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My sister recently asked me to participate in a project to get writers, scientists and artists to write letters to their children’s children, telling future members of their own family living at the turn of the century, what it was like to be alive during and after the historically crucial events of the U.N. climate talks in Paris at the end of 2015. The project is a national effort of alternative weekly newspapers that will connect with millions of readers.
To Future Farmers,
I can’t imagine what it will be like for you, so many years in the future, but I hope that some elements of the California landscape are still there for you. I hope that the terrifically productive, deep soils that grow so much sweet and sustaining food will endure. I hope that the beautiful full moon will still be floating across the night sky encouraging seeds to sprout and grow.
When the oak trees that I planted here at Full Belly Farm are 100 years old they will still be youngsters. As teenage oak trees, they will tower over the comings and goings – native Californians watching the changes coming over the landscape. Sometimes I try to imagine the lifespan of the oak trees on our farm. Some of them were here when the Indians roamed. All of them have their roots deep in the California soil. I hope that some of the oak trees that I planted will still be here for you, the future farmers, overseeing your planting, weeding and harvesting. I hope that they will still be healthy in your time. But if the climate has changed drastically, what will happen?
Growing food and tilling the soil, or working with sheep and cows as we do, can all take a toll on the land. Today, agriculture is condemned as the cause of many environmental problems. Maybe in your time farmers and farmland will be recognized as a key to the solution. Soils and oak trees – these are huge reservoirs of carbon that we farmers can either squander or increase.
Many farmers that I have met are learning to be carbon stewards by keeping soil covered: with legumes that feed the soil; or hedgerows that harbor pollinators; or trees like the oaks, that take carbon in from the atmosphere, use it to grow, and pass it into the soil where it feeds soil microbes and is eventually stored for millennia. These farmers know that agriculture, so dependent on weather, will be one of the first victims of climate change. But taking matters into their own hands, not waiting for researchers and policymakers to catch up, these farmers are acting on the knowledge that millions of acres of farmland hold the key to returning huge quantities of carbon back to be stored in soil.
Some of the discussion at the U.N. climate talks at the end of this year will be about efforts to encourage farming practices that will slow down climate change. An annual 0.4% growth rate of the global soil carbon stock would absorb and store the equivalent of 75% of current annual greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing the carbon content of agricultural soils today will secure the ability of farmers like you, years in the future, to grow food for your communities tomorrow. Knowing the ingenuity and creativity of the farmers of today, I predict that the movement to turn agriculture into a key part of the climate change solution will bear fruit. Even if the global policymakers can’t agree, the farmers need nothing more than their observations of the oak trees, the soil, the moon and the sweet food that results from their efforts to know that too much is at stake. The time to act is now.
Amon and Rye Muller digging post holes for the new Full Belly Farm sign that has gone up at the top of our road. Next time you visit the farm, you will get to see it!
Full Belly is hoping to open a new CSA site in the “Inner Sunset” neighborhood on Lawton Ave in SF. The site is listed on our web site (http://fullbellyfarm.com/join-our-csa/neighborhood-delivery-sites/san-francisco-csa-sign-up/) as a potential new site to gauge the interest first. If you are interested in joining, please fill out the on-line application form and we will contact you when we have a start date. Please spread the word and tell your family, friends and co-workers about the new CSA site. Thanks!
It is so easy to increase the amount of Full Belly in your life! CSA members can special order almost anything from our farm to be delivered to your pick-up site. Sorry, no Virginia Street special orders. If you would like to order the following items, please contact us at 800-791-2110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heirloom Tomatoes – $30/ 10 pound box.
New Girl Tomatoes – $30/ 20 pound box.
Roma Tomatoes – $35/ 22 pound box.
Almonds – Raw $12/ pound -OR- Roasted $7/ half pound
Walnuts (chips & pieces) – $10/ pound bag.
Sun Dried Peaches – $5/ half pound bag.
Sun Dried Apricots – $5/ half pound bag.
Iraqi Durum Wheat Flour – $3/ 1.5 pounds.
Iraqi Durum Wheat Berries – $3/ 2 pounds.
Cotton Bags (11.5 x 12.5 inches) – $8 for 5 bags (includes sales tax).
Please place your order at least five days prior to your intended delivery date.
For those interested in our certified organically raised lamb we have a limited amount available for delivery to a CSA site near you. Sorry no home deliveries. Our lambs are all born and raised here at the farm and are fed 100% on pasture, organic vegetables and hay. The lambs are harvested at Superior Farms in Dixon, CA. (Please note this is not a CCOF certified facility and the finished product is not CCOF certified.) They are sold by the half lamb (20 lbs) for $185, or whole lamb (40 lbs) for $350. (Sorry, temporarily sold out. Please contact us if you want to be put on the waiting list.)
We also have soup chickens for sale. These are 2-year old egg-laying birds frozen and packed with heads and feet, that are great for making broth, soup or stew. The cost is $11, delivered frozen to select CSA sites. Sorry no home deliveries. Please contact Becky – email@example.com – if you are interested.
Our frozen apple juice & pomegranate juice are back. This juice was pressed from our organic apple & pomegranate crops. They are not pasteurized. It will be delivered to your pick-up site frozen. (Sorry, no home deliveries or delivery to the Virginia St, Berkeley site.)
Apple Juice: $7 for a half gallon or $4 for a quart
Pomegranate Juice: $6 per pint or $10 per quart (Sold Out)
It was my parent’s 32nd wedding anniversary last week. To me, along with wishing them a happy day and giving them a big sloppy smooch on the cheek, this also meant working along side them on the farm on another hot summer day.
There are challenges and incredible benefits to working with my family members. As sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers, we are all joined in the valiant effort of trying to feed the souls and bellies of those who surround us. Additionally, we all try to remember to ask how weekends went, how children are, and check in with each other on a personal level. During these long summer days, it would be easy to slide into work and forget that we are family. [Read more…]
You are all invited to the 28th annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival taking place on the weekend of October 3rd and 4th at Full Belly Farm. Make a corn husk doll, paint a gourd, tour the farm, make ice cream, or try your hand in any step of the process from sheep to shawl. Dozens of hands-on workshops are offered on topics like organic fruit trees, grass-fed beef production, cow milking, herbs and flowers, small farm equipment and more! All of these activities are included in the price of admission. We have our music lineup chosen, from the contra dance led by Driving with Fergus to Wolfthump, the Dixie Giants and The Humidors.
The Hoes Down is hosted by dozens of Capay Valley Farms and community organizations. The real muscle of the day are hundreds of volunteers who become a part of the Hoes Down by giving their time at one of the food booths, in the children’s area, in the parking lot — or in many other ways. Volunteer shifts are 3 or 4 hours and we appreciate all of our volunteers by offering them free entry and camping. We are ready to sign you up for your shift — You can contact the Hoes Down volunteer coordinator through a portal on the Hoes Down web site volunteer page — we’ll get right back to you.
All proceeds from the Hoes Down are donated back to community organizations that participated in the weekend. For more information: http://www.hoesdown.org.
Our amazing Full Belly Farm Market Crew – from left to right:
Shohei, Ellen, Becca, Ben & Baron
One of the kids in the Sprouts Cooking Club (www.sproutscookingclub.org/), where they teach kids how to cook!
The Lunch Table
As an intern at Full Belly, one of my responsibilities is cooking lunch once a week. Every day we gather together to pause and share a meal. It is a much-needed respite after a long morning and provides the nourishment and energy we all need to finish the day. Sitting down alongside your friends and coworkers is lovely, but to be honest my lunch day is often the most stressful day of the week. The interns all take the responsibility of cooking a nourishing and filling meal for the hardworking farmers very seriously. It can lead to a lot of worry over having made enough, making sure there’s protein and other nutrient-dense foods, and hopefully that it tastes good as well! But, as is often the case, situations that are the most challenging turn out to be the most rewarding and fulfilling. Despite the ever-present anxiety of my lunch day I have learned so much in our little hodgepodge intern kitchen. It is in the kitchen, creating dishes out of all the beautiful fruits and vegetables grown on this farm, that the purpose of what this farm does rings the most true: we’re growing food.
Of course I’ve only stated the obvious, but with the busyness of summer rushing by us, and the whirlwind of each day exhausting us by nightfall, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. There is a reason each farm worker gets up before dawn, puts his or her all into every undertaking, and keeps at it until the work gets done. And that reason is your dinner plate. I can’t think of any other job or task that has such a tangible and meaningful purpose. Working on a farm makes one realize that food is more than just a commodity picked up easily at a grocery store, something cheap or expendable. Rather it is something you have devoted great quantities of your energy into and in turn is something that nourishes you and returns your investment fully. There is something soul-satisfying about cooking with vegetables that you have had a hand in seeding, planting, weeding, and harvesting. But fortunately it isn’t necessary to be a farmer to have the same sense of well-being about the food you eat. Planning your diet to include mainly seasonal foods and what is grown near you will inevitably connect you more closely to the cycles of nature and bring you into a community of people striving to turn the tide of our food system. [Read more…]
Full Belly’s Farmers Market stand at the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco last weekend.
“Here in California
The fruit hangs heavy on the vine
There is no gold
I thought I’d warn you
And the hills turn brown in the summertime”
So wrote Kate Wolf in the early 1980’s. This song was, and remains, one of my favorite folk songs of all times. Having spent my childhood roaming the green hills of verdant Vermont in the summer, California came as a shock to me upon moving here in my late teens. It was as if winter was summer and summer was winter, in some strange disorienting fashion. In fact, thinking of it in these terms has helped to reorient my California seasonality these many years later. The summer hills here are dry brown, akin to the dead of winter in a January Vermont below-zero season. Things die and are reborn in the spring there; here it is the dry summer that is reborn with the life giving rains in the fall. [Read more…]
The Heirloom Tomato
Many of the tomatoes that we call ‘heirlooms’ today were developed in home gardens in the 19th century. Without refrigerated transport or large-scale farming, tomatoes were grown according to the characteristics of each region, and eaten vine ripened. Although the majority of the tomato varieties grown in the U.S. before the Civil War have long since disappeared, a small number of gardeners in many different regions kept growing the varieties they knew, whether green or orange, bumpy or freckly, pulpy or crisp.
In the1930s and ‘40s, agriculture turned away from this wide array of open-pollinated crops and towards a narrow range of hybrid crops. As this occurred, there was a substantial increase in the scale of farming, the widespread application of synthetic fertilizers, and the growth of agribusiness. The tomato changed radically. The long reign of the uniformly bright red, round tomato had begun. Standard sizes and shapes were easier to distribute, and were considered more attractive on grocery-store shelves. For decades it was nearly impossible to buy an ‘heirloom’ tomato, and gardeners had to search far and wide to find the seeds. [Read more…]
This display was at the California State Fair, which ended its 17-day run last Sunday. Full Belly produce was beautifully displayed with California Grown Flowers inside one of the exhibit halls.
We put an unusual plant, purslane, in our CSA boxes two weeks ago — well the plant itself isn’t unusual, but it’s not one of those things that find its way to your plate all that often, so it was definitely a culinary challenge! We aren’t going to put it in again this year I don’t think, but we got so many fun comments as a result, that I decided to share some of them.
Here’s an example: “There was something in our box not this past Wednesday but the one before, that I have no idea what it is, nor how to prepare/cook it! I looked at the website and was still miffed. It looks like a small shrub that was pulled out of the ground dirt and roots and all and if I was to describe it, it looks a bit like something in the cactus family. It is green…” Another member said, “The purslane, for me, was not a winner. I think it was a bit too on the mature side.” [Read more…]
We had a farm dinner this past Saturday night, hosted here on the farm. There were 50 or more attendees – a wide-ranging assemblage – customers from farmers markets and CSA, or browsers who came upon the farm seeking closer connection to field and food. It was a wonderful dinner produced from Full Belly Farm products – tomatoes, melons, salami and ground bloody butcher cornmeal for the tortillas. My son Amon and his partner Jenna were the chefs and created a savory dinner and very enjoyable evening.
I was seated with Terril and Eva Ellis, our neighbors and friends who, in their 80’s, have lived next door for many years and have filled their lives with treasures found in a lifetime of imagination and creativity and efforts to deepen the beauty and diversity of their farm. Our conversation was about the lessons learned through experience: things to pay attention to, or best avoided. [Read more…]
At Full Belly Farm, there can be weeks at a time during the busy season when our entire community of interns, owners, family members, employees, friends, neighbors, camp counselors, campers and visitors find that the heat, the dust, the weeds, and the sheer number of different things clamoring for attention at the farm can become overwhelming.
We have written in these Beet pages about the Farm’s intentions – we aspire to create a farm that is sustainable, productive and even regenerative – a farm that supports the community around it, not only with nutritious food and nurturing flowers, but with a respectful work environment for employees and a minimum of environmental disruption. In the context of our every day work, those aspirations actually do guide many decisions. [Read more…]
A Midsummer’s Daydream
Fellow herbivores, omnivores and carnivores, I have a few words and thoughts to share. Take heed as you read this letter, because I mean for this Beet to ignite. A charge in my body pulses through me. No other thoughts invoke such a feeling in me. I cannot help that my hands, my mind, and my soul care so much about food! The pulse I have been charged with I feel I must share. Now more than ever the world must eat organic!
Growing up on a farm I was thrown into the mud at a pretty young age. Watching my parents work so hard for what they believed in seemed so crazy to me then. However, not getting my parents full attention as a little tyke opened my awareness to the things I could feel around me. Ever since I was a baby, my hands always reached for the dirt. I fell for it immediately. Most of my childhood pictures would confirm that I even had an appetite for it. Lucky for me the dirt I was holding was healthy, rich and clean. In just a handful of that sweet soil I wasn’t aware of the trillions of bacteria happily living in it. Nor was I aware that the 100 trillion bacteria in my gut were probably the ones telling me to eat it! I believe that there is an evolutionary romance between our gut bacteria and those in the soil. Pesticides and Antibiotics are like the third wheel on this bacterial honeymoon. We don’t need them – in fact, they are destroying our guts! Organic soil systems capture more carbon, use water more efficiently in droughts, and produce healthier disease-resistant crops – and all because it is good, organic dirt. Buying organic is a vote for healthy soils. [Read more…]
The animal program at Full Belly farm is a way for the interns to experience the responsibilities of caring for a diverse group of animals. As an intern, I have learned how to properly care for laying hens, cows, sheep, goats and pigs as an integrated part of an organic vegetable farm. Antonio Cruz is the shepherd here at the farm, and his wealth of knowledge and experience with farm animals makes every day dynamic and challenging.
Antonio has worked at Full Belly for twelve years, eight of which he has worked full time with the animals. He is from Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero in Mexico, where his three daughters, Almadellia, Esmeralda and Sulmarisandi still live. Besides a few months on a vineyard, he has worked at Full Belly since he came to the US to live with his brother in the Capay Valley. Before coming to the US, Antonio worked on a ranch caring for eighty cows. Every morning at 3am, he and two other men would spend the first four hours of their day milking the eighty cows by hand! As a new milker that finds milking one cow by hand challenging, the thought of milking for four hours straight is very impressive! [Read more…]
It was a small, but happy group of open farm day visitors last Saturday. First we visited some of the Full Belly chickens and talked about pastured animals. The chickens were clustered in the shade under mulberry and quince trees, behaving quite chicken-like, which they might not have had a chance to do if they had been living in battery cages.
Next we got on a trailer and were toured around the easy way, behind a tractor, stopping to discuss any interesting sight that we passed. We ended up picking apricots and gorging ourselves on the delicious fruit, but not quite spoiling our appetites for picnic lunch.
Farmers markets have been an important part of the Full Belly economic picture since the farm started way back in 1985. As beginning farmers, Dru and I were informed of a market in Palo Alto that was brand new and looking for growers. In those early days we were looking for access to places that might buy some of the organic crops we were producing.
We had been selling to a local Nugget Market that was bold enough to give our white Silver Queen corn a try. This was a corn that many of the local farmers were planting on the side of their ‘feed corn’ fields in order to have some good sweet corn for their tables at home. The flavor of the corn was far better than anything that was on the market, but white corn was not very common. The reception at the Nugget Store was enthusiastic, not only because George the produce manager, was willing to give the corn a try, but also because flavor and freshness assured us access to crowded supermarkets. We were also selling corn to an organic wholesaler in Los Angeles and to a wildly enthusiastic woman from Berkeley named Alice, who would either drive to the farm herself to pick up the corn and tomatoes we were producing, or send someone from her Chez Panisse kitchen to do so. [Read more…]
Vegetable seasons are sometimes blurry at their beginnings and ends and June is often a month that really makes that point. It can be an awkward month, between spring and summer. The asparagus is all gone but the melons are a ways off. We call it the ‘June doldrums’ when the farmers market table is piled high with a lot of food staples, and we keep telling the customers how ‘sweet’ the onions are, and how ‘creamy’ the potatoes taste when really all they want to eat are nectarines and tomatoes.
The calendar says that Summer season begins on the Solstice, June 21st, and until then the heat of the day will drain the tenderness from spring greens like chard and collards. Finally the heat will build up enough, and we will have to abandon the spring crops and make way for the explosion of summer. At this time of year chefs ask us to add a box of cherry tomatoes to their order, because they know that the cherry tomatoes are around the corner, and they keep hoping that they can scoop all the other chefs by ordering ahead. [Read more…]
I have always been interested in where my food comes from. As a child I loved going to pumpkin patches and you-pick farms. My siblings and I were always excited to have the chance to walk through a pumpkin patch searching for the perfect and biggest one we could find to bring back home. We would also pick the sweetest berries from the blackberry brambles that grow wild all over Nevada County. As a child I was more concerned with getting the darkest berry and the largest pumpkin. That’s still true today, but there is much more to it now.
We have become detached from knowing where our food comes from. There is an expectation that everything we buy in the store is clean and safe. How can we be sure or know for certain? Knowing more about your food can be your own source of food safety and regulation. As consumers we should be regulating the farming practices we like and don’t like by doing what consumers do best, buying. Instead we allow the government and other agencies to regulate and tell us what is safe. [Read more…]
To our CSA members and friends,
With a mix of joy and a bit of sadness, I will say my good byes to you all, as I will retire at the end of this month. I have been your CSA Coordinator for 8 years and have enjoyed many conversations with our members. Thank you for all the joy I have experienced in this position and for the friends I have become acquainted with.
I became a hobby farmer at the age of 48, as my husband retired from his corporate job and we simplified our lives and moved to this valley 12 years ago. Our home was built in the early 1900’s and moving to this quaint valley took some getting use to. We had a wood burning fireplace and no air conditioning and in this hot area, I wondered if I would survive not having the modern conveniences I was accustomed to. [Read more…]
The way some of the crops work on the farm is that once they arrive, you may see them fairly regularly, until all of a sudden you don’t see them again until the following year. That is the case with basil. Last year, during the 18 weeks of our warm season, from June to October, we put it in your CSA boxes 8 times. In 2013, as is the case this year, the basil started in May and was in the CSA boxes 9 times from May through September. We mention this, because it helps to provide a perspective on the feast of basil about to arrive: It is transient. If you have time, you can make some pesto and put it in the freezer for winter pasta dishes, as a way to stretch the season. [Read more…]
Agriculture Climate Benefits Act
Climate change, and unusual weather may fall with a heavy hand on California agriculture: more frequent and more severe droughts; less water storage in the Sierra snowpack; increased pests and invasive species; heat waves; and reduced chill hours for fruit trees… all of which translate into fewer Full Belly peaches in your boxes? Yes, the peaches may be a problem, but because Full Belly is so diverse, we will try to pick up the slack with more melons and tomatoes.
Setting the Full Belly specifics aside for a moment, people who think a lot about climate change talk about “ADAPTATION” — learning to live with it and reduce our vulnerability – and “MITIGATION” – figuring out how to limit the magnitude and rate of climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
In agriculture, we have to do both – and our CSA members can help us. [Read more…]
Last Thursday I went to a farmers market where there were no cash boxes and no scales. It was at John Still Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District, one of 42 districts in California participating in a program called California Thursdays.
There were about six other stands featuring locally grown produce, fruit, rice, and even someone making smoothies. At around 8:00am waves of excited kids, arriving one grade at a time, started gathering around, all with their California Thursdays cloth bags ready to be filled. Many of the kids had family members with them and everyone had just been served a California-grown breakfast.
The program was sponsored by the Center for Ecoliteracy, one of several efforts (another notable example is the California Farm to School Network’s Harvest of the Month) bringing fresh and local food to the state’s school kids. [Read more…]
We have had a number of inquiries about the water situation and it seems time for a Beet article on water and California’s ongoing drought. There have also been questions about whether one can eat almonds without guilt, when many are pointing fingers at new plantings of permanent crops like almonds as a clear example of what seems to be wrong with the investments being made in farming and the water needed to support that farming.
There is little that is easy or clear when it comes to the debate about water in California. The issue is complex, affects all of us and requires that we begin to plan for both times of abundance and cycles of scarcity. Indeed it will be our response to the common issue of scarcity that will require wisdom, restraint and clear thinking as to how the over-promised resource gets divided and allocated among divergent interests. It is not easy to look at water without entering into the complexities of weather patterns, climate changes, year to year fluctuations, indigenous water resources, cropping patterns and historical use. [Read more…]