News From the Farm | April 22, 2013

It might be time for a spring report on the activities that occupy our Full Belly days. The early year has been marked by both a lack of precipitation and warm weather that has had some significant impacts. We can attribute our abundant fruit set to the fact that with so little rain, there was less disease pressure on the fruit bloom. Peaches, plums, apricots, almonds and even early figs have passed the period of frost danger and we appear to be headed for a good fruit season.  Early tomatoes, corn and summer crops are on a timeline to come by mid-June and fill out our normal June doldrums when we usually finish our spring greens and await the summer crop push. 

The first spring potatoes will appear next week. Planted on our Valentines Day target date, beautiful lush potato growth has been accelerated by the mild days. In a couple of months we should have fresh potatoes. We are working to keep up with weeding, cultivating and the pest management that warm springs bring.  Aphids are difficult to control and it appears to be a banner year. We apologize if you found aphids in your produce and we are working to get the little buggers under control. Many of the fields have lines of flowering alyssum planted with the crops. Its white flowers attract beneficial insects that offer a counter army to go after the aphids. Lacewings, big eyed bugs, ladybugs and their offspring – aphid lions – offer some help, but are slower to build their numbers. The alyssum flowers offer these insect friends the pollen and nectar they need to settle in and start a family. We are working to get the timing right on our plantings and develop strategies to get the beneficials into the field sooner.

Our winter cover crops have been incorporated into the soil as we are trying to utilize the winter period to grow the nutrients that our summer crops will need. We are mowing the vetch and oats and then lightly incorporating their biomass into the soil with compost or beneficial microbial sprays that help to digest the carbon-rich plant material. The decomposing cover crop becomes the food for soil microorganisms that digest complex plant materials and turn them into plant foods. 

Our lambs have also been busily eating both cover crop material and crops that are finished. Their munching is far more benign than a tractor in a field, allowing the beneficial insects established on the crops to move on. Chickens are being utilized in much the same manner. They are moved regularly to new locations to forage on fresh plant matter and the bugs that reside there, while turning out some pretty tasty eggs. Sheep shearing starts today. Our flock of 80 ewes will get their winter coats removed – about 8 lbs of wool per animal – and collectively baa more comfortably. 

Beet Photo- April 22

Lack of rain means that irrigation has been a priority. We have been laying miles of drip tape to water tomato and melon fields, plumbing in the systems to our pumps and watering early and often.  Orchards are now irrigated with micro sprinklers that can deliver needed water pretty precisely. Like many other farmers in California, we are tied to the availability of both surface water and well water, and look to steward these resources wisely

School groups now are a regular feature of the farm buzz. Hallie has some 20 schools scheduled for overnight stays where they put their feet on the farm, play with the farm dogs, do some farm projects, and pick and prepare meals from farm produce. 

The scene at the farm this last Saturday evening represented another remarkable evolution in the character of Full Belly. Thirty guests sat at a long family style table on our lawn.  Amon, Jenna, Hallie and Rye were in the roles of chef, tour guide, farmer and wait-person as a 5-course meal was prepared and served. The guests were part of our now monthly farm dinners where the meal is all from Full Belly derived product—Guests have a chance to tour the farm and get a feel for the steps taken in growing, picking, preparing and enjoying the farm’s crops, highlighting the flavor that connects field to table.

This spring finds us swept along by the wave of possibilities that a diversified farm powered by sunlight and creative people can manifest. We encourage you as our patrons to find some time to come to the farm and get a feel for how it all fits together. Look for upcoming farm days or check out the farm dinners. We would love to see you up here!

–Paul Muller


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