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.

‘Harried’ only because there are so many projects that need attention.  We finished harvesting our 12-acre walnut orchard, and when we have enough people, a crew is sitting on the hulling machine. Soon those walnuts will be cracked out and we will be ready to start selling our 2018 crop.  There are tractors in many fields, mowing down and turning under summer flowers and melons.  Part of our winter squash crop is still in the field, waiting to be picked up and stored in hundreds of bins, stacked up in the barn.  The weeds are growing fast, so our crews also spend time keeping the carrots and other crops weeded.  Planting too, is a priority — we have to have crops ready to harvest all winter and into the spring!  Our organic inspection is this week, and our desks are piled high with paperwork…

Last week, in her News, Dru mentioned that 14 piglets were born last Sunday.  One of them quickly faltered — there is usually a runt in the litter, and if it is too small, it can’t compete with its brothers and sisters, usually dying relatively quickly.  This year, for the first time, the interns chose to try and  bottle feed it with milk from our cow, and they appear to have saved its life.  Bottle feeding babies requires an around-the clock rotation, so the interns can be proud.  The little pig is by himself, and probably a little lonely, but growing and even thriving.  We aren’t sure that we will be able to allow him to rejoin his birth family as he now thinks of us as the source of sustenance and his mama might even think he was an imposter.

 


On Sunday 10/21 Full Belly hosted the annual ‘Taste of Capay,’ a fundraiser featuring local products prepared by local chefs.  The meal was delicious.  Your farmers were too busy taking care of details at the event to snap any photos, but we do have a photo taken beforehand, of the marigold bouquets made by Hannah Rose.

The Fall weather has brought a marked change to your box contents. Hopefully you have welcomed the greens and winter squash .  

Blessings on your meals — Judith Redmond

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…]

News From the Farm | July 23, 2018

The consistently triple digit temperatures for the last two weeks have been stressful for our crews who know that every day counts in terms of getting fruit out of the field in good shape.  If we miss a day of picking, the quality can go downhill, but a lot of these afternoons are just too hot to pick in.  Some of the fields are not only hot, but also very humid because the lines of plants are close together and the plants are transpiring continuously. 

This is our full-on harvest season, with each day a “big” day, so that almost first thing in the morning, planned and necessary projects are triaged in order to get the orders filled. Tremendous quantities of beautiful fruits and vegetables are picked every day from very hot fields.  Then they are brought into our packing shed, cooled down and boxed up for stores, restaurants, wholesale distributors and of course our CSA members. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 16, 2018

Years ago I had the opportunity to learn something about farming in California’s Central Valley, specifically, a little bit about water politics and policy. I was poking around in Water Districts and County government offices of Kern, Fresno and Kings counties, looking at documents that allowed me to map farm land ownership, and overlay that with data about who was actually farming the land.  Many times the farmer is not the owner of the farm land and a number of large “operating” companies manage large tracts of land in the Central Valley.

The location of farms in California is described in many official documents, using townships (a 6-mile square) and sections (1-square mile or 640-acres), a logical surveying system created in 1785 when the US government was dividing up and selling off land where tribes of American Indians had lived for centuries. Most of California’s Mexican Land Grants weren’t easily described by the rectangular system, but it’s use continues today. This system of surveying land was supposedly first proposed by Thomas Jefferson and associated with his philosophy of the ‘family farmer’ as the rightful settler of the young country. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 9, 2018

“We have seen unprecedented rates of spread and unusually erratic and dangerous behavior in fires over the last 5 years,” said Section Chief Brenton, a 31-year Cal Fire veteran, at a community meeting in Guinda last week.

As I write this, Cal Fire is still working to contain the northern edge of the fire (west of Full Belly Farm). The farm is in no danger, as we are across the highway from the fire, but we continue to see flames and smoke, mostly from a planned back-burn that was started last night. The amazing water-tanker-helicopters are still at work, roaring low right over the farm to hover over Cache Creek while sucking up water. We watch as they circle back to the fire and we can sometimes see a sheet of water falling from the belly of the helicopter. In one 14-hour period, 20 helicopters dropped 640,000 gallons of water on the fire, but it kept burning. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 2, 2018

The County fire started just a little bit after 2:00pm on Saturday afternoon just down the highway from Full Belly Farm, and within 30 hours had spread to more than 44 thousand acres.  It was mesmerizing to watch the flames and the dramatic drops of water and fire suppressants as the fire moved erratically, following the wind.  

Planes and helicopters circled around the smoke, looking very tiny next to the massive, billowing clouds and black plumes that jumped from one hot spot to another.  From the highway we watched many dozens of busloads full of fire-fighters from neighboring counties, on their way to make fire breaks by hand in the incredibly hot, smoky, hilly terrain.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 25, 2018

The new Full Belly ‘solar-powered’ 12.5 acre orchard of almonds, persimmons and pomegranates was mentioned in an earlier newsletter and we’re still just as excited about it as we were 6-months ago when we first turned it on.  This week, power and electricity are on our minds because we went without power for 10-hours on Sunday/Monday after a car hit an electric pole, and we are preparing for a “planned” power outage on Tuesday while PG&E does some maintenance work. The unplanned power outages happen fairly regularly.  Our power comes in one line up the Valley and when a car hits an electric pole, the entire Valley goes without power until it can be fixed. If the power poles were underground, the long-term maintenance savings would be significant. The “planned” power outages also happen fairly regularly, often during the hottest weather. All of the outages are very inconvenient because our water pumps are mostly electrical, so we have no water, no internet and no power to keep our vegetables cold. Full Belly has invested in several generators that are used for some of our remote pumps, but which we move into emergency service during power outages.  It is at times like these that we think about getting solar power that is not tied into the grid.  We first became interested in solar because of the environmental benefits and long-term cost savings, but more and more we wish that we could invest in systems like the one in our almond orchard.  Our friends at Sustainable Technologies, who designed and built the system, recently wrote the following description, providing additional details: [Read more…]

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… [Read more…]

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…]