Organic Vegetables, Fruit & Wool
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.”
A 2002 World Bank report examining 61 countries determined that small-scale farms have the best potential for alleviating global hunger. While big harvests in the U.S. play a role around the world, the people who are actually out in the field thinking and working on global hunger say that there are many other steps that we need to take that are much more important than growing more U.S. corn and soybeans.
The International Year of Family Farming 2014 is an initiative promoted by the World Rural Forum that aims to be a “tool to stimulate active policies for sustainable development of agricultural systems-based farmer families, communal units, indigenous groups, cooperatives and fishing families.”
We are thankful for each and every one of our CSA members and wish you a wonderful Holiday Season. We look forward to spending next year, the International Year of Family Farming, in your company.
We hope that you like the new green Stop Waste boxes. They will definitely reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill.
Please bring a grocery bag to your pick-up site and do not take the boxes home with you, especially this final week as we will be picking up all of our boxes in order to get an on-farm count.
Also, please help us to keep your pick up site tidy. Please stack your empty box after removing your produce and do not leave a mess behind.
Let us know by phone or email if you would like us to deliver any special summer treats with your box. The special orders are usually delivered in a bag near the boxes, with your name on the label.
Almonds - 1 lb for $12, or 10 lbs bulk pack for $120
Almond Butter (Creamy or Crunchy) – $14 for a 16-oz jar, or $160 for a case of 12 jars.
Sun Dried Peaches – $5 for a 1/2-lb bag, or $10/ pounds
Sun Dried Tomatoes – $8 for a 1/2-lb bag, or $16/pound
Sorry no deliveries to the Virginia St, Berkeley site. To order contact us at 800-791-2110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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...]
At the recent Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, I was bouncing back and forth between the displays of melons when I was distracted from the many, many different varieties by a woman talking to a group of children, all probably around 7-8 years old. She was holding a melon that looked cantaloupe-esque, heavily netted, with a faint orangey glow, but instead of a round orb this one grew a little bulb on one end, a cantaloupe crossed with a brioche pastry! It was innocently labeled “Sleeping Beauty.”
Full Belly Farm is in the northwest corner of Yolo County, a relatively rural and agricultural county growing an incredible diversity of fruits, nuts and vegetables important to the local economy and also to surrounding urban regions. The Yolo County Agricultural Crop Report for 2012 reported that the value of organic production in the county increased by almost 33% between 2011 and 2012.
An annual event that celebrates the agricultural bounty of Yolo County was held on Sunday September 8th to benefit the Yolo County Land Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving Yolo’s agricultural and natural values. Almost 40 regional restaurants, wineries and breweries, and 13 local farms worked on the event, with the farms donating products for the restaurants to prepare Yolo-centric summer season dishes. Guests went from table to table tasting the creative and inspiring dishes that each chef had created.
Shucking the beans you included in the box recently was very relaxing, as well as instructive about the meaning of the saying “as alike as two peas (beans) in a pod.”
I am saving some of them to plant next year, and I’m wondering if you can tell me if they are bush beans or pole beans, determinate or indeterminate. Also, are they good eating as green beans?
Most of my beans are this beautiful black and white, but there was one pod containing yellow beans with an orange smile. Thank you very much!
Thank you for writing to us. I like the simple lessons that you drew from the Orca beans.
These beans are an heirloom from Mexico. They are so beautiful! We are going to grow more of them next year. We had a couple of complaints about putting something as labor intensive as shelling beans into the boxes, so it was wonderful to hear a different perspective from you. The plants are a bush variety and they are determinate. They are not meant to be eaten as green beans, but as soon as the pods fill out and the beans are formed inside, you can eat them as a fresh shelling bean.
–Full Belly Farm
Tomorrow is Labor Day, a holiday that honors the work of all who place their effort as a brick in the edifice of this amazing society. For most it is a day to stop work and take a rest – hard won through the struggles, marches and demands of workers in the late 1800’s. It is a day to honor, as Peter J. McGuire, co founder of the American Federation of Labor said in 1882, those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the Grandeur we behold.”
Often acknowledged and celebrated is the vision of the successful entrepreneur, but Labor Day demands that we equally respect the patient, persistent and diligent contribution of those who labor at all levels, showing up every day to do the tasks that often are not acknowledged. Those who labor are linked together by the ethic of sustained dedication – the factory worker in a foreign land, the office worker in the Bay Area, the teacher, software developer, machinist, fast food worker and the farm worker in our fields – all have a personal commitment to the task at hand. Most work for more than pay. There are rewards in the dignity that is linked to making something more whole. There are rewards from doing good, serving all creatures great or small and being linked to the common effort. [Read more...]
It’s time to meet another one of Full Belly’s crew. This week we would like to introduce you to Catalina Soto.
When did you start working at Full Belly Farm?
About 9 years ago.
What was different back then?
It has changed little by little. I learn every day. The farm was smaller when I got here, there were fewer flowers, melons and tomatoes. Now there is so much of everything! My first day I started picking bunches of chard with Alfonso and Jose. I don’t remember what else I picked my first day! Since then I have picked beans, cherry tomatoes, eggplant – I’ve picked all of it, but I haven’t driven the tractors or worked with the animals. Now I don’t pick anymore, instead I am in the packing shed and in the afternoon I organize the pallets and load trucks. [Read more...]
In past columns, I have written about old timers that come to visit Full Belly Farm to see how things are going. One of the visitors used to be Richard Gladney who ostensibly came to visit his barn, now and forever called “Richard’s Barn” which, when we moved here, was full of vintage cars and tractor implements, not to mention tins of chemicals and junk. Over the years, we moved Richard’s stuff, the accumulation of years of farming, out of the barn, but his visits still linger in our memories, and continued for many years despite his lacking the excuse that he was checking up on his things.
Another time, in May of last year, it was an imaginary old timer who visited, the possible driver of an old Allis Chalmers behemoth tractor that has been sitting idle under a Full Belly walnut tree since I moved to the farm 25-years ago (and for who knows how long before that.) The visitor met up with one of the farm kids and had a tour of the farm, with news of how things had changed since he parked the tractor after its last big job. [Read more...]
Wood-fired, retained heat ovens have been used for millennia all around the world to bake everything from bread and pizza to meat and vegetables. These are the ovens that bread as we know it was invented for. The even, radiant heat from all sides makes crusts with the perfect combination of crispness and chewiness. In this one-day workshop you will learn to build an oven from free or inexpensive natural materials: clay, sand, straw and bricks for the floor. Instructor Michael G. Smith has been building with earth and straw since 1993, when he helped found the Cob Cottage Company in Oregon. See his web site: strawclaywood.com. For more information: email@example.com or phone 530-796-3714. The workshop is on October 19 in Rumsey (Capay Valley) from 9am to 4pm.
Many consumers and organic farmers, if challenged to describe the production principals of organic agriculture, might list practices that build soil fertility, maintain ecological balance, promote biodiversity, reduce dependence on off-farm inputs, and allow farm animals to display their natural instinctive behaviors. But in the topsy turvy world of “food safety,” every one of those organic principals is being seriously challenged at regulatory levels. Because those principals are so fundamental to the way we farm at Full Belly, you will have to forgive us if we seem to return to this subject over and over.
Paul wrote in this column last week about the proposed FDA Produce Rule. Since then I have read the FDA’s proposed “guidance” for egg producers that provide hens with access to the outdoors (in other words “pastured poultry.”) In that document, there are absurd suggestions, like providing overhead cover to the outdoor pasture so that wild birds can’t swoop in and infect the hens (or be infected) with Salmonella. In addition, this rule admonishes that “Disposable or reusable clothing should be provided for visitors, including maintenance and pest control personnel, as they come onto the farm.” The FDA clothing recommendations include “bouffant caps” to cover hair! [Read more...]
I am sitting in the kitchen late Sunday evening putting some thoughts together regarding proposed rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a massive new set of regulatory proposals that are open for public comment until the middle of November. FSMA will affect many aspects of our integrated farm: the compost we apply; the management of our sheep and chickens; the record keeping; and the ultimate authority over the definition of ‘Good Agricultural Practices’.
Many of the farm practices used by entry level farmers use the same integrated design as at Full Belly, for example, pastured poultry as a cornerstone of soil restoration and fertility needed to produce healthy fruits and vegetables. FSMA will be a huge new barrier to entry for these beginning farmers. At their heart, these ‘sustainable strategies’ employ the microbial world as workers in a system to create a healthy plant/soil/human ecology. FSMA sweeps all of these strategies into a category of suspect practices and overlooks many issues that should be at the heart of today’s food safety discussion.
Even the title, ‘food safety’ and ‘agricultural modernization,’ delivers a shot over agriculture’s bow, implying that the present system of food production is both unsafe and backwards, ignoring the incredible volume of safe food delivered by American farms to the marketplace each day. [Read more...]
It is quieter walking around the farm on a Sunday because only a few crew members are around. Antonio is usually here the earliest, come to take care of the animals. Chickens, pigs, goats and cows – they see Antonio every day. Eddy comes a little bit later to load truck for the Monday morning run, sorting the boxes, checking lists, palletizing orders, organizing the load. Even later still, the next crop of campers arrive with their families who visit the creek, check-in with the camp counselors and leave their kids behind knowing that they are in good hands.
Our cherry tomato crew has been picking more than 200 boxes of cherry tomatoes on a daily basis for several weeks (each box has 12 baskets in it). We have a lot of varieties this year: sweet 100, sun gold, cherry roma, black cherry, green grape, blush and juliette for example. The crew is picking from several different fields and trying all the time to project for the sales team how many boxes they will be able to get out of the fields in the hot summer days to come. Although the work is intense, they are happier if our sales keep up with production. None of them want to try and sort through fruit on the vines that is overripe. One of our prettiest cherry tomato packs is the Mixed Medleys, a mixture of red, black, pink yellow and green varieties. On our walk we saw the cherry tomato sorting table where the crew sorts the tomatoes in the shade of the walnuts. [Read more...]
This has been a very hot summer so far. Our thermometers are regularly showing the high 90’s and not uncommonly several digits above 100°. We tell guests that we’re lucky to have Cache Creek to cool down in, but with the heat comes an intense farming season and there have been few sightings of farmers in the creek.
There are several months of each year when crop production in each of the fields is so prodigious that even our veteran crews will be overwhelmed trying to keep up. We run out of picking boxes, we have too little cooler space, there is no time to pick the specialty crops that we grow in small quantities, and we do not have enough trays for the fruit that we dry in the sun.
Standing in any particular place on the farm, no matter where it is, and catching ones breath while looking around, this farmers is struck first by a sense of amazement at the loveliness of some of our fields, and second with a checklist of all the things, from that specific vantage point, that should have gotten done yesterday: Johnson Grass (a nasty weed) taking over the fields, tomatoes that should have been staked and tied, plants in the hedgerow that have died, flowers that should have been picked to dry for winter projects, and a compost pile that needs to be turned. [Read more...]
Full Belly CSA members who didn’t get a box last week may have missed our newsletter article about the new boxes. It is still available on the Full Belly website (http://fullbellyfarm.com/farm-news/). We ask that you leave these boxes at your pick-up site and do not take them home with you!
This weeks article regarding the new Stop Waste CSA Box is long overdue. Having been a long time CSA person, I (we, my family) learned very early on to bring our own reusable canvas bags. In the beginning, we found we’d forgotten to bring back our wax boxes, and would find ourselves bringing back 2, 3 or 4 at a time, and while they were returned, they often sat out in the rain, and their reuse was diminished. [Read more...]
We hope that you like the new Stop Waste CSA Box that we have put into use this week! The goal of replacing the waxed cardboard boxes that we have been using is to eliminate the waste of sending them to the landfill.
Most produce is shipped from farms in single use containers. The predominant container is a waxed box, the wax being necessary because un-waxed boxes will not hold up stacked on a pallet when they are full of wet and iced produce. Waxed boxes cannot be recycled and are rarely composted. They generally end up in the landfill.
For farmers markets and many restaurants, Full Belly packs our boxes into permanent plastic totes, so why not do that for our CSA members as well? The trick will be that since every Stop Waste CSA Box is worth $12, every CSA member will have to return the box faithfully, but preferably leave it at their pick-up site. [Read more...]