Posts Tagged With: Watsonville

“North County”

Is there another name for this rural/semi-rural area that I live in, between Monterey and Watsonville? To some it’s known as “North County,” but that term doesn’t say much. I think that to some, it evokes a misty border or hinterland between northern Monterey County and Watsonville. It’s those big flat agricultural fields north of the pesticide-laden Salinas River. Or maybe it’s that swampy area you pass before you hit the traffic jam going to Santa Cruz. No, wait — it’s where the Marina police stop lurking on the overpasses above Hwy. 1, monitoring your driving speed…

I think most people see the city of Monterey and the city of Santa Cruz as the two stars on each side of Monterey Bay. I have a slightly different view; I envision the two tourist meccas as remoras attached to each wing of a giant batlike ray (or skate) fish. Curvy Monterey Canyon (one of the largest deepwater canyons in the world) even resembles a ray’s whiplike tail (which conceals a threatening stinger), and we all know how dangerous the waters above Monterey Canyon can be. A remora (if you don’t already know) is a small fish that attaches itself to sharks, skates, and other large marine animals (even boats, sometimes) including whales, by means of a specialized sucker on its head. They are not parasitic; they feed on scraps from the larger fish. But they can slow it (and boats) down, and can be occasionally annoying.

Santa Cruz and Monterey each have their own “personalities”: Santa Cruz is viewed as a university town with a lefty element and a freelance, free-for-all (weird) culture. Monterey, long a host for the military, has a more staid, traditional and conservative reputation, although the artsy and hippie folks claim the southern coastal end  (Big Sur). Both cities have depended on the bounty of the bay for centuries, and on the labor supplied by local and migrant workers. It goes both ways, too; workers living between Santa Cruz and Monterey also depend on companies in those cities or on the big farms and their distributors to supply jobs.

Less snarky, one could also say that the bay is shaped more like one end of a shallow hour glass. Moss Landing and Elkhorn are right at the center, where the fresh waters of Elkhorn slough mix with the salt waters and sand from the Bay and the Canyon.

I’ve lived here for about 5 years now, and often feel like Elkhorn, nearby Castroville, Prunedale, Watsonville, and Moss Landing are a bit lost in time. Moss Landing plays into this, of course, with its pastiched collection of warehouses, old and new boats, gingerbread-victorian (kind of) antique shops, and tilted cottages. The fact that it’s surrounded by acres of farmland, dotted here and there with old barns, only adds to that feeling. The area doesn’t get much press from the two cities on each end, unless there are reports of gang violence, farmworkers go on strike, there’s a shortage of seafood, or the population starts to worry about water quality and availability or the effect of pesticides on produce.

The Bay is a living thing, though, and its health is often judged by the catch at Moss Landing, and the environmental quality of the slough and wildlife. I’ve worked in Monterey and Santa Cruz, and I know what people think of North County folks. Unbelievably, a lot of people living in this area don’t even know that Elkhorn and Elkhorn Slough exist. Unless there’s a good antique show on at Moss Landing, Bobby Flay visits Phil’s Fish Market, or Pajaro Food Market’s burrito shows up in Sunset Magazine’s “Best Burrito” list, the inhabitants of the two cities happily  forget we are here.

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Categories: castroville ca, Elkhorn, elkhorn slough, Moss Landing, Moss Landing Ca, Uncategorized, Watsonville | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Rural coworking, anyone?

A couple years ago, when I was finishing my Ph.D. dissertation, I was a briefly a member of NextSpace, a coworking space in Santa Cruz, CA, one of many now being created in locations globally (there’s even a coworking space in Mongolia!).

NextSpace: 1 Year of Success in an Economic Downturn (abridged) from NextSpace Coworking on Vimeo.

Even though I didn’t have much chance to participate in the community, I enjoyed the relaxed, friendly, serendipitous atmosphere, and the busy feeling of people at work. Had I been an entrepreneur or job hunting, there were frequent chances to meet other workers and attend workshops, and I knew there was great potential there to find collaborators, mentors, and more importantly, jobs. I got a lot of work done at NextSpace (which, by the way, now has locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose). Coworking definitely is not the same as cubicle working, and it’s not “just” shared office space.

At home, it is easy to distract myself, even though there are no children in the house. In the isolation of home, it can be hard to keep up a momentum. The silence seems to announce that it’s time to do anything but work. The buzz of co-workers around me makes me feel and be more productive.


Coworking refers to a shared work environment and a set of community and cultural values that guide the development and operation of office space: facilities where freelancers, entrepreneurs, telecommuters, and drop-ins work side-by-side. The benefits of a coworking space come from allowing independent and startup ventures to bypass rote logistical obstacles, like obtaining office or workshop space, and from valuing a free-form collaborative environment for sharing resources, expertise, and ideas.
—Mark W. Kidd

Still, I eventually gave up my membership. I didn’t return, even after I finished my Ph.D. and became a part-time lecturer and free-lance editor and writer.

In “Why People Don’t CoWork Yet,” Carsten Foertsch looks at the possible reasons why people don’t cowork:

The two most important reasons first: either there is simply no coworking space in their vicinity, or they are tied to jobs in companies. About one in eight non-coworkers said price was a barrier to their participation – but sadly these people are the ones who could benefit the most from coworking…About a third of these respondents are not yet coworkers because no such facility exists anywhere near them.


Castroville’s main thoroughfare

Right. I live in rural Elkhorn, some 25 miles from NextSpace. Elkhorn isn’t even recognized as a “town” by locals; it’s the site of a large wetlands area and wildlife preserve that draws kayakers, wildlife enthuasiasts, and people who love the area. The drive to Santa Cruz cost me gas and time, as well as the monthly fee for membership, so in the end, it didn’t seem quite worth it. (Note: most coworking spaces charge minimal fee for membership and rent. At least one space, Gangplank, in Arizona, provides coworking space for free, based on a social capital model).

The “rural” label I apply to my local area is a little misleading; Elkhorn is situated within a few miles of various small towns like Prunedale, Castroville, Moss Landing, and Watsonville, all communities with small libraries and community centers, and main streets with empty or underutilized commercial spaces for rent (as well as stores, restaurants, and other businesses in operation).


A storefront for rent in Moss Landing.

Coworking has been mainly an urban and suburban phenomenon. Nevertheless, I have often thought that a rural coworking space would be useful in this area. Rural folks are feeling the impact of the economy too. Like everyone else, many here have lost their jobs, and have resorted to freelancing and juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet.

It would seem that rural areas can’t provide much infrastructure for a community of freelance workers or small entrepreneurs and crafters. Yet, increasingly, rural coworking spaces are popping up. Quoted in The Daily Yonder, Garrio Harrison, who is involved in a coworking site in rural Minnesota, says that the basics you need for coworking include “coffee, desk space, and reliable wifi Internet access,” although it wouldn’t hurt to have printers and scanners, a conference room, and a lounge.

How to cowork in Tok, Alaska (by Aliza Sherman):

1. My house
2. Her house
3. Fast Eddy’s
4. the Grumpy Griz
5. Another location (library?)
6. Skype or Google Video

The heavy IT focus of urban and suburban coworking models and technology driven business incubators such as the local Marina Technology Cluster may not work as well in a rural setting, where, I suspect, a community that equally welcomes small business entrepreneurs, crafters, IT folks, as well as writers and other creative types will be important. Coworking should also be open to diverse cultures and generations of creative workers.

In an interview in Deskmag with rural coworkers, Joel reported that coworkers in his area “place a high emphasis on meeting and interaction with other small business people and entrepreneurs. And our biggest events are the ones where networking and interaction are the focus.” Frederik commented that “coworking offers a new perspective and different opportunities since it is a little hard to build interest groups around specific vocations in small towns.”


Storefronts on Moss Landing Rd.

I also think that those who go into the coworking scheme thinking mostly about “what it will do for me” may be taking the wrong path. While coworking should definitely nurture individual needs, it’s also very much about community, and creating a vibrant space for local workers and entrepreneurs to thrive. So you have to ask, What can coworking do for small towns like Castroville, Prunedale, Moss Landing, or Watsonville?

Jessica Stillman points out that remote workers who utilize coworking space put money back into the community. “NextSpace [in Santa Cruz] used an economic development model to sell the idea of coworking to the local authorities, noting that while it might be hard to attract a big employer to airport-less Santa Cruz, there was little stopping individual remote workers from basing themselves there.

“We realized after chasing a lot of companies that instead of attracting one 200-person business, we should attract 200 one-person businesses. The economic impact is bigger, and some of those businesses will grow,” the mayor explained.”

But how to start a coworking space in this area?


2nd St. Cafe, Watsonville.

Well, you may have to start by making “Jelly.” That is, gather together a group of people who are interested in coworking. Gauge the local interest. Meet in a space that has Wifi and hopefully coffee and snacks (a cafe, house, library, community center, empty storefront). Add a dash of talk, ideas, creativity, work to do, and enthusiasm, and you may just have the beginnings of a coworking community. It’s not hard to find articles on how to start Jellies. Check out Judy Heminsley’s article, “How to Jelly: a Guide to Casual Coworking,” on Shareable. So…rural coworking, anyone?

Are you coworking in a rural area? Are you coworking in a city? How is it working out for you?


Castroville Library.

Some articles that may provide ideas for starting a local coworking group:
*Coworking in Big Cities vs. Small Towns (Deskmag)
*How to Start a CoWorking Space in Your Small Town
(Small Biz Survival)
*Jelly for Home Workers (How to Work from Home)
*Coworking to Quickstart Rural Innovation (Daily Yonder)
*Why People Don’t Cowork (Yet) (Deskmag)
*Five Big Myths About Coworking (Deskmag)
*The Rural Way of Coworking (Deskmag)

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The Juncos: House Concert at Elkhorn Gardens

Today (Sunday), 2 p.m.: Joshua Lowe and the Juncos, an acoustic house concert (outdoors) at Elkhorn Gardens in Royal Oaks (off Elkhorn Rd. near Prunedale). This is part of the every-sunday series of summer house concerts at the Gardens.

Today, I was graciously given a tour of Colleen and Jim’s gorgeous gardens (thanks!), truly a labor of love — of which, more later.

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Cinco de Mayo

Lot’s of stuff going on in the Pajaro Valley this weekend, including the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Watsonville. Check it out on Patch.

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Local Foodie Festivals

Upcoming local festivals highlighting food and culture:

Cinco de Mayo in Watsonville: April 29, 30
Cinco de Mayo BBQ and Festival (San Juan Bautista): May 6, 7
Castroville Artichoke Festival: May 21, 22
Gilroy Garlic Festival: July 29, 30, 31
Strawberry Festival (downtown Watsonville): August 6, 7.
Scottish Games and Celtic Festival (Monterey): August 6, 7.
YF&R Testicle Festival (Watsonville — “Balls of Fun!”): August 27
Capitola Art & Wine Festival: Labor Day
Greek Culture & Food Festival: Day after Labor Day
Hollister Grape & Fall Festival: Sept. 24

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Mapping Main St. — Castroville and Watsonville

I just found this NPR project: Mapping Main Street (the video above is the trailer for the program; it doesn’t feature Castroville). But click on the link; then enter “Castroville, CA” or “Watsonville, CA” in the search browser above the video frame. Castroville and Watsonville are on NPR!

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