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.

Perhaps the friendliest dog to have ever roamed these acres, you may have seen him sleeping on the Hoes Down dance floor, sniffing at your slice during a pizza night, or letting your children pet and climb all over him at an Open Farm Day. Raised at Full Belly from 8 weeks old, Baboo knew all the best places on the farm to find the best treats and the coldest air conditioning. He was a lover of all creatures big and small, wild and domestic, human and beast. You could find him napping almost anywhere – in the middle of the yard, on the cool concrete of the packing shed, or just right outside the egg washing room where his family spends a lot of time. He helped raise three beautiful farm children gently, lovingly, and patiently. He belonged to Rye and Becca Muller, but gave freely his heart and soul to all the farmers at Full Belly. He is buried deep in rich soil along a line of old black walnut trees on the creek road and will be forever missed by all at the farm, and everyone who ever had the fortune of spending time with this truly legendary dog. We love you, Babs, and will carry you in our hearts and memories for all of our days.

   

The family held a ceremony for Baboo on May 2nd. Rye Muller welded together a beautiful headstone for Baboo from the “resource pile” north of the packing shed.  The amazing sculpture turns in the wind.

— Becca Muller

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…]

News From the Farm | January 25, 2021

What have we been up to for the past two weeks since coming back from our holiday break? The short answer is: a lot!

But a more detailed answer is that as usual, we’ve been harvesting, washing, and packing produce; caring for animals and collecting eggs; repairing machinery; prepping fields for planting; loading trucks; going to farmers markets; and delivering produce at CSA sites and wholesale customers. And we’ve had a few other special activities to report. Here’s a quick run-down of just some of the highlights: [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 18, 2021

As 2021 starts finding its way, I look forward to another year here on the Full Belly patch of land. I love the cool season when bunched greens, beets, carrots and broccoli are on the harvest list, crops that have a less urgent, a less demanding nature than summer’s heavy hitters like tomatoes and melons (I love those too, in their time!) Cooler weather, with its calmer harvest schedule, opens up time for projects, like expanding and rebuilding the flower cooler in the packing shed, something that has been on the list for some years now. This, and other investments in the future of the farm provide a reminder that we have much to be grateful for. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 11, 2021

2020 in Photos  — 

We hope that all of our readers had a wonderful New Year and Holiday season. During our Full Belly Farm break, we enjoyed gardening, home improvement projects, farm maintenance and time with family.  We fired up our greenhouse and got ready for seedling production, we laid a new concrete slab on the south side of our packing shed and ordered seeds for 2021.

This week, we are going to present one photo from each month of 2020. Some of the same cycles pictured from last year will continue in 2021.  Twelve photos can’t tell a year’s story — there are so many people not mentioned and so many activities not remembered.  This is just to whet your appetite!

   

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | December 7, 2020

2020 Looking Back, Looking Forward

Oh my, the last of the Beets for another year. And what a year it has been. Your Full Belly Farmers have been on this wonderful piece of land since 1984. Each year, as the discoveries continue here, our connection to all of the work and care of the past stewards of this place reminds us that our responsibility as farmers is to love this land and to help life blossom here. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 30, 2020

As you’ve hopefully heard, we’re fast approaching our annual winter break. We’ll be closed from December 13 through January 10 with just a skeleton crew making sure the plants and animals have what they need. During the break, we’ll be catching up on some much needed rest and we won’t be packing and delivering CSAs, making deliveries to stores and restaurants, or going to the farmers markets.

Until then we’ve got produce to harvest, transplants to get in the ground, and soil to prep. Some places on the farm have already started their break – our fields. After a summer being the home for tomatoes, melons, winter squash, eggplant, peppers, flowers, and more, they’ve earned their rest too. Some fields will be turned over to a winter crop right away but for those that we can rest, what’re our options?

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 23, 2020

   

A recently transplanted field of onions!


Every family has their own set of Thanksgiving traditions. One thing my family often does is go around the table and each of us reflect on something we’re thankful for. A natural pessimist, I appreciate the opportunity to look past all the things going wrong and instead focus on all that I have to be grateful for.  [Read more…]