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Meet Our Farmers!
Guests often come to Full Belly and wonder aloud how on earth we are able to keep so many balls in the air at the same time. It is true that at any given time, we have quite a few things going on! To keep everyone organized and moving forward, we do have a few secret weapons. Some of our biggest assets are our amazing employees. Meet Janvier Velilla. Originally, she thought she would pursue business or accounting, but after signing on with Americorps and having the opportunity to work on a farm in Colorado, she fell in love with farming and decided to pursue more farming as a career option.
Jan came to us when she was just 23 years old, and stayed for three years as an intern and then an additional year as a full time employee. She found Full Belly through the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, which lists internships all over the country. When she first arrived, she saw Ellis Brait, Andrew’s son (now 16 but at the time he was only 4!), sitting on a roof with Hannah Muller (10 at the time, now an almost college graduate). Hannah was feeding him lettuce leaves. Ah, the good old days. Jan loved that learning the ropes at Full Belly was done by being thrown into the proverbial fire and doing any task that needed to be done. She loved being outside, working with her hands, and conquering new challenges everyday.
She left Full Belly Farm and headed to upstate New York where she taught at the Adirondack Leadership Expedition for two years. While it was a good experience for her, she missed farming. She spent the next three years at a CSA/Market farm, also in upstate New York, called the “Alleged Farm,” founded by a Harvard graduate. The farm was 11 acres, and at its peak production, just four employees. From New York, she was invited to manage the vegetable production at a new farm in Louisiana A wealthy oil family wanted to see their family’s land be a productive farm, so Jan moved down to help. Jan was in charge of getting the farming operation started; a truly ‘from the ground up’ experience. Farming in Louisiana was a huge challenge because of the climate. The humidity of the South made disease management incredibly important, and it was always so wet that tractor work was nearly impossible.
When it was time to leave Louisiana, she contacted Judith to see if we were looking for anyone. As it turned out we were, and we were so happy to have Jan back! Her job description continues to grow. She is our harvest manager and food safety guru. She communicates with the crew and office staff each day about what we have, and how much we have, to sell to stores and restaurants. She coordinates the items that go into our CSA boxes, and tries to make sure that our CSA members don’t get broccoli for TOO many weeks in a row. She loves that in her new role she gets to see and work on all aspects of the farm, from planting to marketing.
In the future, she would like to own a house and some land and have a homestead, or specialty produce farm. She thinks she will likely stay on as an employee at a larger, established farm as she loves working with people. She would love to stay in California (hurray for us!), although she wonders what the future of California farming will look like given the water situation. She points out that California isn’t set up to do low-water, low-impact farming.
Thank you Jan for all of your hard work on Full Belly Farm. We couldn’t do it without you!
– Jenna Clemens
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.
Navel Oranges – 5lb ($7), 10lb ($13) or 25lb ($30) bags. Juicing made easy!
Sun Dried Peaches – $5/half-pound bag.
Walnuts – $10/1-lb bag.
Almonds – $12/1-lb bag. Need more than a pound? Just ask!
Almond Butter – Creamy or Crunchy - $14/1-lb jar. Nothin’ but lightly roasted nuts!
Pomegranate Juice – $10/quart. Order by March 29th for delivery in the week of March 31st. Sorry, NO home delivery.
Apple Juice – $7/half-gallon or $4/quart. Order by March 29th for delivery in the week of March 31st. Sorry, NO home delivery.
Please place your order at least five days prior to your intended delivery date.
For those interested in our certified organic 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. They are sold by the half lamb (20 lbs) for $185, or whole lamb (40 lbs) for $350.
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.
Think for a moment about the complex chain of connections that brought the egg to your plate this morning – the sausage, potatoes or tofu that may have accompanied it – or the garnish of parsley, tomato or spinach that found its way to your table. Think about the dazzling display of produce offered in most every grocery store today. Its abundance, low cost, and safety should be hailed as an incredible example of a ‘modern’ food system. Literally millions of meals are served every day with few issues. We enjoy abundance derived from a very complex system of production, processing, packaging and delivery that is often international in scope
Yet, across California’s vast and productive agricultural landscape there is a profound change taking place. The traditional role of a farmer as a steward – responsible for not only the production of abundant fresh and safe fruits and vegetables, but also the larger ecological well-being of the land – is being usurped by clean field/ clean edge practices. Non-crop trees are being chopped down; field borders are being herbicided clean to bare earth; all rodents, ground squirrels, wild turkeys, deer, birds and farm dogs are being seen as potential carriers of pathogens that might find their way into our food supply. [Read more...]
Signs of Spring!
Everywhere we look, Spring seems to be popping up!
We had the most beautiful baby pigs born at the farm last thursday. Our sow, Candy, was bred with a wild boar so the piglets were born with a wide array of colors and markings. They are as fast as can be, and some have almost doubled in weight since their birth! [Read more...]
The Magic of Soil
Few people would be able to guess the subject that many researchers are calling one of today’s most exciting scientific frontiers. The frontier is microscopic: it’s the space between plant roots and soil, a space that researchers are starting to realize is one of the most dynamic interfaces on earth! A dazzling complexity of activities and interactions take place in this soil/root space and the emerging understanding of what is going on could be a key to enhancing plant productivity in the future.
The star actors are an overwhelming number of bacteria, fungi and other small animals that (especially in natural ecosystems) form a line of defense against soil-borne plant pathogens and that also facilitate plant nutrition in many wonderful ways. One well understood example involves fungi and bacteria that live near plant roots and provide nitrogen and phosphorus to the plant, getting carbon in exchange. Yet another set of bacteria and fungi can provide iron to the plants, and in an even more fascinating three-way relationship, there is a fungus that is a pathogen of an insect, but can also live on plants and transfer nitrogen from the insect to the plant! [Read more...]
I woke up today feeling like a kid again. I slid on my boots, swooped up baby Rowan, and went out in search of the biggest puddle we could find to splish-splash around in. Then we ran down to the creek together to see if the water level rose. These are all things I would do every time it rained when I was kid – and I have to admit it still gets me going today. Both Rowan and I agreed that we had had our first good rain.
After fifty-two consecutive days without a drop falling from the sky, precipitation has finally blessed us. All of our rain dances on the farm, the prayers before bed, and the longing for those rainy days inside; it’s finally upon us. Living here my whole life, I can tell you there is nothing like being on the farm in the rain. The farm erupts in a song; the farmers all yip for their first half day of work, the worms all pop their heads out, the blackbirds cry from the willow trees and the plants sing out with happiness. I can’t help but smile walking through the rain as the song rings in my ears and I feel the drops on my face. Amidst the driest winter ever recorded, the farmers who have been growing more and more worried can at least sleep tonight listening to the chorus of rain singing on the tin roof. [Read more...]
Our Lochbrae Rd, Sac site will be closing and we are opening a new site in the So. Natomas, Sacramento area near Northgate Blvd. Pick up hours will be 2-7pm. Delivery will start this Wednesday, Jan. 22nd.
Please tell your friends, relatives and co-workers. Help us spread the word!
We have received many concerned inquiries from our CSA community, our wholesale buyers, and other friends of the farm about how the weather is going to affect our farming year. This weekend’s rain made me hopeful that more wet weather is headed our way. Nevertheless, whether it is or isn’t, this is the business we are in. Every year we have to make adjustments based on what mother nature decides to throw our way. We will face this year like we do any year, hoping that the stars align in our favor and doing our best to make the right decisions for the farm given the information we have. Below is a letter written by Paul Muller to Val Dolcini, the State Executive Director of the United States Department of Agriculture in California. He thoughtfully reached out to us to check in on the farm given the dry conditions. Paul’s response gives some concrete examples of how the drought is affecting us and what we are doing to address the water shortage. – Jenna Muller
There is a significant amount of sand hiding in the cuff of my pants, or rather there was. It is now a lone little dune on the floor of my yurt after I unfolded the cuff while unpacking my bags from the annual Eco-farm conference held every year in Pacific Grove. I was wearing these pants during a rain dance we did on the beach. At the end of the conference a number of us attendees gathered in front of the ocean to ask for rain. Please. Drought being the great equalizer, we dancers came from all different backgrounds; farmers, scientists, sustainable food advocates, farm educators, random passersby, and many others. Dance with us if you can, or sing, or just clap, but please focus on gentle penetrating rain, on the squishy feeling of mud between your toes, on the smell of wet soil, on jumping in a creek on a hot day, on full rivers that allow salmon to race upstream, on whatever brings to mind the feeling of moisture. Wet, juicy thoughts as we reminded ourselves throughout the dancing.
The workshops available to the eager minds at this conference ranged in topics from irrigation basics to setting up a local food commons. There were discussions on dry farming, how to handle live stock in ways that keep them happy and stress free, and regenerative farming to encourage healthy salmon runs. It was an inspiring amount of information, but for me the most compelling part was the recognized need to farm from a more holistic approach, an undercurrent reminding us to learn and work with the ecology of the farm environment that we are working in to produce good food, and the often unintentional positive side effects that those healthy farm environments have on the larger community. [Read more...]
We are missing 447 green CSA boxes! Please, if you have any at home or in your car, take a second to return them. This system has helped us save wax boxes from ending up in the landfill, but it can only continue to work if our wonderful members return their boxes. The BEST method is to bring your own bag or box to your CSA site and just leave the green CSA boxes there. Thanks!
Strike up the band! And put your hands together for a big round of applause! Dru, Paul, Judith, and I are pleased and proud to announce the addition of Amon and Jenna Muller to Full Belly Farm’s ownership group. January 1 marked this pivotal and thrilling foundational change at Full Belly Farm. Besides their important roles in farm production and marketing, Amon and Jenna are spearheading the building and management of our new kitchen and event center.
It is fair to say that farming is perpetually steeped in a dynamic process of biological growth and development. Generally we think of communities of plants, animals, microorganisms, fungi, etc. as the whole of the farm’s biology. But most significantly, this biology extends to the relationships of farmers’ lives, to place, activity and succession. It is in this respect that we are so excited to welcome and embrace members of the next generation in helping to lead the farm into the future. [Read more...]
Our CSA sites need your help to stay tidy. Please help keep these volunteer pick-up locations clean by following a few simple guidelines.
1. Pick up your box only during the hours listed on our web site and sign-in sheet. These are the hours that the host has set. We do not guarantee the boxes past the designated pick-up times. No credit is issued if you arrive late to claim a box, but find none there.
2. Do not leave a mess! Please stack your empty CSA box as show on the bulletin board.
3. Park in designated parking spots. Do not double park and do not block driveways.
4. Direct your questions to Full Belly, not to the host. Please don’t disturb the host.
5. Please notify us five days in advance if you would like to defer your box.
Or rather, winter farm? It’s been so warm that even the bees think it is time to come out and look for flowers. They are finding the odd mustard flower and a few wildflowers, but it is slim pickings.
When I was little, growing up in New Mexico, an artichoke was a huge treat. My family of five would get one artichoke, and carefully divvy up the leaves and the heart. The first time I ate artichokes at the farm, I was floored when a huge steaming platter of them was brought to the table and everyone ate at least 3! It is still a huge treat, and I can’t wait for these little babies to be ready. [Read more...]
Happy New Year!
Greetings from Umbria, Italy! A delegation of three Full Belly Farmers (Amon, Jenna & Rowan) travelled across the big ocean during this year’s winter vacation. The youngest member of our expedition, 16 months, has thrown himself into Italian cuisine with gusto, tasting truffles, tripe, salt cod, salumi of all kinds, and gelato. Lots and lots of gelato. The Italian nonnas love him and wherever we go he gets scooped up and offered biscotti. The highlight of our stay has been connecting with other organic farmers. After lots of driving and searching, we finally found our tribe at a wonderful old farm called Torre Colombaia. The original buildings on the property were built by Benedictine monks in the 9th century. The monks originally intended to farm, but after a few years they decided to stick to praying and rented out the land to peasants. The current owner, Alfredo inherited the 200 acre parcel. It has been in his family for four generations. He grows organic farro, chickpeas, durum wheat, and sunflowers, and he maintains the woods on the property, which are some of the oldest in Umbria. We were so thankful to land at this beautiful place. Rowan looked up at us as if to say “it’s about time! No more churches and no more museums!” Finally a place to stretch his legs and roam free. Believe it or not, it isn’t difficult to find incredible old stone farm houses to stay in. In Italy, the concept of agritourism has taken hold with a vengeance. Like here, farming can be an economically challenging profession. Many Italian farmers have land with ancient stone buildings on it, but no way to pay for their restoration. By inviting curious tourists like ourselves onto their farms and into their homes, they are able to add another source of income to their farm ventures and maybe even get a hand picking their olives, making their cheese, or pressing their oil.
International Year of Family Farming
Counting our many blessings during Thanksgiving dinner, our thoughts went out to people around the world not surrounded by such abundance. Each year we become more convinced than ever that the agricultural model supported by Full Belly Farm’s CSA members and extended community is very relevant to addressing the challenge of global hunger
An article in the Huffington Post (Danielle Nierenberg, et al, 11/27/13) pointed to family farmers all around the world as a source of needed innovation: “…through local knowledge and sustainable, innovative farming methods, family farmers can improve yields and create a more nutrient-dense and diverse food system. They’re even key players in job creation and healthy economies, supplying jobs to millions and boosting local markets.”
This week marks the end of our CSA deliveries for 2013. Thank you for being an adventurous eater with us! We will resume deliveries on January 7, 2014.
If you have any questions about your box schedule or payments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 800-791-2110.
Please note that our offices will be closed from December 8 to January 6.
The cycle of a year’s labor has come near full circle. This week we head into a day of Thanksgiving – a time for reflection about the many gifts received this year. Our labors this past year upon this generous land have yielded a remarkable bounty of beautiful and tasty crops. From the slow growing greens of last winter, when January and February were the driest and warmest on record, through Spring’s bloom- the lush pinks of the peaches and snowy whites of almond, apricot or apple –we were graced each month with abundant blessings and a progression of colors and flavors that were nothing more than marvelous.
This year was, for many farms, an exceptionally abundant and fruitful year. For the past 30 or so years, we have been planting trees and vines on the three parcels that make up Full Belly Farm, and now we are in the maturing landscape of a four-season farm. The young orchards are now moving into their peak bearing years. The fruit we enjoyed this past year reflects our work – nurturing seed, planting cuttings or rooting saplings. All were planted thinking about the harvest window we were aiming for – peaches to start in June and picked until October, figs in August, almonds in September, grapes mid-summer through the fall, and plums, pears, apples, citrus, walnuts and pomegranates to fill out the year. In this amazing environment and ecology of California, we are thankful for the generations before us who have selected, improved, delighted in flavor and helped to develop the many types of fruit we enjoy. [Read more...]
While many types of ‘fast food’ are heavily marketed and are made from ingredients that enjoy various government subsidies, fruits and vegetables don’t have their own lobbies, federal subsidies or ad campaigns. Subtle signals, and sometimes not-so-subtle messages in grocery stores generally nudge shoppers towards the processed foods and as a result, a healthy proportion of produce doesn’t always end up in the grocery cart.
Social scientists are experimenting with signals that might point shoppers towards the produce aisle. For example, in one experiment a strip of yellow duct tape across the center of the grocery carts told the shopper to “put their fruits and vegetables in the front half of the cart!” Produce sales jumped… [Read more...]
At 6pm on 11/17 there were 10,600 comments on the FDA’s proposed Produce Rule, which we have discussed extensively in these pages. Many of our members wrote to us that they had submitted comments. Thank You!!! We need many more to make an impression upon the FDA. Because the government web site where comments can be submitted was down repeatedly, the comment period has been extended to 11/22. If you want a copy of the article that we wrote about this issue, contact email@example.com. There is plentiful information about the proposed rule on the web site of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/) as well as instructions on how to comment. These proposed rules could become the law of the land – if that happens, family farming and growing produce in the US will be changed forever, and not in a good way.
Do you have friends who might like to get a Full Belly CSA box in the Orinda area? We are opening a new site there, near Lombardy Lane & Sleepy Hollow Lane. The pick up day is on Wednesday, hours 8am to 7pm starting Nov. 13th. If you are interested in joining this site, or know of family or friends in the area, please pass the word along. Help us to expand our CSA and bring nutritious, organic produce to the Orinda area. Thanks!
When we give farm tours, we are sometimes asked how Full Belly Farm deals with PESTS. People are often thinking of nasty INSECTS when they ask this question, but to the organic farmer, “pests” are a vast group and the weeds are usually the hardest to deal with.
One weed that took off on the farm last year was Johnsongrass, one of the most noxious weeds in the world. In fact, this weed is so bad that several states have legislation requiring landowners to get rid of it if it shows up on their property! Every year, it produces thousands of seeds that scatter all over, but under the ground, even worse than the seeds, it sends out hundreds of feet of rhizomes, nasty ropey roots that choke crops and can reproduce even from a short segment. Johnsongrass goes dormant in the fall, and Full Belly farmers have taken on its challenge and devised a way to get as much of the rhizome biomass out of the fields as possible. [Read more...]
At this time of year, as is the case year round, the harvest of crops dominates daily activities for many crew members, but we also have time to get a lot of projects done.
A stroll around the farm this last week of October provides striking colors, seasonal shifts and summer’s slow adieu. I took a Sunday stroll with my 14-month-old grandson, Rowan, tasting our way around the fields, spying on beavers working in the creek and exploring the elements of a changing season. Walks around the farm are usually accompanied by farm dogs that tag along for security purposes – chasing off a killdeer, squirrel or gopher that may have violated territorial understandings.
We stop, 5 dogs and a curious new-to-walking child, and pick some of the last cherry tomatoes, a lingering watermelon, a crimson Jimmy Nardello pepper, an unpicked Valencia orange, a dried fig, hanging apple, pomegranate, persimmon, plum or grape and we savor these waning treats. All around trees are dropping their summer’s green for the rich hues of fall-golds, straw browns and deep reds. Tomato plants are engaged in the last flurry of flowering to see if they can set a few more seeds before frost. It is all, at the same time, beautiful, redolent, quiet and tasty… quite a treat for the senses. [Read more...]
Please submit comments on the proposed FDA Produce Rule
During the last year, we have written about the proposed “food safety” regulations many times. Now we ask every single one of our members to please submit your comments to the FDA. The deadline is November 15th. If these proposals go forward, they will require costly changes in production practices with little scientific justification and doubtful reduction in food poisoning outbreaks. Based on previous history with implementation of “food safety” regulations in the 1980′s, many family farmers will go out of business, and others will stop growing certain crops once full implementation takes place. Please take a few minutes to submit comments! We have been to FDA hearings and we do think that they might pay attention. The FDA is staffed by people who know little about agriculture. Those of you who are in touch with a local farm may have more expertise than many of them, especially if you read this newsletter regularly!
The web site of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (http://caff.org/programs/foodsafety/fsma/) has all the helpful information that you might need, including instructions on How to Comment. There are two proposed rules. The rule that we have been writing to you about is the “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.” If you want to go straight to the comment site: (http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0921-0199). [Read more...]
Fall is here and winter is coming soon. All of us at the farm are ready for shorter days, cooler nights and…rain! We absolutely can’t wait for the clouds to gather and give us that much needed winter burst of moisture – cleaning off the dusty, hectic days of summer.
The women at the farm who pick and make the flower bouquets all summer long are very happy as well. As the days become cooler and the fresh flowers come to an end in the fields their jobs move into the “wreath room” using the colorful dried flowers that have been hung from the rafters over the summer months. The barn, which we now call the wreath room, is one of the older buildings on the farm and is sided with beautifully weathered redwood. Inside are hundreds of flower bunches – I wish I could give you a tour! Yellow yarrow, blue and pink larkspur, bright red cayenne peppers, nigella, white winged everlasting, round golden drumstick, baby pink globe amaranth, black-awned wheat, all in gorgeous lines dangling from the old ceiling. As the wreaths and dried bouquets get made, flowers get pulled from the ceiling, and new bunches that have been carefully packed away in June, July and August replace them, making an ever changing array of color. [Read more...]
The Hoes Down Harvest Festival was on October 5th and 6th, a weekend chock full of family farm fun. The Hay Fort was one of the busiest and happiest locations. We have an experienced Hay Fort safety crew (the green shirts in this photo) that make sure kid safety and fun are the top priority.
A walk around the farm usually happens when the work day is done. The forklifts are parked, the trucks are loaded and ready for their next trip, and the crews have gone home. At other times, the office is buzzing and the fields are full of people. On a walk at dusk, the farm is quieter.
Kick Your Heels Up and Put Your Hoes Down!
Every year it seems as though the calendar pages turn a little faster, the days speed by a bit, well, speedier, and just as we, the farmers, are about to collapse from summer exhaustion a glorious thing happens. The nights get cooler. The days get shorter. The last melons and tomatoes and hot-weather crops come out of the field. Fall is upon us. Sigh. Fall is so dreamy.
For most farms, this change in season signals a slow down – a time to drink bigger cups of decaf coffee and reflect on the summer. A time to begin work on all of the projects that were pushed aside while tomatoes and basil and eggplant and peppers needed harvesting. A time to wake up later and go to sleep earlier. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it…), Full Belly Farm is not like most farms. The folks here at Full Belly are still in a frenzy, gearing up for the 26th annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival, happening the first weekend in October. [Read more...]