County Approves Mushroom Farm
January 29, 2001
By GUY KOVNER
Press Democrat Staff Writer
Over objections from half the people in the
hamlet of Bloomfield, the Sonoma County Board
of Zoning Adjustments granted the Petaluma
Mushroom Farm permission to build a new
facility on well-traveled Bodega Highway.
The board voted 3-2 to approve the project,
and opponents said they would appeal to the
Board of Supervisors.
The county's largest mushroom farm, scorned by
residents near its current west Petaluma location
on Thompson Lane, faces a court order to move
its odor-causing composting facility by Nov. 1.
Owner David Cerini intends to comply by
building compost facilities and another
mushroom-growing operation on an 89-acre
parcel, formerly a vegetable farm, on Bodega
Highway at Roblar Road.
"This site is just about ideal," Eric Koenigshofer,
the mushroom farm's lawyer, told the zoning
But Cerini's plans prompted renewal of the
Bloomfield Rural Alliance, a grass-roots group
founded 10 years ago to fight expansion of the
"We revived it to protect our community again,"
said Caroline Courtright, an organizer.
More than 220 people signed the alliance's
petition calling for an environmental study and
delay in approving the new mushroom farm,
which will process 530 tons of wet compost a
week. The compost is straw mixed with horse
and chicken manure.
Bloomfield, a half-mile northwest of Cerini's
land, has about 400 residents.
Harry Apgar, a rancher and assistant chief of the
Bloomfield Volunteer Fire Department, joined
the protest. "I don't want that smell where I live,"
he said, asserting compost is more offensive than
the hogs and cattle he raises.
Cathy Moller, operations manager of St.
Anthony's Farm, said pollution from the
mushroom farm could jeopardize St. Anthony's
certification as an organic dairy. St. Anthony's, a
drug and alcohol recovery center, is across
Bodega Highway from Cerini's land.
Opponents noted Americano Creek, which runs
through the mushroom farm property, drains into
the Estero Americano, which is part of a national
Duane Butler, the project engineer, said the
estero was a "legitimate concern" and the farm
would include a "zero discharge system,"
retaining all wastewater on site.
An aeration system will combat odor, he said.
But completing the 155,000 square feet of farm
buildings by the Nov. 1 deadline, Butler said, is
"going to be a horse race."
Butler described Cerini's existing farm on
Thompson Lane, in operation since 1973, as "a
marginal project gone bad."
At a meeting Thursday, board members Arnold
Nixon, Nadin Sponamore and Chairman Charles
Cooke voted to approve the new mushroom
farm without further environmental study.
Members Jeff Civian and Howard Levy were