News From the Farm | July 26, 2021

Last week was a big one for harvesting eggplants and melons, just like the week before. It’s been a great year so far for both, in terms of yield and taste, especially the melons, and you’ve probably tasted. If you missed it, here’s the scoop on how we harvest both. And it was a big week for the flower crew too, but it’s always a big week for the flower crew. The everyone in the field is almost exclusively focused on harvesting crops, with some weeding and tractor work mixed in, and the irrigation team has plenty to do, setting up and maintaining drip tape, and moving sprinklers. The winter squash are up and some are starting to set fruit. Before we know it, well be focusing on getting other fall crops in the ground, whether by direct seed or transplant, but we arent to that point yet.

Those of us in the shop and office handle selling, washing, packing, and transporting the produce. Additionally, Paul was on the news, with some footage of the fields, and our crews at work. You can watch and read the coverage focusing on the ongoing battle about allowing Organic Certification for hydroponic and aquaponic operations and the Real Organic Project certification and consumer education work that we’re involved in.

In the CSA side of the office, I’ve been processing a lot of skip requests (as makes sense during period of high summer travel), signing up new members from our waiting list, and fielding various questions and inquiries. Based on some recent feedback from our site hosts (including our Farmers Market teams) and various questions and issues that we’ve received via phone and email it seemed like a good time to go over a couple of the CSA protocols. Even if you’ve been with us for a long time, or just joined last week and recently read all of the information we shared with you, please read it over again, just to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Scheduling and ordering:

Many people are back to traveling and we’re happy to accommodate skip or donation requests but please don’t forget to tell us with enough advance notice. You can submit a skip or donation request in your online account, or you can do the same via email or phone. We request four days advance notice and if emailing or calling, please provide your full name and the exact dates you want to skip (instead of referencing “this week” or “next week”), and site location. If you happen to know your account number, then we can know that we are making adjustments for the correct person. We have a surprising number of CSA members with the same, or very similar names

Special orders or renewals should also be requested four or more days before your pickup.

Even if it is less than four days before, if you will not be able to pick up your box, please let us know. We may be able to skip your box, but at the least, it’s helpful to let site hosts know if they’ll have an extra.

If you have not set up an online account yet but would like to, please let us know.

Picking up your box:

If you receive the Full Belly Beet the day before your pickup (almost always sent out by late morning), it means you have a box and/or flowers. If you don’t receive it, it means that there isn’t anything scheduled for you.

Before taking anything, please check the sign-in sheet to see that your name is on it, and what you have this week. If your name is not on the list, do not take anything and contact us instead, either by email or by phone, so we can figure out what the situations is.

Once you take your box and/or flowers, please sign or initial next to your name. We may not get the sign out sheet back for more than a week so if you have messages to convey to us (dates you want to skip, missing items, etc.) please email or call with that information; do not write it on the sheet. Please bring a pen with you in case there isn’t one at your site.

Take a complete box; do not open other boxes or exchange produce between boxes. If your site has a swap box, great! Otherwise, please take all produce with you from your box.

Please leave the box at the site and just take your produce and/or flowers.

If you are sending a friend or family member to pick up your box while you are away, please share all of the pickup information and procedures with them.

Please continue to practice social distancing when picking up your box and allow everyone plenty of space.

When picking up flowers, make sure that the stems of the remaining flowers are still in the water for the subsequent flower pickups.

Communication:

If there is any problem with your box, or any issue at the pickup site, please let us know as soon as possible. We are always open to feedback, negative or positive, about your experience in the CSA, as well as recipe ideas and anything else you want to share. We aren’t always able to make changes to address each piece of feedback that we receive, but we do share it with the rest of the partners and farm leadership and appreciate the connection with our CSA members.

When emailing us, please use csa@fullbellyfarm.com and when calling, the best number is (800) 791-2110. Other farm numbers don’t reach us directly, thus increasing the chance of something not working correctly.

Thank you for reading this long list! The majority of the time when someone doesn’t get their box, it’s not a result of theft but instead accidental pick-ups by other CSA members. Given how many boxes, flowers, and special order items we send out each week, the number of issues that come up are pretty low, but it’s always disappointing when someone doesn’t get their box, and we want to honor your skip requests and get you your special orders on the day that you request. Hopefully these reminders help us and you minimize those disappointing events.

Elaine Swiedler (CSA Manager) & the rest of the CSA Team

News From the Farm | July 19, 2021

The news from the farm from the past week is: eggplants and melons. And more eggplant and more melons. While our tomatoes are growing frustratingly slowly (we hope to have them in the boxes soon) these two crops are thriving right now and thus are worth diving into, accompanied by some photos of our crew at work.

Eggplant:

How do you harvest eggplants? With clippers, and ideally with long sleeves and gloves too since they can have thorns. Each picker has a 5-gallon bucket that they fill up and empty into the macro bins on the back of the tractor, separated by type. Right now, the eggplant plants are small enough for our tall harvest tractor to drive over them, but soon enough, they’ll be too tall to fit under, eventually growing up to four feet. Soon, the tractor will move over to one of the rows of basil we intercrop between every few eggplant rows. The rows of basil leave plenty of clearance for the tractor and attract pollinators because we leave sections to go to flower.

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 12, 2021

We are having some very hot days here at the farm, an experience that we share with other inland Californians. The heat is bringing on the produce. Trucks and trailers full of melons, eggplants, peppers, beans and other delicious summer treats are driving along the farm’s dirt roads, from the fields and to the packing shed, in a parade that reaches a crescendo at the end of the day as the harvest is completed. It is ‘all hands on deck’ in the packing shed then, when several dozen people finish the last packaging, put produce in the coolers and load trucks.  Each day is incredibly detail laden, full of troubleshooting, decision making and continuous attempts to balance multiple needs.

          

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 5, 2021

We keep reaching various milestones that make me think “well now it’s officially summer.” The first sungold cherry tomato, the first slice of watermelon, the first okra, the list goes on and on. In addition to all the great produce, summer for us means there’s even more to do. More to water, sell, harvest, sort, wash, pack, load, transport, and deliver. And we still need to plant and maintain fall crops so that we’ll have things to harvest when the summer crops (eventually) wind down.

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 28, 2021

There’s a farmer who specializes in Asian vegetables and sells at the Berkeley Farmers Market. Since Full Belly has no greens at this time of year I brought home a large bunch of his Water Spinach, a steaming green that has thin long leaves and hollow tender stems.  I had never cooked it before so I was following my own maxim, something I find myself saying quite often when I’m behind the Full Belly market stand, “Every time you try something new, you live a day longer!”

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 21, 2021

News from the farm this week is that it’s been scorching hot! The summer’s first big heat wave sent us scrambling to keep our summer crops happy. Our irrigation crew has pulled miles of drip tape out to quench those thirsty plants that have grown with only a few overhead irrigations. We are working hard to dig the spring’s last potatoes and get them into our coolers. Sheep graze cabbage fields ensuring that no more will be put into your weekly boxes! We are trying to get all our weeding and cultivating done before our impending summer crop harvest of tomatoes, melons, peppers, and more, consumes every last set of able hands on the farm.

   

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 14, 2021

Interview of a Farm Kid  —  

When I was asked to write this week’s Beet article, I thought it would be fun and fresh to hear about the farm from a 3-foot perspective. So I interviewed my oldest son who is one of the six grandchildren that were born and raised at Full Belly Farm. Waylon Rain Muller will turn 5 in September, and aside from a handful of hours spent at the local preschool every week, he spends his days being a farm kid. “What’s a farm kid?” you might ask. Well, the job description varies depending on the day and the season, but here’s a sample of a day in the life of Waylon. He didn’t ask for this life, but so far he loves it and sure lives it to its fullest… [Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 7, 2021

This past week was an important one for Full Belly Farm garlic. You’ve been receiving garlic in your boxes since February and have gotten to see its growth and evolution from thin stalks of green garlic that look almost like leeks, to the dried bulbs in the boxes last week that look like “normal” garlic. Our garlic has finally reached the point when it is mature and is ready to be harvested and dried!

So there was a lot of activity happening up in the garlic field last week. I made a few trips up to the field and sat down with Andrew to get some details.

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 31, 2021

This crew is weeding flowers – they’ve got long sleeves and pants for sun protection and water containers close at hand.

Have you seen the weather forecast for Guinda this week? At the time of writing this (Sunday) the National Weather Service is forecasting 107 Monday, 102 on Tuesday and then “cooling down” after that to 99, 96, and a cool 95 on Friday. Last week we were in the high 80s, so this is quite the jump. 
 
What does this kind of heat mean for us?
 
First – as always, we follow California laws. The US Department of Labor does not set heat laws for agriculture or any other industry. Absent Federal leadership, several states have created laws addressing heat. California passed the nations most stringent heat laws in 2005 after four farmworkers died from heat exposure. California farms must (1) allow time for workers to acclimate to high temperatures (2) provide at least one quart of cool water per hour per worker (3) provide rest and shade whenever temperatures exceed 80°F with mandatory breaks every 2 hours when temperatures exceed 95°F and (4) respond promptly to symptoms of possible heat illness and take immediate action to protect workers, including obtaining emergency medical care. The California regulations also require heat training for all workers and the farm must prepare a Heat Illness Prevention Plan. At Full Belly all supervisors have insulated water dispensers and disposable cups on their trucks and each employee is offered a half gallon personal insulated water container and a reusable water bottle.

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 24, 2021

It’s really exciting to be able to include some spring fruit in your boxes this week! Who doesn’t like fruit?

There’s a fair amount of work that has to happen before we get to harvesting the fruit, as with most of our crops. Strawberry transplants go in the ground in the beginning of September and then must be weeded and tended until they start bearing a crop the next spring. So they take up valuable real estate in the field long before they start paying “rent”. Strawberry plants bear fruit for multiple years but their productivity drops dramatically after the first year, so for us, they’re a one year crop. Note: strawberry jam is back and is available on the web store! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 17, 2021

Last week I picked up a phone call from the post office letting us know that we had a special package to pick up. This was a little more exciting than the average box of seeds or office supplies – it was a shipment of baby chickens! Sending chicks through the mail is nothing new, it’s been standard for over 100 years, but I always find it a little mind-boggling that you can get chicks in the mail just like you do a pair of shoes.

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 10, 2021

Sheep Shearing  —  

Tuesday began as so many farm days have before. Myself and the other interns emerged onto the yard, fresh from our morning kitchen congregation, full to the brim with eggs, toast, and coffee. In that brief moment we’re one, a pod of aspiring young farmers, trading jokes and stories over breakfast. As quickly as we emerge, we separate, scattering in search of the day’s tasks, destined to reconvene and unpack at our next meal. Tuesdays are unique because we pack the truck for our only afternoon market. We don’t load the truck the day before, but rather the morning of. Once Judith’s market truck is ready, the interns who loaded truck are left with the strange sensation of an empty and quiet yard—a far cry from the morning’s chaos of people and vehicles. At this point, just shy of 9am, I was left with the undeniable feeling that I’d missed my ticket out of town. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 3, 2021

Baboo  —  

Full Belly Farm lost a cherished friend on Saturday. Our beloved golden retriever, Baboo, passed suddenly at the young age of 8. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 26, 2021

Everyone around here has been hoping, waiting and watching for the promised rain of this last weekend of April, and we were rewarded with a beautiful Spring day with gusty winds and a few squalls.  Droughts are part of California’s climate and we are now in a second year of drought.  Our County, Yolo, has been declared by the folks that define these things, to be in an “extreme drought” which means that there is little pasture for cattle and livestock, reservoirs are extremely low and the fire season could be a long one.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 19, 2021

A set of baby chicks arrived last week and 6 piglets were born on Saturday 4/18! (Piglet photo courtesy of Julia Funk)

We are enjoying mild, beautiful weather here at Full Belly Farm, the warm afternoons and constant effort to get water to all of our fields underscoring everyone’s ever-present uneasiness that we are in a parched drought year.  Cache Creek, usually a significant source of irrigation water in the summer months will benefit from reservoir water releases for only 45 to 60 days, so Full Belly, like farms all over the state, will be using more groundwater than otherwise. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 12, 2021

You can really tell it’s spring because we’ve already moved on to summer. Not actually – we are very much still in the process of harvesting spring vegetables. But we also are thinking ahead and taking actions now so that we’ll be ready when summer actually gets here. That being said, the weather forecast shows some pretty toasty temperatures next weekend and we’ve already had to do quite a bit of irrigation, much more than would be ideal this early in the year.

Last week we got our first tomatoes of 2021 in the ground! We also transplanted some melons, onions, and some other summer crops. As mentioned in a recent News from the Farm, we direct seed a lot of our crops but there are several things that we put in the field as transplants in order to give them a head start on the weeds and/or on the weather, or because they just do better that way. When it comes time to set them out in the field, there are two ways that it happens: by hand or with a mechanical transplanter. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 5, 2021

Asparagus crew  —  

Why did the sheep cross the road? To get to the other side!

Specifically, last week this year’s lambs and their mothers crossed from the fields next to lambing barn to our fields on the east side of Highway 16 to eat down the cover crops! The cover crops are at the right maturity to incorporate into the fields, and we need to get those fields ready for our summer plantings. To do that, we could use a tractor to mow down the cover crops or the sheep to munch them down. Both methods have their benefits and drawbacks. The sheep do great work, but they go through the field more slowly than the tractors, and there’s more left in the field after they head out, so we have to go back in to do some cleanup work. But when we can, we like to use the sheep. Unlike a tractor, they cut the plants and break down the biomass a bit via digestion making the nutrients more quickly available for the microbes and plants that will soon be growing there. The trick is making sure they have the right amount of space – not too much or too little. Putting many sheep on a relatively small section of land helps keep them from being selective with what they eat and leaving some plants behind. They’ve been moving through 1.5 acre blocks in about four days. See the photos for proof. And we also have to keep timing in mind – organic and food safety regulations prevent us from harvesting produce from fields that have been grazed for certain time periods. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 29, 2021

Flowers that Hannah made for Cheryl’s ceremony  —  

Spring time is absolutely wonderful in the Capay Valley – the mountains rise above us on either side, green with annual grasses, the orchards are in flower and the weather is mild.  Not a day goes by on the farm without tractors preparing beds for planting and seeds going into the ground. As flowers burst forth everywhere, even our crops respond to the lengthening days and warm sunshine by rushing to flower.   We call it ‘bolting’ when the carrots or cabbages abandon leafy growth and start growing flower stems, an apt term as the pace quickens in plants and humans both. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 22, 2021

Andrew at work  —  

The fields and shop are always abuzz with activity, but for six months of the year (January to June), our greenhouses can be included in that mix. On Friday, I got the official tour of the greenhouse from Andrew (Brait) to share with you all this week.

Andrew, Chica, and Ana head up our greenhouse team. This team, along with other helpers, is responsible for seeding, watering, and tending to tens of thousands of plant starts each year to be transplanted into the fields when they’re big enough. This time of year, our greenhouses are full of flowers, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and early melons and basil. Our greenhouses allow us to get a head start on the season; we can start a tomato or pepper plant in the warm, protected confines of the greenhouse long before we could set it outside. And when our transplants do make it out to the field, they have a head start on the weeds too! We direct seed (meaning putting seeds straight in the ground) the vast majority of our crops, and we don’t grow all of our own transplants (more on that later) but these greenhouses are key to some of our important crops. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 15, 2021

Along with 20 other farms, our farm got to participate in a pop-up COVID vaccine clinic last week.  The clinic was organized by Yolo County and took place on a nearby farm.  In all, 338 farmworkers got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine (so we don’t need to go back) and over 200 people returned to get their second Pfizer vaccine after a clinic at the same farm a couple of weeks ago.  By the end of this month, we can rest assured that 90% of our crew is protected.

Yolo County announced its intention to vaccinate frontline workers on February 15th and started pop-up clinics on farms a few days later. These clinics are part of a landmark effort in California to bring the vaccine directly to the fields.  Reports of similar pop-up clinics have come from Riverside, Monterey, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Marin, and small farmworker towns in Tulare and Fresno Counties.

These clinics are noteworthy for taking place in usually underserved areas like Dinuba, Earlimart and Porterville.  Farmworkers are at high risk of getting COVID, and outbreaks have crippled the work force on farms across the country.  Between Mid-July and November of last year, 13% of farmworkers in the Salinas Valley tested positive in comparison to only 5% of Californians in general.   Latino food and ag workers age 18 to 65 in CA had a nearly 60% increase in mortality during 2020 compared with pre-pandemic times — that’s a very high risk factor.

Farmworkers often live in crowded, multigenerational houses, eat together in dining halls,  travel to work and out to the fields in crowded vans, or work in bustling packing houses.  They can have spotty internet access and may be wary of registering for government programs at large vaccination sites.  Yet these workers never missed a beat when the shelter in place was announced — they are the first step in the chain that gets food to everyone’s table. For all of these reasons, the prioritization of farm workers and the on-farm clinics to deliver those vaccines make a tremendous amount of sense.  When was the last time that you saw farmworkers get preferential treatment for anything?

California is ahead of the curve in terms of farm worker vaccines.  In states like Georgia, Texas, New York and Florida, farmworkers are not yet in the priority groups authorized to receive the shots.  Although the CDC recommended that farm workers should be prioritized along with other essential workers, the CDC also allowed states to set their own priorities and some states are requiring documentation of legal residency which is a good way to disqualify many farm workers. In my view, if ever there was a clear need to set aside the requirement for documentation, this is the time.

With the shortage of vaccines (which hopefully is going to become a thing of the past) and the limitations in logistical preparation, health officials everywhere are grappling with questions of equity.  In California, where 40% of the vaccines are supposed to be directed to disadvantaged areas, there are still inequities.  By February 19th, 24% of African Americans over the age of 65 in Los Angeles had received a vaccine, compared to 43% of white residents in the same age bracket. One of our farmers market crew members, an 80-year old African American without a car or smart phone, needed a COVID test a few months ago.  He walked all the way to a test site and was turned away because he didn’t have an appointment. In that same time frame, all of the other members of the farmers market crew (all white) were easily able to get tested.

[Read more…]