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.

For one thing, the boxes are a vivid reminder of seasonality.  Suddenly tomatoes disappear and carrots start.  How did that happen?  Day length, temperature — they all change gradually but the box contents this year seemed to morph from hot season to cool season in a week!   Someone at the farm was thinking ahead a few months ago, preparing for the cooler weather.  During the hot season, sweet, spicy and juicy are the flavors that match what our bodies need.  In the cool season, immune-boosting greens and broccoli along with roasted roots, stews, and squash soups are exactly what we need. And that’s what the boxes deliver, season upon season.  

Sometimes one vegetable itself can reflect the change, for example you can watch garlic going from a stem of mild green garlic in the spring, then the bulb grows little by little, the cloves start to form, and finally after a few weeks while the garlic dries down in the field, dry bulbs will appear in the boxes, ready for salsa season!   Carrots tell a similar story.  Their flavor reflects the weather on the farm, and perhaps over time, what our locally attuned bodies actually really need.

Another thing about getting the CSA box is that it can provide a powerfully positive disruption to your relationship to cooking and  shopping for weekly meals. Again, this may be more than what some people bargain for when they first sign up, but in many cases, the CSA box can bring out the creative chef in you that you didn’t know you had, or it can teach you that the beets you hated as a kid may not be so bad after all.  Especially at first, it seems like many of our members have a bit of a love/hate relationship with their CSA boxes…mostly love of course!  In the membership survey that we did this year, when we asked if people used the recipes that we provide, there was a comment from a long-time member who said,  “Oh no, I never cook with recipes any more and I know how to use ALL of the vegetables from Full Belly…”

Having a relationship with a local farm may actually provide health benefits beyond nutrient dense food and creative cooking.  Studies of asthma and immune disease have shown that the microbial content of your environment can be a determinant of your health, and not just in the ways that people are used to thinking about — not just in terms of the microbes that cause disease, but also in terms of those that cause health!  The healthy microbes in Full Belly soil, when they are carried on that Full Belly carrot or potato into your home, may actually be diversifying your microbial ecology and increasing your health and resilience in some way.  Who knows? The relationships between humans and microbes constitute one of the frontiers of study in human health and also agricultural sustainability.  So that idea of the CSA boxes as a form of Farm to City inoculation, going beyond just the fruits and veggies, may stretch along a spectrum that includes the microbial world!

I recently processed a renewal from one of our members who gets 48 boxes per year — an annual membership bought up-front, in advance.  This kind of relationship to the farm reflects a huge amount of trust in our continued ability to create satisfying and inspiring fruits and vegetables year round.  In my email to him, feeling the gift of that trust in our future, I thanked him for his membership, noting that it means a lot to us at the Farm.  He wrote back and mentioned that he had been an annual member for more than 20 years!  

All of us at the farm feel a tremendous gratitude for our loyal members.  As our farming year completes its cycle, we always take the opportunity provided by the cool weather, the shorter days and the relatively quiet fields, to look both backwards to the year that passed and forwards to the unknown that will follow.  This is the final week in 2018 that we will be packing CSA boxes or going to farmers markets.  We wish all of our readers a very happy holiday season.  We will see you back here in 2019!

—Judith Redmond

Some friends from Community Alliance with Family Farmers visited to record a podcast and during our rainy walk we visited our cows who were having breakfast in the old almond orchard. 

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…]

News From the Farm | September 17, 2018

There are times when a week of conversations point to those ideas that are in need of reckoning. This past week the conversation has centered around climate change and lest you roll your eyes and check the dinner in the oven, bear with me. During the past week, conversations here on the farm spiked about adaptation and how we might act to do our small piece to contribute to solutions. As evidence mounts as to the impacts resulting from the course that we are tracking, it becomes clear that we need to commit to actions that will reverse our role in elevating levels of greenhouse gasses. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 10, 2018

This weekend I want to share a few thoughts about farmland under threat because many of us from Full Belly Farm will be at the annual Yolo Land Trust event, called “Day in the Country,” on Sunday 9/9. We have been involved in this event for many years now with Full Belly owner Paul Muller doing a spectacular job of organizing several dozen restaurants, breweries, wineries and farms to attend and serve their favorite Yolo County-sourced dish to the guests.  The event is an important fundraiser for the Land Trust. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 3, 2018

The Weekend-That-Would-Have-Been

Right about this time in past years, our readers would probably have been rolling their eyes at yet another message from Full Belly Farm about our Hoes Down Harvest Festival.  This year, not a peep, right?

There have been 30 Hoes Down Harvest Festivals at Full Belly Farm over the years, but there will not be one this year.  They are usually held on the first weekend in October, so we’re calling October 6th and 7th the  “would-have-been” weekend.

There are multiple reasons why we are taking a break, all summed up in the collective commitment of the distinguished Hoes Down Steering Committee to re-envision this wonderful event.  To quite a number of our friends who have told us that the Hoes Down is their favorite day of the year, and that their kids are going on hunger strikes, we answer that we are excited to bring back an even more magical, educational and meaningful Festival in future, but we must warn you that it may be different!  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 27, 2018

Paul and Ben found a Praying Mantis — see how it is preparing to pray?

Hedgerows –

                                      About 30 years ago, we planted our first line of native shrubs and trees along the boundary of one of the southernmost fields at Full Belly Farm. For awhile, we planted a new hedgerow every couple of years, and maintained them during the year, making sure that the young plants had gotten established and that when something died, we filled in the gaps.  Now we do very little to maintain the hedgerows and we haven’t planted a new one in years.  There are some gaps along the hedges, and some non-native plants have made their way in, but the oaks and elderberry trees in some of the oldest hedgerows are 50-feet tall and the manzanitas and redbuds have filled out nicely. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 20, 2018

Photo by Diane Rothery Photography.

    We recently received a certified letter from the Central Valley Water Board, an agency striving “To preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources…” The Letter states that Full Belly Farm is in violation of the Confined Animals Regulatory Program!  Since Full Belly has no confined animals, we had to do some investigation and in a hurry too, because the letter was full of legal Directives and allusions to fines.  “Please read this letter carefully” is the first thing it said, and we did!

Our Full Belly Farm egg-laying-hen program is actually something to brag about.  We have 3 to 4 groups of hens at any one time, with about 200 layers in each group.  They stay in paddocks that are about 25,600 square feet in size.  The hens have a movable structure to roost in at night, and every 4 or 5 days, when they’ve eaten the bugs and seeds in their paddock they get to move to a completely new site. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 13, 2018

Rest in Peace John Ceteras

                      This past Saturday, family, friends and neighbors from our Capay Valley and beyond came together to celebrate the life of our friend and neighbor, farmer John Ceteras. John recently passed away after a long, concerted and very private battle with cancer. He was 74 years old and is survived by his wife and artist, farm partner, Gretchen, son Noah and grandson, Jack. With Gretchen, John farmed Blue Heron Farm, a 20-acre certified organic farm in Rumsey. As an elder, his passing leaves a void in our community, but his legacy inspires seasoned and beginning farmers alike. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 6, 2018

 

Wildlife:  

Last Friday, someone found a young barn owl dead on the ground in the walnut orchard.  Maybe it was one of the young owls that we had been watching in their first flights from the upstairs porch at Amon and Jenna’s house.  These baby owls hatched out last spring in a cubby above the porch and the family made it their home, creating a litter on the floor of their droppings, to such an extent that it was difficult to walk out and watch them without stepping on their pellets. Standing on the porch, we would look up at them, and they would line up and look down at us. We know that most barn owls die young – 70% in their first year – so the babies and their parents have been a source of great delight as we watched and worried over them.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 30, 2018

Hannah at the California State Fair.

        It is Monday morning and the skies here are thick with the smoke and haze from the many fires burning in Northern California. We told our farm crew that if it is difficult to work, we may end the day early. We had shortened days this past week when field temperatures were near 112º. The sobering relationship of too little rain, a parched landscape, high temperatures, heavy fuel loads in areas where homes are being built under tree canopies, make one reflect about resilience, climate uncertainty, and our relationship with our larger landscape and wild lands. [Read more…]