Amigo Bob Cantisano, organic farming pioneer, dies at 69

EMMA ISABELLA



Amigo Bob Cantisano, a ninth-technology Californian, put his life’s do the job into the state’s very soil — starting, fittingly more than enough, on the initially Earth Working day in 1970.

At an celebration at San Francisco Point out he listened to a speaker decry what pesticides launched right after Earth War II were accomplishing to the natural environment, farmworkers and food.

His class was established. Cantisano, a Bay Location native, joined a technology of mostly urban youth who moved back to the land and commenced farming as a way to reform the meals field.

“He was the godfather of California organic farming,” explained Tom Willey, a Madera farmer and a different elder of the natural and organic motion. “He had these types of understanding and authority that he was responsible for getting organics further than little farmers like ourselves. He was determined to get rid of as considerably poisons as he could.”

Cantisano, who battled cancer for several many years, died Saturday at his North San Juan farm, Heaven and Earth, which he revered as equally. He was 69.

His legacy life in the state’s abundant landscape, from pesticide-absolutely free vineyards in Napa to rescued heirloom fruit and nut trees in the Sierra foothills. His was a mission to revolutionize farming — like substantial-scale agriculture — by slicing the use of harmful chemical substances.

Alice Waters, the proprietor of Chez Panisse in Berkeley and a fellow food stuff activist, reported the motion Cantisano helped make is critical to the potential of California’s agriculture.

“It took somebody rare like him to get people’s awareness,” she reported. “What he influenced led to the silver lining of the superior food items process that we could be ready to create in this condition.”

Cantisano commenced California’s very first natural meals distribution organization and its initial organic farm provide organization, as perfectly as the state’s very first — and for lots of a long time only — natural crop consulting company.

In 1973, he served located California Accredited Natural and organic Farmers, setting organic and natural requirements. He was also a single of the founders of the Committee for Sustainable Agriculture, which sponsors the EcoFarm Meeting. The occasion, held every single January in Pacific Grove, is even now one of the most influential gatherings in the earth of sustainable agriculture.

Bestselling author Michael Pollan, who writes about the socio-cultural impacts of meals, mentioned Cantisano carried in him the sum complete of natural and organic techniques.

“Organic agriculture was not made in a laboratory or at the college or a land grant, but willy-nilly by hundreds of pioneering farmers. He was a person of those people people,” Pollan stated.

“But even a lot more than that, he was the way that the expertise any unique farmer was producing would distribute to other farmers. He was a pollinating honeybee of awareness.”

Cantisano was born in San Francisco in June 1951. His father was a jazz disc jockey who also introduced online games for the Golden Condition Warriors. Family lore had it that his mom, then a homemaker, was related to Karl Marx. He expended summers at his paternal grandmother’s, where by he initial uncovered to backyard.

The early organic and natural communal farms he joined in his 20s had been named radical and regarded as a communist danger to California.

Later on, his do the job bridging the divide amongst small, natural farms and typical, business agriculture often drew the criticism of tiny farmers who then had to contend with big enterprises for organic current market share. It also produced unlikely partnerships.

Sam Earnshaw, whose specialty is growing biodiversity on farms, recollects accompanying Cantisano to the palatial headquarters of a single significant Salinas business. Cantisano, an unwavering aficionado of shorts, sandals and rainbow-coloured tie-dye who went by the nickname “Amigo” given that his teenager yrs, spoke to a boardroom full of no-nonsense farm supervisors about natural procedures.

“They taken care of him with the utmost respect. He experienced encyclopedic knowledge. He listened to their problems. He hardly ever went in declaring, ‘You’re diabolical.’ He often provided solutions,” Earnshaw said.

In 2003, Cantisano and his spouse, Jenifer Bliss, established the Felix Gillet Institute with partner Adam Nuber. The institute was named after the French nurseryman who to start with brought the trees and vines planted at stagecoach stops and homesteads throughout the California foothills in the late 1800s. The hope was that cataloguing and propagating all those heirloom types could help establish meals sources far more able to endure a warmer, drier earth than single-selection crops.

Near the conclusion of his everyday living, Cantisano expressed disappointment that organic and natural farming was however only a small slice of agriculture — even as environmental threats enhanced.

But he was by no means eaten by the disappointment. He liked to swim in lakes and rivers and hike in the Sierra and dance.

“Amigo was about incorporating lifetime, regardless of whether it was microbes in the soil or turning up the audio,” Earnshaw said.

“He usually mentioned perseverance and diligence are the vital to getting points to adjust. And lately I’ve been considering he was talking about much more than farming.”

He is survived by his father, Martin his 2nd spouse, Jenifer Bliss sister Nancy Cantisano 4 youngsters, Brook Cantisano, Cirra Mason, Amber Stegner and Tierra Kampas their mom, Kalita Todd and five grandchildren.

Bliss claimed that the morning right after her husband died, she was awakened by a small earthquake.

“Maybe this seems odd,” she explained. “But it felt like the Earth was giving a send-off to a person who experienced labored all his life to protect it.”





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