News From the Farm | September 7, 2020

Crew harvesting Red Kuri Squash  —  

If our CSA program can shed any light on bigger trends in the world, people are leaving northern California in droves.  Usually we notice this in August when everyone gets in their last vacation before school starts.  Usually at that point our farmers markets slow down and we process lots of “skips” for our CSA members.  But in the last couple of weeks, we have heard from an uncommon number of members who are moving out of California completely; taking very extended leaves of absence; or moving in with the folks for awhile.  A good time to get out of Dodge?   Perhaps a good time to get out of the heat and smoke, but you better make sure that your absentee ballot is taken care of!

This Saturday morning one group is harvesting bins of Red Kuri squash, another is transplanting fall crops, and in the packing shed, melons and eggplants are being washed for stores that will receive their deliveries early on Monday morning.  I judge the air quality according to how many of the new fire scars I am able to see on the hills across the highway and this morning, none are visible, the smoke is that thick.  Our crew will leave today after 5 hours — they need to get out of the heat and smoke as well.

Valentin washing Honeyloup melons.

Usually right around this time of year we would be running ragged trying to clean up our farm that had been spinning on high gear for months. We would be tidying all kinds of corners and edges that by this time are spilling out with disorderly messes of weeds or dust, or broken machinery.  That would be, for those of you who haven’t guessed, because we would normally be preparing for our Fall Festival, The Hoes Down Harvest Festival, which has of course been cancelled this year.  The Hoes Down is a fundraiser for organizations that have only redoubled their efforts this year as the needs of rural regions have increased.  We are contemplating a fundraiser for those organizations despite the cancellation of Hoes Down — more on that later! 

The last few months of Full Belly harvests have been full of fabulously delicious melons, tomatoes and peppers.  I saw a report on some research recently that seemed to indicate that the pay-offs from cover cropping (a practice that Full Belly has implemented to the max) don’t fully manifest for 30 years. So maybe we are starting to see and taste some of those results!  There is something to be said about commitment to this place that I marveled at one morning a few weeks ago when the fire was raging across the highway.  Our electricity was out, the air was full of smoke, and we had heard rumors that the highway was closed so perhaps our employees would not be able to get through.  A few of us stood outside the office wondering together about a plan for the day.  Then our crew started trickling in, one by one — pretty soon everyone had arrived and we all just got to work.

—Judith Redmond

We have an almond orchard and sheep barn on the side of the highway where the fire was worst a couple of weeks ago.  This shot by Andrew shows how close it came to our barn.  These hills have burnt two years in a row now, but the fire hasn’t come all the way down to the Valley floor before like it did this year.