News From the Farm | April 19, 2021

A set of baby chicks arrived last week and 6 piglets were born on Saturday 4/18! (Piglet photo courtesy of Julia Funk)

We are enjoying mild, beautiful weather here at Full Belly Farm, the warm afternoons and constant effort to get water to all of our fields underscoring everyone’s ever-present uneasiness that we are in a parched drought year.  Cache Creek, usually a significant source of irrigation water in the summer months will benefit from reservoir water releases for only 45 to 60 days, so Full Belly, like farms all over the state, will be using more groundwater than otherwise.

Cottonwood trees on the banks of Cache Creek lining most of our property, are in their cottoning phase, and clouds of their seeds, which look like airy white puffs of cotton, are floating everywhere and collecting in corners and walkways.  Red winged blackbirds, ceaselessly singing and chasing around are ever-present on the stalks of the tall, dense cover crops that we have left standing in a few of our fields.

The annual grasses are already turning brown and dying, and the Capay Valley has already seen its first grass fire, which was quickly put out by volunteers from the local Fire Department. After our experiences with fire over the last few years, and especially last year’s LNU complex fire, many residents are clearing brush and pruning dead branches away from their homes in hopes of being more protected.  It was during last year’s fire that our Valley came to deeply appreciate the services of our volunteers who worked 36-hour shifts to keep the fire as far off the Valley floor as they possibly could.  During that time, CalFire was unable to provide support because they were fighting fires started by lighting strikes, on so many other very dangerous fronts.

Many of the 15 Fire Protection Districts in our County are staffed by volunteers and many of them are challenged by a declining volunteer base, increasing call volumes and increased cost of operations.  Our County (Yolo) recently completed an analysis of the situation and concluded that “these challenges pose a significant risk to the health and safety of the community.”  It is unlikely that they would find many community members who would disagree.

The County came up with several proposals, all of which involved discussions of funds that the County receives from a one-half-cent sales tax that was approved by voters in 1993.  All revenues from that particular sales tax are meant to support public safety activities and fire protection was repeatedly called out in the actual language of the law, however many counties (including Yolo) never allocated a penny of the funds to their fire departments.  This is especially ironic given that right before election day in 1993, devastating fires broke out in Southern California consuming over 1,000 structures, one result of which was increased support for fire fighting capacity and for the Proposition itself.  While seven measures were on the 1993 special election ballot, only two passed, including the tax measure, Proposition 172.  The campaign for “Yes on 172” featured soot-covered firefighters. Voters thought they were voting to support their local fire departments.

In a number of counties, fire departments have sued to get a portion of the Prop 172 funds and won.  The recent analysis by Yolo County staff does not endorse the option of disbursements to fire fighters from the Prop 172 Fund, pointing out that “the funding does not appear sufficient to address the full scope of staffing and equipment needs across the County.”  On the other hand, at a meeting on the subject, a County staff person pointed out that some fire departments are “flush” — seemingly an opposite reason for refusing to allocate any of the funds. So for departments that are “flush” or for those that aren’t, the County is giving ‘no’ for an answer.

Capay Valley Fire Commissioners have been attending these discussions in good faith for several months, but at the most recent meeting they were told, “You are eligible, but you are not entitled to Proposition 172 funds” — leaving the impression that the County had dug in its heels and leaving the Fire Fighters frustrated. This column has covered Capay Valley wildfires all too many times in recent years and here we are again, still thinking about the subject as we enter this year’s fire season. 

Thank you to all of our CSA members, buyers and farmers market customers, for your friendship and support. We are grateful for the Spring and for the farm’s abundance.  Many blessings on your meals.

— Judith Redmond

The cover crop from Judith’s porch.