If you’re fascinated with gardening and/or sustainable farming, if you want insight from experts, fellow farmers, historians and philosophers on best practices and the latest advances, then KZYX is the place to be every Monday morning at 11:00am. That’s when Mendocino’s county-wide, listener-supported public radio station presents the Farm and Garden Show, hosted by an alternating roster of knowledgeable, talented and passionate moderators who present interviews with informative authors and experts.
The hosts are Ruthie King, Director of Operations at the School of Adaptive Agriculture in Willits; Gowan Batist of Fortunate Farm in Caspar; and farmer/artist/entrepreneurs Bill Taylor and Jaye Alison Moscariello, who co-host. All agree that serving as a conduit between expert, inspired agricultural practitioners and listeners across Mendocino County is the most satisfying component of their work for the show.
“The great thing about being a host is that I get to contact agricultural heroes of mine,” says King. “I get to talk to legendary people for almost an hour, and our county gets to learn about the fascinating advances happening in the field! It’s a great scenario.”
“I love interviewing groundbreaking authors and practitioners of good solid methods that anyone can follow,” Moscariello agrees. “I love bringing these brilliant, committed individuals to our program and helping inspire our listeners to grow more nutritionally dense foods while improving their soil and their health.”
The show has aired on KZYX since the early 1990s, according to Tim Bates, co-owner of the Apple Farm in Philo and co-founder of the program along with author Dan Imhoff. “Dan and I were hosting music shows, and I had started doing a 5- or 10-minute spot each week called ‘Farm Beat.’ That evolved into a regular 1-hour show. Dan knew a lot of famous people who he could interview about big-picture farming issues, while I focused more on local sustainability.”
Since then, the show has been moderated by a long roster of committed and experienced hosts, including conservationist Linda MacElwee, one of the program’s earliest facilitators, who ended her tenure just recently and was responsible for training King.
“Our mission,“ says Taylor, “is to inform listeners about cutting-edge ideas and methods in permaculture, farming, gardening, and landscaping, and to let people know about local activities relating to farming and gardening, healthy eating and local foods.”
The moderators are justifiably proud of the high-profile guests they’ve been able to bring before their audience.
“Our interview with [holistic livestock expert] Alan Savory was such a powerful experience for me,” says King, “because it demystified the celebrity and helped me see him as just human. Hearing his stories directly from his mouth helped me sink deeper into the roots of Holistic Management, a framework I use in my grazing operation, and I loved the opportunity to give our audience a sense of his personality as well as his knowledge.”
Among the guests Moscariello mentions is Dr. David Johnson, who, along with his wife, Wui Chun Su, designed the Johnson-Su No Turn Compost Bioreactor. “Their design of a cylindrical composter that you can use to inoculate unhealthy soils was so inspiring that we invited them both to come to our area and do a workshop,” Moscariello said.
Taylor singles out Dr. Elaine Ingham, an early proponent of biologically-focused farming. “We’ve had a number of great guests who were influenced by her,” he says, “so having her on the show herself, talking about upending chemically-focused growing, was a peak experience for me.”
And both Moscariello and Taylor mention local naturalist and permaculturist Mark Albert. “Mark has a sharp mind, and his food is amazing. He is a local legend,” says Moscariello. In fact, Albert will be back as a guest on December 17th.
To be clear, the program is not only about the global issues surrounding agriculture and ecology, although these are robustly represented. Many shows feature specific, practical tips that listeners can use in their own gardens and fields or to keep their own livestock healthy and thriving. As Taylor puts it, “I love those ‘ah-ha!’ moments that come while I’m researching a guest, and then encouraging the guest to share those insights with KZYX listeners.”
“Arranging and conducting meaningful interviews is immensely satisfying,” King says. “Learning to craft questions that dig deep into the heart of the issues while helping a person feel comfortable enough to open up is a skill I love to practice. Recently, I have started mixing in other forms of media: poetry, music, interview clips. It reflects the way my brain works with drawing connections between broad spectrums of art, and it keeps the show entertaining and engaging.
“I see the Farm and Garden show as an educational and entertaining program that brings issues of agriculture right to our doorstep,” King concludes. “We talk about big picture concepts often through the lens of how they apply to our own environment here in Mendocino.”
Now coming up on its 30th anniversary, listener-supported KZYX broadcasts across the length and breadth of Mendocino County and into Lake County via its three transmitters, allowing its signal to reach into all corners of the region. The station, the region’s primary NPR affiliate, features a wide spectrum of news, public affairs and music shows, most presented by local volunteer programmers like those who host the Farm and Garden Show.
KZYX broadcasts at 91.5 from its Ukiah transmitter, at 90.7 from its Philo transmitter, and at 88.1 in Fort Bragg. In addition, the station streams live on the web at www.kzyx.org and via its KZYX iPhone app.
Jerry Karp is a mostly retired freelance writer living in Boonville. He is the host of the Jazz Odyssey on KZYX, every other Monday afternoon from 1-3 pm, and is the current Programmers’ Representative on the KZYX Board of Directors.