News From the Farm | May 15, 2017

Making your way from Sacramento or Berkeley, all the way up the Capay Valley to Full Belly Farm can seem like a long way.  After getting off the interstate, you follow a two-lane state highway and suddenly come upon Cache Creek Casino, which seems huge — a glittering, sprawling building complete with mini-mart and plenty of parking. Once past the Casino, the traffic thins out and to some, the setting feels downright remote.  Urban visitors, leaving behind the sidewalks and crowds of the city wonder how it would feel to live in a place where the nearest restaurant is a significant drive and there are no malls, museums or nightclubs.  

Museums and nightclubs are great when it comes to building cultural connections, but you should never underestimate the power of getting together to share good food!  I first got an inkling of this going to farmers markets — it wasn’t really something that I learned growing up.  When some of our farmers market customers talk about the food that they grew up with and describe the food customs they learned, their descriptions come from deep within their identity. Sharing seeds from home, or a sprig of treasured Persian mint to grow in the garden is how some of my farmers market customers tried to connect with me as a farmer.  Once the Persian mint was established, they yearned to see it back at the market so that they could taste it in their meals and share it with their friends.

Selling vegetables in Berkeley for several decades meant that I built friendships with people who came every week.  Sometimes people share recipes, sometimes gifts, and sometimes stories about meals. Sometimes you don’t see someone for awhile and you miss them, hoping that they are alright. One of my memorable customers was a woman in a wheelchair who came every week and always bought flowers with her fruits and vegetables.  She was a painter, and her beautiful vibrant paintings of flowers still hang framed in my house. She seemed at the center of a community of artists who loved bright colors and passionate living.  When she died, less than 4 decades old, the whole farmers market community mourned and missed her.

Amon and Jenna, the event and cooking masters at Full Belly, recently started a new experiment, a monthly Friday night Pizza dinner at Full Belly.  Pizza, salads, and home-made ice cream were on the menu last Friday and what made the evening especially special for us was that it was mostly the Capay Valley community that turned out.  There were CSA members, and friends from afar as well, but mostly it was ‘locals’ coming to talk and picnic with their families. All of us here at the farm loved the event… We even got a love letter from one of our neighbors: “I just wanted to thank all of you for having the pizza night on Friday.  It was a wonderful community event and it was fun seeing my neighbors.  I really enjoyed myself and the food was delicious. I look forward to the other monthly pizza nights this summer!”  

Looking out at the picnickers last Friday gave me the inspiration for writing this story.  I was standing with some of our Full Belly interns, at our little “marketita” stand.  Andrew had made his way to the field in front of the picnic area.  Full of industry, wielding a shovel, in the cool dusk evening, he was battening down some flapping plastic bed-cover. At a picnic table, one of our friends who buys a lot of produce from us for wholesale distribution was sharing her beer with the table and staying warm with her dog on her lap. Couples were sitting on blankets watching the night fall. Folks that work at the Casino were sitting at a picnic table with Paul and some neighboring farmers.  Several of our interns were busy at the ice cream stand, definitely eating more ice cream than they were passing out to customers, and the kids were throwing around a baseball…  Never underestimate the power of food ….

—Judith Redmond

Full Belly Farm’s Berkeley Market Crew