News from the Farm | March 10, 2014

Meet Our Farmers!

Guests often come to Full Belly and wonder aloud how on earth we are able to keep so many balls in the air at the same time. It is true that at any given time, we have quite a few things going on! To keep everyone organized and moving forward, we do have a few secret weapons.  Some of our biggest assets are our amazing employees. Meet Janvier Velilla. Originally, she thought she would pursue business or accounting, but after signing on with Americorps and having the opportunity to work on a farm in Colorado, she fell in love with farming and decided to pursue more farming as a career option. 


Jan came to us when she was just 23 years old, and stayed for three years as an intern and then an additional year as a full time employee. She found Full Belly through the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, which lists internships all over the country. When she first arrived, she saw Ellis Brait, Andrew’s son (now 16 but at the time he was only 4!), sitting on a roof with Hannah Muller (10 at the time, now an almost college graduate). Hannah was feeding him lettuce leaves.  Ah, the good old days. Jan loved that learning the ropes at Full Belly was done by being thrown into the proverbial fire and doing any task that needed to be done. She loved being outside, working with her hands, and conquering new challenges everyday.  

She left Full Belly Farm and headed to upstate New York where she taught at the Adirondack Leadership Expedition for two years. While it was a good experience for her, she missed farming. She spent the next three years at a CSA/Market farm, also in upstate New York, called the “Alleged Farm,” founded by a Harvard graduate. The farm was 11 acres, and at its peak production, just four employees. From New York, she was invited to manage the vegetable production at a new farm in Louisiana  A wealthy oil family wanted to see their family’s land be a productive farm, so Jan moved down to help. Jan was in charge of getting the farming operation started; a truly ‘from the ground up’ experience. Farming in Louisiana was a huge challenge because of the climate. The humidity of the South made disease management incredibly important, and it was always so wet that tractor work was nearly impossible.  

When it was time to leave Louisiana, she contacted Judith to see if we were looking for anyone.  As it turned out we were, and we were so happy to have Jan back!  Her job description continues to grow.  She is our harvest manager and food safety guru.  She communicates with the crew and office staff each day about what we have, and how much we have, to sell to stores and restaurants. She coordinates the items that go into our CSA boxes, and tries to make sure that our CSA members don’t get broccoli for TOO many weeks in a row. She loves that in her new role she gets to see and work on all aspects of the farm, from planting to marketing.

In the future, she would like to own a house and some land and have a homestead, or specialty produce farm. She thinks she will likely stay on as an employee at a larger, established farm as she loves working with people. She would love to stay in California (hurray for us!), although she wonders what the future of California farming will look like given the water situation. She points out that California isn’t set up to do low-water, low-impact farming. 

Thank you Jan for all of your hard work on Full Belly Farm.  We couldn’t do it without you!

— Jenna Clemens