News from the Farm | November 28, 2022

Grandpa Joe hands out fresh milk to a happy customer at Story Road Drive-in Dairy

Good day to you all,

A warm north wind flowed down through the valley this Thanksgiving. As a river flows between its banks, the wind wandered between mountain ranges that cradle the land we care for. Trees now shimmer orange and undo their summer leaves, helped by the wind’s gentle fingers. An early frost painted the valley with the most spectacular fall colors I can remember. Deep amber, burnt orange, sweet reds and yellows all aglow. A serene exhale. A wave, goodbye for now, and in a mere blink of an eye, the whole landscape seems to be drifting off under winter’s spell. Early rains, of whose moisture ran deep into the soil, now bear their gift: a green glimmer beneath the gray foothills and pastures. Those rains washed away the dust and whispered songs of hope to all farms across the West. As we long for more, we must give thanks for the opening remarks they’ve given on behalf of this rainy season. It wasn’t just the dust they washed away, but the urgency of summer. Immediately following the first rain and cold of the year, there is a palpable heave felt for miles. A pressure valve released. We have time! Time to release our own leaves; successes, failures, milestones…memories. Winter’s gift to us farmers is this time, and the patience to digest and put to rest all of the leaves.

One Sunday in September when the sky opened up and jubilantly cast down our first heavy rain, she also took with her my Grandpa. It is a day I will never forget. Grandpa knew, nine days after his 99th birthday, that his spirit could no longer walk with his body on earth. One by one, he invited us all to join him in his bedroom, let his legendary hands engulf each of ours for the last time and share our love with his clearest being of self. What unbelievable strength he had, especially in his last hours. He told me to be strong as I held back my tears. What an incredible mind he had. Sharing stories and laughs with each of us as we grieved his nearing departure. And then it seemed he conjured the rain. A blessed rain. A farmer’s wish. Seeds that are sown and take root within this dirt bear no life without such a miracle. He kept saying, “And there will be more, there will be more.” What peace he must have felt to relinquish himself gracefully back into her life-giving arms.

Most would say he was the strongest man they’d ever met. An admirable father, a devoted husband. A gentle and kind grandfather. A true believer in selfless love. Thanking his cows after every milking. Such an inspiration on how to live and how to leave the world. The biggest inspiration in my life.

His story is one worth sharing and honoring. The following is his obituary that was written by his children:

Joseph Frank Muller passed away as he lived his life, gently and peacefully, on September 19, 2022, spending his final hours surrounded by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  He lived life fully for 99 years, an example of kindness and generosity, always taking a warm-hearted interest in others. 

Joe was born on September 9, 1923 in Altdorf, Switzerland.  As the third of nine children, he grew up working on his family’s small farm, milking cows, and herding animals high into the Alps where he spent his summers making cheese.  

In 1947, his independent spirit inspired him to leave Switzerland and move to California, where he found a job milking cows in Chino.  There he spent more than 20 hours each day, feeding, milking and managing 75 cows, earning double pay because his boss said he did the work of two men.  After working himself sick, his doctor suggested he leave the dairy business, so he moved from there to the redwoods of Northern California where he worked as a lumberjack.  He took language classes at night and soon became fluent in English.  Several years later, he left the redwoods to follow his dream of owning a dairy of his own.  He made his way to Soledad, eventually becoming a partner in an existing dairy business.  It was during these years that he met the love of his life, Marie Bleisch, while visiting her parents in Mountain View.  They married not long after, and Marie joined him in building not only a thriving business, but a large and lively family.

Eventually, Joe and Marie moved to San Jose as founders of Story Road Drive-in Dairy, selling milk and ice cream made directly from the cows he was so proud of.  Joe shared his happy memories of those early years on Story Road for the remainder of his life.

In 1967, Joe and Marie moved their six children to Woodland, CA, where he began Joe Muller and Sons, a diverse farming enterprise raising row crops with his five sons.  Many joyful and industrious years were spent growing the agricultural business with his family.  

Joe was an active member of Holy Rosary Catholic Church and a man of deep faith.  He served as Commissioner of the Yolo Fire Department for 37 years, acquired and distributed food for St. Vincent de Paul Society, and was a member of the San Joaquin Valley Swiss Club and the Sacramento Helvetia Verein.  Joe loved life, especially Swiss dancing, fishing, talking farming, and enjoying conversations with friends and family.  He had a masterful memory and was a wonderful storyteller.  He was curious and interested in others, and always enjoyed sharing stories around the kitchen table.

Joe will be greatly missed by his family and friends. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Marie, and six brothers in Switzerland. He leaves behind his brother Leo, his sister Ana, and six children:  Joe (Mary), Paul (Dru), Louie (Marie), Frank (Nancy), Tom (Shelley) and Marianne (Gio) as well as numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He lived a life of honesty, integrity, kindness, faith and gratitude, setting an example that continues to inspire us all.

I am eternally thankful for those who have come before me. With no path to guide them but the stars and good faith, they paved the roads beneath our feet.

Thank you, Beet Family, for supporting us through another year.

Rye Muller

*My aunt and uncle, Tom and Shelley Muller, have worked with Yolo Food Bank to establish the “Joseph Muller Sr. Memorial Fund”. This new fund was created to honor the life and legacy of Joe and supports our new “Yolo Gives & Gathers” campaign which advances food security by supporting our community’s ability to gather safely and break bread this holiday season. 

News from the Farm | November 21, 2022

Thanksgiving marks the home stretch for us – after this week, there are two more weeks before our winter break.

Every culture seems to have a harvest holiday like Thanksgiving, a time to sit down with friends and family and appreciate the land’s bounty. Not all are as complicated as ours though; the Thanksgiving story is based on a lot of myths and lies about American history. It is possible to observe Thanksgiving while acknowledging the long history of colonization, exploitation, and erasure, and the continued struggles and triumphs of Native people. One place to start is learning about the real history and your area’s Indigenous peoples and languages. And there are many other resources and ideas out there, including supporting Native organizations and movements.

One thing I’ve incorporated into my Thanksgiving is thinking about who and what I’m thankful for. It’s a long list, including all of the people who grow, harvest, and process the food that I eat- those that I know, and those who I don’t. At least when it comes to my job, the CSA, there’re some people who really stand out. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 14, 2022

I’m never going to claim that our fall colors are anything like the Northeast, Colorado, or some of the other famous fall foliage areas, but we do have some nice colors this time of year. The peach trees have turned a yellow/orange color that seems to glow near sunset, the pomegranate trees have turned yellow, and there are some stunning red Chinese pistache trees around the farm. I didn’t get a good picture but you can view photos here or here. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 7, 2022

What’s Andrew holding in this picture? It’s not trail mix – it’s cover crop seed!

This past week, planting cover crops was a high priority. It’s a normal fall activity, but when there’s rain in the forecast, it takes on an increased sense of urgency; if we get a significant amount of rain, we won’t be able to get into the fields with a tractor for a while, and we also want the seeds to get as much irrigation from rain as they can. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 31, 2022

Wow – it’s already the end of October! Time is flying. The days are getting shorter and it’s getting a little chilly, at least in the mornings; it was in the low forties a few mornings last week. It’s still been warming up to the 70s during the day, but that won’t last for long.
 
Friday was one of those days that started off cool. It also was our olive harvest day! Almost everyone headed out in two teams to rake, pull, and whack all of the olives (green and black) off the trees and they warmed up fast. It’s a big effort and requires a lot of people. There’s a reason that many farms use machines to do this work! [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 24, 2022

What are some of the happenings, sights, and sounds from the past week or so?

[Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 17, 2022

It is remarkable to see just how fast the fall crops are growing. Just check out the difference between September 15 and October 15, documented in the photos below. It seems like a new fall crop, root or leafy green, is added to the harvest list each day. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 10, 2022

The past week, the first full week of October, the transition from summer to fall was on full display. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 3, 2022

It looks like we’ve got one more week of weather in the 90s, but melon season has ended. It was a good season, running from early July to the end of September, about 16,300 CSA boxes with melons, many including two (small) melons!

With the transition from melons to winter squash, now is a great time to highlight and express our appreciation for the great work that the folks in the southern half of the shop do. Led by Valentin, this small but mighty crew are responsible for washing, sorting, and packing some our biggest crops in terms of volume, weight, and value: melons, winter squash, potatoes, carrots, and asparagus. They also bunch and cut broccoli, wash and bag oranges, bag onions, and sort and box corn. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 26, 2022

It’s the end of the 2022 Flower CSA season, which goes from April 1 to September 30. During those six months, the flower team picked and bunched about 7,400 bouquets for our CSA members, in addition to all the other flowers they pick. They’ll be transitioning into dried flowers and wreaths soon (more about that in a future Beet) but in the meantime, here’s a recap of the season in words and photos from Hannah: [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 19, 2022

Rain! It rained on and off Sunday and as of Monday morning, it’s sunny but the ground is damp and our rain gauges report 0.75 inches. There’s still some rain in the forecast for later today, but those forecasts have shifted quite a bit so we’ll see what the grand total ends up being. A burst of rain in September before returning to late summer/fall for another month isn’t unusual, but it still felt like a surprise, especially at this point in the long, hot summer. The rain washed off the layer of dust covering everything, making the plants and trees look more vibrant, and while the air is heavy and humid, it also feels cleaner and smells nice too, not like dust and overripe tomatoes. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 12, 2022

Saturday night’s moon was a remarkable fuzzy peach orb. It was a beautiful harvest moon, breaking through the suspended dust of a long valley summer hanging in the stale air. A full red/orange beacon, ushering in the ending of a long 2022 summer, rising though the haze of the Mosquito fire, and signaling the change to fall. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 5, 2022

What’s the news from the farm?

We are working this Labor Day Monday, as we do every Monday (we’ve got Tuesday CSA deliveries, store deliveries, and a farmers market) though we did take Saturday off. This week is going to be a series of scorchers – 110 and above every day. We’re prioritizing everyone’s health and will likely try and wrap up as early as possible to get folks out of the heat, which means limiting orders. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 29, 2022

The CSA truly is a team effort, as is almost everything we do here. Everyone’s work has an impact on the many boxes we send out each week, whether they spend most of their time in the field, in the orchards, in the shop, with the animals, or on tractors. And (almost) everyone ends up packing CSA boxes at some point; even the farm kids have been helping out recently!

That being said, there are a few individuals that play a larger and more direct impact on our CSA members’ experience and we’ve had several big changes in the core CSA team this year. Judith and Becky both retired at the end of 2021, which has changed how the office operates, and not just regarding the CSA. And now we find ourselves rapidly approaching another change in the team – the departure of one of our delivery drivers, David, who will be moving to Boston for his wife’s job. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 22, 2022

The song “Old MacDonald” covers the sounds that farm animals make, but what about us humans? We do most of our communication with the outside world via email and phone, but on the farm, it’s either face-to-face or over the radio. Face-to-face looks like it would at any workplace except instead of heading to someone’s desk, you’re likely heading out to the field, or to someone’s station in the shop or the kitchen. We also have “all staff meetings” most Friday mornings, a rare time when everyone is in one place at one time. It’s a great opportunity to share announcements with everyone, and we also do a group stretch, usually led by Andrew, followed by brincas (jumping jacks) before starting the day. But most of the time on most days, people are spread out from the hub of activity around the shop and the office to a few miles up the road in Rumsey. We have poor cell reception, so the radios get a lot of use for quick questions, check-ins, and updates. All chatter over the radio is broadcast to every radio, so everyone can hear what’s going on, whether they want to or not.It’s quite the chorus of voices and communication styles and it took me a little bit to learn who was who, as well as the various nicknames people use, but now is something I don’t need to think about. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 15, 2022

It’s August, which means it’s time to start prepping for fall. It can be difficult to think about the next season and its crops when it’s so hot and we’re so busy harvesting and packing summer produce. However, all of those peppers, tomatoes, and melons will eventually wind down and we need to have the cooler season crops ready to take over at that point. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 8, 2022

What do you do when you have a lot of hot peppers? If they’re hot because they’re spicy, we make hot sauce! If they’re hot in temperature, then we need to cool them down. The faster we can cool them down, the longer the shelf life and we want to get all of our peppers to our CSA members and other customers in the best condition possible. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | August 1, 2022

What are the furry, feathered, and hooved residents of the farm up to as we pick, wash/sort, and pack the summer’s bounty? [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 25, 2022

We are heading into our 3rd week of triple digit temperatures here on the farm. High heat creates stress on everything and everyone. Plants and animals need more water, and we humans do too as we remain in the fields to do our work. We emphasize frequent water consumption, more breaks, monitoring for heat stress (in yourself and team members), and we try to be done earlier in the day. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 18, 2022

The news from the farm is that tomatoes are here. The trickle of tomatoes has grown each week and has now reached the point when we have enough to put them in the CSA boxes, which is exciting. [Read more…]