News From the Farm | March 29, 2021

Flowers that Hannah made for Cheryl’s ceremony  —  

Spring time is absolutely wonderful in the Capay Valley – the mountains rise above us on either side, green with annual grasses, the orchards are in flower and the weather is mild.  Not a day goes by on the farm without tractors preparing beds for planting and seeds going into the ground. As flowers burst forth everywhere, even our crops respond to the lengthening days and warm sunshine by rushing to flower.   We call it ‘bolting’ when the carrots or cabbages abandon leafy growth and start growing flower stems, an apt term as the pace quickens in plants and humans both.

There are only a limited number of these beautiful springtimes that each of us will be blessed to experience as humans on the earth and as farmers, we know that the life bursting forth from the spring soil is in some ways, just the other side of lives that have ended.  That didn’t really serve as consolation this weekend when we said goodbye to one of our friends Cheryl Whitfield, who passed away recently. 

Cheryl had worked at Full Belly Farm for over thirteen years. I remember very clearly that after making several visits to the farm all those many years ago to check us out and purchase a bouquet of flowers, she was very clear in her intention.  One day, even though there was no job announced, she simply gave us her resume and said very convincingly, “I want to work here”.

Cheryl with the some of the members of the flower crew in 2019

Cheryl was important to the CSA program because she worked the CSA line every afternoon that she was here. Everyone would hear Bonifacio’s voice over the radio, “Cherito! Cherito!”  And Cheryl would answer, “Coming Bonifacio!”  The CSA line manifests at a time in the afternoon when the packing shed is already buzzing with activity and everyone is rushing to get their work done before the day ends.  Ten or 11 people have to put down what they are doing and help to fill the CSA boxes. Everyone lines up: one person to put the boxes on the roller-line, one person per item in the box, one person at the end of the line to check the box, another to stack the boxes onto pallets and if we’re lucky a floater to restock as items run out.

Cheryl, Shannon and Zeus outside the office last year, just before she got sick

Cheryl also carefully maintained binders with copies of the weekly Beet newsletter, and if you called the farm when she was in the office, it is likely that she answered your call and made sure that you got taken care of. These are only a few of the things that Cheryl did at Full Belly, but I wouldn’t want to leave the subject without mentioning the delicious days that she was the pinch hitter lunch chef or the many times that she showed up for work with brownies or pineapple upside down cake that always disappeared by the first break of the morning.  It wasn’t just the humans that she prepared treats for — she also always had a treat for any of the dogs that walked through the office door.

Cheryl first went into the hospital for cancer treatments last October, but spent most of the last few months at home surrounded by her loving family. We thank her for all the great work that she did here at Full Belly.

— Judith Redmond

Circle of Joy, by Maria Grazia