His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall rubbed elbows with organic farmers rather than high society on their tour of California in early November. They visited several organic farms, farmers? markets in Point Reyes and San Francisco, and chef Alice Waters? pioneering Edible Schoolyard project in Berkeley.
Prince Charles has an organic farm and is a vocal advocate for organic agriculture. He uses his celebrity to sponsor a line of organic foods, Duchy Originals, whose proceeds support programs revitalizing rural Britain. Duchy Originals? line includes organic bread, chocolate, dairy products, free-range pork and body care products.
The royal couple spent most of their California visit in Marin County, which is home to the first certified organic dairy in the Western United States, Straus Family Creamery, and the oldest continuously certified organic farm in the country, Star Route Farms. Marin was the second county in California, after Mendocino, to ban genetically modified organisms and is currently aiming to become the first all-organic county in the United States.
Despite the royal visit?s inevitable tabloidesque air—throngs of cheering fans, security monitoring every encounter—the prince and his wife, Camilla, maintained a genuine focus on the farms. At the Point Reyes Farmers? Market, the couple spent more than an hour going to every booth and talking to farmers about topics ranging from the importance of organic agriculture for migratory birds to the disappointment of composting unsold produce at day?s end.
The royals, along with Patrick Holden, president of Britain?s Soil Association, also visited three farms in Bolinas, where they discussed soil amendment, indigenous microbes, and heirloom fruits and vegetables with local farmers Peter Martinelli and Dennis Dierks.
They finished the tour with a dinner attended by agriculture and environmental luminaries, including journalist Michael Pollan, Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and actor Robert Redford.
Marin Organic, a cooperative association of organic producers in the county, invited Prince Charles to visit after Executive Director Helge Hellberg heard him speak at Slow Food International?s Terre Madre gathering in Italy last year. ?What I heard him say [at Terre Madre] was alarmingly aligned with what Marin Organic stands for,? Hellberg said. ?He went from embracing the small farmer to the threat of GMOs. He works on many, many humanitarian issues and always pulls the issues back to food: That if you start with poisoned soil, you will come back with a corrupted society.?
Hellberg said the royal visit not only showcased Marin?s achievements but also fostered an exchange of ideas about increasing alternative agriculture worldwide. ?Thirty years of the organic movement and finally it was on national television for four days,? he said. ?It?s about time.?
Lisa M. Hamilton is a writer and photographer in Mill Valley, Calif.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 12/p. 10