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California State Fair
A few days ago I went to the California State Fair with my niece Emi. Walking in at the main entrance, we were greeted by promotional displays of cars and hot tubs, but we soon found ourselves in the big barn, talking to farmers about their sheep and watching them groom their llamas and alpacas. Several farmers, working on a large handsome sheep standing still for them as they clipped away, called it “sculpting,” not grooming. Two teenage girls, there with their family and their sheep, were making yarn bracelets, and gave Emi and I one each, as they told us about their ranch in Oroville. Everyone was preparing for the show when their prized animals would be judged.
The livestock shows require a significant commitment from the animal’s owners who often spend almost a week at the fair. The animals get weighed and checked by a vet. There is a week-and-a-half dedicated to 4-H and FFA animals and their keepers, but then the fair opens up to all animal producers and some of the most beautiful livestock animals in the state arrive, products of farms where families have been breeding and keeping animals for generations.
State and county fairs have been organized in the U.S. since 1841, and take place all over the country. They were started for the purpose of promoting agriculture, but have evolved and expanded to include all kinds of other amusements and diversions (some for better, maybe some for worse!). The fair will have ended by the time you read this, but with its focus on agriculture and culture, it struck me this year, as a really great way to get people together.
There are competitions and contests of all kinds, for example crafts, fine art, performance, beer brewing and wine making. When our home-county of Yolo offers its fair every year (one of the last fairs in the state with free entrance), our crew members dress in some of their best clothes and make a Sunday family trip of it. My niece Emi, who grew up and lives in Japan, had never before been to anything like it.
Full Belly farmer, Hallie Muller, is a member of the Board of Directors of the California Exposition and State Fair. I asked her why she felt so committed to the Fair and she said that she appreciates the culture of learning. “Fairs began so that knowledge could be shared – everyone would bring their best tomatoes, or their best jam, and they would share seeds and growing techniques.”
One of Hallie’s favorite parts of the fair is the farm that is on-site, that took up water conservation education as its focus this year. The farm donates all of the food that it grows to organizations that serve people in need – almost 4000 pounds during the fair alone! With attendance up at least 10% this year, Hallie feels like the State Fair is staying relevant – and that people are interested more than ever in food and farming.
On the last day of the fair there will be an Iron Chef-like cooking competition between the three top chefs that have been competing throughout the fair. They will have to cook using surprise ingredients. Here at Full Belly, we knew in advance what the surprise ingredients were going to be: A Full Belly Farm CSA box!
– Judith Redmond
Emi and a beautiful alpaca at the California State Fair. They had a staring contest – the alpaca easily won.
We are so tickled to be part of the Sacramento Food Co-op’s “The Farmer and the Chef” dinner series. On August 14, Full Belly chefs Amon and Jenna Muller will be serving up a Full Belly grown menu – including roasted figs, fresh summer pasta, fruit crisp, and more! If you missed out on one of our on-farm dinners, this is a great chance to have your tastebuds dazzled by Amon and Jenna’s impressive skills! You can pre-register online at sacfoodcoop.com or by calling 916-732-3151.
The hot weather has us swimming in tomatoes! Now is the time for all of our CSA members to make some tomato sauce for the winter. Send us an email (email@example.com) to place your order for these delicious boxes of tomatoes. We will deliver them to you regular pick-up site. Sorry no deliveries to the Virginia St, Berkeley site.
Romas or Red Ripe tomatoes: $30 for 20 pounds. Also, Mixed Heirloom tomatoes: $25 for 10 pounds. These will be canning-grade tomatoes, may not be cosmetically perfect. We guarantee great flavor!
You are all invited to the Hoes Down Harvest Festival on October 4th and 5th, here at Full Belly Farm. To some of you, that may seem too far in the future to plan for, but here at the farm, we are already thinking about it. One part of the Festival that needs a lot of pre-planning, is the organization of our volunteers. The Festival pretty-much runs on the good will and enthusiasm of 300 volunteers, and we always give our CSA members first-dibs on volunteer jobs. Go to our web site for more information (www.hoesdown.org). There’s a volunteer page there and a way to send in your request. We will get back to you with details.
The Hoes Down is a celebration of the end of the harvest season. After the long summer, farmers and their friends all over northern California need to kick off their boots, kick up their heels, dance, and have a grand time with their family. The Hoes Down is a fundraiser for over 30 local and regional community organizations- not one penny stays on Full Belly Farm.
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. Sorry – Sold Out!
Apple Juice – $7/half-gallon or $4/quart. Order by Aug. 1st for delivery in the week of Aug. 4th. 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. (Sorry, temporarily sold out. Please contact us if you want to be put on the waiting list.)
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.
July Photo Round Up!
We woke up this morning to cloudy skies, cool weather, and a few drops of precious rain. It wasn’t enough to do any damage to our summer crops, but enough to remind us of what it smells like after a rain and keep the dust down for a few hours. These tomatoes are just flowering. Can you even believe how many there are?! [Read more...]
Meet Hideo “Tommy” Tomitaka!
We are so lucky to have amazing groups of youthful interns come to our farm each year. They spend their time learning about all aspects of the farm, from animal care and rotational grazing techniques, to planting, to harvesting, and even a little bit of marketing. We have been participating in a program called the Japanese Agricultural Training Program for several years now. Our interns from Japan stay with us for just over a year, and we miss them so much when they leave! This week we will say goodbye to Hideo “Tommy” Tomitaka, who has been an excellent part of the team for the past year. The following is a short interview with him about his experience:
Jenna: What were your expectations about Full Belly Farm before you arrived?
Tomi: I didn’t have very much information about Full Belly before I arrived, but I did know that it has been doing a great job in organic farming and its CSA program for many years. I expected to learn lots about how to successfully farm organically and how to manage a farm. [Read more...]
We were so grateful to be recognized by the Reusable Packaging Association with an Excellence in Reusable Packaging award for our awesome CSA boxes! These boxes have helped us avoid 6.54 tons of cardboard waste per year, which results in an annual reduction of 34.1 tons of greenhouse gas emissions! Hooray! To make sure that we can continue to be as environmentally responsible as possible, please return your box to your CSA site!
We Love Our Customers!
Summer has officially started at Full Belly Farm – as evidence by the truck loads of melons, tomatoes, beans, eggplant, and dark circles under the eyes of every farmer. Exhaustion is a common side effect of the summer months, which can, on occasion, lead to a grumpy farmer or two. Luckily, glee outweighed grumpiness last weekend as we had a surprise calf born on the farm. A handsome and dark red fellow, he was born late into the night on Independence Day, perhaps forced into the world a day early by the sound of firecrackers or a Piccolo Pete.
Receiving feedback from our customers has never been easier than now, with the invention of social media. Just a few hours after the new calf was born, we posted a picture of him on both Instagram and Facebook, asking for name suggestions. The below photo and caption elicited the following responses:
Baby boy calf born late into the night on Independence Day. We are thinking of calling him Firecracker. Any other suggestions? [Read more...]
Conservation Tillage and the Drought
Many conversations turn these days around the question — “how are you doing for water this year?” Water and California’s prolonged drought are subjects central to long term well- being for all who live in the Golden State. Seldom has attention been so clearly tuned to our intimate relationship with the cycles of climate and the vast system that delivers rainfall and snowpack to your tap. Drought becomes a moment for social focus and attention with the potential to re-think our relationship to resource use, when that resource seen previously as so abundant becomes constrained by scarcity.
We have built much of California’s abundance on the thinking that basic resources were unlimited. Oil and water are now mixed in the same fishbowl where abundance driven systems and design expectations are demonstrating real limits. From transportation systems, how we designed our cities, to the food systems that have evolved, patterns of consumption are based on a history of plenty and the expectation that the good of the moment and the need to keep an economic engine stoked to the maximum trumps long term thinking. [Read more...]
Summer Time is Yummy Time
One of the things I love most about summer is how simply yet sumptuously we eat without much time devoted to food preparation. In the winter time when it’s cool outside it’s fun to spend long hours over the stove, simmering and slow cooking and taking the time to really bring out flavors, but in the summer, it’s all about letting the freshness and coolness sing. Often all the produce needs is a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of salt. Breakfast this morning was a toasted Acme baguette with fresh mozzarella and sliced New Girl tomatoes, with a bit of salt and basil. It couldn’t have tasted any better! Let me know if you ever need any ideas!
Amon and I love cooking for events in the summer. Above are pan fried padron peppers and zucchini fritters, below are goat cheese and Jimmy Nardello pepper croustinis. [Read more...]
Congratulations to Full Belly farm kid Hannah Muller on her graduation from the University of Oregon with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Anthropology. Hannah has returned to the farm to become our head florist and begin her career as a floral designer! You can visit her beautiful blog – blossombellyfarm.blogspot.com to see her work!
Raising a Family on a Farm
There are several people more qualified than I to talk about raising kids on a farm, but I’ll offer my perspective as a (relatively) new mom. Whenever people find out that we live on a farm with a baby, their immediate reaction is “Wow! Your kid is so lucky! All that open space to run around!” This sentiment is completely true and one of the things I was most looking forward to before my baby was born, but it doesn’t begin to describe the full experience of having kids on a farm. The truth is, there are so many more blessings and challenges to raising kids on a farm than I ever imagined. Rowan is now 22 months old and has really come to love being a farm kid!
I love watching my child interact with our crew and pick up a little Spanish. I love that he is hearing another language on a regular basis. He is so eager to be able to communicate with them. Sometimes in the afternoons we go out and help the flower crew and he will start to spout off all the Spanish words that he knows. “Buenos Dias!” “Caballo!” “Gracias!” He knows that Catalina is always good for a piece of fruit and Isobel keeps crackers and cookies up on the shelf. He has learned many of the crew member’s names, and knows which trucks they drive. He was lucky enough to be offered a ride on the farm’s biggest and newest tractor by Pancho last week, and I think it was the highlight of his year. Our crew has watched many farm children grow up, and I relish watching him delight in the crew and the crew delight in him. It is really fun to see him making so many new friends. [Read more...]
This weekend we welcomed CSA members, their family members, and Full Belly Farm friends to the farm for our annual Open Farm Day. Though temperatures topped out at 105 degrees, we snacked on strawberries, chatted about soil and sheep, and traversed the farm on our covered wagon.
There are periods of the season when we get caught between the ending of one crop cycle and the beginning of another. The end of May and beginning of June is perennially one of these times. We are in the middle of transitioning from spring to summer as we find interesting crops with which to fill your boxes.
Bound by weather and temperature, the slowly disappearing hard C crops –kalecollardscabbagecarrotschard – make their exit from your boxes along with lettuce, other greens and leafy veggies. These will return next October. I think that most of us are about ready to not be missing these veggies and are looking forward to tomatoes, melons and fruits – the full expression of summer. [Read more...]
Our CSA sites need your help to stay tidy. Please help keep these volunteer pick-up locations clean by following a few simple guidelines.
1. Pick up your box only during the hours listed on our web site and sign-in sheet. These are the hours that the host has set. We do not guarantee the boxes past the designated pick-up times. No credit is issued if you arrive late to claim a box, but find none there.
2. Do not leave a mess! Please stack your empty CSA box as show on the bulletin board.
3. Park in designated parking spots. Do not double park and do not block driveways.
4. Direct your questions to Full Belly, not to the host. Please don’t disturb the host.
5. Please notify us five days in advance if you would like to defer your box.
Farmers all over California are weighing their summer water options. Some, for example, on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, will fallow all of their land for lack of water. Others (like Full Belly) have access to groundwater, and will irrigate only higher value crops, and choose to grow less in certain fields or reduce water use later in the season.
In declaring a drought emergency, Governor Brown called out the likely connection between the drought and climate change. I recently asked a friend if the farmers in his neighborhood talked about the drought in those terms and he replied that while they may or may not think about the impact of climate change, what they worry about more is the impact of regulations that will be imposed on agriculture in the name of addressing climate change! [Read more...]
I woke up this morning with a bee in my bonnet. What I mean is, I have a lot of ‘must do today items’ on my brain. It is that time of year, when I spend my dream sleep thinking about loose ends. This begins to describe the tempo of May, as I pen this note on a torn page of loose leaf paper while simultaneously trying to coordinate more than a couple dozen concurrent activities. As I write, the farm moves, or should I say swirls, about me, moving in divergent directions at a pace that demands one to ‘walk fast and look nervous.‘ It is not out of fear that we appear frantic or nervous but out of demand. Nature has set the pace.
The most wondrous part of farming for me is that at certain times of the year the farm takes on a life entirely of its own. It is in those times when it is no longer one’s creation but a teeming, feeding, breeding organism that lives independent of its stewards, at times leaving them in its wake. At this time we merely try to keep it afloat and within bounds. Or maybe we are just hanging on and enjoying the ride. This week feels like a little bit of both. [Read more...]
A Flower Explosion!
Last week was our biggest flower sales week in the history of our farm! Our team of flower harvesters and bunchers made well over 3,500 bouquets of flowers last week – each one unique and beautiful and sent off to brighten someones day. We grow a little under 15 acres of fresh flowers on our farm, all of them are varieties that we love. Right now, we are in the thick of larkspur, godetia, and sunflower harvest. In the next few months, zinnias will begin to pop up everywhere on our farm.
A Love Letter to Farming
Farming has become my religion. Ever since I stumbled onto Full Belly Farm, I haven’t once thought that someday I won’t be farming. It is a lifestyle that suits me marvelously; I feel a tinge of loss and insecurity when I leave the farm for more than a few days. My sense of purpose is grounded in these rich soils, it comes flowing through my fingers as I tug on our milk cow’s teats each morning, it bursts forth from coop doors as our chickens wake to fresh pastures, it squeals with delight as our piglets slurp their mid-day milk and gobble up their beet greens, it is climbing the grand oak trees that protect my home from Cache Creek, every one of them growing tilted South – toward the sun.
What makes me the happiest is my work. After two years as an intern, I was fortunate enough to start this year as an official employee of Full Belly Farm, wholly focusing on our animal program. Last month, Judith gave you a peek at how we manage our animals here at the farm. Well, I’m the one that gets to move those chickens, pigs, and goats all around our farm so the weed-eater can stay in the tool shed! Everything I do is on behalf of the animals. It is amazing, but it is also a lot of work to keep everyone clean, fed, watered, and shaded every single day no matter the circumstances. Of course, I am not alone in this endeavor… [Read more...]
I drove home last Wednesday with 15,000 bees in the back of my Prius. For those of you who have been in a Prius before, you will know there is no separation between the trunk and the rest of the car. Lucky for me, only about 20 of them were outside the confines of their boxes. I turned up the radio and sang to them all the way home. This was as much an attempt to drown out the unnerving buzz coming from the rear of the car as it was to calm them (not that my singing voice has ever calmed anyone, ever). Bees actually take up surprisingly little space, and I probably could have doubled the amount and still been able to fit them all. This will be my second year keeping bees here at Full Belly. I started last year with two hives, and added four more this spring. Bees come in packages of 3,000 bees and one queen. Over the course of a good season, each package should get up to about 10,000 bees. If you can over-winter them and have a good queen, you might even see hive numbers get as high as 40,000.
Before getting my first bees, I read up on how to care for them through the seasons, how to install them, what problems to look for, etc. I watched YouTube videos and talked to everyone I knew about how to care for my bees. No amount of reading will prepare you for actually working with bees. Those YouTube videos are especially misleading. Typically there is a guy in a short-sleeve shirt calmly examining frames and pointing out things that are going on, while bees are landing on his face and arms. This has not been my experience. I have gained enough confidence to ditch my gloves, but my bee veil and a long sleeve shirt? Forget it! I still get a little a nervous when I open up the hives and inches away are thousands of buzzing creatures, with their little eyes all looking up at you. Although all the reading up was certainly not a completely useless endeavor, beekeeping is really best learned by doing. The first time I transferred bees to a hive from a package, it was complete and utter pandemonium. I did it at the wrong time of day, with my 8-month old baby looking on from my husband’s arms about 20 feet away. The YouTube videos had made it seem so easy! So orderly! The baby didn’t get stung, but we were all chased by irate bees. Needless to say I will not be winning any mother of year awards over here. I think in the transfer I may have lost one of the two queens, and the hive replaced her, resulting in one of my hives becoming extremely aggressive. This year I did four hives, and it was so much smoother and less chaotic. Nobody was chased, all my equipment was ready to go, and I was much calmer handling the bees. [Read more...]
Springtime at the Farm
Full Belly Farm is bustling with spring activities. We’ve had plenty of warm weather and within a few days after the last rain, the ground was drying out and the fields were busy. This is the time of year when the cottonwood trees along the creek start cottoning – so billows of the white fluff, full of cottonwood seeds, blow in the air and settle in every corner.
The piglets that were born almost two months ago are now old enough and big enough to cause trouble. They have been living close together in their safe, warm pen across from my house, but yesterday they were given access to the big wide world of green pasture below. This means that they had to learn to respect the electric fence. There have been a lot of squeals coming from various fence-to-nose contacts, and at first, every time there was a squeal, there was a stampede of 11 piglets back to the darkest, farthest corner of their straw-filled pen. Afterwards, the piglets invariably lined up at the door of their pen and gazed anxiously towards the mysterious pasture until one of them would again venture slowly out into the danger zone. Today, after countless run-ins with the fence, they are finally all out eating the green grass and tearing up the soil with their strong snouts. They look very happy. They LOVE their greens, and what better way can you think of to make use of the healthy green grass that grows here in the winter after the rains? [Read more...]
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. [Read more...]
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.