Theme: Judith Redmond

News from the Farm | May 20, 2024

Notes from Under Ground

Underneath the soil that grows our food, in the rocks and sediment, there are vast stores of groundwater, sometimes connected with creeks and rivers, often critical for survival of deep-rooted trees and plants. In a rainy year, groundwater levels go up as rain percolates down into storage. In a dry year groundwater levels trend down as farmers and cities pump it out. This is a very simplified description of something that hydrologists spend a lot of time measuring and thinking about.

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News from the Farm | July 24, 2023

I love looking through the years of archived Beet newsletters. They document wet years, dry years, the experiences of many interns who’ve long left the farm, important milestones (like our transition to the plastic boxes, as well as weddings, births, trips, deaths), and events that have come and gone, and bigger issues that we still deal with today (water, labor availability, organic regulations). This isn’t just a resources I have at my disposal; the archives going back to October 2012 are all available online! Not the entire Beet, but the News from the Farm portion. 

For those, like me, who are relatively newer to the farm, it’s a great window into what has and hasn’t changed, and puts everything in context. Often, when I think I have an original idea for the Beet, a quick search in archives shows that someone probably has talked about that topic before, albeit in a slightly different way, probably even on that same date, just years (or decades) before. [Read more…]

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

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News From the Farm | September 20, 2021

The last line of peaches, Autumn Flames — small but tasty  —  

It seemed to me that all of a sudden the gentler light, a cool breeze and a bluest of blue sky were announcing a change in the season. After another remarkably hot week, the nights are cooling down. As you walk through the walnut orchard, you have to make an effort to avoid stepping on the walnuts that have fallen from the branches and if you listen for a moment you will hear more of them falling to the ground.  Fig leaves are piling up in my garden and soon the peaches will be showing some fall color.  Persimmons and pomegranates are starting to look pretty ripe.  The heat of the sun doesn’t seem quite as intense.   [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 16, 2021


The 11 scarecrows of Full Belly are working hard to scare away birds from our table grapes.  —  

Sometimes at the farmers market people ask if our tomatoes are dry farmed.  No, they aren’t.  Dry farming is a method of growing crops so that they develop deep roots that can access subsurface water instead of relying on irrigation. This summer, temperatures well over 100º have been fairly common and nighttime temperatures have lingered on the hot side as well.  Sometimes when it feels like an oven outside,  I imagine that the plants are basically baking out in the field, a situation not conducive to dry farming techniques. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 12, 2021

We are having some very hot days here at the farm, an experience that we share with other inland Californians. The heat is bringing on the produce. Trucks and trailers full of melons, eggplants, peppers, beans and other delicious summer treats are driving along the farm’s dirt roads, from the fields and to the packing shed, in a parade that reaches a crescendo at the end of the day as the harvest is completed. It is ‘all hands on deck’ in the packing shed then, when several dozen people finish the last packaging, put produce in the coolers and load trucks.  Each day is incredibly detail laden, full of troubleshooting, decision making and continuous attempts to balance multiple needs.


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News From the Farm | June 28, 2021

There’s a farmer who specializes in Asian vegetables and sells at the Berkeley Farmers Market. Since Full Belly has no greens at this time of year I brought home a large bunch of his Water Spinach, a steaming green that has thin long leaves and hollow tender stems.  I had never cooked it before so I was following my own maxim, something I find myself saying quite often when I’m behind the Full Belly market stand, “Every time you try something new, you live a day longer!”

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News From the Farm | April 26, 2021

Everyone around here has been hoping, waiting and watching for the promised rain of this last weekend of April, and we were rewarded with a beautiful Spring day with gusty winds and a few squalls.  Droughts are part of California’s climate and we are now in a second year of drought.  Our County, Yolo, has been declared by the folks that define these things, to be in an “extreme drought” which means that there is little pasture for cattle and livestock, reservoirs are extremely low and the fire season could be a long one.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 19, 2021

A set of baby chicks arrived last week and 6 piglets were born on Saturday 4/18! (Piglet photo courtesy of Julia Funk)

We are enjoying mild, beautiful weather here at Full Belly Farm, the warm afternoons and constant effort to get water to all of our fields underscoring everyone’s ever-present uneasiness that we are in a parched drought year.  Cache Creek, usually a significant source of irrigation water in the summer months will benefit from reservoir water releases for only 45 to 60 days, so Full Belly, like farms all over the state, will be using more groundwater than otherwise. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 15, 2021

Along with 20 other farms, our farm got to participate in a pop-up COVID vaccine clinic last week.  The clinic was organized by Yolo County and took place on a nearby farm.  In all, 338 farmworkers got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine (so we don’t need to go back) and over 200 people returned to get their second Pfizer vaccine after a clinic at the same farm a couple of weeks ago.  By the end of this month, we can rest assured that 90% of our crew is protected.

Yolo County announced its intention to vaccinate frontline workers on February 15th and started pop-up clinics on farms a few days later. These clinics are part of a landmark effort in California to bring the vaccine directly to the fields.  Reports of similar pop-up clinics have come from Riverside, Monterey, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Marin, and small farmworker towns in Tulare and Fresno Counties.

These clinics are noteworthy for taking place in usually underserved areas like Dinuba, Earlimart and Porterville.  Farmworkers are at high risk of getting COVID, and outbreaks have crippled the work force on farms across the country.  Between Mid-July and November of last year, 13% of farmworkers in the Salinas Valley tested positive in comparison to only 5% of Californians in general.   Latino food and ag workers age 18 to 65 in CA had a nearly 60% increase in mortality during 2020 compared with pre-pandemic times — that’s a very high risk factor.

Farmworkers often live in crowded, multigenerational houses, eat together in dining halls,  travel to work and out to the fields in crowded vans, or work in bustling packing houses.  They can have spotty internet access and may be wary of registering for government programs at large vaccination sites.  Yet these workers never missed a beat when the shelter in place was announced — they are the first step in the chain that gets food to everyone’s table. For all of these reasons, the prioritization of farm workers and the on-farm clinics to deliver those vaccines make a tremendous amount of sense.  When was the last time that you saw farmworkers get preferential treatment for anything?

California is ahead of the curve in terms of farm worker vaccines.  In states like Georgia, Texas, New York and Florida, farmworkers are not yet in the priority groups authorized to receive the shots.  Although the CDC recommended that farm workers should be prioritized along with other essential workers, the CDC also allowed states to set their own priorities and some states are requiring documentation of legal residency which is a good way to disqualify many farm workers. In my view, if ever there was a clear need to set aside the requirement for documentation, this is the time.

With the shortage of vaccines (which hopefully is going to become a thing of the past) and the limitations in logistical preparation, health officials everywhere are grappling with questions of equity.  In California, where 40% of the vaccines are supposed to be directed to disadvantaged areas, there are still inequities.  By February 19th, 24% of African Americans over the age of 65 in Los Angeles had received a vaccine, compared to 43% of white residents in the same age bracket. One of our farmers market crew members, an 80-year old African American without a car or smart phone, needed a COVID test a few months ago.  He walked all the way to a test site and was turned away because he didn’t have an appointment. In that same time frame, all of the other members of the farmers market crew (all white) were easily able to get tested.

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News From the Farm | February 8, 2021

Lamb  Count:  This morning the lambing crew reported that we have 108 lambs born so far, including 17 sets of  triplets.  This photo shows Dru feeding the “bummers” — lambs whose Moms needed a little helping hand taking care of the babies.  —  

Our farming cycle is very linked to the annual calendar cycle and it is a thing for us at Full Belly, before a New Year is in full swing, to look back at what has been learned the year before, hoping to inform our activities in the year to come.  Part of that thinking is to review the CSA boxes from the previous year, imagining a household that got a box every week: What did our members eat from the farm in a year of 2020 boxes? [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 1, 2021

We are so happy to have had rain — and we are hoping for more, much more.  This week’s storm is just a start on what the land needs.  We woke up last Tuesday morning to frosty and freezing scenery, and a few days later the beautiful sight of a ribbon of snow snaking along the tops of the western hills.  Farmers love weather, and this was a big weather week.  As the snow melted, the report came that the snow melt could be seen running down the hills and into the Creeks on the Valley floor. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 18, 2021

As 2021 starts finding its way, I look forward to another year here on the Full Belly patch of land. I love the cool season when bunched greens, beets, carrots and broccoli are on the harvest list, crops that have a less urgent, a less demanding nature than summer’s heavy hitters like tomatoes and melons (I love those too, in their time!) Cooler weather, with its calmer harvest schedule, opens up time for projects, like expanding and rebuilding the flower cooler in the packing shed, something that has been on the list for some years now. This, and other investments in the future of the farm provide a reminder that we have much to be grateful for. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 9, 2020


Becky and Elaine – Full Belly CSA Team  —  

The success of any project here at the Farm reflects the attention to detail and hard work of staff.  When CSA members place orders and request changes in their schedule we do our best to respond.  Every morning we let the harvest crews know what to harvest from the fields so that they can fill the CSA boxes for the next day. We keep the web site updated and keep track of all the add-on orders. We help members who are late to pick up their boxes or who have questions about pick-up logistics.  We answer many questions from the public. We are making well over 1,700 boxes every week these days and we love it!  It is our goal to provide the best possible service to our CSA members in hopes that they enjoy every aspect of the CSA experience. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | November 2, 2020

Harvesting Olives  —  

Living on a farm brings Nature’s timetable to the forefront of daily cycles.  In the summertime much of the focus during the day is on selling, harvesting and packing the bounty from the fields.  Now, in the early Fall we are still selling a lot of produce but pods of activity on the farm are devoted to various crop harvests that will hold us through the winter months and a lot of energy is devoted to getting fields planted and the farm prepared for the winter. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 12, 2020

Last Week’s Box: gloriously cold greens and warm yellows, orange and reds! by Maria Grazia — 

I tend to work a lot in the busy Full Belly office which is one of the farm’s most important information and communication Hubs, providing its own frame of reference in terms of News From the Farm.  This is where the daily work of selling crops, providing service to our CSA members, taking care of bills and invoices, managing payroll, and keeping up with the comings and goings of our 90-member farm crew are just a few of the activities on the list.  We have definitely moved on from the days when all of the phone extensions on the farm picked up into one (or maybe there were two…) party line and we had heated discussions around whether or not the farm should be accepting credit card payments. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 28, 2020

Keeping the Faith by Maria Grazia  —  

The Full Belly Farm Boxes are very much an expression of our farm season — the time of year, the length of the day, the amount of sun or frost, and of course the level of care and attention that we are able to bestow on the crop. We rarely buy products from other farms to put into the boxes and we would be the first to acknowledge that there are some occasions when the boxes are a little bit repetitive from week to week — although we do try to avoid that.  It may be true that this summer, when our number of members unexpectedly doubled in March, we hadn’t been able to plan ahead for all of the new interest and excitement around CSA membership, and that may have resulted in less box variation than usual from week to week. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 14, 2020

Almond harvest, daily marketing, picking and packing of our crops, and the construction of a tall deer fence around the recently planted strawberry patch are just a few of the activities that continued last week against the backdrop of six of the most massive fires in California’s history.

The daily CalFire newsletter has more-or-less the same format each morning, just the numbers increase — now there are 16,750 firefighter, 29 major wildfires and over 3.3 million acres burned, with fatalities and destroyed structures duly tallied.  The record-high temperatures, gusty winds and lighting strikes have led us to a situation that meteorologists and climate scientists keep calling “unprecedented” with various extremes coming together all at once in a way that makes it hard for the weather guys to do what they usually do — simply predict temperatures. [Read more…]