News From the Farm | February 4, 2019

Three  beds of tulips have all started to bloom at once, the first flowers available for 2019. They will be available at our farmers markets: Berkeley on Tuesday afternoon; San Rafael on Thursday morning and Palo Alto on Saturday morning. 

What You Ate Last Year  – On our Full Belly web site in our description of our Community Supported Agriculture program, we promise that if you join, you will “eat the freshest, most nutritious fruits and vegetables available.”  There are lots of ways to parse that promise, but this week we’re going to take a look at our program using a pretty straightforward metric:  What did we deliver to you in your boxes last year?

The Full Belly boxes, filled with the harvest from this farm alone, are seasonal, with the hot summer standing out as quite different from the cooler months.  The summer staples in 2018 were melons, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant (all were in your boxes 12 weeks during the summer).  Beans of several kinds also made a pretty regular appearance.  Cucumbers (6 weeks), basil (5 weeks), summer squash (4 weeks) peaches (2 weeks), apricots (1 week), plums (1 week) and corn (one week) were in shorter supply.  Some summers we are happy to send more stone fruit, but 2018 just wasn’t a good year for the peaches and apricots on our farm.  Lack of labor to pick some of the crops like summer squash and basil sometimes had an impact on our ability to put them in your boxes more often.  It may be that there is a little less variety in the summer than in the rest of the year, but it’s hard to argue with summer melons, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant!

The winter, spring and fall are FULL of variety, with the staples being greens, alliums (onions, leeks and garlic), carrots, lettuce, potatoes and winter squash.  The Greens category is a fun one — there were many weeks when the boxes had more than one kind.  Here’s a list of greens we put in the 2018 boxes, for those of you who are thinking back and remembering your favorite meals: spinach, collards, chard, dino kale, karinata kale, mizuna, red Russian kale, box choi, arugula, joi choi, and broccoli raab.  We hope that all of our members are comfortable in the kitchen with these vegetables.

What gave real structure to your diet and to the cool weather CSA boxes was an inspiring list of stalwarts that made a frequent appearance, sometimes every other week or so, often taking the place of one of the more common items. Broccoli, grapes in the fall, cabbage, beets, spring strawberries, various herbs, radishes, spring asparagus, rutabagas and turnips fall into this category.  It’s true that there are things on this list that some of our new members aren’t necessarily jumping up and down about, but I think that there are definitely a few that hit a home run.

The final group of surprises in your boxes are special treats that are only available a few weeks out of the year.  It is increasingly difficult for us to grow these specialty items because farm labor is scarce, expenses are high, and efficiency is at a premium on farms these days.  Nonetheless, we are likely to stubbornly continue to experiment and grow the oddballs, simply because they make farming and eating fun, not because they make money for the farm.  These are the crops that get planted secretly.  They don’t come up at the crop planning meeting.  They aren’t on the spreadsheets.  The seed packets turn up in someone’s back pocket, supposedly as an afterthought. We are trying to break the habit of artichokes, cranberry beans, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and guavas, but we are addicts, rebel farmers who know we need to sharpen our pencils, but haven’t quite gotten there yet.

It’s this interplay between “get-dinner-on-the-table-it’s-a-school-night” and “what-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-this?” that our wonderful CSA members have to put up with.  The staples and the specialties; the common and the rare; the profit and the loss and certainly also the hit and the miss.  We sincerely hope that the home runs more than made up for the foul balls in 2018 and we want all of our members to know that we appreciate you tremendously!  Keep eating your fresh fruits and veggies!

—Judith Redmond

Our sheep are lambing! As of early Monday morning (2/4) 17 have been born.  This lamb is taking its first steps.