News From the Farm | February 17, 2020

 One Hundred and Five Almond Festivals!

Here in the Capay Valley we take our traditions quite seriously – no messing around. February, first coined as Almond Festival month in 1915, is no exception. Starting early in February, as the almond trees begin their month-long blooming period, the valley is dotted with pink and white puffy blossoms on dark trunks all along the hillsides and valley floor. Some of these orchards date back to the early 1900’s – planted by farming settlers who often dry farmed in the hills. Their gnarled twisted trunks are testimony to a struggling history of farming on the rugged hot hills. In more recent years many new plantings have sprouted up on the rich valley soil  –comprising over 2,000 acres of this much-heralded nut, with many new varieties and modern farming techniques.

The real tradition of the Almond Festival month begins in the third week of February when the Almond Queen Pageant is held in Yolo County’s only Grange Hall – the Guinda Grange. This hall, dating back to 1910, provides a perfect home for the annual dinner and competition between a group of the Valley’s finest high school seniors. These young woman are judged on scholastic prowess, community involvement, an interview session and their crowning moment – giving a speech to the dinner’s attendees. The speech questions that they are given often revolve around the rural theme of growing up in the valley and how their lives may have been shaped by the agricultural flavor of the area. Over 150 locals pack into the Grange Hall for the evening of farm food and speeches and all are anxious to see who that year’s winner will be. Tears and clapping abound as each one of the women present their practiced speeches and family members watch on in pride. The crowning of the Queen is a special moment in all of their lives –the Queen’s prestigious duty is to reign over the Almond Festival the next weekend.

The actual Almond Festival itself, traditionally held the last Sunday in February (next Sunday!), is one of California’s longest running agriculturally-based festivals and is the only festival of its kind that encompasses five different townships all showcasing the Capay Valley’s finery. At the south end of the Valley the town of Esparto kicks off the day with a now famous Pancake Breakfast, a fundraiser for the Ag Department and FFA at the local High School. The park in Esparto is filled with vendors and local non-profits; the local library has its biggest event in a used book sale. Going farther north the towns of Capay and Guinda both have demonstrations revolving around the history and agricultural heritage of the area – crafters selling quilts and baby blankets, knitters selling sweaters, the Grange showcasing Granny Wyatts Legendary Almond Roca alongside blacksmithing demonstrations.

The town of Rumsey, at the north end of the valley, is perhaps the jewel of all five towns, with the beautiful old Rumsey Town Hall building as its backdrop. Built in 1903 this National Historic Building was renovated by dedicated volunteers in the last fifteen years and is a gorgeous spot for the town’s Festival activities. Rumsey pulls out all the stops for the weekend with music, wood fired pizzas using all local ingredients and a farmers market which includes some of the valleys’ finest growers. Full Belly Farm is actively involved in this town’s activities, tossing 500 pizzas during the day and running a market stall with all of our best flowers and produce. Olive oil, lavender soaps, native plants, locally brewed beer and yes – almonds – are for sale throughout the day.

The second generation of Full Belly farmers are very active in the entire Festival planning process.  Hannah (a former queen pageant winner) now spearheads decorating for the Queen pageant at the Hall. Amon, Jenna, Rye and Becca coordinate the food booths in Rumsey. It is a delight to see them carrying on the Festival’s values and bringing in new ideas and energy into a century old tradition. 

Please join us for the 105th Almond Festival on Sunday, February 23th 2020 8am to 4pm. There is no admission charge but be prepared to buy some delicious food, homemade crafts and of course – yummy almonds!

— Dru Rivers

 

 

News From the Farm | February 10, 2020

Everyone get down and take a closer look at our soil!

Spring is just about sprung here in the Capay Valley and that means school groups and tours will be arriving soon!  When groups come to visit, we always ask them the question “Do you know what we grow here at Full Belly Farm?”  And of course, the answers are always wide-ranging: “tomatoes, flowers, carrots, chickens, lettuce!”  While all of these answers are correct, visitors tend to forget two of the most important things: soil and conscious farmers! 

Without healthy, rich, and nutritious soil we would never be able to grow such healthy, rich and nutritious crops!  We care for our soil by spreading compost, grazing our land with sheep and chickens, and even experimenting with reduced-till crop rotations to care for the billions of organisms underneath our feet. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 3, 2020

It is lambing season at Full Belly!  About 25 lambs have been born and we expect that there will be over 100 by the time we are done.  The weather has been beautiful and so far all has gone smoothly.  The photos show the pregnant moms and some of the lambs that were born in the last week. 

Understanding the mysterious powers of soil is a fascination shared by many farmers.  Activities in the soil are hidden away and under-appreciated.  Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, for example go through transformations in the soil that are critical to plant and human nutrition. Organisms in the soil can extract nitrogen from the atmosphere, break down wastes and poisons, or sequester carbon thus mitigating climate change.  Soils with good structure and high organic matter can help to mitigate floods OR droughts, making healthy soil a high priority to all of us in California. The ways that soil organisms interact with plant roots to keep plants healthy is a process so choreographed and amazing that it is hard for scientists to unravel.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 27, 2020

A group of us were at the Ecological Farming Conference last week and many were involved in presentations on quite a range of subjects — Hannah and Dru Muller were facilitators of a day-long session on Women/Womxn in Food and Agriculture; Paul Muller participated in a series of workshops exploring reduced and targeted tillage as a way to minimize soil disturbance; Hannah Muller described her use of social media to tell the story of her love of flowers and floral arranging; Jenna Muller talked with attendees about the Environmental Mediation Center; and Judith Redmond moderated a panel on issues in national organic policy. Full Belly’s Harvest Manager, Jan Velilla, presented at a workshop posing the somewhat leading question:  “Biodiversity or Sterility: Which Ensures Safe Food?”  Reflections on the past, present and future of organic farming continued throughout, as well as deep discussions about challenges to the integrity of the organic label. African American, American Indian and a Quecha farmer shared their stories. All the Full Belly kids got to enjoy EcoFarm, as well.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 20, 2020

It is remarkable how busy our farm continues to be, even with short days and cold mornings.  It is true that there are fewer crops to harvest, but we also have a smaller crew.  The year-round crew is here of course, but a lot of folks take extended time away during the winter.  People will start returning in a few months.  Our Farm Dinner dates have been announced, as well as our Spring Open Farm Day (Saturday April 25th).  We are also trying to figure out schedules to enable many of us to leave next week for the Ecological Farming Conference in Asilomar.  In the office, we feel tax season on the way — no sooner have we closed December payroll than we have to create W-2 and 1099 forms for everyone. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 13, 2020

During the Full Belly winter break I visited Mexico with friends and we took a bit of a road trip between Puebla and Oaxaca. Oaxaca is an amazing center of both biological and cultural diversity.  During our drives along windy mountainous roads, avoiding major highways, we enjoyed vistas of subtropical cactus forests, and in the villages and towns we enjoyed the rich cuisine based on native plants. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 6, 2020

 

Happy New Year to all of our members!  The weather was mild during our break — cold, but no deep freeze events.  The rain that we had was gentle.  The cover crops look good — ready to jump up when warmer weather comes back.  We are looking forward to 2020 and hope that it brings health and beauty to our members.

News From the Farm | December 2, 2019

 

Dru at the Farmers Market (photo by Lauren Betts)  — 

One delight of our Thanksgiving week was the remarkable change in weather. On Wednesday evening the temperature dropped to 28, freezing pipes, nipping the last leaves on the apples, peaches, walnuts and almonds; and frosting the last of the summer’s non-frost tolerant crops like potatoes and summer flowers. (Potato tops are dead and the spuds are resting in the soil until we harvest them later this winter.) All manner of summer frost-sensitive crops are now dark and done. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving News From the Farm — 

We recently had a meeting of our Crew Supervisors and listened to them echoing themes that we ourselves have been discussing:  “There are not enough crew members here on the farm to do the work.  Each of our crews needs at least 5 or 6 people, and we often have only 2 or 3 people trying to do the work of 6.  The only solution is to cut back crop production 20% across the board.”

Basically, our crew is pointing out to us the fact that every year we hopefully plant, irrigate, weed and care for our beautiful crops, but often leave too many of them in the field because of the labor shortage that so many other farmers are also experiencing. The crux of this labor shortage has to do with the fact that the majority of US farm workers are immigrants, they always have been immigrants and most future farm workers will be immigrants as well.  With the current crackdown on immigration from Mexico and Central America, and the lack of public policy that would allow immigrants to work in the US legally, the stress on US agriculture is increasing.  Construction and Landscaping, which also rely on immigrant labor are in the same quandary.  And the labor shortage can be especially difficult for organic farmers growing labor intensive fruits and vegetables and often needing proportionally more labor because of a greater amount of hand weeding on organic farms. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 18, 2019

Hello Fellow CSA Members,

As the year draws to an end, it is once again time for a report from the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic (CMC) which provides free integrative health services to low-income women who are living with a diagnosis of cancer. The produce boxes donated each week by Full Belly Farm and its CSA members who donate a skipped vacation box or add a box when they renew are visible manifestation of support and kindness, and they are received with joy. 

Earlier this year CMC moved into a beautiful, welcoming new space. The rooms are light, airy, and bright with color. During each shift, when they arrive for their acupuncture, bodywork, herbal healing, or other services, CMC clients can pick up fresh FBF produce to take home for themselves and their families.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 11, 2019

One has to love a bargain- it may be a personality virtue – re-use, recycle, repurpose. Or maybe it is a malady that drives profligate hoarding or the accumulation of another’s junk; or being blind to eyesores; or an overactive imagining about future time that will be allocated for turning straw into gold. In my troubled view, my straw is generally junk steel. 

Admittedly, I have gone on a spree of imagining about good deals for too long.  As a result, my steel resource pile is a bit too big, the list of get-to-it projects enough for a couple of lifetimes.  The good ideas to be built from that pallet of auction junk become magnificence in my imagination as I raise my hand.  When I get it back to the farm, the filing system for my expanded resource base has not been well organized.  Where did I put that widget?  I know that I have one around here somewhere! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 4, 2019

We are enjoying dry, mild weather with only light winds and wonderful crisp cold nights and warm days. A walk around the farm still reveals signs of all the wind we experienced last week, with twigs and trash needing to be cleaned up. The lovely Fall weather we experienced this week is very much appreciated. 

Many seasonal crew members have left the farm, returning to lives in Mexico, about which I know very little. Despite our best intentions of rounding out the work cycle, we still love to grow those tomatoes, melons and summer crops, all of which require that we increase the number of people working here during the 6-month busy season. Our year-round, permanent crew knows that the work days are getting shorter — a mixed blessing for them with more family and personal time, but lower take-home wages. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 28, 2019

This family worked hard at Full Belly all spring and summer, and just left for Mexico  — 

We are still in the thick of our olive harvest but were not able to continue because of the power outages that started on Saturday 10/26.  We take our olives directly to the mill for pressing because that is the way to get the best oil, but the Seka Hills Olive Mill will be without power and has told us that their doors will be shut, right in the middle of prime time. Another dimension of the problem is that stores have placed veggie orders, but when we arrive with the deliveries we are turned away because there is no power.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 21, 2019

Throughout the year the landscape of Full Belly Farm goes through many changes.  Flowers bloom beside the campsite tents in summer, cover crop fields change into parking lots for the Hoes Down Harvest Festival in the Fall and roaming chicken coops pop up in fields all over the farm.  And when the days get shorter and the evening air begins to chill, our farm goes through a new transformation as we prepare the landscape for the winter months ahead. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 14, 2019

Olive harvest has begin  — 

The Full Belly Harvest Festival took place last week long before the big Fall harvests were done.  The only Fall harvest we had completed was our almonds, and that was achieved by farm owner Paul Muller and several assistants working long dusty days while missing some of the staff that had helped in years past and have now moved on to other jobs.   [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 7, 2019

A small sampling of the diverse pumpkin carvings at the Hoes Down.  — 

The Hoes Down Harvest Festival came (10/5) and went leaving many happy memories.  It was a tremendously successful, smooth day thanks to the help of hundreds of wonderful volunteers.  Thank you to all of our CSA members and other friends who came out to enjoy the farm in this perfect weather.   We are so thankful and appreciative of you all! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 30, 2019

Howdy y’all! Full Belly Farm’s Education team – Sierra & Haley here!  We’re back to teach you the ABC’s of the Hoes Down Harvest Festival! If you like these, you’ll LOVE what we’ve got cooking for you, coming up on October 5th.  

OOnly a few days until the Hoes Down! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 23, 2019

For the past thirty-one years, there is one particular autumnal day where Full Belly Farm is magically transformed into a bustling festival.  That festival is what we lovingly call, The Hoes Down Harvest Festival. It is a time to throw down our hoes from our hard summer of work, and kick our heels up in celebration! 

If you’re reading this, chances are that you already know about Hoes Down.  You’ve tasted the heirlooms, visited the marketplace, sat-in on workshops, and camped beneath the trees in the walnut orchard.  But do you know how it all comes together? [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 16, 2019

Stilt Walking at the Hoes Down Harvest Festival  —  

Howdy y’all! Full Belly Farm’s Education team – Sierra & Haley here! It’s been a couple of years since our last Hoes Down Harvest Festival, so we thought we’d give you a quick reminder of all the fun to be had, coming up on October 5th! Lo and behold, here’s the first installation of the ABC’s of the Hoes Down Harvest Festival:    

A – Agricultural Workshops 

Interested in how to raise chickens, discover native plants, or learn the fundamentals of natural building? Well the Hoes Down is the place to do all that and more.  There are over 25 workshops available with the price of admission.  

B – Barnyard Animals

Visit all of your favorite Full Belly Farm regulars that help make this farm run.  Stop by and learn how Eclair gets milked, what our lucky pigs get to eat, how our chickens move around the farm in their mobile homes and how our sheep get shorn.  Don’t forget to visit the FFA’s petting zoo too! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 9, 2019

Produce cornucopia at Day in the Country  —  

Full Belly has been pretty busy lately.  First of all, we hope to put our best foot forward for the Hoes Down Harvest Festival on October 5th and with the summer focus on harvest and crop production, many corners of the farm have been overlooked and now need to be tidied up.  We hope that our CSA members are able to visit the farm for the Hoes Down since it is one of our favorite days of the year.  Note that your tickets have to be bought on-line in advance this year.  There will not be ticket sales at the gate. [Read more…]