News from the Farm | December 5, 2022

The annual all-farm photo of the year-round crew, minus a few folks, with our new sweatshirts

The cold November has rolled into an early wet December. We are grateful for both and have been reveling in the rain – what a gift! Even though it means this week, as we wrap up the 2022 CSA, farmers markets, and produce sales, we will be slogging crops out of wet fields.

This past year, like all years, has been one of learning and growth. Four decades of experience and observation have created our general guidelines for management and tools to make better holistic decisions. But we are continually learning and accumulating knowledge about the world we observe, the world of microbes that we can’t see, and tools that we can use to grow nutritious food and healthy soil. Our agricultural knowledge evolves as each crop year provides new insight into the working relationships on our farm.

Science is helping us understand the power of the microbial world, a wildly complex, tightly linked world in which we live. In the soil, many of the trillions of microbes exist only in relationship to other microbes and often only in relation to plants that feed them and whom they in turn feed- they can’t be isolated and studied as soil components or parts. We increasingly see that the whole is the whole- its complexity is the near miraculous integration of everything as one. That may well include the hand and intention of us, the farmers who manage that continuum, for example by planting cover crops. Our farm has long focused on fall and winter cover crops; they create pathways for whatever rain we receive to penetrate and sink into our fields, and they feed sugars (carbon) to the incredible community of microbes that symbiotically feed plants the minerals they need to thrive, breaking down what we’ve added this year and in past years to enhance soil carbon and soil organic matter.

Science has revealed that the dust of a place carries the hitchhikers of billions of indigenous microbes, settling on leaf surfaces, in lungs, on skin, or soil surface. We now understand that the microbial world also impacts the working of our own physiological makeup, our gut microbes, and even our emotions. We are not just what we eat, but we are what our microbiome eats – as we are home to trillions of microbes and we are each our own ecosystem influenced by the ecosystems around us.

To farm is to be part of a continuum of care, starting with the history of past hands on the land – stretching back countless generations but also including yesterday’s actions- and looking ahead to what will be taken and added back tomorrow and further out in the future. To farm demands appreciation of ones caring for dynamic relationships within dynamic relationships.

We appreciate that for thousands of years, those who were indigenous to a place were as critical to the workings of an environment as all other parts. The place was of them, as they were of the place- a physiological, spiritual and social integration with a land.

We find ourselves increasingly of this place- modified by its character, its demands, its weather fluctuations, and the very microbial culture that we foster here. We mark 2022 as another year of learning and practicing the continued integration of our personal journeys and the design of a place. We also mark the year with Hannah’s marvelous wedding, the growth of clever grandchildren, and wonderful new and dedicated staff that have assumed Judith’s duties following her retirement. We are even mulling over how to reopen the farm as a place to teach and touch, even how a farm celebration (Hoes Down-like) might be resurrected.

We do these things in a changing world that challenges our farm design, from climatic changes to societal ones, and demands that we respond. Water is key- capturing more when it rains, and making more resilient soil/plant dynamics by adding carbon with cover crops and compost. Labor is key- honoring those who work the fields with living wages and health care. We seek to produce the best food that we can as we deal with the high costs of fuel and insurance. And we seek to provide a safe healthy environment to work, share and support the life above, below, on, and around this place for which we are responsible.

Thank you for another year sharing with and supporting this journey. This is our last week of the CSA and our last week at the Berkeley and Marin Farmers Markets. Our last Palo Alto Market will be on Saturday the 17th. After a rest later this month, we will be re-invigorated for the journey once more, restarting our CSA and markets on January 10th. Have a great holiday season. Your support is very much appreciated. Blessings from all of us to you.

Paul Muller

News from the Farm | November 28, 2022

Grandpa Joe hands out fresh milk to a happy customer at Story Road Drive-in Dairy

Good day to you all,

A warm north wind flowed down through the valley this Thanksgiving. As a river flows between its banks, the wind wandered between mountain ranges that cradle the land we care for. Trees now shimmer orange and undo their summer leaves, helped by the wind’s gentle fingers. An early frost painted the valley with the most spectacular fall colors I can remember. Deep amber, burnt orange, sweet reds and yellows all aglow. A serene exhale. A wave, goodbye for now, and in a mere blink of an eye, the whole landscape seems to be drifting off under winter’s spell. Early rains, of whose moisture ran deep into the soil, now bear their gift: a green glimmer beneath the gray foothills and pastures. Those rains washed away the dust and whispered songs of hope to all farms across the West. As we long for more, we must give thanks for the opening remarks they’ve given on behalf of this rainy season. It wasn’t just the dust they washed away, but the urgency of summer. Immediately following the first rain and cold of the year, there is a palpable heave felt for miles. A pressure valve released. We have time! Time to release our own leaves; successes, failures, milestones…memories. Winter’s gift to us farmers is this time, and the patience to digest and put to rest all of the leaves. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 21, 2022

Thanksgiving marks the home stretch for us – after this week, there are two more weeks before our winter break.

Every culture seems to have a harvest holiday like Thanksgiving, a time to sit down with friends and family and appreciate the land’s bounty. Not all are as complicated as ours though; the Thanksgiving story is based on a lot of myths and lies about American history. It is possible to observe Thanksgiving while acknowledging the long history of colonization, exploitation, and erasure, and the continued struggles and triumphs of Native people. One place to start is learning about the real history and your area’s Indigenous peoples and languages. And there are many other resources and ideas out there, including supporting Native organizations and movements.

One thing I’ve incorporated into my Thanksgiving is thinking about who and what I’m thankful for. It’s a long list, including all of the people who grow, harvest, and process the food that I eat- those that I know, and those who I don’t. At least when it comes to my job, the CSA, there’re some people who really stand out. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 14, 2022

I’m never going to claim that our fall colors are anything like the Northeast, Colorado, or some of the other famous fall foliage areas, but we do have some nice colors this time of year. The peach trees have turned a yellow/orange color that seems to glow near sunset, the pomegranate trees have turned yellow, and there are some stunning red Chinese pistache trees around the farm. I didn’t get a good picture but you can view photos here or here. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 7, 2022

What’s Andrew holding in this picture? It’s not trail mix – it’s cover crop seed!

This past week, planting cover crops was a high priority. It’s a normal fall activity, but when there’s rain in the forecast, it takes on an increased sense of urgency; if we get a significant amount of rain, we won’t be able to get into the fields with a tractor for a while, and we also want the seeds to get as much irrigation from rain as they can. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 31, 2022

Wow – it’s already the end of October! Time is flying. The days are getting shorter and it’s getting a little chilly, at least in the mornings; it was in the low forties a few mornings last week. It’s still been warming up to the 70s during the day, but that won’t last for long.
 
Friday was one of those days that started off cool. It also was our olive harvest day! Almost everyone headed out in two teams to rake, pull, and whack all of the olives (green and black) off the trees and they warmed up fast. It’s a big effort and requires a lot of people. There’s a reason that many farms use machines to do this work! [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 24, 2022

What are some of the happenings, sights, and sounds from the past week or so?

[Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 17, 2022

It is remarkable to see just how fast the fall crops are growing. Just check out the difference between September 15 and October 15, documented in the photos below. It seems like a new fall crop, root or leafy green, is added to the harvest list each day. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 10, 2022

The past week, the first full week of October, the transition from summer to fall was on full display. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 3, 2022

It looks like we’ve got one more week of weather in the 90s, but melon season has ended. It was a good season, running from early July to the end of September, about 16,300 CSA boxes with melons, many including two (small) melons!

With the transition from melons to winter squash, now is a great time to highlight and express our appreciation for the great work that the folks in the southern half of the shop do. Led by Valentin, this small but mighty crew are responsible for washing, sorting, and packing some our biggest crops in terms of volume, weight, and value: melons, winter squash, potatoes, carrots, and asparagus. They also bunch and cut broccoli, wash and bag oranges, bag onions, and sort and box corn. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 26, 2022

It’s the end of the 2022 Flower CSA season, which goes from April 1 to September 30. During those six months, the flower team picked and bunched about 7,400 bouquets for our CSA members, in addition to all the other flowers they pick. They’ll be transitioning into dried flowers and wreaths soon (more about that in a future Beet) but in the meantime, here’s a recap of the season in words and photos from Hannah: [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 19, 2022

Rain! It rained on and off Sunday and as of Monday morning, it’s sunny but the ground is damp and our rain gauges report 0.75 inches. There’s still some rain in the forecast for later today, but those forecasts have shifted quite a bit so we’ll see what the grand total ends up being. A burst of rain in September before returning to late summer/fall for another month isn’t unusual, but it still felt like a surprise, especially at this point in the long, hot summer. The rain washed off the layer of dust covering everything, making the plants and trees look more vibrant, and while the air is heavy and humid, it also feels cleaner and smells nice too, not like dust and overripe tomatoes. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 12, 2022

Saturday night’s moon was a remarkable fuzzy peach orb. It was a beautiful harvest moon, breaking through the suspended dust of a long valley summer hanging in the stale air. A full red/orange beacon, ushering in the ending of a long 2022 summer, rising though the haze of the Mosquito fire, and signaling the change to fall. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 5, 2022

What’s the news from the farm?

We are working this Labor Day Monday, as we do every Monday (we’ve got Tuesday CSA deliveries, store deliveries, and a farmers market) though we did take Saturday off. This week is going to be a series of scorchers – 110 and above every day. We’re prioritizing everyone’s health and will likely try and wrap up as early as possible to get folks out of the heat, which means limiting orders. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 29, 2022

The CSA truly is a team effort, as is almost everything we do here. Everyone’s work has an impact on the many boxes we send out each week, whether they spend most of their time in the field, in the orchards, in the shop, with the animals, or on tractors. And (almost) everyone ends up packing CSA boxes at some point; even the farm kids have been helping out recently!

That being said, there are a few individuals that play a larger and more direct impact on our CSA members’ experience and we’ve had several big changes in the core CSA team this year. Judith and Becky both retired at the end of 2021, which has changed how the office operates, and not just regarding the CSA. And now we find ourselves rapidly approaching another change in the team – the departure of one of our delivery drivers, David, who will be moving to Boston for his wife’s job. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 22, 2022

The song “Old MacDonald” covers the sounds that farm animals make, but what about us humans? We do most of our communication with the outside world via email and phone, but on the farm, it’s either face-to-face or over the radio. Face-to-face looks like it would at any workplace except instead of heading to someone’s desk, you’re likely heading out to the field, or to someone’s station in the shop or the kitchen. We also have “all staff meetings” most Friday mornings, a rare time when everyone is in one place at one time. It’s a great opportunity to share announcements with everyone, and we also do a group stretch, usually led by Andrew, followed by brincas (jumping jacks) before starting the day. But most of the time on most days, people are spread out from the hub of activity around the shop and the office to a few miles up the road in Rumsey. We have poor cell reception, so the radios get a lot of use for quick questions, check-ins, and updates. All chatter over the radio is broadcast to every radio, so everyone can hear what’s going on, whether they want to or not.It’s quite the chorus of voices and communication styles and it took me a little bit to learn who was who, as well as the various nicknames people use, but now is something I don’t need to think about. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 15, 2022

It’s August, which means it’s time to start prepping for fall. It can be difficult to think about the next season and its crops when it’s so hot and we’re so busy harvesting and packing summer produce. However, all of those peppers, tomatoes, and melons will eventually wind down and we need to have the cooler season crops ready to take over at that point. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

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…]