Supporter Profile: Phyllis Faber

Drakes Bay Oyster Farm supporter Phyllis M. Faber is a highly respected scientist and environmental activist with a long track record of significant accomplishments. Ms. Faber is a wetland scientist respected for her work in marshland ecology, and has 30 years of data monitoring restored and ancient wetlands in SF Bay. For the past 15 years, Faber and has been a series editor for UC Press for the California Natural History Guides series.

Faber is co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Trust (MALT), which has preserved in perpetuity over 47,000 acres of Marin farmland and has served as a model for land trust preservation everywhere. Faber was also a founding member of the California Coastal Commission board.

Ms. Faber was featured in a July 2013 story in the Russian River Times, which includes this quote from the late Peter Douglas, the first executive director of the Coastal Commission, praising Faber for her vital work in the creation of the Coastal Commission:

“Throughout the heat of political struggle, Phyllis maintained high standards of integrity and scientific honesty. Her compassion for other creatures with whom we share this planet was matched by her sensitivity to the needs of people and individuals with whom she came in contact. Whenever volunteers were needed in the course of the seven year campaign to enact California’s pioneering and bitterly fought over coastal protection program in the 1970’s, Phyllis was there ready, willing and able to do all she could to help the cause….”

Ms. Faber has written several articulate, hard-hitting essays about the oyster farm, including this February 2013 editorial “California Coastal Commission uses distorted information to condemn oyster farm.”

When the Lunny family was nominated for the NRDC Growing Green Award in 2011, Ms. Faber provided this statement of support:

I would be very proud to see Kevin and Nancy win a Growing Green award. It is hugely deserved as their devotion to doing things right is impressive and important in today’s world.

The Lunnys are third generation ranchers and have a beautiful piece of land now in the Point Reyes National Seashore. They had the first certified grass-fed beef herd in the county and have maintained their pasture in excellent condition by using the most modern grazing techniques that keep exotic grasses under control and the native wildflowers and grasses dominant. Part of their pasture land is noted for its work in maintaining a population of a rare and endangered plant, Chorizanthe, growing abundantly under a limited grazing regime.

Kevin and Nancy Lunny purchased and started operating the Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2005. After an extensive clean up of the property ($300,000 investment) that resulted in totally updating a malfunctioning septic system as well as the removal of massive debris and failing trailers, they started a thoroughly modernized operation that now raises 40-50% of all California’s oysters. These are safe sources of high quality protein, grown locally, that provide an amazing ecosystem service as they filter feed and thus clear the water column as they grow.

The Estero has been maintained in a pristine condition with eel grass beds that have expanded several fold since the Lunnys began their operation.  These eel grass beds are an important resource and habitat for the local fishery for spawning and for juveniles.  The Lunnys have initiated their own innovative oyster-breeding program to avoid importing parasites along with imported larvae. Because of the pristine conditions in Drakes Estero, the Lunnys are able to harvest year round and supply other growers with their oysters when other growers are unable to meet health standards to harvest. This source of high quality safe protein is a distinct asset to the Bay Area. In addition the Lunnys are the sole source of oyster shells  used in the NOAA reestablishment program for oyster habitat in SF Bay. They donate both material and knowledge to this program.

The Lunnys are the second largest employer in West Marin behind the National Park Service.  Their employees are workers mostly from local farms and many are Hispanic in origin. This is a huge boon to West Marin Farm families and for the West Marin community. These workers care about the Estero and are engaged in a program to keep the shores free of debris, from the past oyster operation of the Johnson era, and the debris left by kayakers on the shore.

The Lunny farm is in the Point Reyes National Seashore and is one of the most popular visitor sites. Kevin has provided several large picnic tables where visitors can visit, share picnics, and enjoy the tour that Kevin provides every weekend.  The Lunny family is unique in their careful stewardship of the land and Estero and their devotion to the community they have lived in for generations.