News From the Farm | January 21, 2019

Saturday Walk Around –

We have had a week of heavy rainfall, so our fields are very wet.  None of the farm work can be done by tractor when the fields are so wet and a lot of mud gets tracked into trucks, our office, and the packing shed. The crews tread heavily in boots that pick up the sticky mud in the fields.  Their rain gear is coated with mud and everything is a little bit slower, adding to the costliness of keeping the doors open and the crew working during rainy weather.  The crew only came in for 4-hours on most days last week since we were mostly only picking for farmers markets and CSA boxes.  And besides, it was cold and messy work, not a nice walk in the rain to jump in the puddles!  Full Belly has a commitment to providing year-round work for our crew, as well as a commitment to showing up at markets and CSA pick-up sites year-round without fail.  But when the weather is cold and wet, it can take a toll.

On Saturday, the sun came out and the rain stopped, so I ambled around the farm.  There are many fields growing beautiful green cover crops that are already several inches tall.  With the rain and a bit of sun they will start growing and sending their roots down deep.  One field still has last summer’s tomato plants in it. We got the trellis off the tomatoes before the rain, and they are sprawled on the ground, waiting until we can get in and complete the job of cleaning up.

The walnut orchard is beautiful in the winter.  The large old trees have a beautiful form and they have lost all of their leaves. We go through several times during harvest in October and November to try and pick-up all of the walnuts, but if you walk through at this time of year it seems like there are always a few walnuts that get blown off of the trees late and are missed.  Food for squirrels I suppose.

One of the big jobs on the farm at this time of year is working in the greenhouses.  Ana and Chica (photo above) are our greenhouse crew. This Saturday they were mixing up potting soil, packing it into seedling trays and sowing the seeds.  They have been working in the greenhouse for years and know all of the problems that can come up if the plants aren’t watered just right, the temperature isn’t correct, or any number of other perils.

On another part of the farm, we were harvesting our navel oranges.  We have an especially large, juicy, sweet crop this year.  Bonifacio is in charge of the harvest crew this Saturday and he can easily report on how many pounds were picked by how many people. He is proud of the quality and hopeful that every orange will be sold for a fair price.  We are also putting the oranges into our citrus tea cakes which are delicious and can be added on to your CSA box order.

Antonio is here rain or shine, every day of the week, caring for our chickens, sheep and pigs. The chickens are spread over the farm, in small groups of different ages. Antonio collects the eggs twice a day. When I took his photo he was quick to tell me that that harvest in his basket looked small because this was the second collection of the day from a small group of hens.

As I walked around, my thoughts drifted to two of our long-time crew members who would have been here working except that they were unable to return from their Christmas vacation when they visited Mexico.  Something was wrong with their papers, so they couldn’t come across the border and were told when they tried to cross that they would have to stay in Mexico for five years before the U.S. would reconsider.  Their friends are packing up their house and someone will drive down with their belongings so that they can start a new life in Mexico. We are looking for skilled workers to replace Alma and Javier, but we are also hoping that 2019 will bring sanity to the immigration conversation making it easier for farm workers to enter the U.S. if they want to work here, in jobs that others do not seem to want.

After the cold and rainy weather, it seemed like every bird on the farm was singing their hearts out from the tops of every tree, making up for the days when they were sheltered from the rain.  The weather reporters are predicting some dry days in the next week.  We love the rain, but we love a few dry days in between as well!

Many blessings on your meals!

—Judith Redmond