News From the Farm | Week of January 6, 2014

Happy New Year!

Greetings from Umbria, Italy! A delegation of three Full Belly Farmers (Amon, Jenna & Rowan) travelled across the big ocean during this year’s winter vacation. The youngest member of our expedition, 16 months, has thrown himself into Italian cuisine with gusto, tasting truffles, tripe, salt cod, salumi of all kinds, and gelato.  Lots and lots of gelato. The Italian nonnas love him and wherever we go he gets scooped up and offered biscotti. The highlight of our stay has been connecting with other organic farmers. After lots of driving and searching, we finally found our tribe at a wonderful old farm called Torre Colombaia. The original buildings on the property were built by Benedictine monks in the 9th century. The monks originally intended to farm, but after a few years they decided to stick to praying and rented out the land to peasants.  The current owner, Alfredo inherited the 200 acre parcel. It has been in his family for four generations. He grows organic farro, chickpeas, durum wheat, and sunflowers, and he maintains the woods on the property, which are some of the oldest in Umbria. We were so thankful to land at this beautiful place. Rowan looked up at us as if to say “it’s about time!  No more churches and no more museums!” Finally a place to stretch his legs and roam free. Believe it or not, it isn’t difficult to find incredible old stone farm houses to stay in. In Italy, the concept of agritourism has taken hold with a vengeance.  Like here, farming can be an economically challenging profession. Many Italian farmers have land with ancient stone buildings on it, but no way to pay for their restoration. By inviting curious tourists like ourselves onto their farms and into their homes, they are able to add another source of income to their farm ventures and maybe even get a hand picking their olives, making their cheese, or pressing their oil.

photo We are feeling quite inspired by the concept of agritourism. For us, it was a way to get off the tourist trail, form some friendships, get our hands dirty, and share ideas with other farmers, not to mention stay in some really amazing old places! We enjoyed meals with families, where we experienced not only Tuscan and Umbrian cuisine but also the Italian approach to meals: structured yet leisurely.  Sure, we may not have chocolates waiting on our pillows at night, but we did learn how to make pecorino cheese!  Fair trade, I would say. The Italian government has made it relatively easy for farmers to have guests on their farm. The regulatory environment in our County is one big grey area at the moment for farm stays, with the rules yet to be decided on. We argue that we should have a different regulatory scheme than, say, a restaurant or a hotel. We hope that in the end California farms are also able to engage in these types of activities without an onerous amount of regulation and expense. Amon and I are eager to create more opportunities at Full Belly for the exchange of knowledge and ideas with all of you.

Even though we have had an amazing adventure and seen countless treasures, we are excited to come home and see what is new at Full Belly, rejuvenated and ready for another year of growing. All of us at the farm hope you had a wonderful holiday season. We are grateful to you for your support of our farm and we look forward to sharing another year of bounty with you.  

Happy New Year!

Amon, Jenna and Rowan Muller