News from the Farm | November 29, 2021

Kosuke and Andrew  —  

It is crazy for me to realize that my time at Full Belly ends in two weeks. I remember the first day, July 6th, 2020 when I spent that day and most of the week harvesting potatoes in the blazing summer heat.

The last year and a half has flown by and has been so enjoyable. Many days I could be doing a variety of tasks. Some days it could be everything from harvesting, planting, building a cooler and then ending with loading the delivery trucks. I spent many hours harvesting sunflowers, eggplants, peppers, and so much more. There were many days of planting transplants as well as seeding crops. In the spring, I spent every Sunday taking care of the greenhouse and watching the plants grow and learning how to take care of them with Andrew Brait’s advice. This summer, I was in charge of our sunflower harvest and bunching efforts.

Transplanting greenhouse plants

Almost every week for the past year I have gone to the Thursday Marin Farmers Market. Seeing the same customers every week and getting to know them has been a joy. One of my favorite things is the ride to and from market with Andrew Brait. It has been so informative to spend the time talking and asking him about farming. 

Kosuke, Andrew and Yassy at Market

Full Belly was a special place for me before I was an intern. Back in 1990 my mom, Frances, was a Full Belly intern at the same time as Andrew Brait and I grew up knowing the second generation of Mullers and Braits.

While my time at Full Belly is ending, I am very lucky that I will still be nearby and able to continue the friendship. Next year I am starting my own farm, Farmboy Organics, in Winters with my twin brother. While getting everything set up and signing the lease, it has been so nice to be able to ask everyone at Full Belly questions and advice, as well as having their support.  

I’ll be spending these last two weeks working a lot but also savoring these moments that are so special and unique to Full Belly. I am incredibly thankful for everyone at Full Belly who I have learned so much from and enjoyed working with. 

— Andrew Walker

News from the Farm | November 22, 2021

Carrots!

We’re closing in on the end the year! After this week, we’ve got two more weeks until our winter break, with a teaser this weekend when most of us have Thursday, Friday, and Saturday off –– the exceptions are the Saturday farmers market crew, our hard-working delivery drivers, and the folks who care for our animals, who will be working.

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News from the Farm | November 15, 2021

Dear Gentle Readers,
 
On a very special shelf in the Full Belly Farm office sit almost two-dozen binders that hold the dedicated archives of this newsletter. Coined The Beet in the late nineties the binders are a treasure trove of over 1,200 articles, interviews, opinion pieces, political sentiments, children’s essays, and guest editorials. One person has been responsible for the editing, proofreading, gentle deadline reminders and 90% of the written words over those past 25 years and yet not ONE article has captured the essence of who she is and her vital role here at the farm as partner, mentor and friend. So, this article is dedicated to Judith Redmond and not a moment too soon, for she will be stepping down in a month’s time from her daily duties here at the farm and opening some exciting new doors for herself in 2022.
 

Judith at this fall’s Grateful Harvest Gala

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News From the Farm | November 8, 2021

This past Thursday was our 2021 olive harvesting day! It was an all hands on deck effort to get our olives off the trees and turned into olive oil. Even some of us in the office chipped in a bit. A small crew stayed in the wash and pack area to take care of CSA boxes and orders, but everyone else grabbed tarps, ladders, hand rakes, and poles and headed out to the olives in three teams. Each team laid down tarps and then proceeded to pull, rake, and whack all the olives off the trees. Many larger olive oil operations use mechanical shakers to get the olives off of the trees, but we do it by hand. The olives on the tarps are emptied into small harvest bins which were dumped into large macro bins which were ferried back to the shop when full to be kept cool until we finished. It was a long day of work, but it was a true team effort and we had great weather.

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News From the Farm | November 1, 2021

Weather is often the subject of conversation, and this is even more the case in the farming world where we’re constantly talking about it and glancing at the forecasts. For a good reason! It impacts what our day-to-day tasks look like, more than many other professions. We found ourselves talking about the weather even more than usual this past week. How could we not after receiving 6 inches of rain in 24 hours and about 7 total in just a few days? We didn’t have any flooding on our farm, a testament to the care and attention that we give to the health of our soil, and the ground soaked it all in very quickly, with only a small amount of standing water in some fields on Monday morning, which was gone by that afternoon. Or maybe it shouldn’t be surprising given that we’d gone 18 months with almost no precipitation. During last year’s “rainy season” we only got 5 inches. With so little rain, not much vegetation grew on the burn areas from the 2020 LNU fire, so there were some mudslides (including one that shut down Highway 16 further up the Valley) and a lot of debris in the smaller creeks that feed into Cache Creek.

This storm was warm, it woke up and invigorated the plants, different than our usual cold front storms from the north which usually halt plant growth for a bit. All of the germinating seeds, recent transplants, and established plants look better already, more brawny and certainly bigger. Even the few remaining summer crops which are slowly petering out look happier and healthier. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 25, 2021

The news from Full Belly Farm is: RAIN. Between Thursday night and Monday morning, we got about 7 inches of rain, with 6 inches coming between Saturday afternoon and Sunday night.  That is a lot of rain to receive all at once and is more than we received last winter and spring. Right now (Monday morning) there’s some water in the creek, muddy roads and lots of puddles everywhere, but most of the standing water in the fields and orchards has already started to sink it. Still, it’ll be a while before we can get tractors out into the fields; we don’t want to get them stuck or compact our soil. There was a lot of frenetic work on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday last week to finish the walnut harvest, sow cover crops, transplant onions, flowers and almost 20,000 anemone and ranunculus corms, and everything else that needed to happen before it rained and it seemed like that was time well spent!

Creek, by Anna Brait

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News From the Farm | October 18, 2021

Being on the farm for the last 15 months I have come to learn the seasonal rhythm of the farm. After being here for over a year, when I see the change in seasons, I know what it means we are going to be doing. Summer is busy with lots of harvesting. As soon as we get to August, we start transplanting lots of fall crops. In the beginning of September we plant strawberries for next year and we continue to transplant and seed crops. Then as October begins, we plant garlic. Later this month will be getting flower transplants, bulbs and corms in the ground. At the same time as we are planting, there are lots of other crews working on harvesting and weeding. While summer is definitely the busiest time of the year there is so much to do the rest of the year and there is always so much going on: harvesting, weeding, and the never ending project list. It seems once one thing on the project list gets finished, we add at least two more things, ensuring we are never not busy. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 11, 2021

This past week was walnut week – marked by the hum of the machinery and the clouds of dust emanating from the orchard and full trailers of nuts. We aren’t completely done with our 2021 walnut harvest, but we’re almost there, having harvested two of our three walnut varieties and most of our 12 acres of trees.

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News From the Farm | October 4, 2021

NOTE: Farming is both physically and emotionally difficult work; it’s filled with plenty of heartbreak and sadness to accompany the positive and awe-inspiring moments. In addition to produce, we also raise animals and this brings even more emotional highs and lows. We don’t always talk about those harder moments and instead often focus on the cuteness of the babies or on how they help our soil fertility. But we think it’s important to talk about the whole experience. Kendall, one of our interns, wrote this week’s News From the Farm about her experience working with our animals. If you aren’t comfortable reading about animal death, we would recommend skipping this week’s News from the Farm.

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At the beginning of May 2021 I was welcomed into the Full Belly Farm intern family. It’s been a crazy and educational five months so far and I’ve loved (almost) every second.

Kendall attending to a happy member of the flock.

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News From the Farm | September 27, 2021

It definitely seemed a little quieter in “downtown Full Belly Farm” this past week. But the slightly lower level of hustle and bustle compared to a month or so ago was deceptive. Plenty of work was still being done, just different work.

Some folks were clearing out summer fields (collecting tomato stakes and winding up drip tape) and others helped out the regular kitchen crew cooking winter squash and making our 2021 batch of hot sauce! The major focus of the week was getting transplants and seeds in the ground. Andrew and others zipped around on tractors with seeders or transplanters on the back. Putting seeds in the ground is a solo act but transplanting (this week, mostly cabbage and lettuce) requires a team of folks to help. Once the tractor work is done, the plants need some help to get going. The irrigators come in next. The transplants need water to keep from drying out and seeds won’t germinate without it; most of our fall and winter crops are irrigated with sprinklers, which can cover 6 rows at a time and then are moved to the next set of rows. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 20, 2021

The last line of peaches, Autumn Flames — small but tasty  —  

It seemed to me that all of a sudden the gentler light, a cool breeze and a bluest of blue sky were announcing a change in the season. After another remarkably hot week, the nights are cooling down. As you walk through the walnut orchard, you have to make an effort to avoid stepping on the walnuts that have fallen from the branches and if you listen for a moment you will hear more of them falling to the ground.  Fig leaves are piling up in my garden and soon the peaches will be showing some fall color.  Persimmons and pomegranates are starting to look pretty ripe.  The heat of the sun doesn’t seem quite as intense.   [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 13, 2021

Andrew recently declared September to be the April of the fall. He meant that like April, this month is a crucial time to prepare for the next season. In April, we’re always busy getting ready for the summer. Right now, seeds must be sown, transplants put in the ground, and new plants watered and weeded in order for us to have crops in the fall and winter. All of these are key tasks over the next few weeks while we also continue to harvest our late summer produce. But this week had had accents of April even in the hot (106 on Tuesday and Wednesday) and dusty weariness of September. Why? [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 6, 2021

We’ve reached that time of the summer: Almost everything and everyone is pretty hot, tired, dusty, and ready for the end of summer, but we aren’t there yet. September is a very busy month that bridges summer and fall. We continue summer harvesting activities and get prepared for the cooler months by clearing old fields and planting new crops. Members of our summer crew who are students have headed back to the classroom, so our workforce has shrunk while the workload still is high. We had a bit of a reprieve from the heat and smoke last week, with blue skies and maximum temperatures in the upper 80s, and days are getting shorter and nights a little cooler, but it’s just a tease of what’s to come; we’re back in the 100s this week and have more summer ahead. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 30, 2021

At some point, every CSA member will open their box to find something that’s not what they were expecting. Perhaps they’ve never seen or eaten a kohlrabi, Paloma eggplant, or persimmon. Or it could be because the size or shape of the produce is not what they’re used to seeing.

Produce in a CSA box can be larger, smaller, or differently shaped because CSAs are not governed by all of the strict rules and expectations of the wholesale produce world about size and appearance. It makes sense for the industry to have a set of norms and accompanying vocabulary to help farmers, wholesalers, and customers communicate what we (the farms) have and make sure that buyers are getting what they expect. Some of that language describes size or appearance and you’ve probably seen some of this: Size A, Extra Fancy, No 1, etc. Most produce also has an expected pack size, usually a combination of weight and count that is expected in each box. There is a recognition of variation, but each order is expected to be fairly uniform and having to follow certain grades and pack sizes leaves out a lot of what we, and other farms, produce. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 23, 2021

Recently transplanted broccoli for the fall, grown in soil like we’ve always done  —  

We wear many different hats here at the farm. Each partner tries to embody their ideal and spirit of being activist farmers on top of our day-to-day work. There is an underlying sensibility that comes from the simple act of growing food and making a farm into a living, breathing, productive whole. We have been active in the Organic Food movement for over 40 years as our effort to solve for a pattern of health: in rural communities, in order to eliminate toxic pesticides from farms, in order to make safer workplaces for farmers and farm workers, and in order to supply better, safer food for those consuming what we produce. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 16, 2021

   

The 11 scarecrows of Full Belly are working hard to scare away birds from our table grapes.  —  

Sometimes at the farmers market people ask if our tomatoes are dry farmed.  No, they aren’t.  Dry farming is a method of growing crops so that they develop deep roots that can access subsurface water instead of relying on irrigation. This summer, temperatures well over 100º have been fairly common and nighttime temperatures have lingered on the hot side as well.  Sometimes when it feels like an oven outside,  I imagine that the plants are basically baking out in the field, a situation not conducive to dry farming techniques. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 9, 2021

How to eat a Full Belly Watermelon  —  

Grateful Harvest Gala  —  

The fall at Full Belly Farm for more than 30 seasons has been a time when more of our attention reaches outward, as planning for various events, including our Hoes Down Harvest Festival, reaches a crescendo.  We have cancelled the Hoes Down for the last two years because hosting thousands of people at the farm during the pandemic seemed like a bad idea.  Nevertheless, the work of the Ecological Farming Association one of the beneficiaries of the Hoes Down Harvest Festival, continued.  EcoFarm, as it says on their home page, “nurtures just and ecologically sustainable farms and food systems through education, alliance building, celebration and advocacy.” [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 2, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, too many options for News from the Farm for this week. Here’re just a few things to note from the past week: [Read more…]

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.

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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.

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