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Bamboo guru


Up a steep driveway that stems off of El Camino Real Road between Santa Margarita and Atascadero is a space of land with a unique ambiance. If you visit you might experience a subtle far-away feeling similar to the breezy carefree mood that the sound of Bossa Nova sets as you finish your last glass of Pinot Blanc. This little paradise is Bamboo Ballyhoo, the business ofGary Yamashiro, anEarth-consciousbamboo farmer who has strong roots within the environmental community of SLO County.

Yamashiro started his business with only $2,000 and an eye for this plant that some people have found to be rather weedy. The majority of Yamashiro's plants come from people who do not know how to maintain the fast-growing bamboo. Now, because of opportunities like these, Yamashiro successfully maintains hundreds of bamboo plants with over 40 varieties that have turned his property into a place of Zen.

Yamashiro's interest in bamboo was perhaps sparked by his environmentally conscious involvement at Cal Poly. In 1987 Yamashiro started the college's first recycling program, the "Campus Recycle Coalition." He and his friends collected old oil barrels, painted art designs on them, and then labeled them for plastic, glass, and paper.

Ten years later, Yamashiro concentrated a lot of his time learning how to enjoy the benefits of sustainable living. In order to educate himself about this lifestyle, Yamashiro took extended classes on the matter, one in Half Moon Bay on a llama ranch that taught theory and design techniques to help maintain our global economy.

"The principles taught us to make choices based on what is affecting us through our relationship with the Earth. If we can find something that satisfies our needs, then we are on a good track. This is how I started with bamboo," said Yamashiro.

The idea here is based on permaculture, which emphasizes the benefits of renewable resources and enrichment of local ecosystems. Bamboo has so many functions. Yamashiro could not understand why more people don't take advantage of its benefits.

"I would like to see bamboo accepted culturally as a sustainable resource. It is good for so many things, like sun and wind screening, edible shoots, building material, foraging for animals, and the leaves it drops enrich the soil," said Yamashiro. "There is a better way to live in touch with the Earth. Through our lives we are taught to disconnect from our environment, and this makes it hard to see the importance of bamboo. I feel it is important to share this with the world, starting with SLO County."

For more info on bamboo fencing, house plants, bamboo bowls, or to just soak in the vibe, call Gary Yamashiro at 423-8068.



... The Sunken Gardens in Atascadero is sprouting 18 new decorative park benches as part of the renovation project of the park. Local businesses, organizations, or individuals can sponsor a bench, or chose to sponsor in honor of someone through this memorial gift. The benches will be installed around the fountain and at various locations around the park. The cost for the installation of a bench is $1,500. For more info, contact Jennifer Fanning, recreation supervisor, at 461-5000, ext. 3426.

... Stove and Spa Center recently donated 16 gas fireplaces and fixture accessories, worth over $15,000, to the Habitat for Humanity Association thrift store. "It is a great opportunity for less fortunate families and it will definitely benefit them," said Penny Rappa, store manager, in a press release. Restore, the thrift retail outlet for Habitat for Humanity, also provides other high-quality, lower cost materials. Restore is located at 3250 La Cruz Way in Templeton.

... The San Luis Bay Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, in conjunction with Central Coast Kayaks in Shell Beach, is sponsoring the 13th annual Ken Harmaount "Pier to Pier Paddle" on Saturday, Sept. 10. The fund-raiser is organized to help raise money for the San Luis Obispo County Junior Lifeguard programs. For more info, call 773-3500.

Intern Jesse Over compiled this week's Strokes &Plugs. E-mail him at

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