines sound like a bumble bee with an amplifier — environmentalists also are focusing more on leaf blowers and other equipment with small combustion engines.

However, neither the city of Santa Cruz nor the county address two-stroke engines in their plans to minimize climate change.

Since they burn both oil and gas, two-stroke engines can release more emissions into the environment than passenger trucks. And studies have shown two-stroke marine engines can splutter a quarter of their fuel, unused, into the water.

The Landscape Contractors Association calls air emissions a “spurious issue,” citing tougher state emissions standards and leaf blowers’ intermittent use. It also said any regulation on those grounds should be left to state and federal authorities.

For nearly two decades, the state Air Resources Board has enacted tougher restrictions for all two-stroke engines. Some local jurisdictions have even tougher rules on them, with older marine engines banned on Lake Tahoe and some Santa Clara County reservoirs, for example.

And when personal watercraft such as Jet Skis were banned from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cited not only their erratic operation, but also reports noting two-stroke engine pollution.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppin on Twitter at


Leaf blower task force

WHAT: Inaugural meeting
WHEN: 7-9 p.m. Feb. 7
WHERE: Ecology Action, 877 Cedar St., Suite 240, Santa Cruz
DETAILS: 831-359-5717 or

Jason Hoppin (scnewsdude) on Twitter
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Alternatives to the gas powered leaf blower…….. Read it and sweep.

I’m going to think out loud here which I promise won’t be anywhere near as loud as a gas leaf blower in use. I’m thinking of alternatives to that particular piece of landscape equipment we love to hate. And while this may seem like I am just blowing hot air do keep an ear out for viable alternatives to the aptly named ‘Polluting Noise Bazookas’. Maybe there is a new idea here that I should run out and file a patent for because they are so good at collecting debris. A clean hardscape seems to be an obsession of ours. So let’s take a look at some of the alternative options to gas leaf blowers.

Some of these ideas may seem old fashioned, arcane or even silly yet we need to look at all options. The hope? … of finding a better way to get the job done than this…

Exhibit number 1:  The old stand-by is the broom made with broomcom. The broom has an impressive list of benefits, it is:

  • smaller than a blower
  • light weight
  • not a target of theft as a gas leaf blower is
  • cheaper
  • fossil fuel free and runs on orange juice and toast
  • exhaust free
  • very quiet
  • possible to be made from sustainable materials

Not bad for a piece of wood and some broomcorn bristles  :)

Consider the Grandmother Proves Rake and Broom as Fast as Leaf Blowers story.


Can’t forget the rake ( number 1.5) as a partner sometimes in preparation for sweeping with a broom.


Number 2 and 3 are variations on the broom, so they have all the same benefits but can be home made and free. I’ve been known to make an impromptu broom out of a palm frond. These two examples are whisk type brooms that can be made from a variety of plant materials .


The sweeper on wheels (number 4) has some potential for quiet efficient sweeping.



Number 5 is just a piece of fabric like a common 8′ x 8′ burlap landscape tote that can be used with a whisking action to clean a sidewalk.


Number 6. Here’ s my big idea, built a better billow! we’re talking a giant light weight billow that can be used to blow leaves. Patent time?





Number 7 is my personal favorite. Owen Dell’s hilarious blower alternative,

a modified bag pipe.

For small debris just use your lungs, no patent required, number 8.

There is a variety of trucks that vacuum or sweep, (number 9 ).
Big parking lots that require sweeping can use these. It is an alternative to a leaf blower yet it has it’s own downsides. At least it’s not blowing dust around.

Hosing off the driveway is an old practice that is wasteful of water. Number 10. There are however advances in equipment like this water broom, (number 11) that uses a fraction of the water of a hose for a quick clean sweep.


The equipment manufacturer Stihl makes a Lithium Ion battery operated blower. Then if you had some solar panels you could have a solar powered blower. kind of like organic heroin maybe? There are also propane powered blowers available.

The leaf Blower Pollutuion Task Force Santa Cruz will be looking at alternatives to gas powered

leaf blowers. Some of these options might be of interest to them.

The Leaf Blower Pollution Task Force Santa Cruz Facebook page .

Learn more about the down sides of gas leaf blowers.

Which alternative is your favorite? Do tell.