News from the Farm | August 8, 2022

What do you do when you have a lot of hot peppers? If they’re hot because they’re spicy, we make hot sauce! If they’re hot in temperature, then we need to cool them down. The faster we can cool them down, the longer the shelf life and we want to get all of our peppers to our CSA members and other customers in the best condition possible.

Postharvest handling, meaning everything that happens from harvest up until sale, is one of the most important things we do. We can grow the best produce, nuts, and flowers, but if we aren’t thoughtful about what we do after harvest, then we’re undoing all of our hard work. For each crop, we need to consider the optimal temperature, humidity, and packaging/container, and other factors, given the infrastructure and equipment that we have. Postharvest handling has many components but temperature and controlling heat are huge.

During the summer, field heat (the difference in the temperature of the harvested crop and its optimal storage temperature) is exceptionally noticeable. I’ve spent some time recently helping sort and bag peppers and was able to feel the impressive amount of heat that radiates from a full bin of peppers just in from the field. The optimal pepper storage temperature is between 41 and 45 degrees. The shade cloth covering on the peppers protects them from full sunlight but not from the heat and when they come in from the field, they might be as hot as the air. Ideally we would pick all of our crops first thing in the morning when it’s cool, but there’re only so many hours in the day and lots to harvest, so we pick the most sensitive things (like basil) early and the heartier produce, like peppers, has to wait until later the day.

There are several options for cooling things down (this video or this webpage provide great overviews), but it comes down to water (in liquid or ice form) and/or air to cool things down. Some produce, like tomatoes, can’t get wet, so our only option is air. Other things like peppers can get wet, so we put them in a dunk tank or bin with chilled water. Even in seemingly cooler spring and winter days, we use water to remove field heat from crops, especially leafy greens, and to hydrate the crops to limit wilting. A few crops are packed up with ice if we’re sending them out to wholesale customers (corn, broccoli, some leafy greens).

Once we’ve removed the field heat and dropped the core temperature of the produce, then most items go into a cooler. There’s a whole field of science behind the proper treatment (especially temperature and humidity) for each crop. We don’t have the space to give each vegetable the exact optimal combination of conditions, but we do the best we can, utilizing several coolers, some wet and some dry, set to a variety of temperatures (38, 50, and 60 degrees). We pick to order and keep the time produce spends in our cooler to a minimum, but most things do spend at least a little time in the cooler.

Postharvest handling is a huge topic to cover, and cooling produce is just one part, albeit a huge one. If you want to learn more, UC Davis Postharvest Center has many great resources, including this video, which goes deeper into the science behind cooling and the various options that farms use. It’s cool stuff (pun intended). The goal in cooling is to get our produce to you in the best quality with the longest lifespan. It’s always something on our minds and it’s something you should think about too; how you store your produce influences how long it lasts and limits food waste. We often include storage information in the Beet and on our online produce pages (which we’re constantly updating), but if you have questions, ask, or try looking it up. You don’t have multiple refrigerators to utilize but can take advantage of different regions of your refrigerator, can control humidity levels utilizing different kinds of bags, and shouldn’t refrigerate certain things. Here is a simple chart from the UC Davis Postharvest Center that provides some basic guidelines. That being said, we all have our own preferences and may find something to quibble with – for example, I always store my peppers, cucumbers, and eggplants in the fridge, counter to the information on this sheet. If you have a favorite storage method to recommend, let us know!

– Elaine Swiedler, CSA Manager

News from the Farm | August 1, 2022

What are the furry, feathered, and hooved residents of the farm up to as we pick, wash/sort, and pack the summer’s bounty? [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 25, 2022

We are heading into our 3rd week of triple digit temperatures here on the farm. High heat creates stress on everything and everyone. Plants and animals need more water, and we humans do too as we remain in the fields to do our work. We emphasize frequent water consumption, more breaks, monitoring for heat stress (in yourself and team members), and we try to be done earlier in the day. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 18, 2022

The news from the farm is that tomatoes are here. The trickle of tomatoes has grown each week and has now reached the point when we have enough to put them in the CSA boxes, which is exciting. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 11, 2022

Hi Full Belly Community!

My name is Amyah, and I am the flower intern at the farm this season. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 4, 2022

We’ve reached one of the important milestones of the summer: we’ve started harvesting peppers! [Read more…]

News from the Farm | June 27, 2022

What’s the news from the last week (or so)? [Read more…]

News from the Farm | June 20, 2022

Full Belly Farm is a special place for many reasons, and high up on that list is the people. Since almost the very beginning of the farm, interns have played a key role in the farm community. This week, I sat down with two interns, Yasuaki Saito (left, in both photos) and Kosuke Kato (right) to learn about their background and their experience at Full Belly Farm. They both arrived last September as part of the Japanese Agriculture Exchange Program, a program that Full Belly has had a relationship with for many years. The program starts with two months in Washington State taking English classes, then 13 months working at a farm (mostly on the West Coast), and then concludes with two months at UC Davis. They’ve done a little bit of everything (including filling in for a home delivery route) and are great members of the team. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | June 13, 2022

When most people think of summer crops, often the ones that come to mind are tomatoes, eggplant, and melons, but a key crop that often goes forgotten is sunflowers. We grow a lot of sunflowers and it’s not just us; they’re the sixth most valuable crop in Yolo County, grown on over 20,000 acres. Driving around the County right now, you’ll see countless fields of sunflowers all in bloom. Almost all of those fields of sunflowers aren’t harvested fresh; they are grown to be hybrid seed stock that will be sent around the world to be planted for oil. Unlike the fields for seed, our sunflowers are for cut flowers, for folks like you to bring into your home! Last year we harvested over 15,000 bunches of sunflower from May through October, with many more heads going into mixed bouquets. They’re a significant summer crop for us, thus worthy of a deep dive in the Beet. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | June 6, 2022

 

 

It’s June and there are several signs that summer is approaching: [Read more…]

News from the Farm | May 30, 2022

This week’s News from the Farm is from guest writer Dave Runsten, Senior Policy Analyst, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF). Dave and CAFF are long-time friends of Full Belly and advocates for farms like ours in Washington and Sacramento. We appreciate the great work that they do on our behalf and hope that you’ll support them (and us) by participating in their campaign. The images are some examples of the great artwork that recent farm guests with the Art & Ag Project from Yolo Arts shared with us. The top watercolor is from Johanna Pack and the bottom from is from Elly Gould.

The Drought and Small Farmers: #Don’t Let Small Farms Dry Up!

Like Full Belly Farm, there are many small farms in California that produce food for local communities. These are the thousands of farms at farmers’ markets, running CSAs and farm stands, and selling to restaurants. This group includes most beginning farmers, immigrant farmers, and farms run by people of color. Most of these farms are dependent on groundwater for food safety or because they are located outside irrigation districts. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | May 23, 2022

Among all the good things that happened last week, as well as the mundane, and some “milestones” (on Wednesday we had our first 99 degree day), we also had two power outages. The one Tuesday was relatively brief, just a few hours in the morning, while the one on Thursday started in early afternoon and we didn’t get power back until 11am on Friday. Neither were Public Safety Power Shutoffs; both were caused by cars colliding with power poles at the entrance to the Capay Valley, cutting off electricity to the entire Valley. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | May 16, 2022

It’s time for a tomato update! [Read more…]

News from the Farm | May 9, 2022

Hi Full Belly Family,

My name is Alexa and I’m a part of the current crop of interns at the farm. I am writing to you on a week that feels oddly ceremonious for me; one year ago, I laced up my boots, put on a new pair of Carhartt pants, and started my first official farm internship at a small organic farm outside of D.C. After 5 years spent working in the healthcare and software industry in Chicago, I had decided I wanted something different for myself. While the decision about what exactly I wanted didn’t come quick or easy, you could say that peppers are the reason I decided to take a leap of faith to leave one life and start another. Let me explain…

[Read more…]

News from the Farm | May 2, 2022

This past week our sheep got their annual shearing. Midday on Thursday I headed up to the sheep barn to survey the scene. Rye graciously answered my (many) questions while ably shearing our flock and I’m condensing and passing along that information here. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | April 25, 2022

The old saying goes “April showers brings May flowers.” We did get some rain in April: half an inch on Saturday the 16th and then some scattered trace amounts last week, despite some very dramatic skies that suggested the potential for more. Given our Mediterranean climate, we likely won’t get more until fall and we’ll be using our irrigation system to get flowers for May, and through the summer till it rains again. But given how little we got during this year’s rainy season, we’ll take what we can get. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | April 18, 2022

This week’s Easter celebration involved Sunday brunch and farm walks, then an afternoon family dinner featuring my 97-year-old father, Joe Muller (in the picture above) and lots of stories of life in Switzerland in the 1930’s and 40’s, and of the journey to the states after the war to a life of farming in a wildly open and abundant California.

Ask him a question and the memories and stories are clearly recalled: walking cows into the Alps from his home in Altdorf, a journey of more than 20 miles made each spring when snow cleared and the grass turned verdant and lush, his first potato crop as a teenager, and great tales of the mischievous pranks that he and his brothers were well known for in their small Swiss town. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | April 11, 2022

A farmer, regardless of what they grow, wears many hats: agronomist, soil scientist, hydrologist, entomologist, pathologist, meteorologist, mechanic, salesperson, driver, regulatory specialist, and more, in addition to participating in agriculture-related advocacy and social groups. Plus being a parent, spouse, sibling, and friend, and roles in religious institutions, political groups, sports teams, and community groups, time for hobbies, and some have off-farm jobs. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | April 4, 2022

Cache Creek – photo credit Ben Lindheim

Now that it’s April, we can officially say that we didn’t have a “Miracle March” to provide the precipitation that we needed after the historically dry January and February. We got about half an inch on Monday, which is certainly better than nothing. It was refreshing and was enough to pause some of our tractor work for a few days, but by the end of the week, the farm was once again humming with the sound of tractors – transplanting, mowing, cultivating, prepping beds. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | March 28, 2022

It’s Monday morning and it’s raining! Not the “Miracle March” that we would’ve liked, but some rain is better than none. With all the dry weather, we’ve been able to get a lot of transplants in the ground. By the end of the workday on Saturday, our first field of tomatoes was planted, as well as our first summer squash! All the planting requires bed preparation, which means a flurry of tractor activities: mowing the cover crops, some tillage, adding compost, and then forming and shaping the beds to form a nice surface for seeds or transplants. [Read more…]