News From the Farm | June 18, 2018

Water that is safe to drink, straight from the kitchen tap is more of a luxury than we realize — There are many places around the world where access to safe drinking water is either non-existent, or only available for a high price.  When Californians visit Mexico, we all grab the bottled water and if we stay with friends or go to restaurants, we hesitate before eating fresh vegetables in case they might have been washed with dirty water.  

But wait! Did you know that 6 million of your fellow Californians are also forced to drink out of plastic bottles?  Not because they prefer the taste, but because the water in their communities is in violation of health standards.  Most of the problem water is in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions, where the State Water Resources Control Board says that contaminated water is “ubiquitous”.  These are highly productive agricultural regions and also happen to be the home of 80% of California’s 1.8 million adult cows…

One of the most serious water quality offenders in California is nitrate, which causes serious health problems for children and pregnant women and is associated with certain cancers.  A recent multi-year study, at University of California at Davis (UCD) estimated in 2016 that “550 thousand tons of Nitrogen fertilizer, 240 thousand tons of manure N, and 4 thousand tons of urban and food processing waste effluent N are annually applied to or recycled in Central Valley agricultural lands for food production.” Some of the nitrate in these sources leaches to groundwater, although the pathways and quantities are quite complex.  The UCD study, measuring nitrate loading from various sources, is one of the most complete and meaningful that has been done in decades.

Because agriculture is demonstrably a major source of the problem, the regulators have their sites trained on California’s farmers. Back in 2012 when the state started really looking into it, another report from UCD, this time addressing regulatory options, stated, “Current regulatory programs have not effectively controlled groundwater nitrate contamination and water quality in these areas has largely worsened for decades, a trend which seems likely to continue. Looking forward, promising options exist to manage nitrate contamination of groundwater, but it will take years to decades for source control programs introduced today to improve drinking water quality.”  This report attempted to be optimistic about the regulatory options, but the effort to find a solution has been messy and divisive, with groups representing agriculture, affected communities, and the environment, all at each other’s throats.

The resulting massive “Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program,” with its extensive monitoring and reporting, doesn’t have a lot of friends in farming country, and I think may be completely unknown in urban circles.  With 6 million acres of irrigated farmland enrolled in the program, farmers are paying in well over $22 million dollars a year, and the costs are rising annually.  

What to do? Fertilizers are currently exempt from sales tax, and some analysts recommended a fee on the nitrogen in fertilizer as a funding source for clean-up programs, but political realities make this a tough lift. I do think that it could have been an interesting part of a solution because the increased costs would have created incentives for farmers to use fertilizer more efficiently.  

Organic farmers, using fertilizers that are much less water soluble than those used in conventional agriculture, know that their best management practices contribute significantly less to the problem, but the state’s program paints all farmers with the same broad brush.  A regulatory approach that rewarded good practices, while complex to implement, would also, in my opinion, be a good idea.

The Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program took a different path and it is too early to evaluate the results.  Will it reduce nitrate leaching into groundwater? At least six million Californian’s who rely on bottled water, hope so.

—Judith Redmond

Just a bunch of sheep snoozing in an old broccoli field!

Add These Delicious Treats to Your CSA Box

We can deliver the following products with your CSA box to your pick-up site.  For additional information about any of these products email or phone us (800-791-2110).

Candied Walnuts – $8/ half pound.

Strawberry Jam –  We make our jams in small batches to preserve the flavor and color of the fruit. $8 for a 9-oz jar or $90 for a case of 12.

Apricot Jam – This delicious jam is made from Full Belly organic Apricots plus a little organic sugar and lemon juice. $7.50  for a 9-oz jar or $84 for a case of 12.  SALE, $21.00 if you buy three or more.

Tomato Jam – The only ingredients are Full Belly organic Early Girl tomatoes, organic sugar and organic lemons.  A nice short list of ingredients and a perfect balance between sweet and acid. $7.50  for a 9-oz jar or $84 for a case of 12.  SALE, $21.00 if you buy three or more.

Marmalade – Bright and sweet, our marmalade is made with Full Belly Farm organic navel oranges, organic lemons and organic sugar.  We make our jams and marmalades in small batches to preserve the flavor and color of the fruit. $8 for a 9-oz jar or $90 for a case of 12.

Safflower Oil – Our organically grown safflower makes oil that is a deep, rich yellow color.  This oil is buttery and earthy in flavor.  It can be used in high-heat cooking.  Stored it in a cool, dark place, it will keep for a year after opening.  You can order 250 mL ($12) or  500 mL ($20).

Olive Oil – Organically grown olives pressed on a non-organic certified press.  $15 for 250mL  or  $27 for 500mL.

Hot Sauce – Made with Full Belly Farm organic jalapeño peppers. $6/ 5-oz.  or  $10/ 10-oz. 

Red Tomato Sauce  – Made with Full Belly organic tomatoes harvested at the height of the summer when they are full of incredible hot summer flavor.  The sauce is made from Roma tomatoes. Other ingredients are organic salt, rosemary and oregano.  The bottles are shelf stable until opened — Refrigerate after opening. $12.00 for 24-oz bottle, $120 for a case of 12. 

Bone Broth – Two varieties – Lamb, or beef and pork. These broths are made by simmering lamb bones overnight. They are incredibly rich and satisfying.  Enjoy a fortifying cup straight from the bottle, or use it to make soups and risotto. The broth is put into your CSA Box frozen, but may start to thaw on the trip to your refrigerator.  We suggest that you keep it refrigerated and use it within 5 days. $15 for a quart.

Whole Egg Pasta – Sent to you from our freezer.  Store it in your refrigerator and use within 5 days. $8 for 12 oz

Pizza Dough – For a 14-inch pizza. $6/ dough ball. Frozen when we ship it, use within 3 days.

Sesame Seeds – $5/ quarter pound. SPECIAL –  2 bags for $8

Walnuts – $10/ pound 

Cornmeal – Contact us for information about the  corn varieties that we offer as cornmeal or corn kernels. 

Sun Dried New Mexico Chiles – $4/ eighth pound

Wheat Flour –  Contact us for information about our heirloom wheat flour varieties, also sold as wheat berries. 

News From the Farm | June 11, 2018

We are on the cusp of an explosion — but you, our CSA members, might never know it from the boxes.  The only hints are the summer squash and the arrival of basil.  Every year, right around this time, there is a sense of expectation as the tomatoes flower and start to set fruit, the onion and garlic crops are harvested, and we check the progress of the first melons starting to swell and sweeten on their vines. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 4, 2018

Economics, Theatre, Worth, Value…         

Years ago, the book Small is Beautiful made a significant impression on many of our era. E.F. Schumacher wrote about the concept of scale and human relationships to work, the world, and vibrant human communities. His philosophy was centered on the thinking needed to achieve the maximum of social wellbeing with the minimum of consumption.  His keys to social organization focused on a balance of Justice, Harmony, Beauty, and Health as a counterbalance to the measurements commonly used to measure success—growth, scale, speed, displacing labor, and accumulation. That book and the thinking of Schumacher and others like him have been central to the organization of Full Belly.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 28, 2018

Full Belly Farm employs a year-round, stable crew of around 60 people. They work in the field, in the packing shed, in the office and some people work a little bit of everywhere. It has long been our goal to keep as many of our crew members as possible working all year round, even though the amount of work required to keep the farm ship-shape varies tremendously from season to season.  

In order to keep people employed year round, we dry flowers in the spring and summer, and the flower crew makes wreaths in the winter.  We grow crops year-round and our CSA members sign up for veggie boxes, helping us to keep our harvest crews working in the winter.  We work on all kinds of construction and clean-up projects during the winter and even shorten the work-days and the work week, which makes it lean but workable for our core crew members.  But this core crew that works year round is never able to keep up with all of the work it takes during the busy summer and fall.   [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 21, 2018

Sometimes we know that our members get way too many emails, and our weekly newsletter is just one more added to the pile.  This week News From the Farm takes the form of photographs that we hope bring you closer to the food we grow for you and the community that keeps the farm healthy and sustainable.  Andrew snapped these photos all around the Farm during his busy week.  

One of the photos is of Full Belly owner Dru and our Harvest Manager Jan planting flowers.  Dru is on the tractor, which spaces the seeds both linearly in three rows along the bed, and at a specified depth under the soil.  Jan is checking the depth and will make fine-tune adjustments as needed. [Read more…]

New CSA Site

HURRAY! Full Belly started another new pick-up site in the Pinole area on Friday, May 11th. The pick up hours are noon to 5:30pm. See our web site to place your order. Please help us spread the word and tell your family, friends and co-workers about this new CSA site – Thanks!

News From the Farm | May 14, 2018

I wanted to learn what work was when I started as an official employee at Full Belly Farm eight years ago. Not work at a desk for lots of money, but work with my hands for myself. This kind of work is very romantic. To fall in love with toil. To trust in the abilities of my mind and hands, and to have faith in it all.  [Read more…]

A Week of Meals From the CSA Box

I get my box on Wednesday.  It travels on Antonio’s truck to the East Bay and then arrives back at the Full Belly office for me to take home at the end of the day.  We call it a “quality control” box. 

When my husband and I are home, we usually build a meal around the vegetables that we get in the box. I often remember Farmers Market conversations with people figuring out the challenge of pulling together a quick meal from their CSA box at the end of working days. Here are the meals that we built around vegetables from last week’s box in our kitchen.

Wednesday: Bok choi, and green garlic sautéed with a little bit of sesame oil, served over pasta with toasted Full Belly sesame seeds.  

Thursday morning: strawberry smoothie (see veggie tips)

Friday: Slowly sautéed chard over pasta, using both the stems and the leaves. I started with 3 slices of our Full Belly bacon, removing them from the pan when they were done.  Next a diced fresh onion and a stem of minced garlic went into the bacon fat. Next the chopped-up chard stems and finally a bit of pasta water to make the sauce.

Saturday: Potato Latkes

Mothers’ Day brunch:  Salad using the lettuce and Fennel Slaw 

The only things left were a bit of lettuce for our tacos, and the beet leaves!

News From the Farm | May 7, 2018

Mothers’ Day Prelude 2018

The landscape on and around the farm is noticeably shifting green to brown each day in this early May week. We find ourselves hanging on to the spring’s green-ness willing it to stay as long as possible. We are storing the memory of green deep, to be pulled up in the heat of the summer’s long days. These near perfect days of 80-degrees are kind to all life on the farm as we undertake our transitions through spring to summer.

The spring crops that you find in your box – lettuces, potatoes, carrots, greens and strawberries are nervously feeling temperatures that are creeping up and are urging us to hurry and get them out, keep them cool and move on, for their season is passing.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 30, 2018

Spring is a wonderful time in the Capay Valley… if you have time to enjoy it.  Energy rises — from all the orchards with baby fruit hinting of future sweetness… to the baby chicks protected in their nursery… to the flowers in bloom at every turn. Mild weather, blue sky with puffy white clouds, and a farm full of plans, projects and expectations.  

We have been transplanting seedlings into the ground on an almost daily basis — crops that our CSA members may see later in their boxes. We have been mowing and cleaning up edges to try and tame the grasses that have already gone to seed everywhere.  We have removed protective covers from several plantings of tomatoes and been astonished at how much the plants have jumped since we put them in the ground and covered them up to protect them from cold. We have said goodbye to the 2018 crop of asparagus and hello to our new potatoes. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 23, 2018

Many of you may have heard about the outbreak of disease related to romaine lettuce that has been traced to processing plants in Arizona. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people not to eat any form of romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona area.  Since the origin of greens, especially those that are pre-washed and bagged, is not easily identified, the CDC adds helpfully that you should throw out any romaine lettuce you might have if you don’t know where it came from. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 16, 2018

Mothers’ Day Sunday always presents a plethora of options for families wanting to spoil that amazing mother (or grandmother!) for her special day. Well, we have a secret up here in the Capay Valley – the most perfect experience you could ever give your mom – the Capay Valley Mothers’ Day Garden Tour. Here are the top five reasons why this tour is exactly what that special mother (or gardening fanatic!) deserves for Mothers’ Day:

#1. It is in a spectacular setting. There is nothing more beautiful than this agricultural valley (that we are lucky enough to call home) in the middle of May. The Capay Valley is home to 5 small towns and winds through them all over 20 miles. The gardens are blooming, the temperature is typically ideal (usually in the mid 80’s) and best of all, the first fruit of the season will be starting with peaches, mulberries and strawberries! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 9, 2018

The Water Information report from our local Water District says that Indian Valley Reservoir received just over 11-inches of rain this year, compared to almost 31 last year.  This includes runoff from last week’s storm, which added a precious 3-inches for the two surface water sources (Clear Lake and Indian Valley Reservoir) that provide irrigation water at Full Belly Farm.  Word is that despite the very low water year overall there will be enough water in Cache Creek for our summer irrigation season.  

Spring rain creates a forceful motivator on the farm when there is a long list of projects to complete.  Not only is there a daily deadline when the sun goes down, but the promise of rain on the way means that all field activities will have to stop when the rain arrives.  Last week, tractors were still out in the fields as the first drops fell.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 2, 2018

We are in the first week of a beautiful spring – warm temperatures, soil drying, pears blooming snow white, the pink peach blossoms finishing while the oaks, willows and walnuts that are woven into the farm are bursting with a myriad of greens. 

We are busy planting the first tomatoes, beans, squash, and corn – summertime treats that are a couple of months away. We have also been busy these past few weeks with some work that takes us away from the farm. Judith is working with a group called the Organic Farmers Association to advocate politically for Organic farmers; Dru is tending to the Ecological Farmers Association; Andrew is steeped in the work of the Marin Farmers Market; and I had an opportunity to meet with a group of leaders last week in Vermont to talk about the future credibility of the Organic farming movement.  This group is coming together and is proposing an add-on label to organic certification called, at this time, the Real Organic Project. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 26, 2018

Open Farm Day

Saturday 3/24 was Open Farm Day at Full Belly Farm.  We all had a lot of fun.  Delicious pizza, fresh orange juice made on the spot, kite-flying, playing in the brook and listening to the frogs, tours of the fields, lamb petting, and playing and picnicking on the grass.  It was a warm, beautiful spring day.  CSA members received a jar of marmalade made from our Full Belly oranges. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 19, 2018

Hi All! My name is Ben Culver and I am the newest intern at the farm. The other interns and I have started our own project and I’d like to share with you guys what we’re getting into! 

We are starting a little market garden behind the mechanical shop, where some of past interns have also done projects. Right now we have twelve 100-feet by 2.5-feet beds prepared with various different treatments. Six of our twelve beds are largely inspired by [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 12, 2018

Hannah and Dru today continuing their passion.

“It wasn’t as if the flowers themselves held within them the ability to bring an abstract definition into physical reality. Instead it seemed that…expecting change, and the very belief in the possibility, instigated a transformation.”

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

My daughter Hannah and I share a passion for cut flowers. Actually passion might be too light of a word – obsession might be more appropriate.  We scour seed catalogs for endless hours in bed, read blogs, follow hundreds of flower growers on social media, and go to flower meetings on Sundays –our one-day off.  We beg for cuttings, attend conferences and belong to the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (who knew this even existed!) We go to seed swaps, have flower growers to the farm, lead workshops.  We lie in bed at night worrying about rain, frost, drought and wind.  Oh yes… AND we grow 15 acres of cut flowers at Full Belly Farm.  [Read more…]

News from the Courtroom: Glyphosate

A federal court hearing in San Francisco is turning the public spotlight onto the science surrounding the safety of one of the world’s most widely used pesticides, a weed killing chemical called glyphosate (branded Roundup) that has been linked to cancer and is commonly found in our food and water and even in our own bodily fluids.  More than 3000 plaintiffs suing Monsanto allege that exposure to Roundup caused them or their family members to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Plaintiffs claim that there’s a link between Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Two experts called to the stand contended that the study linking glyphosate and cancer has “serious issues and flaws” and should not be given much weight by the judge, who has to decide which scientific evidence a jury should consider if the case makes it to trial. The research at issue, the Agriculture Health Study, investigated risks associated with pesticides among users in North Carolina and Iowa over several decades. The study was backed by the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health.

The judge presiding over the case for the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, actively questioned witnesses about their research. A pathologist said research showed about 60 percent of farmers had glyphosate in their urine after a day of application.  A decision is expected in the next few months.

News From the Farm | March 5, 2018

Open Farm Day Saturday March 24

Full Belly Farm Open Farm Day is coming up soon on Saturday March 24th.  It is likely to be a beautiful Spring day, perfect for an outing to the country.  It is your opportunity to enjoy the lovely flowers growing in our farm fields, visit our lambs, take a tour of the farm, and picnic on pizza from our wood-fired oven.

A visit to your local family farm is a way to get back in touch with where your food is coming from. Maybe you will figure out something more about the people who are growing the cabbage, potatoes and collards that you get every week in your CSA box. Or maybe you will enjoy the opportunity to smell a handful of the soil at Full Belly — soil that has been managed organically since 1985. Maybe you will just want to bring a friend and picnic on the green lawn in the Spring sun, a time to get away from city sounds. [Read more…]