News from the Farm | September 18, 2023

We’re rapidly approaching the end of another Full Belly summer. Melons were picked, flowers were bunched and dried, tomatoes were packed, and our bellies were filled with the delicious summer bounty. We generally do not count time in days; instead we observe the changing seasons by the way the mornings feel (the cooler the better!), the flavors of the fruit, and the events that take place in our valley. The fall is a time when we Full Belly farmers make time to celebrate the whirlwind that is our summer and share the beauty of farm life with our community. It is a precious time, full of total exhaustion and excitement as we transform our working farm into a full-on Festival. 

This year marks the 32nd Annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival. We hope you will join us. Since announcing this year’s Hoes Down, we have heard from people who have been coming for decades and for whom this festival is very important to their families, and from people who have never come but want to deepen their relationship with our Farm. We have been preparing in earnest to welcome newcomers and returnees. In case you need extra convincing, we have created a list of the Top Ten Reasons to come to the Hoes Down Harvest Festival at Full Belly Farm: 

# 10 – The Location – If you and your family have yet to visit Full Belly Farm, this is a perfect time to do so! There will be walking tours of the entire farm throughout the day, and even without a tour, you will see the animals and crops that we tend to all year. If you’ve visited before before, the farm is constantly changing and evolving, and we promise you’ll see something new. 

# 9 – The Music – We have an amazing line-up of Northern Californian musicians! We are excited to feature the Town Howlers, a dance-y bluegrass band, the King Street Giants, (from Petaluma) and of course, a wonderful foot stompin’ Contra Dance with Driving with Fergus and caller Eric Hoffman. Enjoy some of the best of folk and bluegrass all day with two stages full of talented performers!

# 8 – The Cause – Every single penny raised during the Hoes Down goes to the Ecological Farming Association and local community organizations, such as Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Yolo Farm to Fork, CalCAN, and local Future Farmers of America and 4-H clubs. These organizations, and many others, shape our region’s agricultural climate. By attending the Hoes Down, you are supporting these organizations and their important work.

# 7 – Yummy Food – The food alone is worth the drive. From organic and locally-grown fruits and vegetables, to fresh Stemple Creek Ranch burgers, you will definitely leave full and with happy taste buds. Over 90% of the food served at the Hoes Down has been donated by amazing businesses who care deeply about the future of agriculture in California! 

# 6 – Sunday Morning Breakfast – Enjoy a piping hot breakfast and coffee the day after the Festival as we continue the celebration on the 8th of October (and start to clean up). You do not want to miss the incredible experience of farmers and festival attendees waking up after a joyful night and beginning the new day, sharing stories and breakfast together. 

#5 – Amazing Agricultural Workshops – Have an interest in farm-fresh florals and learning to design with Full Belly’s finest flowers? Ever wondered how to milk a goat and turn the milk into yummy cheese?  Want to learn more about the amazing industry of local organic fibers? You will not want to pass up on the opportunity to learn from the Capay Valley’s best this year in our incredible line-up of Saturday Workshops (free with admission!). 

#4 – The Children’s Area! – Kids of all ages can spend hours crawling through the hay fort, wandering the Sudan grass maze, turning wool into yarn or felt, learning how to mill grain, making a flower crown, participating in the scavenger hunt, painting, working with clay, or climbing a tree. There are countless activities that will keep kids engaged and enthralled all day long! 

#3 – The People – The festival is all about community! This year’s Hoes Down slogan is “Slowed Down.” It is a time to form new friendships, strengthen existing relationships, and spend a weekend slowing down and playing with those you appreciate and love. In a world where we are often lost in cyberspace, a weekend at a farm surrounded by kind friends is just what the doctor ordered!

#2 – Carve a Pumpkin – The Illuminated Carved Pumpkins are one of the most wonderful parts of the Hoes Down! Every year, hundreds of pumpkins are carved by festival-goers and they are all displayed on the path leading to the heart of the festival. Folks of all ages and talents use Full Belly pumpkins to create masterpieces that make the Hoes Down special. One of our favorite moments is when the sun goes down and the pumpkins are all lit. It is not a sight to miss!

#1 – Good Old Fashioned Family Fun – A family-friendly, good time is hard to come by these days. The Hoes Down is an amazing opportunity to reconnect with the land, unplug from your normal routine, and enjoy yourself in a dreamy setting. More than anything, the Hoes Down hopes to provide your family a place to play, be silly, learn, and laugh. 

These are just 10 reasons. There are dozens of activities that happen during the Hoes Down (wine tasting, petting farm animals, lawn games, sleeping under the stars, sheep shearing, a silent auction, and so much more) that help to create a truly magical weekend. We hope you, your family, and your friends will join us for the 32nd Annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival on October 7th! Help us farmers mark another year of incredible bounty, and a successful harvest season by kicking up your heels and putting your Hoes Down. 

You can get more information about the Hoes Down and buy your tickets on the website. 

If you are interested in volunteering, you can get more information here.

And if you have additional questions not answered on the website, send an email to

We hope to see you on October 7th.


News from the Farm | September 11, 2023

It’s getting to the time of the summer when everything looks a little dusty and tired, the people included, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of neat things to see. Need some examples? [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 4, 2023

Friday morning’s meeting – every Friday, we start the day with stretches and exercises (usually led by Andrew) followed by announcements.

Like every morning this summer, our crew of about 90 came to work today to plant, irrigate, weed, irrigate, pick, and pack our harvest for distribution to the many purchasers of our produce. For the almost 40 years of this farm, we have all worked on Labor Day—perhaps missing the central point of the day, to honor and acknowledge the contribution of those who keep our world moving, and eating.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 28, 2023

August is the busiest month on the farm with a never-ending list of things to do. What was keeping us busy last week?

LOTS of harvesting, packing, sorting: 

It’s been nonstop, especially for our biggest crops of the summer: melons, tomatoes, and flowers. Our heirloom tomatoes are starting to slow down, but the heirloom harvesting crew still has been hard at work harvesting, and the work won’t be winding down for a while for the crews that harvest “regular” (Early Girls, Romas, and slicers) and cherry tomatoes.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 21, 2023

Among the seemingly endless fields of melons, tomatoes, winter squash, and other warm-weather crops, we currently have several fields of cover crops going strong. Yes – that photo of the lush green above was taken this morning (August 21, 2023) on an unseasonably cool, cloudy, and drizzly day; it’s not a photo from earlier this year. Cover crops aren’t just for the cooler seasons, even though that’s when we tend to talk about them most (like this deep dive into cover crops last November)! The work of feeding and caring for the soil and “growing” healthy soil never ends, so when we have the water and field space to grow summer cover crops, we do. It seems counterintuitive to take land out of production during our peak harvest time to grow a non-sellable crop, but it’s an excellent opportunity to grow a fast-growing, healthy cover crop and invest in our soil and bountiful future harvests. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 14, 2023

A few weeks ago, we shared an interview with Isshin, one of our interns. Today I’d like to share an interview with Mai Inoue, another Full Belly Farm intern, and also a member of the 2022-2023 Japanese Agricultural Training Program cohort. You may have met her at a Saturday Palo Alto farmers market or Pizza Night over the past year, plus she pops up at the occasional Thursday Marin farmers market. And if you’ve gotten a bouquet of flowers this season, you’ve definitely been a recipient of her handiwork. She’s a great cook and baker (and often can be found making cookies with Oakley and Waylon), she takes sun protection seriously (she can always be seen with her super wide-brimmed hat), and is incredibly nice. And a fun fact about her is that she worked at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in the dining hall, both cooking and talking with the athletes and coaches!

I interviewed Mai after work last week and have a slightly edited version of our conversation below. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 7, 2023

In honor of National Farmer’s Market Week, I would like to thank all of you who attend farmer’s markets regularly; you are directly supporting small (and often, family) farms like ours and also nourishing yourself with the best food on Earth! I also want to encourage those of you who’ve maybe never been to one to give it a try. Farmer’s markets are a great opportunity to meet the people who grow your food and to develop a real and lasting understanding of what you choose to put into your body and why. My personal market-going has gone through several iterations over the years, from toddling around the market stand, to being a marketeer, to managing our Tuesday market in Berkeley for six years. These days, I help my parents manage our Saturday market in Palo Alto. The following is an account of one such Saturday last month that I think I’ll never forget… [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 31, 2023

After starting tomato seeds in the greenhouse in winter, transplanting them (late) in April, staking, and tying them, plus other steps in between, it’s undeniably tomato time. Three different harvest teams (one for cherry tomatoes, one for heirlooms, and one for early girls, romas, and slicers) are busy picking, giving the packing team plenty to do. Dru and Andrew could be spotted during the week sorting tomatoes! It’s an almost overwhelming amount of tomatoes, in addition to all the other summer bounty we’re tending to, harvesting, and boxing up, and we’re making good use of all those tomato boxes we’ve made. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 24, 2023

I love looking through the years of archived Beet newsletters. They document wet years, dry years, the experiences of many interns who’ve long left the farm, important milestones (like our transition to the plastic boxes, as well as weddings, births, trips, deaths), and events that have come and gone, and bigger issues that we still deal with today (water, labor availability, organic regulations). This isn’t just a resources I have at my disposal; the archives going back to October 2012 are all available online! Not the entire Beet, but the News from the Farm portion. 

For those, like me, who are relatively newer to the farm, it’s a great window into what has and hasn’t changed, and puts everything in context. Often, when I think I have an original idea for the Beet, a quick search in archives shows that someone probably has talked about that topic before, albeit in a slightly different way, probably even on that same date, just years (or decades) before. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 17, 2023

Last week’s deep dive into our plastic CSA boxes and wax boxes (which you can read, or reread, here) got pretty detailed, but I realized during the rest of the week that we’d barely scratched the surface when it comes to boxes and packaging. The Beet could probably focus on some aspect of packaging and post-harvest handling every week! But that would get boring pretty quickly.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 10, 2023

This week marks a CSA milestone: ten years ago, we stopped using waxed cardboard boxes for the CSA and started using the green plastic “Stop Waste” boxes*. We call them our “Stop Waste” boxes because the initial box purchase was aided by a grant from StopWaste. At the time of the switch, Judith wrote “this is a trial run” and since we’re still using them a decade later, it seems that the trial was a success. So this week, it’s a deep dive on boxes, accompanied by a smattering of vintage box photos from the past ten years. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 3, 2023

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of our interns, Isshin Itaka, who is also a member of the 2022-2023 Japanese Agricultural Training Program cohort. He arrived last August and is a staple of the Saturday Palo Alto farmers market crew, in addition to doing many other tasks around the farm. He takes great photos and videos (and is very tech-savvy), asks excellent questions (about farming, English vocab/pronunciation, and more), and is a hard worker, putting in countless hours after work for his farm back in Japan (more about that below). [Read more…]

News from the Farm | June 26, 2023

With the solstice this past Wednesday, it’s officially summer. But without the calendar reminder, you’d be forgiven for not realizing. We’re due for some classic June Yolo County heat later this week, but so far, it’s been remarkably temperate and cool, only in the 80s, and slightly brisk in the morning, chilly enough to wear a sweatshirt or vest.

But if you look a little closer, the signs are there that we’re in summer mode, or at least gearing up for summer, even if it’s been a slow start. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | June 19, 2023

Seeing rolls of twine at the end of a tomato field means someone is about to tie tomatoes, someone is tying tomatoes, or someone just finished tying tomatoes. 

Once we’ve staked the plants (refresher, plus video, on that process here), the next step of the tomato growing process is tying. Tomatoes are large, vine-like plants that need some extra handling so that they aren’t a mess of plants and fruit sprawled on the ground. 

[Read more…]

News from the Farm | June 12, 2023

The members of the Full Belly bike gang (Waylon and Oakley) wanted to collaborate on the Beet this week, so after a quick planning meeting late morning on Wednesday, we decided that the three of us would head out on a bike ride around the farm, take some photos, and I’d write up what we saw.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | June 5, 2023

During the course of the year, we include some pretty cute animal photos in the Beet, like Dandelion (above) born late last week, and all the lambs earlier this spring. 

But some of the little plants give the animals a run for their money, especially the big order of transplants that we got this week. Can you guess what they are? [Read more…]

News from the Farm | May 29, 2023

Remember those tomatoes we transplanted a month ago? The work isn’t done once they’ve been transplanted; tomatoes also need to be staked and tied, and we’ve just finished staking both fields of tomatoes. We’ve planted a third field of tomatoes, but those aren’t tall enough yet to stake.

[Read more…]

News from the Farm | May 22, 2023

It’s new potato time! We’ve just started harvesting our spring 2023 potato crop, and if you aren’t excited yet, hopefully you will be by the time your finish this week’s News from the Farm.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | May 15, 2023

What a week! We started off with a grey, drizzly, somewhat cold Monday and on Saturday, our last workday of the week, it was in the mid-90s at the hottest point of the day. And we had some beautiful, temperate spring days in between. 

When it gets hot, that means it’s time to shear the sheep! This year, our sheep-shearer-in-chief, Rye, set up shop in the walnut orchard instead of moving the sheep across the road to the sheep barn. It was a much more pleasant experience for everyone, shearer and the shear-ees. Though there’s no getting around the fact that it’s long, hard work. It takes even an experienced shearer like Rye a few minutes to shear each sheep (4.5 for a compliant sheep without belly wool, but it can take much longer) and there’s 90 of them to shear (just the ewes, not the lambs), plus extra time to clean and lubricate the clippers, change clipper blades (about ever 10 sheep), round up the sheep, plus time to stand up, stretch, and drink some water. So it’s a process split over two days.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | May 8, 2023

For this week’s News from the Farm, a few notes about the greenhouses that didn’t make it into last week’s dive into the greenhouse. If you missed, or skipped, last week’s News from the Farm, you can read it here.

First: seeding. Each planting flat holds a lot of seeds. Most of our trays have 200 cells and each cell needs to be filled, and with just one seed. This can be done by hand, and for many years, we did all of our seeding by hand. But roughly 15 years ago, we got a vacuum seeder and we now use that for as much planting as we can.  [Read more…]