News From the Farm | October 19, 2020

Arrayed on the table are 6 butternut, 1 delicata (a squirrel ate the big one), 3 kabocha (1 other became a pie and a main course), and 19 acorn squashes.  All are volunteers from Full Belly squash seeds in the compost (bin on the right) that grew when compost was strewn over the garden beds.  Thank you, Full Belly, for providing us not just with winter squash, but with a Squash Dynasty!  Oh, behind the table?  That’s Paul, who tends the garden and never plants squash. (Story & photo by member Helen Gerken)

Shortly before Full Belly Farm became part of my life I was the Executive Director of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF).  Even after I became a co-owner of Full Belly – before I was forced to admit that the farm was pretty much a 100-percent kind of lifestyle – I tried to do both — split the week between Full Belly and then CAFF.

With the folks at CAFF I worked with farmers around the state — Central Coast, San Joaquin Valley and northern California — changing the farming (and California policy) calculations about pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and how family farms might be part of the rebuilding of healthier rural communities.  There were demonstrations of cover cropping, ground-breaking legislation and a project that borrowed a bit from the principals of community organizing — we called it the Lighthouse Farm Network.

Through the work at CAFF, I met many really wonderful, inspiring and creative people who through their dedicated efforts (then and now) really did (and do) make the world a better place.  One of our projects advocated against the monetization of water, a natural resource that others wanted to sell out of rural communities, indiscriminately to the highest bidder.  California water is a weighty and fraught part of California politics and we were really just a very small and kind-of naive group of rabble rousers.  It was about that time that we met Pete Price, a Sacramento lobbyist who knew a lot about the rules of hardball politics, but who had a deep well of integrity and environmental passion.  He believed in sustainable agriculture, he believed in family farming and he knew that there was a lot of room for change in California agriculture.

For the next couple of decades Pete was a constant presence at CAFF, helping us pass many pieces of significant legislation; helping us think through how to talk about food safety on family farms; and defending family farmers at the state Capitol whenever the need arose.  He served as CAFF’s lobbyist and for many years also served on the Board of Directors.  Tragically, Pete died in a biking accident less than a month ago. 

I imagine that many of our readers are aware of the great work done by CAFF, and if so, perhaps many will also understand the importance of organizations that represent family farmers and sustainable agriculture. It is good leaders that work together to make great organizations and it is worth a moment to reflect and thank those leaders when they are lost. The CAFF website has more about Pete, saying, “Long before it was trendy, he carved out a space in Sacramento for sustainable agriculture. His measured approach opened doors, built bridges and encouraged dialogue. It’s this legacy that we at CAFF vow to carry forward in years ahead.”

I worked with Pete while I was Executive Director at CAFF, also when I was on the CAFF Board later on.  He and his wife were Full Belly CSA members, and they worked with me welcoming our guests at the front gate of the Hoes Down Harvest Festival for several years, so a sad, heavy cloud has hung over my heart since I heard the news of Pete’s sudden death. There exists an ecosystem of organizations and dedicated leaders that support family farmers and that create the context within which sustainable agriculture can evolve and flourish.  That’s why this column often looks beyond the farm fields and examines food and farming issues.

Back to the farm fields, our walnut harvest started in earnest on Saturday 10/17 and a few in-shell walnuts have started appearing at our farmers market stands.  With that as a backdrop, Full Belly owners hope to catch a few minutes to get together and do some year end evaluation and 2021 planning.  Many blessings on your meals, and these words from Maria Grazia, who has been sending us the beautiful weekly photos of box contents (above): May your meals “nourish our hopes for a better future!”

—Judith Redmond

Heather on the tractor, planting garlic last week.