Farm News

News from the Farm | February 19, 2024

“My mom and I speak to each other through the flowers we grow. The joys and triumphs of our flower fields and bouquets are etched into the smile lines around our eyes and each late frost that hit our spring flowers or gophers that found our tulips has added a wrinkle to our furrowed brows. We gawk over seed catalogs together, wondering whether new flower varieties would fare well in our growing zone. We harvest together early in the morning. We dream the same dreams of snapdragon fields, mixed bouquets and fragrant wreaths.”

-An excerpt from my new book Designing with Dried Flowers 

My childhood was spent in sync with seasonal flowers. I slept in harvest boxes as my mom picked calendula for orders, I rode alongside buckets of sweet peas in hand pulled carts headed back to the packing shed, and I created elaborate fairy mansions in the many roses, and irises under the shade of the fig tree in my mother’s garden. I grew up at Full Belly Farm, the youngest child of Dru Rivers and Paul Muller, and now a second generation farmer at Full Belly Farm. Sometimes it feels like I had no choice, not in moving back to the farm – that I did freely and without any pressure from family – but in choosing flowers as my life work and passion. It was ingrained in me, the flowers whispering to me through osmosis, calling my name “Hannah Rose” over and over again until I felt ready to listen in my early 20’s. I started designing flower arrangements for weddings and events ten years ago (using Full Belly Farm flowers, naturally) and worked alongside the Full Belly flower crew harvesting flowers, packing out orders and readying flowers for market and CSA. 

There is a building that is snuggled between my parents house and the packing shed that has lovingly become known as the Wreath Room. Growing up, this old barn always drew me in. The space where we hang dry flowers has always been a safe haven from the bustle of the farm, and a constant source of inspiration and creativity. If any of you have ever visited the Wreath Room at the Hoes Down or on-farm events, you have seen the cathedral of hanging flowers, and witnessed the 50 or so varieties transforming from fresh to forever flowers.  What started as a hobby of my mother’s has turned into a profitable part of Full Belly that helps keep the six floral crew members employed year-round and keeps local flowers available even when fresh flowers are not in season. We now dry flowers to use for dried floral arrangements in our “off season” from October to February, making mixed bouquets, wreaths and floral designs to sell wholesale and direct to customers. 

Over the past ten years in conversations with friends, customers and wreath class attendees about the art of drying and designing with flowers, I realized how many people wanted to learn how to do in their own home. I set out to write a book that would guide readers in growing, harvesting, hang-drying and designing with flowers. The process started over two years ago with a book proposal accepted by Clarkson Potter, a manuscript written, over 3,000 photos taken by the incredible Molly Decoudreaux, and over 10,000 stems of flowers dried in the Wreath Room. But really, this story began stirring inside of me around the same time the flowers began whispering my name. 

The book starts with an introduction and history of Full Belly Farm and includes breathtaking photos of the farm and flower fields. I discuss the basic tools that readers will need to replicate our drying system at home before breaking down the flowers we grow and dry by season. This seasonal glossary is my favorite part of the book. There are beautiful openers for each season that show how the Wreath Room changes throughout the year. Molly was able to capture each flower in incredible detail, and the photos are accompanied by helpful hints on how to dry or harvest each flower. Finally, the third section gets into the designs that readers can create with flowers once they are dried. I wanted to start small, with simple projects readers can incorporate into their everyday life, before demonstrating step-by-step how the artists at Full Belly Farm make wreaths. Finally, I explore more grand designs, perfect for weddings and celebrations. With over 32 unique designs in the book, I know there will be something for everyone.

I am proud to announce that my book Designing with Dried Flowers is now available for preorder. At this point in the launch, every book sale counts! A preorder is an encouraging sign to the publisher that this book will be a success and is the only indication they have of how many books they should print. I hope you will consider buying a book for yourself, your family, your friends and every floral lover in your life. You can see a full list of where this book can be preordered here and consider joining my floral mailing list for more exciting updates. The book will be released on June 4th, 2024 and will be available to purchase on the Full Belly Farm website on that day. I am so excited to share my passion for dried flowers and this farm with the world.  

Hannah Muller

Photo credit: Molly Decoudreaux, except for the childhood photos

News from the Farm | February 12, 2024

Today’s Farm News covers two small ways you can get involved to help combat food insecurity. It’s a huge, complicated problem, but that means that any measures to chip away at it are important.

First, our CSA donation program. We’ve gotten a few inquiries recently, thus wanted to explain how it currently works! On a week that you don’t want a box, you have the option to donate or skip. Skipping means we move the box to the end of your schedule, or to a date you’ve specified. When you donate your box, the value of the box (or flowers, or whatever you’ve donated) goes into our Good Food Community Fund. When it comes time to set up donation boxes, we pull from the Fund. We don’t make the box and then donate it, thus why we need as much advance notice for skips and donations. We also have a few particularly generous CSA members who make separate donation payments just to the fund.

[Read more…]

News from the Farm | February 5, 2024

This time of year, late January and early February, usually ends up involving a lot of watching, waiting, and then suddenly springing into action on several fronts.

[Read more…]

News from the Farm | January 29, 2024

For the past 44 years Dru and I, Andrew, Judith, and others from the farm have been attending the EcoFarm Conference, a gathering of farmers, activists and researchers probing the potentials of organic and biologically-driven food and farming systems. Our participation started with a first gathering of farmers in the shade of a large walnut tree in Winters in 1981. At that time organic farming was an idea, seen by many as farming heresy. We were probing the possibilities of eliminating synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides from our food and farming ecosystems. Experts dismissed organic agriculture as an irresponsible path to world starvation.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | January 22, 2024

Alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives) are staples in most cuisines and are found in home kitchens around the world, making it easy to take them for granted. Like all produce though, they too have different varieties, seasons, nuances, and quirks. They have interesting backstories and are grown with love and care on farms, just like peaches, tomatoes,   asparagus, kale and other flashier produce. This week, let’s show some love for leeks, the alliums that are in our CSA boxes this week, and are a staple of our winter boxes. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | January 15, 2024

It’s amazing what some rain can do. In the fall, a bit of rain washes off the layer of dirt and dust and rejuvenates everything. That kind of rain isn’t enough to refill our streams or turn the hills green – that’s what the winter rains are for. At this point, the hills around us are green again, a welcome site after months of brown. Most fields are also green – the cover crops have germinated and are chugging along, despite the cold and wet days, and relatively little sunlight.

[Read more…]

News from the Farm | January 8, 2024

Dear CSA friends, 

We are back and rested after a much-needed end-of-year break. After a good deal of greeting, handshaking and backslapping this morning at 8am our crew is in the fields, evaluating how we did in leaving our crops to rest over the past few weeks. As of now, things look good- lots of carrots, broccoli, greens, cabbage, potatoes, and roots to fill your boxes in the coming weeks. Oranges had a chance to ripen and sweeten as the milder December and early January largely avoided frost or freeze damage to the crops. So we are off to another annual race to a full year of farming.

All of our hopes for the coming year and past successes stem from being blessed by residing on this gracious and generous earth beneath our feet. Its abundance has been feeding us and our extended family of eaters for more than 40 years. A benign winter without damage from a deep cold spell or too much rain allows us to harvest and begin this new year with a continuation of a harvest suspended last December. We are happy to be your farm again as we start this new year and this morning we are excited to begin that work again. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | December 4, 2023

It has been one of our customs to try to condense our year in review into a final, last gasp News from the Farm for the year, recalling the past 12 months now fading in our rear-view mirror.

Every morning the partners and managers roll in about 10 minutes before the official start of the day to ask and answer “what do you have on your list today?” Tensions rise a bit as hastily penned lists whipped from pockets reveal eight opinions about where the fires are burning hottest and what needs to happen— in each opinion, now!!! There are always too many priorities across our several lists: pickingweedingwateringplantingflowersfixingbrokenstufftractorworkpartsneeded….. With but mere minutes for asserting one’s own territory and the horse trading begins. Multiple opinions, priorities, projects, personal predilections, and pluckiness collide at our office most every morning. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 27, 2023

We are rapidly approaching the end of the calendar year, and the end of the Full Belly Farm year (December 9) is even closer. 

These approaching milestones usually lead me to reflect upon the past year and plan for the upcoming year. Something that’s been on my mind more than usual recently has been the “C” in CSA, community. Who is in our community? How do we support our community and how does our community support us? [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 20, 2023

The storm clouds that had been flirting with us for a week dropping a few drizzles became serious Friday evening. The field activities, cover crop planting and terminating tomato and pepper fields, stopped. We parked tractors and seeders inside and reveled in the feisty winds and the melody of rainfall.

The heavy clouds were generous, releasing 1.5 inches of rain. We’ve been sowing fields with a cover crop mix of pea, vetch, oat, tillage radish, clover, and wheat. Those seeds were thoroughly soaked and settled into finished summer. Earlier in the week we planted onions and the rain also settled the transplanted onion sets into their winter beds. Fields of lettuce, cabbage, greens, potatoes, and leeks were wetted with the clear nourishing rainwater. The farm breathed out a palpable sigh of welcome – opening the pores of the earth, releasing and exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. As the Earth sighed in gratitude, we, this land’s caretakers, did the same. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 13, 2023

It’s another flower update! Flowers are a big part of what we do, so we want everyone to be in the know.

As described last week (which you can read here), this time of year is when we plant most of our spring flowers. On Thursday and Friday, the flower team aided by some interns and Alfonso’s group planted about 2/3 of our bulbs (tulips and iris) and corms (anemones and ranunculus). In total we planted 10,000 tulip bulbs, 7,000 Dutch iris bulbs, 11,000 anemone corms, and 7,000 ranunculus corms. There’ll be a bit more planting once we receive the rest of our underground roots! [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 6, 2023

April showers bring May flowers, but when do you plant those flowers? It varies between years but Full Belly Farm, spring flowers went in the ground on Tuesday and Thursday of last week. 

Dru and Jan direct seeded 20 beds of flowers on Tuesday and Jan, the flower team, and Alfredo and his crew transplanted 24 beds of flowers on Thursday. Direct seeded flowers included larkspur, nigella, calendula, bells of Ireland, scabiosa and the transplants included snapdragons, godetia, delphinium, feverfew, Sweet William. Plus lots more! [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 30, 2023

This past week was a good reminder that the weather is in charge, not us. As mentioned last week, we got about an inch of rain on Sunday the 22nd, much more than was forecast. The rain washed off the thick coat of dust blanketing everything, making people and plants alike feel a little refreshed and brighter. However the rain dictated what happened during the rest of of the week and slowed us down in making progress on our long list of time-sensitive tasks. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 23, 2023

Farmers are always talking about the weather but this Sunday’s rain was definitely worth talking about. We got between 0.85 and 1 inch of rain, depending on which rain gauge you look at! We’ve been continuing to ease our way into fall as the days cooled down, except for a few mid-90s days last week, but this rain seems like a more concrete transition away from summer to autumn. 

Beyond the weather though, what’s been happening the last week or so? [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 16, 2023

 

The week before Hoes Down, in addition to all the general prep, we also harvested our walnuts!

We grow 12 acres of walnuts. These are large, beautiful old trees that were on the property when the farm was purchased in the 1980s. As a result, they don’t include newer varieties (like Chandler, which currently makes up about a third of all walnuts grown in CA) and the trees are more spaced out, and larger than more recently planted, high-density orchards. Most of our trees are Serr with some Tehama and Hartley.

How do you harvest walnuts? The short answer is, we shake them off the tree. The entire process is a bit longer though: [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 9, 2023

Well folks, we did it. The 32nd Annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival has come and gone and the farm is almost back to normal. We transformed a working farm into a weekend festival for over 2000 people, we fed, taught, and entertained them, and then we cleaned up and turned it back into a working farm so that we could resume our normal Monday farm activities. That “we” is a big group. SO many people and SO much work goes into this really special event, even if it was Hoes Down in a “slowed down” format.

So we have many many thanks you’s to all of those who made is possible. This week we want to take a moment to express our sincere, deep gratitude for all of those who helped make the Hoes Down Festival the success that it was.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 2, 2023

Our warm and cool seasons in the Capay Valley are very different seasons, marked by different crops and different weather. We find ourselves in a period of transition when the cool and warm seasons are briefly overlapping. The tomatoes and melons and other summer crops are winding down, the winter squash are reaching maturity and many varieties have been cut and cured, and we’ve started harvesting the leafy greens and roots that are signature crops of colder periods of the year. The weather also is overlapping. It was in the mid-60s on Saturday and even briefly rained, and next weekend it’s forecast to be in the 90s. Most of the days last week were beautiful days in the 80s with cool, crisp mornings.

The spectrum of things we’re currently harvesting is pretty amazing – fruits, nuts, greens, roots, solanaceous crops (eggplants, peppers, tomatoes), cucurbits (squash and cucumbers), and of course, flowers. We’re a diversified farm and always are harvesting an impressive number of things, but right now, that list of options is even more abundant. In our CSA boxes and on our farmers market tables, we’ve got a spectrum of crops spanning both seasons, though you’re less and less likely to see summer crops in CSA boxes; with each passing day, it’s slower and more difficult to pick some of those crops.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 25, 2023

It’s officially fall! But even without seeing the note on the calendar about the fall equinox, there were some clear signs last week that fall was upon us: [Read more…]

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:  [Read more…]

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…]