News From the Farm | April 6, 2020

At the Capital: Dave Runsten (Community Alliance with Family Farmers), Judith Redmond (Full Belly Farm), Jimmy Panetta (Representing California’s 20th District) and Ken Kimes (New Natives).       

This is a message from one of your dedicated farmers who has been a full time CSA Coordinator for the last 3 weeks.  I spent the week of March 9th in Washington DC for a meeting of the Organic Farmers Association. I was there with organic farmers from all over the country.  We had for many months been planning a series of meetings at the Capital with our representatives. Long-time organic farmers, many of them who have been involved in shaping our movement from the beginning, were focussed on some of the important issues in organic agriculture — how to protect the integrity of the organic label for example.

While the meetings went very well they took place against a strange backdrop.  Senator Feinstein’s office wasn’t accepting business cards and required everyone to sanitize hands.  Workers were hurrying around the Capital swabbing down elevator buttons and door knobs with sanitizer.  We cleaned every work space in our meeting room before we sat down.  By the end of the week the news made it clear that it was time to head back home. I had to find an alternate flight and wait lines on the airline phones were 8 hours (literally).  Airline web sites weren’t functioning.  It was a situation of going to the airport and finding a flight regardless.  Flights were full and airport staff were frazzled.  It seemed as if the whole world was trying to evacuate just under the wire.

Back (thank goodness) at Full Belly, in the CSA office, staff were struggling to make sense of a chaos of closed sites, often finding out only hours before, that a site was going to close. On one occasion our driver waited with boxes on a curb, hoping that our members would turn up before he had to rush to the next drop.  Now, three weeks later, it seems almost commonplace that sites would be closing and schedules would be changing, but we had never before faced a situation of having to re-route hundreds of our members with such short notice.  The last three weeks have been a continuing series of challenges and changes that we have solved one by one as best we can.  We have moved sites, closed sites and changed schedules for many of our members  We have added hundreds of new members and we have opened a new home delivery route.  One of the biggest jumps has been in orders for add-ons — people who want our kitchen items added on to the vegetable boxes.  

Through this month of retooling so much of what we do, the Full Belly staff have been stalwart, focused on doing a good job, following the new protocols and bringing their very best selves to work.  They are patient as we work to adapt and proud that the world has finally recognized their work as essential and critical to all.

We are facing a tidal wave of questions and requests from our members. We are so happy to be receiving the additional interest and attention, even if it may take us a little longer than usual to respond.  However, with office staff in short supply and the significantly increased work load, we have had to close our CSA program to new members.  This too, would have seemed unbelievable a few weeks ago.  The moment seems to illustrate both the strengths and weaknesses of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  It is a relationship, not simply an economic exchange. There is an element of trust and some give-and-take that goes into it when it is at its best.  There is some extra complexity in managing it and that can make it unwieldy.  We usually on-board new members at a slower pace and can help everyone understand that a CSA works differently than a trip to the grocery store.  Remember, this is a part of the annual Full Belly Farm cycle when there is a little bit less diversity of crops than at other times of year — but the greens and alliums evolved to feed your immune system during the winter, so the boxes are naturally full of the nutrients that you really need.  

We thank our members, both new members and long-time members, for all your patience and kind messages.  We thank our site hosts for their immense generosity in continuing to allow us to use their sites for our member pick-ups.  We feel blessed that our farm will continue to be here for all of us, with crops in the ground to look forward to the coming months.

Blessings on your meals.

— Judith Redmond

Our tomatoes, protected from the cold