News From the Farm | April 6, 2020

At the Capital: Dave Runsten (Community Alliance with Family Farmers), Judith Redmond (Full Belly Farm), Jimmy Panetta (Representing California’s 20th District) and Ken Kimes (New Natives).       

This is a message from one of your dedicated farmers who has been a full time CSA Coordinator for the last 3 weeks.  I spent the week of March 9th in Washington DC for a meeting of the Organic Farmers Association. I was there with organic farmers from all over the country.  We had for many months been planning a series of meetings at the Capital with our representatives. Long-time organic farmers, many of them who have been involved in shaping our movement from the beginning, were focussed on some of the important issues in organic agriculture — how to protect the integrity of the organic label for example.

While the meetings went very well they took place against a strange backdrop.  Senator Feinstein’s office wasn’t accepting business cards and required everyone to sanitize hands.  Workers were hurrying around the Capital swabbing down elevator buttons and door knobs with sanitizer.  We cleaned every work space in our meeting room before we sat down.  By the end of the week the news made it clear that it was time to head back home. I had to find an alternate flight and wait lines on the airline phones were 8 hours (literally).  Airline web sites weren’t functioning.  It was a situation of going to the airport and finding a flight regardless.  Flights were full and airport staff were frazzled.  It seemed as if the whole world was trying to evacuate just under the wire.

Back (thank goodness) at Full Belly, in the CSA office, staff were struggling to make sense of a chaos of closed sites, often finding out only hours before, that a site was going to close. On one occasion our driver waited with boxes on a curb, hoping that our members would turn up before he had to rush to the next drop.  Now, three weeks later, it seems almost commonplace that sites would be closing and schedules would be changing, but we had never before faced a situation of having to re-route hundreds of our members with such short notice.  The last three weeks have been a continuing series of challenges and changes that we have solved one by one as best we can.  We have moved sites, closed sites and changed schedules for many of our members  We have added hundreds of new members and we have opened a new home delivery route.  One of the biggest jumps has been in orders for add-ons — people who want our kitchen items added on to the vegetable boxes.  

Through this month of retooling so much of what we do, the Full Belly staff have been stalwart, focused on doing a good job, following the new protocols and bringing their very best selves to work.  They are patient as we work to adapt and proud that the world has finally recognized their work as essential and critical to all.

We are facing a tidal wave of questions and requests from our members. We are so happy to be receiving the additional interest and attention, even if it may take us a little longer than usual to respond.  However, with office staff in short supply and the significantly increased work load, we have had to close our CSA program to new members.  This too, would have seemed unbelievable a few weeks ago.  The moment seems to illustrate both the strengths and weaknesses of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  It is a relationship, not simply an economic exchange. There is an element of trust and some give-and-take that goes into it when it is at its best.  There is some extra complexity in managing it and that can make it unwieldy.  We usually on-board new members at a slower pace and can help everyone understand that a CSA works differently than a trip to the grocery store.  Remember, this is a part of the annual Full Belly Farm cycle when there is a little bit less diversity of crops than at other times of year — but the greens and alliums evolved to feed your immune system during the winter, so the boxes are naturally full of the nutrients that you really need.  

We thank our members, both new members and long-time members, for all your patience and kind messages.  We thank our site hosts for their immense generosity in continuing to allow us to use their sites for our member pick-ups.  We feel blessed that our farm will continue to be here for all of us, with crops in the ground to look forward to the coming months.

Blessings on your meals.

— Judith Redmond

Our tomatoes, protected from the cold 

News From the Farm | March 30, 2020

There is a good deal to think about as this week’s News is written.  First of all, we are doing well here at the farm.  We trust that you are weathering this storm with an abundance of love and patience. It can be hard to muster these sentiments when so much seems in turmoil. 

Last week we had a hard and unanticipated freeze. Although the weather predicted a low of 36° here at the farm, the temps dipped to 27° for a solid five hours. When that happens, all of the summer-loving things, venturing out with the first push of green get burned. Everything from the young leaves of walnuts to figs, grapes and pomegranates turn black and are set back to the starting point. Many of the almonds set as small nutlets froze and were lost along with some of the apricots and peaches. The emerging potatoes were fried also. Now a thin black line on top of their beds. It is all a bit heartbreaking and frustrating, and yet part of what we accept as the bargain at this wonderful farm. We can get whipsawed by the unexpected and then watch a week later as the small leaves begin over and once again move toward the goal of bringing sunlight and soil to fruitfulness. We live in a generous and bountiful land where even with setbacks emerge and thrive. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 23, 2020

CSA seasonal flowers start NEXT week!

Thank you to everyone who has written to wish us well at the farm.  We apologize if we are not able to answer each and every email.  Farming has officially been deemed an “essential service”, which makes a lot of sense, and we are continuing our work, creating ways of protecting our staff, our produce and our customers.  Many people have written repeatedly asking questions like the following: “Hi. I know this is a tough time for everyone. I saw the email that was sent out with instructions for people picking up boxes.  I was hoping to get more information about precautions taken by Full Belly staff, otherwise I will cancel.” [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 16, 2020

Full Belly Situation Room —This is what our meetings look like!

Flu Safety — 

The Coronavirus outbreak illustrates that the health and well-being of each of us is connected, from one person to the next. Full Belly has been getting many calls from friends asking how we are doing and how they can help at the same time as many people are concerned about the safety of the CSA boxes and the farmers markets.  We wanted to tell you that we always take precautions to make sure that our fruits and veggies are sanitary and we will double down on those procedures even more now. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 9, 2020

Beware the Ides of March?

For many years in a row I have been the “flower article” author, bringing to you news about Full Belly Farm’s flower growing and the upcoming flower subscription (starts April 1st everyone!). The weather is often a common topic, how it effects our flower growing, how it is unusually warm, or wet, or cold, or dry.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 2, 2020

Our two pigs were moved into new green pasture over the weekend, which makes them very happy.  This is Winona — she is pregnant, soon to have piglets!  —  

What you ate last year…

The CSA  boxes reflect for our members what it taking place at the farm.  Long-time members know the patterns well.  Cold weather brings greens and roots.  Hot weather brings tomatoes and melons.  There are both similarities and changes from one year to the next and from one week to the next.  Sometimes we can surprise even our long-time members with something new, but many households have their favorite ways of eating every single item in the box.   [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 24, 2020

Transplanting lettuce in February  —  

Being and living the change that one wants to see in the world is our calling as we seek to develop wisdom and compassion. Right relationship, right livelihood, right action, right concentration, right mindfulness, right thought and right speech are practices and markers for our journey. These are part of Buddhist teaching but are also part of the whole of any spiritual practice.  Observing and listening to the quiet and beauty of the natural world surrounding us gets us closer, helping us while demonstrating the profound beauty of the world we inhabit. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 17, 2020

 One Hundred and Five Almond Festivals!

Here in the Capay Valley we take our traditions quite seriously – no messing around. February, first coined as Almond Festival month in 1915, is no exception. Starting early in February, as the almond trees begin their month-long blooming period, the valley is dotted with pink and white puffy blossoms on dark trunks all along the hillsides and valley floor. Some of these orchards date back to the early 1900’s – planted by farming settlers who often dry farmed in the hills. Their gnarled twisted trunks are testimony to a struggling history of farming on the rugged hot hills. In more recent years many new plantings have sprouted up on the rich valley soil  –comprising over 2,000 acres of this much-heralded nut, with many new varieties and modern farming techniques. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 10, 2020

Everyone get down and take a closer look at our soil!

Spring is just about sprung here in the Capay Valley and that means school groups and tours will be arriving soon!  When groups come to visit, we always ask them the question “Do you know what we grow here at Full Belly Farm?”  And of course, the answers are always wide-ranging: “tomatoes, flowers, carrots, chickens, lettuce!”  While all of these answers are correct, visitors tend to forget two of the most important things: soil and conscious farmers! 

Without healthy, rich, and nutritious soil we would never be able to grow such healthy, rich and nutritious crops!  We care for our soil by spreading compost, grazing our land with sheep and chickens, and even experimenting with reduced-till crop rotations to care for the billions of organisms underneath our feet. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 3, 2020

It is lambing season at Full Belly!  About 25 lambs have been born and we expect that there will be over 100 by the time we are done.  The weather has been beautiful and so far all has gone smoothly.  The photos show the pregnant moms and some of the lambs that were born in the last week. 

Understanding the mysterious powers of soil is a fascination shared by many farmers.  Activities in the soil are hidden away and under-appreciated.  Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, for example go through transformations in the soil that are critical to plant and human nutrition. Organisms in the soil can extract nitrogen from the atmosphere, break down wastes and poisons, or sequester carbon thus mitigating climate change.  Soils with good structure and high organic matter can help to mitigate floods OR droughts, making healthy soil a high priority to all of us in California. The ways that soil organisms interact with plant roots to keep plants healthy is a process so choreographed and amazing that it is hard for scientists to unravel.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 27, 2020

A group of us were at the Ecological Farming Conference last week and many were involved in presentations on quite a range of subjects — Hannah and Dru Muller were facilitators of a day-long session on Women/Womxn in Food and Agriculture; Paul Muller participated in a series of workshops exploring reduced and targeted tillage as a way to minimize soil disturbance; Hannah Muller described her use of social media to tell the story of her love of flowers and floral arranging; Jenna Muller talked with attendees about the Environmental Mediation Center; and Judith Redmond moderated a panel on issues in national organic policy. Full Belly’s Harvest Manager, Jan Velilla, presented at a workshop posing the somewhat leading question:  “Biodiversity or Sterility: Which Ensures Safe Food?”  Reflections on the past, present and future of organic farming continued throughout, as well as deep discussions about challenges to the integrity of the organic label. African American, American Indian and a Quecha farmer shared their stories. All the Full Belly kids got to enjoy EcoFarm, as well.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 20, 2020

It is remarkable how busy our farm continues to be, even with short days and cold mornings.  It is true that there are fewer crops to harvest, but we also have a smaller crew.  The year-round crew is here of course, but a lot of folks take extended time away during the winter.  People will start returning in a few months.  Our Farm Dinner dates have been announced, as well as our Spring Open Farm Day (Saturday April 25th).  We are also trying to figure out schedules to enable many of us to leave next week for the Ecological Farming Conference in Asilomar.  In the office, we feel tax season on the way — no sooner have we closed December payroll than we have to create W-2 and 1099 forms for everyone. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 13, 2020

During the Full Belly winter break I visited Mexico with friends and we took a bit of a road trip between Puebla and Oaxaca. Oaxaca is an amazing center of both biological and cultural diversity.  During our drives along windy mountainous roads, avoiding major highways, we enjoyed vistas of subtropical cactus forests, and in the villages and towns we enjoyed the rich cuisine based on native plants. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 6, 2020

 

Happy New Year to all of our members!  The weather was mild during our break — cold, but no deep freeze events.  The rain that we had was gentle.  The cover crops look good — ready to jump up when warmer weather comes back.  We are looking forward to 2020 and hope that it brings health and beauty to our members.

News From the Farm | December 2, 2019

 

Dru at the Farmers Market (photo by Lauren Betts)  — 

One delight of our Thanksgiving week was the remarkable change in weather. On Wednesday evening the temperature dropped to 28, freezing pipes, nipping the last leaves on the apples, peaches, walnuts and almonds; and frosting the last of the summer’s non-frost tolerant crops like potatoes and summer flowers. (Potato tops are dead and the spuds are resting in the soil until we harvest them later this winter.) All manner of summer frost-sensitive crops are now dark and done. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving News From the Farm — 

We recently had a meeting of our Crew Supervisors and listened to them echoing themes that we ourselves have been discussing:  “There are not enough crew members here on the farm to do the work.  Each of our crews needs at least 5 or 6 people, and we often have only 2 or 3 people trying to do the work of 6.  The only solution is to cut back crop production 20% across the board.”

Basically, our crew is pointing out to us the fact that every year we hopefully plant, irrigate, weed and care for our beautiful crops, but often leave too many of them in the field because of the labor shortage that so many other farmers are also experiencing. The crux of this labor shortage has to do with the fact that the majority of US farm workers are immigrants, they always have been immigrants and most future farm workers will be immigrants as well.  With the current crackdown on immigration from Mexico and Central America, and the lack of public policy that would allow immigrants to work in the US legally, the stress on US agriculture is increasing.  Construction and Landscaping, which also rely on immigrant labor are in the same quandary.  And the labor shortage can be especially difficult for organic farmers growing labor intensive fruits and vegetables and often needing proportionally more labor because of a greater amount of hand weeding on organic farms. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 18, 2019

Hello Fellow CSA Members,

As the year draws to an end, it is once again time for a report from the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic (CMC) which provides free integrative health services to low-income women who are living with a diagnosis of cancer. The produce boxes donated each week by Full Belly Farm and its CSA members who donate a skipped vacation box or add a box when they renew are visible manifestation of support and kindness, and they are received with joy. 

Earlier this year CMC moved into a beautiful, welcoming new space. The rooms are light, airy, and bright with color. During each shift, when they arrive for their acupuncture, bodywork, herbal healing, or other services, CMC clients can pick up fresh FBF produce to take home for themselves and their families.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 11, 2019

One has to love a bargain- it may be a personality virtue – re-use, recycle, repurpose. Or maybe it is a malady that drives profligate hoarding or the accumulation of another’s junk; or being blind to eyesores; or an overactive imagining about future time that will be allocated for turning straw into gold. In my troubled view, my straw is generally junk steel. 

Admittedly, I have gone on a spree of imagining about good deals for too long.  As a result, my steel resource pile is a bit too big, the list of get-to-it projects enough for a couple of lifetimes.  The good ideas to be built from that pallet of auction junk become magnificence in my imagination as I raise my hand.  When I get it back to the farm, the filing system for my expanded resource base has not been well organized.  Where did I put that widget?  I know that I have one around here somewhere! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 4, 2019

We are enjoying dry, mild weather with only light winds and wonderful crisp cold nights and warm days. A walk around the farm still reveals signs of all the wind we experienced last week, with twigs and trash needing to be cleaned up. The lovely Fall weather we experienced this week is very much appreciated. 

Many seasonal crew members have left the farm, returning to lives in Mexico, about which I know very little. Despite our best intentions of rounding out the work cycle, we still love to grow those tomatoes, melons and summer crops, all of which require that we increase the number of people working here during the 6-month busy season. Our year-round, permanent crew knows that the work days are getting shorter — a mixed blessing for them with more family and personal time, but lower take-home wages. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 28, 2019

This family worked hard at Full Belly all spring and summer, and just left for Mexico  — 

We are still in the thick of our olive harvest but were not able to continue because of the power outages that started on Saturday 10/26.  We take our olives directly to the mill for pressing because that is the way to get the best oil, but the Seka Hills Olive Mill will be without power and has told us that their doors will be shut, right in the middle of prime time. Another dimension of the problem is that stores have placed veggie orders, but when we arrive with the deliveries we are turned away because there is no power.  [Read more…]