News From the Farm | August 19, 2019

Here are a few photos snapped on a Saturday at Full Belly:

Leo bringing in the Jimmy Nardello peppers coming out of the field by the bin.

Rye sorting Red Lasota potatoes.

End of day Saturday, our cooler had 1,200 boxes of tomatoes ready to sort, pack and send home.  Having the tomatoes cooled down and ready to pack on Monday morning gives us a head start on the week.

Picking and packing fruits and vegetables was a big focus for many of us on Saturday, but an equally important effort took place in preparation for Fall.  Lettuce was transplanted by a crew of four, all day long (above).  Immediately after transplanting, the irrigation crew turned up to get the water going on the tender greens.  If you look closely (below) you can see that José is carrying and balancing 4 irrigation pipes at once as he walks down the narrow furrows.  He makes it look easy, but in fact it is quite a feat of strength and balance!

News From the Farm | August 12, 2019

Our wonderful intern crew transplanting broccoli  —

This column, News From the Farm, is a chronicle in the life of the Full Belly Farm organism, through the eyes of various writers who are ridiculously immersed in every aspect of farming and thus want to reflect upon the hidden underbellies, layers and intricacies that are part of the life of a farm.  I want to state at the start that I understand that not everyone finds farming quite so fascinating, and only mention this because I have a fear that such might be the case with this week’s topic which touches upon farm liability insurance and the reasons why the Full Belly policy was abruptly cancelled.  The reader has now been warned and may move on to other more scintillating topics, as he or she might wish. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 5, 2019

Our onion harvest is quite picturesque at this stage, with burlap bags full of onions lined up along the beds.  First we undercut the onions with a tractor blade, then we pick them up off the beds and fill up the bags.  We have about an acre of onions ready to be harvested, the question is, how to fit the onion harvest in between giving our attention to all of the more perishable crops that need our constant daily vigilance? [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 29, 2019

We have benefitted tremendously from our Full Belly internship program which brings energetic, positive and inquisitive young people from all over the world to the farm to learn about sustainable agriculture. The benefits go beyond a great work team and into the realm of life-long friendships. Yuma moved on from the farm last week. He hails from Japan and is going to be at UC Davis for a couple of months — but that feels like a long way away after 15 months of working and living together.  

Deeper Significance in the CSA Boxes

We are writing to introduce you to Mary Cherry, who is helping to start Family Harvest Farm, a 3.5 acre urban farm that will be located in Pittsburg, California.  The farm will employ transition age foster youth and teach them to grow organic produce, along with other skills.  Family Harvest Farm is still getting off the ground, and in the meantime Mary has been busy organizing cooking classes for youth using facilities available through the Contra Costa County Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP). [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 22, 2019

Alfredo’s crew picking tomatoes  —  

I want to comment on an Opinion that appeared on July 16 in the New York Times, “The Sad Lesson From California.” The article laments the lack of union representation for farm labor in California despite statute that allows union organizers on farms.  The author states that despite the right to collective bargaining, farm worker “wages and conditions are for the most part arguably no better than decades ago.”  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 15, 2019

Barely any cucumbers make it home because they are so delicious!
(Thank you to CSA member Hallie Chertok for the photo!)  ––  

The story was told a hundred times and always began like this: “It was early July, the beginning of the hot summer, and Mama had fallen in love with a handsome young farmer who lived close by to Grandma and Grandpa. So Mama went out near her home and picked two big beautiful buckets of ripe, juicy blackberries that she found along the river edge. She took those blackberries home and baked them into a golden-crusted pie with the blackberries tucked inside. Later that day she drove out to where she thought that farmer lived and found his house along a long country road. She left that pie on his doorstep with a simple note that said, PLEASE ENJOY THIS PIE MADE WITH LOVE and in small letters at the bottom she wrote her name. Well, pretty soon that young man came home and ate up that pie and pretty soon after that they were married and pretty soon after that they moved to this house where you were born and where we all live now. Now Go to Sleep, Goodnight” [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 8, 2019

Each season’s weather passes forward its imprint on the following season’s crops. Late spring rains are remembered when there are diseases in the peaches during the summer.  A spike of heat in early June can interrupt the pollination in ears of corn resulting in kernel blanks when the corn is harvested.   

Sometimes those predictions come true, but not always.  Our stone fruit trees are looking great, contrary to the worries during all the rain we enjoyed last spring.  On the other hand some of our corn does have blanks in the ears, each missing kernel representing one silk strand that wasn’t successfully pollinated.  High heat is a common explanation for blanking in corn. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 1, 2019

July already. The crew just brought in four bins of orchid watermelons hopeful that they would all sell well before the July 4th holiday.  This is the first big watermelon harvest of the season — each summer brings it’s string of ‘firsts’ as we look forward to each crop. 

Walking across farm fields, down furrows and over graveled roads I know that crew members have also walked these furrows over and over, year in and year out. Every square foot of ground has been travelled by many other eyes and grown uncounted seasons of crops. Walking down a field of freshly prepared, unplanted beds I came across a pile of feathers, all that remained of a bird — Probably this was the scene of a fierce struggle the previous night. It was fresh and I think that I was the first to stumble upon it.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 24, 2019

First sip of milk! This calf, named Twinkie was born on June 19th — 

For many years, we have been fortunate to be part of an inquisitive, forward thinking, creative and passionate community of food entrepreneurs and enthusiasts. Our relationships with our customers have enriched our thinking and have been part of our farm’s evolution. We have many examples of crops that we started growing as the result of  a customer or chef’s suggestion. We have been swept up in the enthusiasm of food pioneers who happened to be our customers.  Alice Waters and her staff at Chez Panisse were early farm supporters. Walter Robb, Mark Squire and Bill Fujimoto are examples of passionate shop keepers who have supported us, and every week, for the past 35 years, farmers market and CSA customers have whispered likes and dislikes into our ears feeding us new ideas about what to grow. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 17, 2019

The Full Belly Irrigation crew in the potato field: Jose, Conrado, Manuel and Arturo  — 

This is the thirsty time of year when pumps are running and water is flowing 24/7 all over the farm.  There are more than 300 acres of fruits, flowers and and vegetables that have to be taken care of and at Full Belly, the fields don’t come in easy 50-acre contiguous blocks.  Three acres here and four acres there, all managed differently.  In the late spring, when fields are turning over from winter to summer, pumps have to be put into position, drip tape has to be set up, and systems have to be in tip top order.  You see pipe trailers being pulled all around the farm, and Arturo — the irrigation crew leader — driving around everywhere in his red truck.  When Arturo talks on the radio he sounds as if is running in hyperdrive. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Just as many of us were about to go into weekend mode, on Saturday afternoon, the Sand Fire sent the northern Capay Valley into a controlled panic. The fire started in the hills just behind Rumsey, off of a road that had been washed out and was inaccessible to fire equipment.  The high winds and hot weather threatened to push the fire down the valley towards Guinda.  It loomed above farms and ranches, where people, houses, animals and crops were in harms way.  Around here, the evacuations include animals, so horses, goats, cats and dogs were moved in a very short time, with all the decisions and coordination that entails taking place in short order. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Pancho spreading compost, with hills and clouds in the background –

There’s a Farmer in Everyone –

Five days of every Full Belly work week, a group of lucky Full Belly farmers – mostly the interns, the owners and the families of owners – all get to sit down for a quick midday meal that is prepared in advance by one of the interns.  For these lunches, there can be 14 people plus kids, and even a few unplanned guests, that pour through the kitchen door at noon, looking for something to eat.  Cooking for that many people can be intimidating no matter what, but when you only have a few hours to get everything ready and your cooking experience is limited, it can be a tall order. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Peaches are on the way!  

Last week it seemed like the entire Capay Valley (including a lot of kids) turned out for a ribbon cutting at the new Esparto Park and Aquatic Center. Public officials from Sacramento and Woodland (the County seat) were actively mingling as well, marking this as a truly noteworthy moment in the life of this little rural town. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Two huge oak trees toppled over last Tuesday night, apparently simultaneously. —

“If we could eradicate mosquitos from the face of the earth, do you think it would be a good idea?”  I heard this not-so-hypothetical question recently on a podcast.  The host maintained that because mosquitos are vectors of so many human diseases all over the world, there can be no possible reason not to energetically pursue their extinction using the full arsenal of human inventions. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Alfredo has been working at Full Belly for at least 17 years.  He works hard and is very focussed when he works.  I was recently visiting our tomato plantings because I had not seen them in a week, and I ran into him working in our first planting.  It’s about 7-acres, with tomato plants about a foot tall, transplanted out of the greenhouse and into the soil in the first few days of April. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

At times of the year we could use a thousand hands to get all of the work done. We are in the midst of our spring transition after that long spell of rains that graced the farm in January through late March. When all of that rain stopped there was a good deal of catching up that was needed… we are getting closer to catching up, but the season brings new tasks that pile on.  So many of the tasks are simply keeping up with the pick of lettuces, greens, flowers, asparagus, new carrots, onions and garlic. We have more than 40 crew-members out each day with the pick, and another 10 in the shop packing the orders that we harvest. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Happy chickens in their pasture.

–A short list of things to know about your farm–

1. All six of the farm’s owners live on the farm. This is great because they are around to do miscellaneous after hours chores and keep an eye on things. In the spring they can close greenhouses on Sunday night.  In the summer they can turn off irrigation water in the evening.  In the Fall they can unload an early morning delivery. In the Winter they are on frost watch and can turn on water to protect plants if the temperature dips too low. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Wow… three weed eaters in working condition at the same time!

“What is your worst pest?” – this is a common question asked by visitors to the farm. Weeds are definitely up there on my list — sometimes there seem to be more weeds than there are crops. The spring weather brings our weed-eaters out, and with them, drifting on the wind to all corners of the farm, are the constant sounds of those little high-pitched engines moving through the vineyard and along field edges.  By the end of the day, the workers’ clothes are coated in dust and plant parts, and their joints are zinging.  Everyone is happy to put the weed eaters down overnight. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Calling all Gardening Enthusiasts!

We would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you to visit the Capay Valley on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 12, for the 12th annual Mother’s Day Farm and Garden Tour. Our valley is the proud home to an amazing array of gardeners and farmers, from a 2-acre homesteading garden to a 10-acre floral production field, we definitely have something to delight everyone. Eight gardens will be on display sprinkled through the Valley towns of Capay, Brooks, Guinda and Rumsey. Along with the gardens there are other points of interest including live music at the Taber Ranch wine-tasting room and the Seka Mills Olive Mill which is surrounded by roses and lavender. All attendees will be provided a self guided tour map so that you can make your own schedule and stop for a picnic lunch at one of the gardens. Box lunches will be available at our local Grange Hall and can be purchased in advance on the website. [Read more…]

News From the Farm

Lambs on their way to do their part for Open Farm Day!

A recent article in the N.Y. Times described the spread of a deadly, drug-resistant fungus, infecting people around the world.  The fungus has developed resistance to common drugs that used to be effective in treating it and thus most patients do not recover from infections. Many researchers believe that the drug resistant fungi causing these infections in humans, developed as a result of the heavy use of fungicides to control plant disease on crops. Many of the fungicides used in agriculture are closely related to the antibiotics used to treat fungal infections in humans.  Repeated exposure encourages the fungal populations to develop resistance. This is similar to the concern that antibiotic resistant bacteria have developed as a result of the excessive use of antibiotics in animal feed.  Unfortunately, in confined animal production systems, antibiotics are commonly administered to healthy livestock in low does for disease prevention. [Read more…]