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Dinner from the sea


As waves subsided and the ocean's tide shrank from the shore, a large group of people met at Shell Beach — located between Jenner and Bodega Bay— on a recent Saturday to participate in the fourth annual Seaweed Harvest.

Dressed mostly in shorts and sandals, a group of over 20 participants, many of them from Petaluma, gathered at the sandy bank of the secluded cove eager and ready for a morning of seaweed harvesting. After a concise instruction, all participants headed out over an assortment of rocks and into the seaweed-filled waters with a pair of plant scissors attached to their side, many with a large brimmed hat snug on their head, and an empty plastic bag gripped in their hand. After a few hours of kneeling in the tide and clipping away at green ocean plants, the participants' bags were full of seaweed, and so were their stomachs from the constant snacking of the salty, sweet sea vegetable.

This year's Seaweed Harvest was organized by Daily Acts, a non-profit organization that helps promote a more sustainable lifestyle through its workshops, and community services. Their mission is to transform the community through "inspired action and education," said Erin Axelrod, a former member. "Daily Acts is proactive people solving the world's toughest challenges through each of our daily acts."

Those daily acts include harvesting ones own food – including seaweed.

Participants began learning about seaweed in an offshore class held days earlier in Petaluma. It was headed by Heidi Hermann, the only citizen of Sonoma County with a Commercial Seaweed Harvesting license. She taught participants how to distinguish the different types of seaweed, and its numerous medical uses.

There are various reasons why people were drawn to the class.

"A lot of people come out for fun, and also for medical purposes," said Hermann. "It's a great way for citizens who want to interact with the shoreline to come out and learn something new while they get some seaweed, and some free nutrition."

Pete Breeland, a resident from Petaluma, was a first-time participant who read about the Seaweed Harvesting workshop on the Daily Acts website and decided to join.

"I thought it was interesting from the start, and in the end it was an amazing experience," said Breeland, who plans to continue harvesting seaweed on his own and intends to participate in more annual seaweed harvests. "This won't be my last, I plan to follow up on more workshops.

"I encourage people to check it out," he said, "It's a great way to support our community and learn more about our coasts, and its natural resources."

Like most of the people who participated, Kelli Loux, a resident of Petaluma, is also trying to find ways to live as sustainably as possible, and through the workshops that Daily Acts provides she has learned valuable information.

"The workshops teach people about the resources available in the place they live," said Loux. "They really helped me; my yard didn't have much, but then I started planting fruit trees and vegetables." Along with Breeland, this was also Loux's first time harvesting seaweed, although she has wanted to take the workshop for four years now. "What motivated me to come out were the health benefits of seaweed and also learning about our ocean and its wonders."

With its rocky coast and abundant seaweed, Shell Beach served as an ideal harvesting ground for this year's participants, once they'd learned the basic rules for cutting and harvesting the stuff.

Whether they came out for fun, or for other various purposes, all participants were enthused to taste and harvest the seaweed.

The event came to end as the tide began reclaiming the shore, and the harvesters, with their bags full of seaweed, and their brains full of knowledge, headed back up the steep trail which had lead them down to the shore of Shell Beach in the first place, concluding another successful seaweed harvest.

(Contact Paco Villegas at argus@arguscourier.com.)