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The Third Graders Are Coming!
Spring has always been my favorite time here on the farm. Most people enjoy the beautiful flowers popping up, the green rolling hills, and the birth of the myriad baby animals. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the aforementioned changes that happen during this time of year, but it’s the arrival of the third graders here at our farm that brings me the most joy. Springtime for me means school group season, and it is my job to teach groups of rambunctious Waldorf third graders about farming.
I began working at Full Belly eight summers ago, when I was asked to be a camp counselor for the farm’s summer camp program. During the first summer I was simply a camp counselor. I loved being a camp counselor so much that the next summer I found myself back at the farm. Over the years I began to pick up more leadership roles during summer camp. I began teaching lessons, which meant others depended on my knowledge of the farm. Eventually, I could not be torn away from the farm. I would arrive weeks before camp started and would remain weeks after camp had ended working in the fields or the shop, helping with anything that needed doing. Half way through college, I decided that I wanted to return to Full Belly Farm after graduation.
I graduated from the University of Wyoming in the spring of 2012, and shortly thereafter I moved to the farm to become a full time employee. For the first six months I spent much of my time doing everything and anything that needed to get done. Spring of 2013 was when the real fun began. This is when I started working closely with Hallie for school group season. We worked hard together, teaching children and providing an excellent on the farm experience. This year, now that Hallie is spending more time in the office, I am in charge of leading all of the school groups and I couldn’t be happier about this new role.
I get immense joy from working with the third graders that arrive almost every weekday from the beginning of April to the end of May. I have found that third graders are at a very special age. They are eager to learn, not afraid of a little hard work, and are still filled with the innocent curiosity of a younger child. During their stay, they do everything from milking the cow to harvesting hundreds of vegetables to packing the CSA boxes that are sent to your very own home. They sleep in the walnut orchard under a beautiful canopy of green spring leaves and brightly shining stars. They play in the refreshing cool water of the creek when the weather heats up and they enjoy fresh produce picked with their own two hands.
The education program at Full Belly Farm is almost older than I am and already have we seen people return to the farm. Last summer we had two different women get married on the farm both of whom had visited the farm as third graders. It’s our hope that we can continue to have people come back to the farm, whether its to get married, be an intern, or become a dedicated CSA member. Over the years we’ve established roots in other communities to foster the growth of agricultural knowledge around us.
Agriculture illiteracy is a huge problem here in the United States and it’s important that farms play their role in being a part of the solution. Our answer, or at least one of them, is teaching children about farming when they are young. Having them experience the joys and trials of farming brings them closer to the land now and hopefully forever. It’s our hope that the third graders return home after spending a night or two here on the farm and take with them the many lessons they have learned. In doing so, they themselves become teachers of these lessons to those in their community, encouraging others to forge a connection with land, farming and real food.
This spring, take time to enjoy the blooming flowers, the babies being born, and the knowledge that kids are getting their hands dirty in our rich soil.
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.
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 May 2nd for delivery in the week of May 5th. Sorry, NO home delivery.
Apple Juice – $7/half-gallon or $4/quart. Order by May 2nd for delivery in the week of May 5th. 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.
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.
To all of you who have chosen to be Full Belly Farm CSA members, I imagine that at least part of that decision resulted from you thinking that our farm is somehow more just or fair than most other farms. However, if I asked you “What is justice?” I imagine very few people would be able to readily answer that question. And how can we say that Full Belly is more just, if we don’t even know what we are talking about?
I don’t have the answers to any of life’s biggest questions for you (at least not this week), but the farm has provided an excellent space for thinking about these questions in brand new contexts for me. One of my projects in particular, bottle-feeding our bummer lambs, has brought up a multitude of moral questions for me. For those of you who don’t know, bummer lambs are what we call the lambs that the mother ewes reject. I have bottle fed our 9 bummer lambs, 3 times a day for several weeks, which has given me a lot of time to think about the project. Here are some of the questions I have been wrestling with: [Read more...]
A Farm Wedding!
Last Saturday was an exciting and happy day at Full Belly Farm as farm ‘kid’ Hallie was married to her sweetheart Diego in the peach orchard. Everyone on the farm was involved – Andrew officiated the ceremony, Judith toasted the happy couple, Dru and Paul transformed the farm into a wedding wonderland, Jenna made a delicious carrot cake, Rye and Amon spit-roasted a whole Full Belly hog, guests enjoyed all the fresh farm food for dinner, and farm flowers decorated each table. It was a magical celebration of love and family. Below are a few photos from the day!
All of us at Full Belly Farm give thanks every day to our CSA members because we believe that our CSA program is not only a way for you to get great fruits and vegetables every week, but also a way for you to be more connected with us, your family farm. This week, if any of you want to deepen that connection beyond Full Belly and into the world of organizations working for change in food and agriculture across the state, we want to say just a few words about one of our favorite organizations, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF).
CAFF works directly with members, particularly family farmers, to increase the use and consumption of fresh, healthy, local food, and to help farms prosper. CAFF builds relationships between sellers and buyers, and also provides technical support to farmers, like production planning, connections with local markets, product line development, and food safety plans. It really seems to us that family farms are a cornerstone of healthy communities in many of the regions where CAFF works. [Read more...]
The miraculous thing about nature is that no matter how thrown off us human beings may feel, she always comforts us with a remarkably accurate consistency.
This winter, despite century record- breaking low rainfall, unheard of freezing temperatures in December, howling winds and record breaking high temperatures in January, our tulips and ranunculus bulbs are blooming right on schedule! How can they know when to emerge and send up their bold leaves when most of the “normal” signals and cues that we think of are off kilter? The magnificent purple lilac blooms with their breath taking perfumes are once again here right on time to herald in a gorgeous spring. One can only be humbled and awed by the force and power of the pulls on this cranking planet we call earth. [Read more...]
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.
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...]
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...]