Blog

STRAW Project: Three Years Later

POSTED: Aug 6, 2019
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Be the change you want to see in the world ~ Gandhi

Sustainability and stewardship are foundational tenets of our family belief system. Combine that with the Learn By Doing philosophy we adopted during our college years at Cal Poly SLO, and you can bet we’re not afraid to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty.

As fourth generation West Marin ranchers, we want to secure the continuing legacy of our family in agriculture by ensuring our precious land is viable and healthy for the fifth generation and beyond. We know that planting those seeds in our children is essential to building a healthy future for our communities and world.

The smallest efforts can ripple outward to create great change, and we believe those initial learning opportunities start on a local level. That’s why we love supporting the STRAW Project (Students & Teachers Restoring a Watershed).

This innovative educational program for elementary school students is led by non-profit Point Blue Conservation Science, and aims to teach kids about the importance of protecting watersheds.

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Stemple Creek Ranch first became involved with STRAW project efforts in 1994 when Loren’s sister Melissa Williams, a teacher, brought her 4th grade class to the ranch to help restore native vegetation on the banks of Stemple Creek. STRAW, and it's amazing founder Laurette Rogers, have been a part of our lives ever since! (Melissa pictured left below; Laurette on the right).

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As of 2018, STRAW has worked with 45,000 students to restore 36 miles of stream using over 46,000 plants. In addition to the water quality and wildlife benefits that STRAW projects provide, a single mile of restored stream sequesters over 65 tons of carbon! STRAW’s project-based learning style empowers kids to get out in their community and make a difference. This unique opportunity to experience the natural world in a hands-on way models good stewardship. As parents of two young daughters, we believe that kids who learn to value the land and its creatures early in life are more likely to become conservation-minded adults.

Three years ago, we hosted students, teachers, and parent volunteers from Dunham Elementary School in Petaluma for a STRAW restoration project on one of the feeder creeks on our property. Project facilitators organized the group, and provided guidance in planting several varieties of native shrubs that provide habitat for wildlife, and prevent erosion.

We planted California Black Walnut, California Hazelnut, Oregon Ash, Box Elder, Wax Myrtle, Coast Silk Tassel, California Grape, Thimbleberry, Black Hawthorn, and Twinberry, to name a few.

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Today many of those starts have taken root and continue to thrive. They are taller than Julianna! Their roots help hold the soil in place, and the wild creatures that share our land will find places to nest and hide from predators.

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Last week, we hosted an on-site STRAW teacher training in preparation for the beginning of a new school year. We so appreciate these inspiring teachers that invest their time in this program. We look forward to having another group of STRAW students and teachers out to the ranch soon!

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