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  • Jennifer Jewell


FOODSCAPING - with Brie Arthur. Photo courtesy of Brie Arthur, all rights reserved.

The original CP Logo with art from Chico-based Candy Matthews is enlivened for CP LIVE

with graphic help from Delaney Simchuk and artistic creatures from several artist friends.


Cultivating Place - thinking, speaking, and writing about the garden world growing us.

With first New Moon of Summer 2024 this past Friday, we enter the monthly cycle of upward growth (waxing). It seemed like the right time for growth-minded news: welcome to the first update on Cultivating Place Live: Dialogues to Grow By, a special project of Cultivating Place.

In December of 2023, CP received a generous matching grant from the Catto Shaw Foundation in support of the ongoing production of Cultivating Place, as well as in support of this legacy project headed toward our decade-mark in production, on-air, and in your ears and gardens. For nearly 10 years, the conversations on CP have been elevating and expanding the way we think and talk about gardens/gardening; they have been engaging, encouraging, and empowering gardeners to root into their full power as agents and spaces for growing our world better: environmentally, socially, culturally, economically and with the health and wellbeing of all planet-mates in mind.

When I first started CP (and its previous incarnation in 2007) on North State Public Radio, I wanted to get beyond simply what our gardens look like as (often objectified) places of what too frequently felt like a commodified "beauty."

This past 10 years of CP conversations has demonstrated to me over and over the potent connections which are animated by the human impulse to garden, by cultivating our places with care for all – people, plants, and place. As result, it has become increasingly important to me that these conversations circle back to how we see gardens, to make far more visible these fertile connections grown by gardeners and gardens - to make them not just audible as we continue to do weekly on Cultivating Place, but to make them clearly visible in an effort to support people, plants, and places even more.


Thus: Cultivating Place Live: Dialogues To Grow By, a curated series of recorded and filmed-live on-location episodes of Cultivating Place, exemplifying the range, diversity, and extraordinary impact of the connections made through the impulse to garden. We start off with human-scale endeavors born of everyday individuals wanting to grow a difference.


You will hear the CP LIVE episodes as podcasts, with some lively dynamics of place (like trains and birds and passersby) behind the conversations, but you will also see them as film: individual short videos of the conversations, the places, and the people. These will culminate in a film documentary of some form about the power of cultivating our places with care for the natural history of our places and leveraging the immense and passionate human impulse to garden.

The podcast episodes and short videos will begin rolling out in early 2025; the completion date & mode of distribution for the final documentary in 2026 will be announced mid-2025.


The unwavering support from donors has been the driving force behind the transformative journey of Cultivating Place for the past decade. With every contribution, you have each helped us give voice to stories that exemplify the beauty and power of human connection through gardening. Your generosity has not only fueled our passion but has allowed us to expand our reach and touch the lives of many.

As we incubate CP LIVE, we are filled with gratitude for the opportunity to share diverse, compelling stories that showcase the profound impact of these places, their plants, and their people.

We invite you to stroll this path alongside us, to witness the magic of Cultivating Place Live unfold. Your support is more than just a donation: it is a seed - a source of inspiration, and a testament to the power of community coming together for a shared cause. It is a legacy of kindness, compassion, and steadfast belief in the potential of every plant, every Garden, and every Garden-life story shared.

With heartfelt gratitude and boundless appreciation, we are grateful to all of you who have helped us to almost fully * meet the Catto Shaw matching grant of $75,000!

Thank you is so insufficient, but THANK YOU. And as the best form of gratitude, action, we can't wait to share more about the progress and results (sound and image) as they unfurl.

*To fully meet the match, we still have $13,000 to raise in 2024. If you are interested in supporting, let me know!

Myriam and Khoa of Em En.

Meeting the grant match makes many good, fruitful things possible.

One of those is working with filmmaker/artist Myriam Nicodemus and logistics guru Khoa Huynh of Em En based in South Bend, IN. Leading the compelling visual storytelling for all aspects of the CP LIVE project, Myriam is CP LIVE's Director of Photography, Co-Creative Director and Producer, and Khoa the Co-Producer.

Myriam and Khoa embody the spirit of collaboration and shared purpose in their creative endeavors. As immigrants from Guatemala and Vietnam, respectively, they bring unique perspectives and a deep appreciation for the value of unity and diversity.

Myriam, a filmmaker, photographer, and director, founded the photography and film studio EM EN to provide artists a space to thrive and create meaningful connections together. Her passion for storytelling and empathy-driven work resonates through her artistry.

Khoa Huynh, with a background in biology and a master's degree in entrepreneurship from the University of Notre Dame, is a dedicated advocate for helping others achieve their goals. His entrepreneurial acumen and commitment to community building have been instrumental in shaping EM EN into a dynamic production house.

Together, Myriam and Khoa share a belief in the power of collaboration and community. Their partnership at EM EN embodies their shared mission to foster creativity, support local artists, and make a positive impact. Khoa's work at the Harper Cancer Research Institute at the University of Notre Dame underscores his commitment to both innovation and community service, further enriching their collective vision for empowering individuals and fostering creativity.

Their partnership at EM EN additionally represents their belief that diversity enriches the creative process, making their studio a place where creativity and community thrive.

I am so thrilled for the privilege of being able to work with them both.

We have already kicked off the first round of CP LIVE events. See below for mini descriptions of the first three episodes underway!

Ben Futa founder and owner of Botany– South Bend, IN

March 30, 2024

from the website:


People who care for plants are the heroes we need right now, because plants have superpowers. They remind us we’re connected, and they help us to connect. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to empower more people to grow more plants in more places."


Cultivating Place has always been predicated on the idea that gardens and gardeners activate and grow so much more than we realize – in the world, in their communities, in their own households. I think we could find this truth to some extent in examining any garden or gardener. But some gardeners and gardeners are doing this at truly remarkable levels.

Ben tends to a multiplicity of growing endeavors. He tends to his small business plant shop, Botany - educating, nurturing, and incubating good plant people; he tends to Botany's landscape work, teaching people how to replace their resource-intensive and habitat-deficient lawns by reintroducing biodiversity of place through beautiful native and climate appropriate plants. And, in combining the largest hopes for the first two endeavors with his public horticultural experience prior to returning home to South Bend during the pandemic, he holds a broader civic vision as well for a new kind of Botanic Garden: for a horizontal, distributed set of gardens across his rust-belt home city that simultaneously green-up store fronts, offer water-retaining, heat mitigating beauty, and support and connect biodiversity in all of these planted areas. All the while improving the social and economic outlooks of these spaces, from independent bookstores, boutiques and restaurants, to encircling the public library and the courthouse.

Ben envisions this gorgeous ideal that a botanic garden should not be a centralized, isolated location that we go to visit on special occasions, cared for and overseen by one set of people, but that a botanic garden should be/could be a place where we all live…..every day…in all of these ways….as all of the people we are.

Ben's profound vision is that a botanic garden is somewhere we all deserve to live, and be responsible for, and derive the communal beauty and meaning from. That's what we hope to help make visible in this episode of CP LIVE.


CP on site with Sandy Fisher, 2024; this year's seed crop of flax; Sandy at her studio loom.

 Sandy Fisher and Durl Van Alstyne founders of Chico Flax

Chico, CA - May 18, 2024

from their website:


"Growing a regional fabric, one thread at a time."


Fiber artist turned farmer and small business owner, Sandy Fisher, is motivated to use her art - weaving - to reimagine a circular economy, environment, and human integrity in the textile world. Over the past decade, she has found a tangible way to grow in this direction through cultivating her place with these goals in mind. As a locally-based weaver, Sandy had already discovered the power of her garden and plants to be the non-toxic source of the colors she wanted in the fibers she used for her weavings: from indigo and madder root, to pomegranate, lichens, and fungi.

When she was putting her head around how her weaving might make a difference to the mistreatment and poor working conditions of people in the international textile industry, the unregulated pollution of places where the textile industry was most intense, and the embodied fossil fuel price tag embedded in the international textile import/export industry, she once again turned to the cultivation of plants.

With her husband Durl Val Alstyne and community support from friends to the agriculture and engineering departments at California State University, Chico, Sandy researched and then germinated a now-no-till flax farm in Northern California in order to grow the raw materials for the fiber she wanted to weave: low input, disease and pest-resistant fiber flax to weave into linen.

In cultivating their small place in order to grow seedling-size solutions to the massive textile industry problems, Sandy and Durl have nurtured a farm that grows fiber, while also being a growing economic driver, a healthy ecosystem-creating hedgerow and pollinator habitat, a replicable model for ecological farming integrity in the way that soil, and water and climate are honored, as well as in the way that humans and wildlife are welcomed and invited into the place and process.

Chico Flax is one "gardening" story of all that can be grown from one person and one place; how a single person's desire for more responsible cloth, for weaving healthy plants into healthy and beautiful fabric has grown an entire ecosystem of better care – for economy, for environment, for our culture. That is a symbiotic, synergistic fabric of life. That's what we hope to help make visible in this episode of CP LIVE.

Mary Jackson in her early success with sweet grass basket innovation; Mary Jackson's "Never Again" basket in the Mary Jackson gallery at The Gibbes Museum of Art; Cultivating Place, Robert DuFault, Mary Jackson, and Corey Alston in conversation in Jackson's studio June 2024; Sweet grass (two native Muhlenbergia species of the south) and center coastal scene.

The Cultural Ecology of Gullah Geechee Basket Making:

Mary Jackson, MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant award-winning Gullah Geechee basket maker; Dr. Robert Dufault, Emeritus Professor Plant & Environmental Sciences, Clemson University; Corey Alston, Gullah Geechee basket maker and cultural advocate.

Part 1: Charleston, SC - June 8, 2024 - in studio

Part 2: Charleston, SC - October 1, 2024 - in-conversation taping at Theodora Park

Sometimes at least part of what the "gardeners" in these CP LIVE conversations are doing is already highly visible.

The artistry of the renowned Mary Jackson is highly visible. Her sinuous and sculptural sweetgrass baskets - traditional Gullah Geechee forms and highly stylized modern interpretations of them - are in the collection at The Smithsonian, in the collection of King Charles, written about by Oprah, by the New York Times, and in 2008, Jackson was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant for them. Jackson is a highly visible representative of Gullah Geechee history and ways, and the importance of both to the complex, past, present, and future of Charleston, SC - and by extension the United States. (I am so indebted to David Rawle of Theodora Park in Charleston for introducing me to Mary, and to Mary for introducing me to Robert and Corey.)

What is not always visible is how this cultural and place-based history and artistry intersects and is interdependent with cultivated spaces – gardens, parks, the horticultural industry even, as well as with naturally evolved wild landscapes. 

What is not always visible is how our human cultivation and land care choices (including cultural and artistic) either move us toward ecosystem fragmentation and destruction or grow us toward environmental respect, preservation, restoration, and the reintegration of humans to nature.


When we can see these inter/connections, we can marvel at and support these connections; when we see these connections, we can see where they might be weakest and in the greatest need of support; when we see where these connections might be accidental or unintended by the humans engaged in this cultivation, we can make them stronger and intentional.


In the CP LIVE conversations with Mary, Robert, and Corey, what becomes visible is how plants support humans and culture through both art and utility; and how humans in turn can support plants and their places. This is always true, and always has been, but it can be hidden in plain sight, and we often overlook it.

In this story, the basketry plants – specifically sweetgrass, palmetto, longleaf pine, and bulrush – feed into and support the Gullah Geechee and their centuries-old heritage and tradition of this ancient basketry brought by enslaved humans from West Africa as artistic cultural signifiers and valuable utilitarian skill. But the story is also focused on how in the need and desire for the basket makers to find consistent and sustainable sources of these plant materials in their places, they (specifically starting with Mary working with Robert Dufault in the 1990s-2010s) learned to cultivate it. In learning to cultivate it, the artists and scientists also helped to introduce these plants (most notably the sweetgrass) to the horticultural trade, making these longstanding keystone plants of this bioregion available and attractive to designers, landscapers, and home gardeners everywhere.

In their desire to create lasting and consistent sources of and relationships with these plants for harvesting for basketry, these basket makers and scientists have also helped to reinvigorate, restore, and bolster miles of coastal dune and woodland ecosystems and ecosystem health.

Finally, every time the basket makers knowledgeably harvest the leaves from these plants, this attention, pruning, and cleaning of the plant and their environment improves the health and wellbeing of the individual plants and the larger ecosystem.


In this way, the plants feed the humans and their culture, the plants feed the art; the art feeds the humans and their culture, and the art helps to sustain the plants; the humans in turn are moved to make the art, sustain the culture, and in so doing care for the plants and their is a self-sustaining, vibrant loop of nourishment. And when all of the connections are strong and healthy, everyone in the loop grows better. That's what we hope to help make visible in this episode of CP LIVE.


Khoa and assistant filmmaker Joe with Durl on location at Chico Flax; John and I hosting Joe, Myriam, Alma, and Khoa at Canyon Creek, spring 2024;

Myriam directing Joe and Alma.


Gaining Ground: Growing Food, Growing Community: July 18, 2024 - at Thoreau Farm Concord, MA

Leslie Bennett, owner/founder Pine House Edible Gardens/Black Sanctuary Gardens - September 20/21, 2024 - Oakland, CA

Abra Lee, founder of Conquer the Soil/Director of Horticulture, Historic Oakland Foundation - September 27/28, 2024 - Atlanta, GA

Mary Jackson, Robert Dufault & Corey Alston Part 2: October 1, 2024 - at at Theodora Park, Charleston, SC

Sofia Lacin & Hennessy Christophel, founders/owner Studio Tutto - November 9, 2024 (tentative) - Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA

(Three to four additional dates in 2025 TBA in January 2025)




Cultivating Place elevates and expands the way we think and talk about gardening in our world at large, engaging with, encouraging, and empowering gardeners to cultivate their full agency to grow our world better environmentally, culturally, and economically for the health and well being of all lives on this generous planet.

CP is a co-production of North State Public Radio, a service of Cap Radio, licensed to Chico State Enterprises.

Cultivating Place Live is a special project of Cultivating Place, made possible through a substantial matching grant from The Catto Shaw Foundation, funding initiatives that empower women and help preserve the planet through the rich intersection of environmental advocacy, social justice, and creativity.

The CP Live team includes Executive Producer and Co-Creative Director Jennifer Jewell; Director of Photography, Co-Creative Director and Co-Producer Myriam Nicodemus; and Co-Producer Khoa Huynh, both of EM EN.

SHARE the podcast and project with friends: If you enjoy these conversations about these things we love and which connect us, please share them forward with others. Thank you in advance!

RATE the podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast feed: Please submit a ranking and a review of the program! To do so on itunes, follow this link: iTunes Review and Rate (once there, click View In Itunes and go to Ratings and Reviews)

DONATE: Cultivating Place is a listener-supported co-production of North State Public Radio, a service of CapRadio. To make your listener contribution – please click the donate button below and make sure to note "Cultivating Place" in the comment section at end . Thank you in advance for your help growing these valuable conversations.

Or, make checks payable to: Capital Public Radio with Cultivating Place in memo line

and mail to: Cultivating Place

PO Box 37

Durham, CA 95938


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