News From the Farm | May 6, 2019

At times of the year we could use a thousand hands to get all of the work done. We are in the midst of our spring transition after that long spell of rains that graced the farm in January through late March. When all of that rain stopped there was a good deal of catching up that was needed… we are getting closer to catching up, but the season brings new tasks that pile on.  So many of the tasks are simply keeping up with the pick of lettuces, greens, flowers, asparagus, new carrots, onions and garlic. We have more than 40 crew-members out each day with the pick, and another 10 in the shop packing the orders that we harvest.

This year will bring a crop of peaches, apricots, plums, grapes, figs, apples and pears that made it through the rain and set fruit.  Andrew is pushing along his fruit crew to thin out the peaches and give each fruit enough room to size up. We will need to do the same for many of the other trees, in what looks to be a positive and productive fruit year. Bunches of grapes are being trimmed and leaves pulled to give the growing berries light.

Weeds are finding this a delightful spring as they are greening up every corner and niche of the farm trying to hide from the blades of our flail mower or the sweep of the hoe. This winter created a banner year for not only weeds but also hay crops and cover crops. Fields have been awash in the rose clovers, red/purple vetches, the white stalks of bell  bean flowers, and the fragrant light purple pea flowers. Those fields have been a feast of pollen, nectar and habitat for a wide mix of beneficial insects, bees, and other pollinators. We are just now mowing down our last fields to incorporate these crops as food for hungry soil microbes that they will then turn into fertility to support our crops.

It is the time of haymaking. Fields of oats, clovers, vetches, ryegrass, beans and peas are cut and drying to be baled and stored for the sheep to eat when it is cold and wet in winter months. We will put up about 80 tons of hay to be put into the barn. With my aging hay equipment, it is an epic 2 weeks of patching and welding and wrenching the swather-(cutter), rakes, baler and pickup machine to get the sweet smelling hay into a bale and  into the barn.  We use this equipment for a short time each spring- much of the equipment is of the late 70’s early 80’s vintage purchased as some bargain and requiring tinkering, grease and patching to make another 2000 or so bales.

Everywhere on the farm it is easy to feel the benefits of all of the rain this past winter. There is a palpable difference in the vibrancy of the tree crops on the farm and surrounding riparian areas. Rain has no substitute in its ability to nourish life above ground and the world associated with plant roots. All of the  trees on the farm sport heavy sets of leaves that are waxy green and lush.  Along with the rich colors come the waves of birds migrating through using the farm as a stopping point Western Bluebirds, Barn Swallows, Black Headed Grosbeaks, Red Shouldered Hawks and others make their annual appearance as part of the spring rituals.

We also host the migration of folks wanting to learn about different models of farm design. This last week we hosted tours of students from San Francisco State, Third graders from Nevada City and an international group of delegates to a UC Davis Seminar on adaptation to the issues that may arise from a changing climate. Representatives from some 30 different countries walked our fields where we talked over strategies for resilience. We talked about our farm design making diversity a central strategy for our stability. Harvesting more sunlight, carbon and nitrogen in our cover crops reduced the need for imported fertility. Storing Carbon in the soil was exemplified by the extensive root systems and tremendous amount of biomass above ground. This strategy also increases the potential for soil to store and retain water – increasing resilience to drought.

These delegates represented efforts at diverse solutions from planting over 1 million trees in Lebanon, or changing grazing practices in Nepal or Rwanda or redirecting financial resources toward the agricultural sector in Peru or Bosnia or Kazakhstan. It is a common thread that solutions will be biological and cultural and that the investments in solutions to mitigating climate change must involve investments and support for our land using communities.

The support of farming and food systems that are committed to good soil stewardship and indigenous- place based solutions will be a critical  pathway toward food system resilience. It will require a partnership much like that which we share with you – dear CSA partner. A more intimate investment in our daily bread that reaches to those who work the land and hold its long term fertility as a shared responsibility.

As stewards of this rich and diverse planet, we organic farmers and eaters link the complexity and vitality of the soil beneath our feet to healthy plant life and ultimately to all life above that soil.  These dynamic connections of farmer to farm soil are the essential time seasoned patterns of systems thinking- all parts of a living system connected to a whole are greater than the sum of the parts. Mindful soil stewardship understands local conditions and is sensitive to place, its potentials, and limitations. Soil stewardship operates with compassion and restraint, understanding the intimate relationship of farmer to place, care and love for that place , respectful and right action thereon, and humility for the complexity and beauty of a legacy of evolving fertility that we have been gifted.

The principles of Organic Agriculture are rooted in the soil and cannot be re-interpreted to cleave that relationship. They are rooted in the principles of HEALTH – of farm, farmer, farm worker, farming communities, healthy plant life, live stock, and ultimately, the health of those who share the bounty resulting from that labor; of FAIRNESS- creating a system of fair return to all parts so that the energy and community of production is sustained and renewed; of CARE – stewarding resources and life to be enhanced, made beautiful and productive, respected, and enjoyed by all present and future generations; of BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY – honoring and being humbled by the complexity and richness of the planet with which we are entrusted  to steward and love. These principles form a necessary ethical foundation of Organic Agriculture upon which the structure of standards and rules are built.

Thank you for being our partner in our spring time rituals. Good eating!

— Paul Muller