News From the Farm

More like Winter

It’s wet.  In the last week, we have seen nearly five inches of rainfall here in the Capay Valley.  That is almost one quarter of our annual recorded rain! On Thursday morning, Cache Creek crested at 11,000 cubic feet per second ripping through the floodplain.  I watched full-sized trees carried effortlessly down the river. Then, less than five hours later, the river retreated to 3,000 cf/s in an amazing display of our watershed in action. Friday left us snow-capped peaks to dazzle over. As the weather played cat and mouse, I watched in awe. Rainbows, warm sunny moments and cold torrential rain were blended seamlessly throughout the day.  As the sun returns this week, I watch the water slowly recede into the ground and I cannot help but sigh with relief. I know that on cold wet days like these, trees tap their roots down a little further. Buds on the trees take one more day to swell before they flower and fruit. Birds wait and rest one more day before spring brings the nest. The carrots shiver and sugar their flesh as they await the farmer’s hands.  And the farmer waits blissfully as the storm passes, eager to sow the new season’s crops.

We are nearing the end of lambing here at the farm. Seventy of our eighty ewes have carried and birthed one, two, or three baby lambs.  We get to watch as each ewe methodically and instinctually completes the giving of life. We observe the process, intervening only when there are signs of distress. It begins with the ewe isolating herself from the herd. Usually near a tree or shrub, protecting herself from the eyes of a potential predator, I suppose. The birth is rarely witnessed; naturally they wait until we leave the scene! Like a wave crashing on the beach, the lamb swooshes out of its mother. The ewe then frantically licks the face of her new lamb, making sure the airways are clean.  Nudging at her new lamb with her nose, the ewe softly mumbles a reassurance of its presence. Minutes later, that lamb finds its footing and within the hour, it is nursing vigorously.  Every year during lambing, I am reminded again of the millions of years of evolution that have perfected this process.


Elsewhere on the farm, my wife and I have been busy raising our newest addition to the herd. Oakley Orion Muller joined us on October 16 of last year. He was born at our home on the farm. We are very thankful to be so blessed with such a handsome, healthy baby. His gentle smile and peaceful presence have warmed our hearts this winter. His brother, Waylon, is waiting somewhat patiently, wanting him to grow up quickly so he has a partner to play and explore with. Waylon is also a great helper around the farm. He loves talking with our farm crew, telling grand stories, negotiating snack deals, fixing things in the office, and running away from me when I say it’s time to go. I know my two boys will share some sweet memories of growing up on the farm together, as I did (and still do!) with my siblings. Winter always lends us those extra hours in the day for time to spend with family, for which I am very grateful.

Everything shines emerald this time of the year. Life seems to be returning where wildfire charred the hills last summer. On the valley floor, our fields of cover crops have started to really take root. Muddy slippers cake our boots. Babies are bundled up tight. The early almond displays its blossom and bloom; such perfume wakes our noses. Spring is knocking on winter’s door, beckoning bees.  Gray blankets hide the sun for now and remind us of all the gains life makes in winter’s cold embrace.  

–Rye Muller

News From the Farm

Stop Plastic Bags!

One advantage of being a CSA member that you may not have thought about is the very significant amount of waste that is removed from the landfill by a CSA program compared to the grocery store alternative.  We have done a little bit of analysis, comparing the packaging for the first 4 CSA boxes of the year to the packaging that we would have used if we had sold the same produce to stores, restaurants and wholesalers instead. If we had sold to stores, we would have packed the produce into 1,095 waxed cardboard boxes, 319 non-waxed cardboard boxes and 61 plastic 25-lb bags! The plastic bags and waxed cardboard boxes generally end up in the landfill so the CSA results in a pretty significant reduction in the waste stream.   [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Three  beds of tulips have all started to bloom at once, the first flowers available for 2019. They will be available at our farmers markets: Berkeley on Tuesday afternoon; San Rafael on Thursday morning and Palo Alto on Saturday morning. 

What You Ate Last Year  – On our Full Belly web site in our description of our Community Supported Agriculture program, we promise that if you join, you will “eat the freshest, most nutritious fruits and vegetables available.”  There are lots of ways to parse that promise, but this week we’re going to take a look at our program using a pretty straightforward metric:  What did we deliver to you in your boxes last year? [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Soaking potatoes before washing them  ––  

I had the opportunity last week to join some interesting conversations about nutrition and health — and their intersection with organic agriculture.  We reported in this newsletter previously that researchers are increasingly finding that people eating more organic food have a reduced risk of cancer.  Of course, other healthy behaviors, in addition to eating organic food, are obviously also very important to staying healthy — things like getting exercise and not smoking tobacco.  But it turns out that healthy behavior (over which individuals have some control) may only be a factor of about 30% in terms of influencing your health outcomes.   [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Saturday Walk Around – 

We have had a week of heavy rainfall, so our fields are very wet.  None of the farm work can be done by tractor when the fields are so wet and a lot of mud gets tracked into trucks, our office, and the packing shed. The crews tread heavily in boots that pick up the sticky mud in the fields.  Their rain gear is coated with mud and everything is a little bit slower, adding to the costliness of keeping the doors open and the crew working during rainy weather.  The crew only came in for 4-hours on most days last week since we were mostly only picking for farmers markets and CSA boxes.  And besides, it was cold and messy work, not a nice walk in the rain to jump in the puddles!  Full Belly has a commitment to providing year-round work for our crew, as well as a commitment to showing up at markets and CSA pick-up sites year-round without fail.  But when the weather is cold and wet, it can take a toll. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 14, 2019

60,000 lettuce and cabbage getting started for the first New Year planting.

There are several opportunities in 2019 for you to visit us at Full Belly Farm.  Here are some of them.

Open Farm Day will be on April 6th.

Come and meet your farmers and visit the farm! Our lambs will be 1-1/2 to 2 months old and you will get the opportunity to meet them as well.  We will give a farm tour and you are welcome to stay for a picnic.  We will set up a farm stand, and will be selling our homemade brick oven-baked pizzas.  There is no charge for Open Farm Day tours. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 7, 2019

This photo from the 2009 archives is captioned, “First CSA Box”! Yes, we used to print a paper copy of the newsletter and put it into every box. This was before we had the Stop Waste Green Box, and were using waxed cardboard boxes that couldn’t be recycled.

This week we will be harvesting and packing fruits and vegetables for the first CSA boxes of 2019. If all goes well, there will be 47 additional CSA-box-weeks in 2019 and we are ever-hopeful that each week will deliver a surprise, a well-loved favorite and the inspiration for nourishing meals. At least, that’s our aspiration! We are also likely to send you stories from the fields that touch on the weather, the soils and the people that are growing your fruits and vegetables — the stories behind the fruits and vegetables in your box. The meals we all create and consume are strongly linked to our health and well being, as are the connections back and forth between farmer and CSA member. [Read more…]

Full Belly Floral

Full Belly Floral hopes that local and seasonal flowers could help brighten the days of those individuals who are celebrating a special occasion. If you are interested in learning more about the flowers grown on Full Belly Farm, contact Hannah Muller, or call 530-769-2214 to schedule a free consultation.

News From the Farm | December 3, 2018

This is your last box of 2018!

Full Belly’s CSA project was started in 1992 and since then has been one of the mechanisms for connecting us with a community beyond the farm.  The fruits, flowers and vegetables in the CSA boxes deliver healthy and fresh nutrition to families within a hundred mile radius.  But sometimes I think of the boxes as something much more than that  — a subtle kind of inoculation perhaps…  At first, a member may think that it is just some healthy organic food that they signed up for.  Before long, if they stick with the relationship, they may find that there is a whole lot more to unpack from the green plastic boxes. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 26, 2018

Fall is in full swing here at the farm. The first rain came last week and washed away months of dust and smoke that had settled on the plants. The leaves on the walnut trees seemed to change from bright green to a dark yellow overnight and the farmers began to walk a little slower and breathe a little deeper. It happens every year- and yet it feels just as refreshing this year as the last. The fresh flowers are frosted and the petals now have a beautiful browned edge that seems to signal the end of the season.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 19, 2018

I am a volunteer at the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic. We provide free holistic health services and produce donated by Full Belly Farm to low-income women living with a diagnosis of cancer. Over the past years, I have written several columns from my perspective as a volunteer and long-time Full Belly Farm member, thanking the Full Belly Farm community and encouraging members to contribute to the Good Food Community Fund that supports the donations. 

This year I asked CMC clients, staff, and volunteers for their comments about the program. Here’s some of what they had to say:  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 12, 2018

The monumental tragedy of the Paradise fire is hard to comprehend.  A community swept away with a wall of flames driven by powerful winds offered little time to escape. The reality of fire consuming an entire town in a morning and the personal terror and loss is a sobering reminder of our interdependence and proximity to profound potential for change driven by a flame, or a gust, or a chance mistake. A brief spark can alter the trajectory of lives or extinguish the same in an unimaginable fury.  We turn our hearts to those who are suffering loss. [Read more…]

Open Letter to our Community Regarding Full Belly’s Position on Sexual Harassment of Women in the Food Service Industry

This letter attempts to summarize conversations taking place at Full Belly Farm regarding sexual harassment in the workplace and in the food service industry as a whole.  We are reflecting on these themes because we know that women are still not treated equally in our industry and sometimes face oppression and lack of equal opportunity. We are publishing this letter because it has come to our attention that some individuals are questioning the position of Full Belly Farm on this issue.  If anyone is uncertain, we are taking this opportunity to set the record straight regarding the equality of women in the food service industry.

We are aware that the food service industry as a whole has a serious problem treating female staff with respect.  We have personal friendships with many female chefs and restaurant employees, and we have many colleagues who work in restaurants.  During the last year, we watched the reports from all over the country of female food workers who described their experiences at the hands of chefs and restaurant owners, and we were deeply moved that the stories came out and are being aired in the light of day.  We believe these victims. We support them in telling their stories and in demanding that the men who wronged them step down from positions of power. 

This discussion is important. Sexual oppression and harassment take place in agriculture as a whole as well as in the restaurant industry. This discussion is not just about the consequences that any one sexual predator or guilty individual should suffer. The industry as a whole has to change and it is our impression that this discussion is an important step in that direction. Sexual harassment and oppression are not acceptable anywhere.

Our management team is talking about the ways that we might be able to support all the women chefs, food service workers, farmers and others that we love, who have always had a harder time in the food and farming industry than is their due. We are very happy that a number of women leaders have won seats in the recent elections and we will support political change for women in any way that we can.  

Full Belly Farm is a 50% woman-owned business.  We have worked very hard for 30 years to create safe spaces and year-round employment for the women working at our farm.  Through our efforts to produce healthy organic food, we hope to create community and impact people’s health and safety in positive ways.  Our internship program has trained at least 100 women over the last 30 years, sending them on into their careers with strong role models and training them in practical skills that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

We welcome this conversation, although we prefer not to engage in further discussion on social media. Please visit the farm for a face-to-face discussion or respond to us through the contact information that is available on our web site.

Sincerely,

Full Belly Farm

News From the Farm | November 5, 2018

Valley Oak acorns and galls ––– Every Fall, the abundance of native black walnuts and acorns falling from the trees on our property draw my mind to thoughts of the first Californians who harvested acorns and walnuts for food, each tribe employing specialized technologies for gathering, storing, hulling, drying, leaching, pounding and cooking this important staple of their diet.  Bear, deer and many other mammals and birds like feral pigs, pigeons, gray squirrels and woodpeckers rely on the acorn crop because it is exceedingly nutritious — much more so than modern varieties of corn and wheat. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 29, 2018

The big fall harvests are moving along — Almonds, Walnuts, Winter Squash, Sesame and Olives.  The walnuts are being cracked out of their shells at a neighbor’s who has the machinery.  This involves several members of our crew sitting at the machine every day, and a lot of ferrying nuts back and forth.  We have scheduled our olive harvest for Wednesday October 31st. This will require a large crew to be very focussed the entire day. The olives that we harvest on Wednesday will go straight to the mill down the road— the oil is best when it is pressed right away.  Our sesame isn’t quite ready to harvest, but since we ran out of last year’s crop, we are shaking the plants and cleaning them by hand a bucket at a time, just to keep the tahini and sesame seeds available for sales…  We also have a crew that we are trying to free up to make beautiful dried flower wreaths, but they keep getting called off to other projects! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 22, 2018

Greens on the Menu –

Things are changing fast around here.  From sunrise to sunset, the days are at least 3-hours shorter than they were a few months ago.  By midday, the temperature can reach the high 80’s, but there isn’t really enough time for it to feel really hot since the temperatures are in the mid-50’s at night. The sun is lower in the sky and in the morning when it shines through trees that are loosing their leaves, there are dramatic shadows on the ground and a lovely gentle quality in the light and air that even the most harried farmers can’t help but enjoy. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 15, 2018

This week was anything but uneventful here at Full Belly Farm with celebrations of birth and love and markings of age. Here is a general recap of the eventful things that happened, though this does NOT include all the picking and packing for markets and CSA boxes and harvesting of 12 acres of walnuts. That all seems to happen so seamlessly! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 8, 2018

Getting your produce directly from a local farmer is a radically different way to shop than going to a grocery store.  You are trusting the farmer to choose your produce for you, you are investing in the farm in advance (thus venturing into a long-term relationship… gulp), you are cooking much more fresh and unprocessed food, and you are eating seasonally.  That seasonal element may mean that even though in the course of a year you will taste a very high diversity of fruits and vegetables, the experience from week-to-week can bring some repetition.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 1, 2018

Full Belly Farm has a lot of balls in the air — we grow fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers, plus we have several groups of egg-laying chickens and a herd of sheep circulating around the farm.  The veggies run from whimsical and exciting experiments growing sesame and garbanzo beans, to the top flight crops like tomatoes (encompassing at least 15 different varieties), melons and watermelons (ditto – lots of varieties), flowers (even MORE varieties) and potatoes…  Sometimes the production crew sits down and tries to agree on a few crops that we don’t need to include any more, but everything is someone’s favorite, and who knows, an experiment this year could be next year’s blockbuster! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 24, 2018

Excerpts from graduation address to the 7th California Farm Academy class on the steps of the state Capitol, Autumn Equinox 2018.

I want to talk a little bit about why I feel blessed to be a farmer. I have always loved and still love being outside, nurturing things as they grow.  Taking care of crops is a form of connection with things that are real and honest — the challenge of pests, the effort of weeds, the anticipation of seeds. It is a true blessing to have work that includes a connection to Nature.

Another way that I love farming and can recommend it, is that I enjoy the Full Belly Farm community.  Both the interns and the year-round crew have taught me a lot over the years, including a lot of the Spanish that I know. Speaking Spanish made my visits to Mexico more meaningful, not to mention the fact that Spanish is pretty useful for living in California, not just for visiting Mexico!  Being a farmer in California is a bicultural experience, with many farms employing a majority of Spanish-speakers and operating in Spanish much of the time.  [Read more…]