News From the Farm | Week of January 20, 2014

Strike up the band! And put your hands together for a big round of applause! Dru, Paul, Judith, and I are pleased and proud to announce the addition of Amon and Jenna Muller to Full Belly Farm’s ownership group.  January 1 marked this pivotal and thrilling foundational change at Full Belly Farm.  Besides their important roles in farm production and marketing, Amon and Jenna are spearheading the building and management of our new kitchen and event center.

 It is fair to say that farming is perpetually steeped in a dynamic process of biological growth and development. Generally we think of communities of plants, animals, microorganisms, fungi, etc. as the whole of the farm’s biology.  But most significantly, this biology extends to the relationships of farmers’ lives, to place, activity and succession.  It is in this respect that we are so excited to welcome and embrace members of the next generation in helping to lead the farm into the future.  

Getting to this juncture has come from a 30 year escapade and effort. Indulge me in an abbreviated history of Full Belly Farm to give context and magnitude to this transition. Starting with Dru showing up unannounced – with her fresh blackberry pie- at Paul’s parents farm, the genesis of Full Belly Farm soon followed. Marriage, pregnancy and new directions in farm enterprise led to the farm’s name. With first son, Amon, growing in her belly it was only obvious that the name Full Belly was a perfect fit.  

Within the year Paul and Dru welcomed a bright blond, wild-haired son into the world and so began the adventure of a young farming family. Finding an old dilapidated hundred acre dairy farm in Guinda, they soon had a handshake rental agreement. Tractor and tools and a pick up truck loaded with assorted farm and home wares moved up the road from Woodland to the Capay Valley. Dru’s mom was not sure about the decision, exclaiming, “No daughter of mine is going to live in THAT house!”  But they moved into that house and onto that farm and the rest is… well, history.

After several years of renting, the farm’s owner passed away and the land came up for sale. Not able to see a way to purchase the land themselves, Paul and Dru found partners in Judith and Raoul to buy the farm.  In 1989, Full Belly Farm became a general partnership of two unrelated couples  – something a bit unusual at the time.  Friends of the farm understood the model of a family, communal or even collective enterprise, but a business partnership seemed to eclipse conventional wisdom. 

In 1990, hired over a five minute phone call, I came from an approaching cold Vermont winter to work as an intern.  A quick friendship and well-matched working relationship developed and after a couple back-and-forths (California- Vermont- California), I was invited to become an additional farm partner.  In 1993, working at weekly meetings crafting a partnership agreement, we then became a partnership of five.  This was definitely a unique and yet unproven farming arrangement.


For a couple of years, we worked as five partners until Raoul’s exit and amicable buyout by the remaining owners.  What follows seems like a blip in time: for nearly the last 20 years Dru, Paul, Judith, and I have shared the grand adventure of dreaming and growing farm, families, and community together.  While technically owned by four partners, the farm has always felt to be in essence, a partnership of three families. Dru & Paul, Judith & Thomas, and Anna & I.  

With Amon and Jenna, we evolve into a farming enterprise of four families!  Among many of the formidable challenges we have faced farming over the years, I can easy to say that I am most proud of our successful relationship as farming partners.  No doubt about it, we’ve had some tremendous lucky stars over us, but like any intense human relationship, we’ve put in time and work.  At the core though, rooted in a deep, almost marital like trust as the foundation, four strong willed individuals, with differing skill sets and temperaments have been able to create a model of agriculture that continues to explore new and unchartered territory. 


Enter the Full Belly 2.0s: with Amon and Jenna’s participation, we are excited to have laid the groundwork and created a mechanism for them and successive members of the next generation to find their foothold and express their passion on the farm.  As the farm moves forward, we seek the insight and wonderment of the next generation to help envision and actualize how agriculture faces the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.  This is a most exciting and auspicious time in our farm’s evolution! Welcome Amon and Jenna!

~Andrew Brait