News From the Farm | January 18, 2021

As 2021 starts finding its way, I look forward to another year here on the Full Belly patch of land. I love the cool season when bunched greens, beets, carrots and broccoli are on the harvest list, crops that have a less urgent, a less demanding nature than summer’s heavy hitters like tomatoes and melons (I love those too, in their time!) Cooler weather, with its calmer harvest schedule, opens up time for projects, like expanding and rebuilding the flower cooler in the packing shed, something that has been on the list for some years now. This, and other investments in the future of the farm provide a reminder that we have much to be grateful for.

The fact that our farm has provided a stable income and a beautiful place to live for the six owners and their families has continued to seem like a small miracle to me every day at dawn when I look out on the fields that surround my house. Thirty five years ago, conventional wisdom predicted quite the contrary and organic farmers were generally thought of as (at best) scruffy and naive.  The farm is also a stable workplace for dozens of families who have had work throughout the pandemic, unlike so many people who lost jobs and whose futures have been thrown into uncertainty and chaos as a result.

Some of the people who lost their jobs were customers of mine at the Tuesday Berkeley Farmers Market.  They do occasionally still come by the market, and the stress that the pandemic has wrought upon their lives is printed on their faces and in their demeanor — This has been a very hard time for many people. I am thinking about this in part because of the letter that we received recently after announcing our price increase for 2021:

“You have provided our family with wonderful fruits and veggies for over 7 years now. I have always felt a Full Belly CSA to be a tremendous value. I’m just curious why the decision to raise prices now (to me significantly) in the middle of the pandemic. My husband has been laid off since March, 2020 and may never get his job back.”

These stories are heartbreaking, especially for those of us who have been able to work through the pandemic. This letter, and the stories from the farmers market, are important reminders of the responsibility that we feel to build a more just economy without the gaping inequalities that exists in our society today.  But the price increase (of close to 15%) will help to keep our farm financially stable, and we feel that it can be easily justified in terms of the increased costs that we face.  We haven’t raised our CSA prices in over five years but minimum wages in California have gone up by one third since 2017 in California, not to mention the increases in overtime pay and health insurance costs. Labor is 60% of our expense, and we want our crew to make a living wage.

Our members likely know these things already, and I totally understand that the cold financial calculation doesn’t change the sting of raised prices at a time when the plague is prowling the land.  We do feel a responsibility to our community of CSA members and do not take your membership for granted. We will keep in mind the saying that  “a rising tide lifts all boats” — One of the lessons of the pandemic is that we are all related on this planet, we are all in this together and we have mutual responsibilities towards each other.

— Judith Redmond

A beautiful field of greens.