News From the Farm | May 25, 2020

Cooking Out of the Box

One of the common reasons that people become members of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program is because they want to have access to healthy, fresh, organic produce.  I’ve always loved the beginning paragraph from the 1964 edition of the Joy of Cooking because it links good food and good health so well:

“We enjoy the cynical story of the old-fashioned doctor who insisted first on going straight to the kitchen of the afflicted household.  Not until he had effusively thanked the cook for giving him a new patient did he dash upstairs to see how he could relieve the cook’s victim.  The fact is that everyone who runs a kitchen can, in the choice and preparation of food, decisively influence family health and happiness.”

We agree with the Joy authors that healthy food (to be had by getting into a CSA program) is beneficial to health and happiness.  Other reasons – some of which may develop over time – that people stay with their veggie box program – include the opportunity to have a relationship with the place that your food comes from, the opportunity to support businesses that practice environmental sustainability, or the creative satisfaction that comes with preparing meals from whatever arrives in the box rather than cooking with preset recipes and menus in mind.

Cooking from the box doesn’t work for everyone.  Sometimes there are vegetables that you aren’t fond of that seem to be on automatic repeat, in your box every time.  What to do?  Rest assured, they will be gone soon and maybe, like so many of our CSA members before you, you will find that given the right preparation, you actually DO like that item after all.  In fact, be forewarned, we may be in for a major reset. With a week of unusually hot weather predicted, many of our spring crops will surely wilt and disappear until next Fall when cooler weather returns.

My approach to cooking from the box has always included cookbooks and recipes, but living out in the boonies, the weeknight cooking also usually involves a healthy dose of substitution, creative license and a tendency to simplify.  Our CSA program at the moment has many new members, the bulk of whom probably share the common reasons outlined here for joining, but also have a (thankfully) UNCOMMON reason as well: a pandemic.  Y’all know who your are — the CSA Pandemic Cohort.  We are watching you, we welcome you, we want to nurture your membership, we want to woo you into staying longer than you thought you would!

Thank you to our CSA members and all of our customers.  Our hearts go out to those around the world, many in countries with limited infrastructure, who are suffering from COVID. Blessings to all of you and blessings on your meals.

—Judith Redmond

P.S. Above, when I described my approach to cooking, I should have mentioned that the real cook in my household is my husband.  He is one of those people who cooks intuitively and everything he makes always tastes like it came from a professional chef, so I have life pretty easy when it comes to dinnertime.

News From the Farm | May 18, 2020

We are staking our first 6 acres of tomatoes, more than 1,000 stakes per acre!

— Wool Products —

Depending on your connection with Full Belly Farm, you might think of us mostly as a place where you can get amazing fruits and veggies… or inspiring flowers… or a place where there used to be some great seasonal pizzas on Pizza Nights, straight from the wood-fired oven. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 11, 2020

What a challenging time, navigating fears, isolation, suspension of touch and comfort-giving and millions of unemployed.  Our Full Belly community sends hope that all of you are safe, strong and resilient. Dru and I shared a notion when we were parenting our 4 children and there was a particularly challenging moment:  It was, “this too shall pass” – a small comfort, but generally more than true. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 4, 2020

Our friend Nate Norris, the Chef de Cuisine at Zuni Café was one of the first restauranteurs to contact Full Belly after the shelter in place started and Zuni closed its doors to the public.  Nate was thinking about how farmers and restaurants might cooperate to respond to the crisis.  Zuni Café, located in a unique and historic triangular 1913 building on Market Street in San Francisco, was established in 1979 and has long been an outstanding example of classic meals, a warm and convivial atmosphere, and a beloved neighborhood gathering place.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 27, 2020

Artist in Residence, Anna Martinek Brait with an armload of citrus blossoms collected by her husband Andrew while mowing  —  

I’m sitting at our patio picnic table looking out across a cover crop field that was recently mowed and has already dried down in the last couple of hot days.  As I was sitting down to write in the Full Belly office, the power went out, the second time it has done so during the Shelter in Place.  Somehow, when there is so much emphasis on keeping everything clean, it seems cruel for the power to go out because it means no water for awhile out here where we rely on pumps to keep the water flowing.  Hopefully the battery in my computer will carry me through for this writing. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 20, 2020

Rye with his sons Waylon (right) and Oakley  —  

There is a contagious kinetic energy more alive than ever before on the farm this spring. A mix of feelings; most of which are new, some of which are renewed. The sense of duty and pride we all feel, now more than ever, that our collective toil is essential. Our oath as farmers to you, through good times and bad. Our bond strengthens with our devotion to each other. That we may continue to sow the seed against all uncertainty. Behind the masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and our individual incertitudes, our work is how we serve our community. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 13, 2020

Planting onions, social distance style  —

The many sad events of the last month include the sudden absence of restaurant and art venues in our communities, the massive unemployment, and the loss of the alternative weekly press in communities across the country.  That last is close to my heart as my sister and brother in law had to close their three weekly papers – incredible assets in Sacramento, Reno and Chico – when their advertising revenue disappeared overnight. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

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…]