Theme: farm crew

News from the Farm | March 27, 2023

March is Women’s History Month, in addition to being the month when National Ag Week (March 21-27), National Ag Day (March 23), and International Women’s Day (March 8) are observed. Every day is an excellent opportunity to recognize and celebrate the countless women working on farms and ranches to provide food (plus flowers, fuel, fiber, and countless ecosystem services) to our communities.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 21, 2022

Thanksgiving marks the home stretch for us – after this week, there are two more weeks before our winter break.

Every culture seems to have a harvest holiday like Thanksgiving, a time to sit down with friends and family and appreciate the land’s bounty. Not all are as complicated as ours though; the Thanksgiving story is based on a lot of myths and lies about American history. It is possible to observe Thanksgiving while acknowledging the long history of colonization, exploitation, and erasure, and the continued struggles and triumphs of Native people. One place to start is learning about the real history and your area’s Indigenous peoples and languages. And there are many other resources and ideas out there, including supporting Native organizations and movements.

One thing I’ve incorporated into my Thanksgiving is thinking about who and what I’m thankful for. It’s a long list, including all of the people who grow, harvest, and process the food that I eat- those that I know, and those who I don’t. At least when it comes to my job, the CSA, there’re some people who really stand out. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | October 3, 2022

It looks like we’ve got one more week of weather in the 90s, but melon season has ended. It was a good season, running from early July to the end of September, about 16,300 CSA boxes with melons, many including two (small) melons!

With the transition from melons to winter squash, now is a great time to highlight and express our appreciation for the great work that the folks in the southern half of the shop do. Led by Valentin, this small but mighty crew are responsible for washing, sorting, and packing some our biggest crops in terms of volume, weight, and value: melons, winter squash, potatoes, carrots, and asparagus. They also bunch and cut broccoli, wash and bag oranges, bag onions, and sort and box corn. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 29, 2021

Kosuke and Andrew  —  

It is crazy for me to realize that my time at Full Belly ends in two weeks. I remember the first day, July 6th, 2020 when I spent that day and most of the week harvesting potatoes in the blazing summer heat.

The last year and a half has flown by and has been so enjoyable. Many days I could be doing a variety of tasks. Some days it could be everything from harvesting, planting, building a cooler and then ending with loading the delivery trucks. I spent many hours harvesting sunflowers, eggplants, peppers, and so much more. There were many days of planting transplants as well as seeding crops. In the spring, I spent every Sunday taking care of the greenhouse and watching the plants grow and learning how to take care of them with Andrew Brait’s advice. This summer, I was in charge of our sunflower harvest and bunching efforts. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 24, 2021

It’s really exciting to be able to include some spring fruit in your boxes this week! Who doesn’t like fruit?

There’s a fair amount of work that has to happen before we get to harvesting the fruit, as with most of our crops. Strawberry transplants go in the ground in the beginning of September and then must be weeded and tended until they start bearing a crop the next spring. So they take up valuable real estate in the field long before they start paying “rent”. Strawberry plants bear fruit for multiple years but their productivity drops dramatically after the first year, so for us, they’re a one year crop. Note: strawberry jam is back and is available on the web store! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 23, 2020


A recently transplanted field of onions!

Every family has their own set of Thanksgiving traditions. One thing my family often does is go around the table and each of us reflect on something we’re thankful for. A natural pessimist, I appreciate the opportunity to look past all the things going wrong and instead focus on all that I have to be grateful for.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 13, 2020

Francisco Zavala Medina, Full Belly mechanic — 

All of us, including bona fide analysts and researcher types are trying to figure out what our lives and the world will look like on the other side of the pandemic.  An interesting report from CoBank predicts that “economic recovery may now favor rural communities for the first time in many years.”  Rural areas were slower than urban to recover from the last recession but that may not be true in the case of the pandemic.  For one thing, rural areas are less densely populated, which could be “vital for economic resilience in the face of COVID-19.”   In addition, the job loss has not been as severe in rural counties. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 22, 2020

Ben driving out to the field to harvest the last planting of cabbage. –

Voices from the Fields –

No one knows this farm better than our crew members.  Passionate farmers who spend their years tending Full Belly fields – every decision they make creates the high standard produce you find in your CSA box, farmers market, and local grocery store.  I’m constantly inspired when I see the way Isobel, for example, who is the leader of the flower crew, picks every flower with such intention and care.  It’s not just me who sees this, but others are inspired by our crew as well – including their own kids.

I first met Ben Hernandez this spring as I was interviewing new camp counselors for our summer camp program.  Everyone on the farm raved about him, “Oh, everyone loves Ben,” “Wait, you’re going to hire Ben? But I want him to work with me!”  I understood the stories immediately when we got together for his interview one day after work.  At the time, he was a senior at Esparto High School, finishing up his last month of classes.  I asked him what his plans were since school was nearly done. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 30, 2020

There is a good deal to think about as this week’s News is written.  First of all, we are doing well here at the farm.  We trust that you are weathering this storm with an abundance of love and patience. It can be hard to muster these sentiments when so much seems in turmoil. 

Last week we had a hard and unanticipated freeze. Although the weather predicted a low of 36° here at the farm, the temps dipped to 27° for a solid five hours. When that happens, all of the summer-loving things, venturing out with the first push of green get burned. Everything from the young leaves of walnuts to figs, grapes and pomegranates turn black and are set back to the starting point. Many of the almonds set as small nutlets froze and were lost along with some of the apricots and peaches. The emerging potatoes were fried also. Now a thin black line on top of their beds. It is all a bit heartbreaking and frustrating, and yet part of what we accept as the bargain at this wonderful farm. We can get whipsawed by the unexpected and then watch a week later as the small leaves begin over and once again move toward the goal of bringing sunlight and soil to fruitfulness. We live in a generous and bountiful land where even with setbacks emerge and thrive. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving News From the Farm — 

We recently had a meeting of our Crew Supervisors and listened to them echoing themes that we ourselves have been discussing:  “There are not enough crew members here on the farm to do the work.  Each of our crews needs at least 5 or 6 people, and we often have only 2 or 3 people trying to do the work of 6.  The only solution is to cut back crop production 20% across the board.”

Basically, our crew is pointing out to us the fact that every year we hopefully plant, irrigate, weed and care for our beautiful crops, but often leave too many of them in the field because of the labor shortage that so many other farmers are also experiencing. The crux of this labor shortage has to do with the fact that the majority of US farm workers are immigrants, they always have been immigrants and most future farm workers will be immigrants as well.  With the current crackdown on immigration from Mexico and Central America, and the lack of public policy that would allow immigrants to work in the US legally, the stress on US agriculture is increasing.  Construction and Landscaping, which also rely on immigrant labor are in the same quandary.  And the labor shortage can be especially difficult for organic farmers growing labor intensive fruits and vegetables and often needing proportionally more labor because of a greater amount of hand weeding on organic farms. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 17, 2019

The Full Belly Irrigation crew in the potato field: Jose, Conrado, Manuel and Arturo  — 

This is the thirsty time of year when pumps are running and water is flowing 24/7 all over the farm.  There are more than 300 acres of fruits, flowers and and vegetables that have to be taken care of and at Full Belly, the fields don’t come in easy 50-acre contiguous blocks.  Three acres here and four acres there, all managed differently.  In the late spring, when fields are turning over from winter to summer, pumps have to be put into position, drip tape has to be set up, and systems have to be in tip top order.  You see pipe trailers being pulled all around the farm, and Arturo — the irrigation crew leader — driving around everywhere in his red truck.  When Arturo talks on the radio he sounds as if is running in hyperdrive. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 13, 2019

Alfredo has been working at Full Belly for at least 17 years.  He works hard and is very focussed when he works.  I was recently visiting our tomato plantings because I had not seen them in a week, and I ran into him working in our first planting.  It’s about 7-acres, with tomato plants about a foot tall, transplanted out of the greenhouse and into the soil in the first few days of April. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 28, 2018

Full Belly Farm employs a year-round, stable crew of around 60 people. They work in the field, in the packing shed, in the office and some people work a little bit of everywhere. It has long been our goal to keep as many of our crew members as possible working all year round, even though the amount of work required to keep the farm ship-shape varies tremendously from season to season.  

In order to keep people employed year round, we dry flowers in the spring and summer, and the flower crew makes wreaths in the winter.  We grow crops year-round and our CSA members sign up for veggie boxes, helping us to keep our harvest crews working in the winter.  We work on all kinds of construction and clean-up projects during the winter and even shorten the work-days and the work week, which makes it lean but workable for our core crew members.  But this core crew that works year round is never able to keep up with all of the work it takes during the busy summer and fall.   [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 21, 2017

Full Belly Farm has hosted a number of photographers this summer.  I had the pleasure of walking around with a couple of Bay Area photographers one morning last week and realized (as I repeatedly do), what a picturesque place this Capay Valley is. On summer mornings at Full Belly, crews are spread out across the farm, picking crops.  The melon picking crew has carried tons of melons out of the field this summer and they manage to make it look like an art.  They know a lot about choosing only the best, and sometimes this includes taste testing them in the field… The flower crew keeps a laser focus year-round on planting, weeding, picking and drying our flowers. The fruit crew checks the figs, plums, peaches and other fruit, to estimate when it will be ripe.  The wonderful photos that we are sharing with you in this newsletter are courtesy of  Diana Rothery Photography[Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 17, 2016

Seasonality is a characteristic of agriculture.  Some seasons are busy, others less so. Busy times mean more employees — and less busy times – well, seasonality in farming is why it has always been hard for farm workers to find year-round steady work. Most people still think of farm workers as migrants, moving from one part of the country to the next, following the harvest as crops mature. For migrant farm workers from time immemorial, there have always been periods of time when work is scarce. This is unlike almost any other profession.  Sure, teachers have traditionally had time off in the summer.  Landscaping and construction are also kind-of seasonal.  But I think not to the extent that is built into the very nature of farming.  Harvest time is fraught with urgency — the crop must be in the barn and out of the rain, or at the processing plant and out of the field, in a short window of time, or it will be lost. All the effort of keeping the crop safe, growing it from a seed to a grain, or from a bud to a fruit, can be for naught, if the harvest fails for one reason or another.  

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 19, 2016

My husband and I went to a wedding reception last night to celebrate the marriage of Edgar Jacobo and Martha Carrillo.  Edgar is the eldest son of Bonifacio and Maria Joaquina who are both team leaders at our farm.  Bonifacio has worked at Full Belly since 1988 and Joaquina has been here since 1993.  Bonifacio is the youngest of 10 siblings, born and raised in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico.  Like most of his brothers, Bonifacio started working on farms in Mexico when he was 12 years old, usually 7 days a week, saving money so that he could take the bus to school.

Most of Bonifacio’s siblings have also worked at Full Belly from time-to-time, and several of them are working now.  His elder brother Celso is running our cherry tomato crew.  His brother Sergio drives trucks to the city. Their wives also work at the farm.  Their father, Señor Bonifacio worked here, and still comes back every summer, despite our reluctance to see him working, given his many years of service — it’s time for him to enjoy some rest with his extended family!  And it is a large extended family, with many aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws, so many that we need to draw a family tree to tease it all out. Probably more than 1/3 of our crew is somehow related to the Jacobo family. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 4, 2016

Last summer it seemed like we were short-handed a lot of days.  There were crops we just never got to picking, fields that we had to abandon for lack of care, and weeds that marched along as if to take over the farm.  That isn’t to say that a whole lot of wonderful fruits and vegetables didn’t get picked and eaten— it just seemed like the farm was running ragged at the edges a lot of the time. A lot of days it seemed as if a triage process was taking place, with a jostle of many tasks requiring attention, and a good number of people demanding priority for the activities that they thought were the most important, overlaid on a reality in which only the most urgent activities got anywhere near done.   

Actually, there’s a time like that every year, when everyone on the farm is moving fast, focussed on an immediate task and timeline. There are around 5 months of the year when we plan for ‘all hands on deck’… These are the months when the harvest dominates every day.  Each member of our crew plays a critical part in the choreography of harvesting, packing, truck loading and dozens of other activities, each of which is critical to the success of the whole endeavor.  We are a business in which no detail is small, the effort of each person has consequence, and we are all striving for a balance and equilibrium when Mother Nature and farm reality will synch up in harmony. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 21, 2016

Periodically in this newsletter, we share stories from our employees.  This week we talked with one of our long-time employees, Jose Gomez Imperial.

Jose was born and grew up in the state of Sinaloa in a tiny town called Ejido Vinaterias, which is about 20 minutes outside of a larger town called Los Mochis.  Los Mochis was the town that people from Ejido Vinaterias went when they needed supplies, and when you ask Jose where he is from, he will often say, ‘Los Mochis’.

Ejido Vinaterias has grown quite a bit, so maybe there is more going on there now, but Jose hasn’t been back since 2007, so he isn’t too sure.  He grew up with his mother and 2 brothers – a family of boys. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 2, 2015

What is happening at this time of year in Full Belly Farm’s fields? Our CSA boxes give a hint of changes, containing cool weather greens alongside the last of summer’s harvest. Does the change in season bring a change in rhythm to the farm?  We still have a big crew working every day, and one person who can answer these questions and who is very important in organizing the day’s work, is Juan Jacobo Berrelleza, known to us all as Pancho. 

Pancho lives a few miles up the road from the farm with his wife Nina, and two kids Joel (16) and Julia (12). He has worked at Full Belly since 1992 when he was 18, with only a short break for several years when he farmed with relatives. 

I asked Pancho to talk with me about his work so that I could share some of his story with our CSA members. He was a bit reluctant to take time away from a long list of things that he was hoping to get done. This interview wasn’t on the morning’s list. After talking with him, I understood that he carries in his head, knowledge of all of Full Belly’s equipment, the crews, the fields and their condition, and a timeline of what needs to be finished in the window allowed by our climate and cropping plans. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 7, 2015

Our crew started this morning, Labor Day, at 7:00am.  We had been starting at 6:00 and then 6:30, but as days shorten, the workday changes with the morning light. Like so many mornings over this long summer, our crew of 85 men and women came to work to pick, plant, clean fields, change pipes and pack our harvest for distribution to the many purchasers of our produce. For the more than 30 years of this farm, we have all worked on labor day—perhaps missing the central point of the day, to honor and acknowledge the contribution of those who keep our world moving. 

Most California farms probably were at work today—I know of few who can stop to relax. There is harvest for example—that window when the crop is ready and the market has a place for what you have tended and raised.  To miss or slow for even a day changes the ability to be at the market tomorrow, for example Tuesday’s farmers market would be a bit emptier. Wholesalers, restaurants and stores expect crops to appear and abundant displays to be refilled.  [Read more…]