News From the Farm | March 16, 2020

Full Belly Situation Room —This is what our meetings look like!

Flu Safety — 

The Coronavirus outbreak illustrates that the health and well-being of each of us is connected, from one person to the next. Full Belly has been getting many calls from friends asking how we are doing and how they can help at the same time as many people are concerned about the safety of the CSA boxes and the farmers markets.  We wanted to tell you that we always take precautions to make sure that our fruits and veggies are sanitary and we will double down on those procedures even more now.

Here’s what WE do:

1. We wash your CSA box in hot water and a sanitizing agent when it returns to the farm and before we fill it with additional food.

2. We regularly talk with our employees about hand washing, and we have done that again at each of our Friday morning all-crew meetings in the last couple of weeks.  We will continue to make sure that employees are washing their hands before they start work; before they touch produce; after they use the bathroom and after they eat.

3. Our employees wear disposable gloves when they pick or pack vegetables.

4. We disinfect work surfaces in our packing shed every morning.  We do this with a very effective, but food-safe solution of hydrogen peroxide because we believe that chlorine bleach is bad for the environment.

5. We ask our employees not to come to work if they are feeling sick.  We ask them to call us if they don’t come to work so that we can monitor their condition. If people come to work with a fever, or if they are coughing, we will ask them to return home. Our employees all have three days of paid sick leave and we have added 2 additional days between now and the end of April (or longer depending on circumstances). We are making accommodations for workers who have children now home from school.

6. Temporary changes at our FARMERS MARKETS:  We will bring extra pre-packed CSA boxes for non-members for our customers to simply pick up without handling. We will not allow customers to touch the produce — no more self-serve.  We will take extra precautions for our employees that handle money.  We are pre-bagging as many items as possible, here at the farm.

Jose cleaning CSA boxes

Here are a few things YOU can do:

1. When you pick up your CSA box, please open ONLY ONE BOX.  Please never open a box or touch produce in a box that is not for you.

2.  Stay in touch — We will be letting you know by email if there are any changes in the delivery schedules.  Some of our CSA sites have had to suspend deliveries.  We will be informing all affected members by email.  You are welcome to call us if you have questions!  

3. Please be thoughtful about the delivery hours for our sites and keep our sites organized. Respect the space of others and be patient to sign in and get your box.  It is so generous of our hosts to let Full Belly Farm make deliveries for our members at our community sites.  For the majority that are able to stay open, thank you!

4. Eat your veggies, love your neighbors, cook at home!  We send blessings to every one of you!

News From the Farm

This weekend we had a bit of moisture – less than ¼ inch that broke a 50-day dry spell. The light rain was remarkable and welcomed by every form of life on the farm. That bit of rain broke a spell, washed and invigorated plants and heartened the spirits of farmers. We were facing  wells with low water levels, un-replenished this winter season. We were uncertain and concerned about how much to adjust our planting and production if weather remained dry.  Where to cut crops?  With less than a third of normal rainfall this year to date, we were entering the mental quagmire of speculation and concern. This storm did not bring enough, but it broke a spell for a bit and brightened this farm.

Uncertainty, concern and worry may be the early markers of 2020. We are certainly in the depths of uncharted lands with our responses to Covid-19.  Doubt and fear can be overwhelming – I would hope not too much so for you and your family.  Here at the farm, in the middle of a dry time, we are are looking at beautiful fields, striking green hills, the soft lime greens of emerging oak leaves, radiant redbud, flights of Nuttall’s woodpeckers arriving and getting to work, almond blossom petals dropping like snowfall as the next wave of blooms come forth.  Peaches as an alluring spray of pink and pears with creamy white blooms announcing their presence in spring’s progression. 

We share with you the uncertainty and disquiet of these days amid beauty, regularity and natural wonder. Look around, and there is solace and comfort as nature charges into another year, changing each moment with wonderful and beautiful regularity. Amid disquiet and misgivings in this time, look outside and let the seduction of springtime brighten your moment, loving her beauty, helping with perspective.

There are many new health directives that are shaping the responses to this challenge of a virulent virus. Out health departments don’t remind us enough that we can affect our ability to handle this by choosing to be strong and healthy mentally and physically. Eat good food, cook it slowly filling your home with the comforting smells of a simmering soup or cookies. Exercise to feel strong. Although we are asked to stay inside, open your windows and breathe in the smells of spring, or clean ocean air or the fertile funk and freshness of rain on soil. Find creative ways to grow closer to your family, friends, and neighbors within the boundaries of health directives. We are stronger together.

Look for ways and perspectives to lower your fear and stress, check in on your community members who may be more fearful than you, who are elderly and more vulnerable, find ways to help and connect with others . Garden with your children, prune your roses, or put your hands in the soil to weed or tend. Find the mechanisms to feel in charge of your own health and family’s resilience. 

During these next weeks, Full Belly is committed to continuing to bring you our vegetables. We will continue our CSA program and beef up our CSA boxes to all of our farmers markets so that we can exchange a box with customers as safely as possible. We are asking the State to keep our farmers markets open as essential community functions and we are adopting some protocols for social distancing in a market (see our summary in this week’s newsletter). To eat healthful fresh produce is a first line of keeping strong and being a bit more resilient.  

We have for many years operated on the idea that we were in the business of balancing production and growing food with broader social responsibilities of building a healthier planet.  For example this past week, I sprayed our almonds twice with some organically approved, plant derived fungicides to control Brown Rot in the trees. This orchard had a couple of strikes against it before we even started farming it. The varieties of almonds in the orchard are Butte and Padre– both hard shelled varieties with very flavorful nuts. However, they are 2 varieties that are especially susceptible to Brown Rot which made an uphill fight. A bad infestation, following a rain can completely destroy a crop. We have provided our best and least toxic protections for our trees. We shall see how we have fared this week as the rains finally come.

So, our prayers are a bit muddled – rain to break a spell, or no rain and save a crop – we are conflicted supplicants. It is hard to see ahead as to what is to come. To battle this fungus, we choose the tools of seeking to build soil health, growing a healthy cover crop under the trees, adding micronutrients to the trees with foliar sprays of seaweed and plant extracts. Our strategy is to invest in basic soil health, adding micronutrients and pruning out unhealthy wood in order to help the trees become more resistant to the disease spread.

In these difficult times you are part of our community. Our crops in the field look beautiful and lush this morning. Our crew has shown up to work to pick and pack them for you. We have instituted greater safety and sanitary protocols here. We are monitoring our health as a group of farmers and farmworkers, knowing that we aren’t immune to Covid-19.

We shall do our best as a rich and colorful spring unfolds and crops continue to grow beautiful and healthful in our fields. We shall do our best to grow for you as this season defines itself with each passing day. Stay strong breathe deep and eat well. We will all get through it together.

— Paul Muller