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?

On the surface, it’s an easy answer. 

  • We grow food, flowers, and nuts, raise animals, and make products in our kitchen. Our community consists of the people who purchase, consume, and enjoy the fruits of our labor.
  • Our community includes the approximately 1,300 households per week that get CSA boxes in Albany, Berkeley, Danville, Davis, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Esparto, Fairfield, Fremont, Guinda, Menlo Park, Mill Valley, Mountain View, Oakland, Orinda, Palo Alto, Piedmont, Pinole, Sacramento, San Carlos, San Francisco, San Geronimo, San Leandro, San Rafael, and Woodland.

But it’s so much more than that. The Farm’s relationship with our CSA community and our wider community is more than an exchange of money for food. We strive to build relationships between those who produce and consume food and to create a healthier food system for farmers, eaters, and the ecosystem. We aim to educate and engage eaters so they are more informed about agriculture, the people behind their food, and responsible environmental stewardship. We believe in sharing the farm and try to make it open and accessible as possible. We use this newsletter to bring you to the farm each week, provide context for your food, and share what we’re doing and thinking about with newsletter, with words, photos, and videos. By joining the CSA, you are expressing your support of these goals, investing in us, and reaping the benefits in the weeks and months ahead, and in the connections and partnership you’ve formed with us.

So what do we get from you? It’s satisfying to plant a seed, watch it grow, and harvest it. It’s real, tangible work and it’s a good feeling to know that you’re feeding people. For me, my work is most meaningful when I hear from you, the members of our community: what you’re making with your produce, what you’re particularly enjoying, what you’re curious to learn more about, and what getting our produce means for you and your families. Our farmers market teams have these exchanges all the time; for me they occur over email, phone, and the occasional in-person meeting at an event like our annual CSA day or Instagram post. 

See below for a sample of a few pictures shared with us over the past year! Thanks to Chris (that’s a 100% Rouge de Bordeaux sourdough!), Stacey, Renate, Sarah, Jena, Ann, Maria, Claudia, and Sharon for sending.


As stated above, we view the CSA as more than a financial transaction, more than just produce. It’s a relationship, albeit one conducted primarily through boxes of produce and the accompanying newsletter in your inbox. Each box represents lots of work, time, planning, and resources and we want you to enjoy it all, so we want the newsletter to be as helpful as possible, thus the storage and preparation tips and myriad of recipe ideas. Don’t let it be a one-way flow of information; your suggestions and questions benefit the whole community. Earlier this year, when rutabaga was particularly abundant, many of you shared your favorite recipes and favorite ways to prepare it, which I included in subsequent Beet newsletters, and resulted in several new rutabaga lovers based on those suggestions. Other suggestions have become the Recipe of the Week. Interesting questions from CSA members have turned into Beet articles.

During the few weeks that the farm takes off, we’ll enjoy the time to rest and recharge and will come back excited and ready to go. During the rest of the year, we need other ways to gather energy. For me, it’s hearing from you. I can’t speak for anyone else about why they started farming and why they continue to do this work, but I do feel safe guessing that the support of our community (CSA members and all other friends and customers of Full Belly) is a significant  part for them too.

– Elaine Swiedler, CSA Manager

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…]

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…]