News from the Farm | November 15, 2021

Dear Gentle Readers,

On a very special shelf in the Full Belly Farm office sit almost two-dozen binders that hold the dedicated archives of this newsletter. Coined The Beet in the late nineties the binders are a treasure trove of over 1,200 articles, interviews, opinion pieces, political sentiments, children’s essays, and guest editorials. One person has been responsible for the editing, proofreading, gentle deadline reminders and 90% of the written words over those past 25 years and yet not ONE article has captured the essence of who she is and her vital role here at the farm as partner, mentor and friend. So, this article is dedicated to Judith Redmond and not a moment too soon, for she will be stepping down in a month’s time from her daily duties here at the farm and opening some exciting new doors for herself in 2022.

Judith at this fall’s Grateful Harvest Gala

Judith first moved to the farm in 1989 as a dedicated farming/political activist, a recent graduate of the Master’s Program at UC Davis in plant pathology (a lover of rose diseases!), an accomplished editor of The IPM Practitioner, an amazing piano player, and the executive director of CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) where she continues to be involved, currently as a member of their Policy Committee and an active volunteer.

She took a huge gamble in joining us at the farm, which at the time consisted of two fairly disorganized and ideological young farmers and their wild children. Judith however set us all on a course for the next 30 years that would be straight, visionary, and true. One of her first acts of farming here at Full Belly was to encourage and engage us in planting hedgerows around the original 108 acres; they now tower as extraordinary borders of habitat for birds and beneficial insects and provide shade for the crew. Only Judith had the perceptive and far-sighted ingenuity in the early 1990’s to think of hedgerows and windbreaks. Judith continued implementing her innovative farming ideas bringing Full Belly to the forefront as a CSA farm in California – again before the acronym was even known in this state. Her dedication and flare at the Berkeley farmers market for well over two decades have made that Tuesday market a touchstone for dozens of other young organic farmers who learned from her how to sell their produce with authenticity, education, and most importantly, with love.

When asking members of our community what adjective came to mind when thinking of Judith, it was touching the words that sprang from the deep: mindful, measured, masterful, empathetic, efficient, principled, powerful, graceful, dignified. This last word, dignified, came from my son Rye who has known Judith since the day he was born 31 years ago. When asked to explain he said that Judith was such a mixture of both honor and modesty- in a world where both those qualities are so rarely found.

Perhaps these qualities emanated from her upbringing – both of her parents hailed from Birmingham, England and immigrated to the United States just several years before Judith was born in 1957. Her British mother, now 92, and known affectionately by all as ‘Noni’ Redmond, is the most creative, artistic, wonderfully proper woman one could ever meet. Her weaving, knitting, and crocheting masterpieces bless all of our homes. She is a regular visitor and fierce supporter of the farm and has been a CSA member for many years.  Judith’s father was a theoretical physicist, an avid player of the ancient game of Go, a deeply caring and wonderful father to all four of the Redmond siblings. Who knows if the grace and generosity sprang from them but Full Belly Farm has been the most fortunate recipient of Judith’s attention to detail and principals. The list goes on forever of all the systems that Judith established here – the farm office was mostly designed by her insightful ideas, the computer systems, financial systems, our website, even our daily sales program was completely designed by her!

Beyond the farm, the  country and the world beyond have also been the beneficiary of her tireless commitment to a healthy and just agricultural system. Serving on many non-profit boards and committees over the past 30 years, such as the Organic Farmers Association and CALCAN (the California Climate and Agriculture Network) to name two. Judith has brought her farming wisdom to countless conferences around the country and helped make policy changes that positively affect thousands of organic growers.

My daughters, Hallie and Hannah, had the extreme fortune of having Judith as a second mother to them their entire lives. Her strength as a woman farmer (and her delicious blond brownies!) led both of them to be able to speak up on issues important to them. Hannah’s words to describe Judith were “intuitive wisdom.” She got teary as she described her as someone who knows the right path and works with her whole heart to make sure the work gets done. Hallie said to me “Mom, Judith is the most generous woman I have ever known – with not only her ideas but also her love.”

As for me, I have been in the presence of an angel for the past thirty years; hers is an incredibly patient and positive soul. Judith has given me more than I can possibly describe, but without a doubt, a farm and home so full of light and gentleness and a teacher beyond compare. Thank you, Judith for all that you have given to each of us. We are forever grateful.

Dru Rivers