*Click on produce above for more information and Recipes
Here in the Capay Valley we take our traditions quite seriously – with no messing around. February, first coined as Almond Festival month in 1915 is no exception. Starting in the beginning of the month, 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 more modern farming techniques.
The real tradition of the Almond 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 among a group of the valley’s finest high school seniors. These young women are judged on scholastic prowess, community involvement, an interview session and their crowning moment – a speech to the dinner’s attendees. In the speech they answer a series of questions that 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 250 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 woman 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, though it is less about the actual “crown” and more about celebrating each young woman as an individual. The Queens prestigious duty is to reign over the valley’s Almond Festival the next weekend.
Hannah Muller, second generation Full Belly Farmer, was crowned the 2010 Almond Queen.
The actual Almond Festival itself, traditionally held the last Sunday in February, is one of California’s longest running agricultural 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 High School’s Ag Department and local FFA. The park in Esparto is filled with vendors and local non-profits; the local library has its biggest annual event in a used book sale. Going further 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 and hats, Granny Wyatt’s Legendary Almond Roca and a blacksmithing demonstration. There are lots of options for food. The Fire Department serves grilled sausages and oysters in Guinda and there is tri-tip for sale at the Grange.
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 ten years and is a gorgeous spot. Rumsey pulls out all the stops, 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 throughout the day and running a market stall with all 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. Hallie and Hannah (both former queen pageant winners!) now spearhead the Queen pageant planning; Ellis and Jonas will be flipping pancakes in Esparto; and Amon and Rye coordinate the food booths in Rumsey. It is a delight to see them carry on the Almond Festival’s values of life in a rural region, bringing new ideas and energy to a century-old tradition.
Please join us for this the 101st Almond Festival on Sunday, February 28th 2016. There is no admission charge to the 5-town event but be prepared to buy some delicious food, homemade crafts and of course, yummy almonds!
Join us for a delightful dinner at Full Belly Farm! Dinners are now available for reservation – call our office at 530-796-2214 and ask for Ana or Jenna.
Pricing: Dinners are $70 for CSA members or $80 for the general public. Full payments is required to save your spot. Dinners are refundable up to two weeks prior to your dinner date. More information can be found here.
Above photograph by Ashley Bruhn of Hither and Tither.
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.
Almond Butter – $17/ jar – ask about bulk orders
Almonds – Raw $15/ pound -OR- Roasted $8/ half pound -OR- Tamari $8/ half pound
Apricot Jam – $8/ jar -OR- $90/ case (12 jars)
Oranges – $15/ 10 pound bag
Walnuts – $13/ pound
Iraqi Durum Wheat Flour – $3/ 1.5 pounds.
Iraqi Durum Wheat Berries – $3/ 2 pounds.
Pomegranate Juice – $7/ pint -OR- $13/ quart
Cotton Bags (11.5 x 12.5 inches) – $8 for 5 bags (includes sales tax).
Please place your order at least five days prior to your intended delivery date.
Here in the Capay Valley, the days are short and the shadows long. With the cooler weather and long awaited winter rains, the dust has turned to mud and the golden hills have turned a soft green. The coyotes are out roaming the hills, the creek is running swiftly and the bright ornaments of winter decorate the citrus orchards. [Read more…]
We know that CSA members have lots of choices when they decide where to get their fruits and vegetables. Not only are there lots of stores that carry organic produce, but there are lots of CSAs and CSA-type services to choose from: Companies that will do your shopping for you; web sites that offer home delivery of tasty local treats; and produce boxes that can be customized in every which way.
Your Full Belly box is filled with produce that comes from our farm and nowhere else. We used to get winter oranges from a neighbor, but now we have our own orange orchard and for years, we have grown everything that we put in the box. So those of you that get a weekly box for a whole year may really have a special perspective on what it means to “eat local,” you have a sense of how the seasons affect the harvest, and you have a direct, visceral relationship with Full Belly.
Born in the wee hours of January 7, Hazel has us all wrapped around her fingers – she is pure perfection! She joins big brothers Rowan and Arlo and parents Jenna and Amon Muller. She is a third generation member of the Full Belly Farm family!
The gentle rains of the past two weeks soaked deeply and filled the soil of our farm as if it were a 400-acre vessel. The soil itself is probably the most under-appreciated reservoir in the water cycle. We often think of water in terms of ‘blue water’, or stored water – rivers, reservoirs, groundwater or lakes that can be tapped for irrigation and drinking through California’s long dry summers.
The under-appreciated part of the water cycle is sometimes called the ‘green water cycle’ of infiltration, evaporation, transpiration, plant-water efficiency, and the micro cycle of water that is dew or fog capture by growing plants and trees covering the soil surface.
The white trunk of our huge fig tree seems almost luminescent in the early morning fog, with all the leaves dropped and the figs a sweet memory. We harvested a lot of Black Mission Figs and even fig leaves for restaurants from this garden tree. Below near the banks of Cache Creek, a few pigs of various ages are rooting around in the mud while pregnant mom and dad, sleep on straw above.
Three semi-wild cats have adopted us as a source of free food – their three bowls are lined up on the porch. We call them Bobcat, Slant and Princess. I gauge the amount of day and night rain by observing how much of it has accumulated in the cat’s bowls, before I splash it out and give them their kibbles. My neighbors keep track more carefully with rain gauges. The National Weather Service reports that we have had more than 5 inches of rain this season, with more on the way.
We imagine the roots of trees sucking in the moisture as it soaks down lower into the earth. Our crew has less to pick, but it takes them longer — each trip in and out of the field, laden with boxes of produce, involves slogging through slippery mud. Everyone is wearing plastic and rubber from tip to toe. [Read more…]
As we begin another year, we would like to review some simple guidelines for our CSA sites. If you are a long time member, or just starting with your first CSA box, we need your help to stay tidy. Please help keep these volunteer pick-up locations clean by following a few simple guidelines.
1. Please bring your own bag, box, etc to carry your produce home. Leave our green plastic ‘stop waste’ box at the site.
2. 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.
3. Do not leave a mess! Please stack your empty CSA box as show on the bulletin board.
4. Park in designated parking spots. Do not double park and do not block driveways.
5. Direct your questions to Full Belly, not to the host. Please don’t disturb the host.
6. Please notify us five days in advance if you would like to defer your box.
Thank You – We appreciate your help!
New Year Resolutions
Ahh… January. The time to reflect on the past year and think about what we want to do differently or better next year. Here are some resolutions and reflections for 2016 collected from around Full Belly Farm:
“I resolve to do more pruning – making time to cut out more of my deadwood, looking to trim back diseased branches and snip here and there to stimulate growth and renewal. I also resolve to help all at Full Belly practice the words of collaboration; the spirit of cooperation; the language that reduces tension – while listening more carefully to hear and acknowledge what others are saying. Also to exercise more by playing more – doing it early and often …”
— Paul Muller, Owner and Best Grandpa [Read more…]
This may be the last letter to you, dear CSA patron, for 2015. We hope that you have had a positive experience this year as part of our farm. We have tried hard every week to have product in your boxes that we are proud of – reflecting our hard work and commitment to a healthy farm, while delivering freshness and great flavor. We understand perfection can be elusive. If we have missed the mark, we apologize, and we hope to do better next year.
Many of you have been through the cycles of a CSA season for quite a few years. There are many of you who fed your children our food as they were growing and they now make meals for their children with our farm goods. This is quite a rare thing in today’s economy – a multigenerational relationship with the source of ones diet. We have the same experience with many of our long-term farmers market customers. They have shopped from us for over 30 years and have watched our family grow, while each week we witnessed the same with their children. Many of those children have now grown and have children of their own. They come to the market to buy from our market-going kids! [Read more…]
Eagle in November
By Rye Muller
Still, smoky air settles in the valley
The hills appear as paintings in fall’s cold haze
Days of November
Yesterday we sowed our cover crops,
Today, rain falls kindly on that soil
Seeds set free
Fruit trees that speckle our land
Welcome winter winds
Yellow leaves blanket orchard floors [Read more…]
Please Return Our Green ‘Stop Waste’ Boxes
Full Belly used to pack your CSA fruits and veggies into waxed cardboard boxes. Now we use the hard plastic, green ‘Stop Waste’ boxes. We made this change in late 2013 because although we were able to reuse the waxed cardboard boxes a few times, they had to go to the landfill once they started to break down. Because of the wax coating, they were not recyclable and without the wax coating they really didn’t hold up for more than one use. The hard plastic Stop Waste totes that we use now have proven extremely durable — we are not aware of even one box that has broken since they were purchased. That means that these boxes can be used over and over again.
Every week, for 48 weeks of the year, 1,100 families get a Full Belly CSA box. That’s a lot of boxes (52,000 — but who’s counting!) We calculate that more than 6 tons of cardboard waste are avoided every year as a result of replacing the waxed cardboard with the permanent hard plastic boxes. We used an Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Emissions calculator and estimate that switching from waxed cardboard boxes to reusable plastic totes has resulted in an annual rate of greenhouse gas emission reductions of 34.1 tons. So the program is a success in many respects. [Read more…]
There are many threads of experience over the last few weeks that might be woven into a Beet article this morning. Last night, the board of the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance came to the farm for a tour and dinner. Fifty folks, mostly from the midwest, were here as part of their annual board meeting in Sacramento. We had an afternoon walk down the county road that divides the farm and talked about our approach to farming and the reasons that our farm is designed as it is. Most of the farmers were corn and soybean growers and all were tied deeply to these two crops that dominate the midwestern landscape.
A walk is the best way to talk about the farm and about our approach to soil health, insect ecology, integrating livestock, cropping patterns, diversity, economic viability and creativity. Our evolving farm design came from the fertile minds of four partners, great employees, and increasingly now, from the contributions of our children. [Read more…]
Full Belly has opened a new CSA pick up site in the “Inner Sunset” neighborhood on Lawton Ave in San Francisco. The new site is listed on our web page. If you are interested in joining, please fill out the on-line application form. Please spread the word and tell your family, friends and co-workers about the new CSA site. Thanks!
What is happening at this time of year in Full Belly Farm’s fields? Our CSA boxes give a hint of changes, containing cool weather greens alongside the last of summer’s harvest. Does the change in season bring a change in rhythm to the farm? We still have a big crew working every day, and one person who can answer these questions and who is very important in organizing the day’s work, is Juan Jacobo Berrelleza, known to us all as Pancho.
Pancho lives a few miles up the road from the farm with his wife Nina, and two kids Joel (16) and Julia (12). He has worked at Full Belly since 1992 when he was 18, with only a short break for several years when he farmed with relatives.
I asked Pancho to talk with me about his work so that I could share some of his story with our CSA members. He was a bit reluctant to take time away from a long list of things that he was hoping to get done. This interview wasn’t on the morning’s list. After talking with him, I understood that he carries in his head, knowledge of all of Full Belly’s equipment, the crews, the fields and their condition, and a timeline of what needs to be finished in the window allowed by our climate and cropping plans. [Read more…]
Many of our crew members celebrate Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). It is a Mexican holiday when family and friends gather to remember those who have died. Traditional decorations include marigold flowers, and those in this beautiful room are from Full Belly Farm. (Photo courtesy D. Runsten.)
Since 1992, Full Belly members and Clinic volunteers have supported delivery of 5 CSA boxes per week to clients of the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic in Oakland. You can be a part of this program by letting us know that you want to donate one or more of your CSA boxes (for example when you are going out of town) or by making a direct contribution. We currently have boxes scheduled through the end of 2015, but there are not sufficient funds to continue beyond that point. A letter from one of the Charlotte Maxwell volunteers follows.
We want to express heartfelt gratitude from the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic to Full Belly CSA members.
The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic (CMC) provides free integrative care to low-income women with cancer. As a CMC volunteer and long-time Full Belly Farm CSA member, I am delighted to know that the women who come to CMC in Oakland can get the same life-sustaining produce that I am fortunate enough to receive every week in my own box from FBF. [Read more…]
We are eeking our way into fall this week. Temperatures have been quite warm and the relief of chilly nights and cool days hasn’t yet come to us. The year has been noticeably warmer in both the exceptionally warm and dry January and February, and a noticeable multi-year pattern of warm and dry fall weather.
There have been some interesting repercussions of these patterns. Instead of the year being a gentle push between winter storms, we started the year with a sprint. Dry weather means that the soil is dry enough to plant, cultivate and harvest – and irrigate. When there is little rainfall, we have made the deficit up with irrigation from the wells on the farm and from Cache Creek flowing on the east side of our farm. The pace didn’t slow down this year. As a farmer, one doesn’t know if the window in a dry February will be closed by a cold wet March, or a prolonged wet spring that doesn’t allow one to get into the fields to plant seed and grow spring and summer crops, so one plants when the soil is ready. A dry spring means that the work doesn’t slow down – generally until late fall. [Read more…]
One of the highlights of our spring this year were the beautiful flower fields and the wonderful flower bouquets that we made in record numbers. From Agrostemma to Zinnia, this was a record year for flowers. As one of the people who often helps to organize the store orders that come in every day I have been struck by the fact that our flower buyers had their orders in often and early, while in contrast it was sometimes quite an effort to track down the produce buyers. Our friends in the stores don’t want to miss out on the flowers!
Some of you may have seen our “wreath room” — a small barn at the farm where we hang fresh flowers from the ceiling to dry. This barn has seen many people coming and going over the years, and it had a very close call in the early morning last Sunday, when the strong Hoes Down wind blew a spark from a grill towards some bins next to the barn, which smoldered for a while and then almost burnt the whole barn down. A camper alerted the Rivers-Muller household and quick work soon put the fire out, but not before some damage had been done to the north wall. What a close call! [Read more…]
Hoes Down Festival Fun!
Our Hoes Down has come and gone — but it left some magical memories. Adventures and fun filled the day. One of the most memorable moments will go down in the history books. It occurred when the heavens opened up with a downpour that sent a few folks running for cover while the farmers jumped for joy. Our sound man ripped out the electrical connections and moved his crew on-stage to clear off his equipment and get it out of the rain. The band on stage was The Dixie Giants. When they lost their sound system, they gazed at the heavens and took a deep breath. Stepping off the stage, they were engulfed by the crowd where they continued their Dixie magic, leading the crowd on a short meander. Finding a tent that they could fit under, they continued to play their amazing music to a crowd of ecstatic, hollering fans. Within 5 minutes, the rain had stopped and with a diminished sound system the next band was soon able to play, but not before the Dixie Giants finished their set with inspiring acoustic music that set the crowd afire. Lightning had been lighting up the sky for some time, and it continued for hours. In the campsite no one took their eyes off it and everyone lined up in their lawn chairs to enjoy the beautiful light show, something that few native Californians have ever seen before in their home state. [Read more…]
On Sunday night we all went down to the creek to watch the lunar eclipse. It was the perfect end to all of the farm cleaning that was done that day to prepare for the Hoes Down Harvest Festival this coming Saturday.
I have two weeks left in my internship. I arrived on the farm a year ago Sunday, and was initiated into the Full Belly life through the craziness that is the week before Hoes Down. When I look back on my time here, I am amazed to see what I have learned and accomplished.
I learned how to work in a greenhouse and plant the seeds that became the transplants which grew into all of this summer’s melons and tomatoes. I sat on the sled on the back of a tractor and transplanted acres of asparagus and winter greens. I learned how to harvest and pack watermelon daikon and sun gold cherry tomatoes, among other varieties of produce, for restaurant orders and CSA boxes. I was taught how to pack those orders onto pallets and load them onto delivery trucks, and then I got up at 3:00 AM the next morning to sell those vegetables at the Farmers Market. [Read more…]
Another summer has come and gone at Full Belly Farm. Baby goats were born, tomatoes were packed, and our bellies were filled with delicious summer bounty. The farmers from Full Belly generally do not count time in ‘day-to-day’ – instead, we observe the changing seasons by the way the mornings feel (the cooler the better!), the flavors of the fruit, and the events that take place in our valley. The fall is a time when the Full Belly farmers celebrate the whirlwind that is our summertime. It is a precious time, full of total exhaustion and excitement, as we mark our calendars and create no fewer than fifty “to-do” lists to prepare for the wonderful festival that reminds us all to share the beauty of farm life. This year marks the 28th annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival. We hope you will join us. In case you need extra convincing, we have created a list of the Top Ten Reasons to come to the Hoes Down Harvest Festival at Full Belly Farm:
#10 – The Location – If you and your family have yet to visit Full Belly Farm, this is a perfect time to do so! Not only are there walking tours (three of them!) of the entire farm throughout the day, but you will also get to see the animals and crops that we watch over each year. Come see a working farm get transformed into a full-on Festival! [Read more…]
I began working at Full Belly Farm as an education coordinator. The other Beet articles that I have written have all been based around that. I love being part of the education program that the farm has, but those responsibilities do not always fill up my time. There are other projects I find myself working on during the year. These include the Hoes Down Harvest Festival, which is right around the corner. I don’t have to tell you that, as I am sure you have already purchased your tickets. Farming projects such as planting, packing, harvesting, and weeding also fill my time. However, the projects I love the most are connected with cooking at Full Belly Kitchen (http://fullbellyfarm.com/events/full-belly-kitchen/).
In May we completed our certified kitchen and it is beautiful. The inside is crafted using exposed wood, lovely butcher-block counter tops and large hill-covered storage rooms. The outside is covered in reclaimed redwood panels from barns around Yolo County. Other parts of the building have sand and clay from the creek bed to give it a natural adobe look. On top of all, that the grounds are excellently landscaped with native plants growing all around. My favorite part of the whole building though, is the fun and imaginative creations happening inside. [Read more…]
Richard Rominger (behind) listening to Jerry Brown (center) at the Day in the Country fundraiser (9/13) for the Yolo Land Trust. Dozens of chefs from all over the Bay Area and Sacramento regions used locally grown products to wow hundreds of guests. The display (left) features donated late summer tomatoes, quince, apples, winter squash, cucumbers and peppers.
Our crew started this morning, Labor Day, at 7:00am. We had been starting at 6:00 and then 6:30, but as days shorten, the workday changes with the morning light. Like so many mornings over this long summer, our crew of 85 men and women came to work to pick, plant, clean fields, change pipes and pack our harvest for distribution to the many purchasers of our produce. For the more than 30 years of this farm, we have all worked on labor day—perhaps missing the central point of the day, to honor and acknowledge the contribution of those who keep our world moving.
Most California farms probably were at work today—I know of few who can stop to relax. There is harvest for example—that window when the crop is ready and the market has a place for what you have tended and raised. To miss or slow for even a day changes the ability to be at the market tomorrow, for example Tuesday’s farmers market would be a bit emptier. Wholesalers, restaurants and stores expect crops to appear and abundant displays to be refilled. [Read more…]
My sister recently asked me to participate in a project to get writers, scientists and artists to write letters to their children’s children, telling future members of their own family living at the turn of the century, what it was like to be alive during and after the historically crucial events of the U.N. climate talks in Paris at the end of 2015. The project is a national effort of alternative weekly newspapers that will connect with millions of readers.
To Future Farmers,
I can’t imagine what it will be like for you, so many years in the future, but I hope that some elements of the California landscape are still there for you. I hope that the terrifically productive, deep soils that grow so much sweet and sustaining food will endure. I hope that the beautiful full moon will still be floating across the night sky encouraging seeds to sprout and grow.
When the oak trees that I planted here at Full Belly Farm are 100 years old they will still be youngsters. As teenage oak trees, they will tower over the comings and goings – native Californians watching the changes coming over the landscape. Sometimes I try to imagine the lifespan of the oak trees on our farm. Some of them were here when the Indians roamed. All of them have their roots deep in the California soil. I hope that some of the oak trees that I planted will still be here for you, the future farmers, overseeing your planting, weeding and harvesting. I hope that they will still be healthy in your time. But if the climate has changed drastically, what will happen? [Read more…]
Amon and Rye Muller digging post holes for the new Full Belly Farm sign that has gone up at the top of our road. Next time you visit the farm, you will get to see it!