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…

It starts off with a cup of “warm cocoa” straight from the cow’s udder at dawn. Then a breakfast of hash browns and eggs, or yogurt and fruit – 100% Full Belly ingredients – might be followed by picking peppers or eggplant with the intern crew or harvesting flowers with his aunt, Hannah. When it gets too hot in the field, it’s time to come into the air conditioned egg washing room and help Mama wash a few baskets of eggs and put labels on the egg cartons. When this gets boring, the sand pile outside in the shade is a fun place to be creative and imaginative with his brother, Oakley. After making a sand cake or volcano, Waylon often finds himself wandering over to the packing shed to find a snack: a carrot or a peach or if there’s time, he and Joaquina will pop a paper bag full of our purple popcorn together. Then he might see Judith across the yard and follow her into the office to continue on a drawing or practice taking a produce order with Shannon. Then he’s found by his mama for lunch, or if he’s lucky, he’s not found and he sneaks over to eat lunch with Catalina and Jose behind the crew kitchen. After lunch, he might go driving around with Jan to help bring boxes of vegetables in from the fields, or he might sweep up the stems and leaves on the floor of the flower bunching area. He usually squeezes in a jump on Nana’s trampoline with his cousins before checking on the wheat field or fixing a leaky irrigation pipe with Popops. Or he might spend the whole afternoon on a tractor, slumped over on his papa’s lap, fast asleep. 

What’s your favorite place on the farm?

WR: The sand pile next to the egg room. I play with my cousins and Oakley and we make cakes and cupcakes if we can.

What’s your favorite thing to eat from the farm? 

WR: Carrots, actually potatoes. Because the potatoes, when you cook them, their skin is so yummy. My favorite fruit is watermelon because it’s so sweet. 

Who’s your favorite person to work with at the farm? 

WR: Alfonso because I pick shishitos with him and he gives me special treats and he lets me help him work.

What’s your favorite job to do at the farm?

WR: Working on the CSA line because it’s so fun because Alfonso works at the line. I get to go first, Shannon puts the box on and I get to put the first things in the box.

What’s a farmers job?

WR: To help all the plants and vegetables grow!

How do we grow our vegetables at Full Belly? 

WR: With water, sun and soil!

What does your papa do at Full Belly Farm?

WR: Papa drives all the tractors to help all the plants, he grinds the wheat into flour and he harvests all the corn with the combine and this is the last thing that’s important – Papa always, always helps with everybody. 

What does your mama do at the farm?

WR: Mama washes all the eggs for all the markets and all the CSA boxes so everybody around the world gets their eggs. She also milks the cow everyday and she makes yogurt. 

What do you want the farm to look like when you grow up?

WR: I want it to look like all the animals and all the fruits are alive and we’re so thankful for the farm to give all of these vegetables and yummy things that are good for you.

If you could be any farm animal what would you be and why?

WR: I would be a pig because the pigs eat all the old vegetables that we don’t eat and they eat all the grass and swim in the mud.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

WR: I want to be a farmer and hockey player and the last thing I want to be when I get really old is a musician to play rock guitar.

— Becca Muller

 

Apricot trees (left) and peach trees (right) loaded with fruit ready to be harvested.

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…]

News From the Farm | March 8, 2021

Precious. When I search for the word that best describes the new lens that I see the world through after the events of the last year this is it. Everything feels very, very precious. I know I am not unique; millions of others around the world have changed their view and vision of their lives and surrounds. For me this feeling is profound and spiritual – every little thing, down to the tiniest detail feels cherished, precious. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 1, 2021

Griffin the Guard Dog  —  

What a wild turbulent week we have had here on this Full Moon end of February week here at the farm. Warm sunny days were followed by howling north winds and then more dry warm sunny days…. The old comment goes that we had 4 inches of rain this year and 14 inches of drying wind to soak it up.  The winds have been powerful and persistent, the days far too warm for February and the worries about a drought have us making plans for a dry year. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 22, 2021

The first day of Spring is officially not until March 20, but there’s a feeling in the air that Spring is right around the corner.  In a worrisome note, this has been one of the driest winters we’ve seen.

It’s Community Supported Agriculture Week!

Technically, it’s CSA Week at Full Belly Farm for all but four weeks of the year, but this is the week that many farms and farm support organizations across the country will be promoting CSAs and encouraging people to join. For CSAs that don’t operate year-round, this time of year is a popular time to sign up new members in advance of starting in the spring. We’re in a different situation – we do our CSA year-round and we bring on new members on a rolling basis (instead of requiring members to join for a whole year/season). We also currently are doing just fine on membership and have a waiting list for the first time since starting the CSA in 1992, but we still think CSAs are worth celebrating and talking about. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 15, 2021

It’s that time of year again! The almond trees are blooming, transformed from bare branches into beautiful, puffy white and pink clouds.

In other years, on the last Sunday in February our farm and our neighbors in the Capay Valley host the Capay Valley Almond Festival, started in 1915 to celebrate the almond harvest and later moved to the spring to celebrate the blooming trees. The Almond Festival was cancelled for 2021. But the almond bloom is still worth celebrating. It’s the start of the process that leads to our almonds and the almond butter that so many of you know and love. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 8, 2021

Lamb  Count:  This morning the lambing crew reported that we have 108 lambs born so far, including 17 sets of  triplets.  This photo shows Dru feeding the “bummers” — lambs whose Moms needed a little helping hand taking care of the babies.  —  

Our farming cycle is very linked to the annual calendar cycle and it is a thing for us at Full Belly, before a New Year is in full swing, to look back at what has been learned the year before, hoping to inform our activities in the year to come.  Part of that thinking is to review the CSA boxes from the previous year, imagining a household that got a box every week: What did our members eat from the farm in a year of 2020 boxes? [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 1, 2021

We are so happy to have had rain — and we are hoping for more, much more.  This week’s storm is just a start on what the land needs.  We woke up last Tuesday morning to frosty and freezing scenery, and a few days later the beautiful sight of a ribbon of snow snaking along the tops of the western hills.  Farmers love weather, and this was a big weather week.  As the snow melted, the report came that the snow melt could be seen running down the hills and into the Creeks on the Valley floor. [Read more…]