Theme: organic

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 | September 9, 2019

Produce cornucopia at Day in the Country  —  

Full Belly has been pretty busy lately.  First of all, we hope to put our best foot forward for the Hoes Down Harvest Festival on October 5th and with the summer focus on harvest and crop production, many corners of the farm have been overlooked and now need to be tidied up.  We hope that our CSA members are able to visit the farm for the Hoes Down since it is one of our favorite days of the year.  Note that your tickets have to be bought on-line in advance this year.  There will not be ticket sales at the gate. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 6, 2019

At times of the year we could use a thousand hands to get all of the work done. We are in the midst of our spring transition after that long spell of rains that graced the farm in January through late March. When all of that rain stopped there was a good deal of catching up that was needed… we are getting closer to catching up, but the season brings new tasks that pile on.  So many of the tasks are simply keeping up with the pick of lettuces, greens, flowers, asparagus, new carrots, onions and garlic. We have more than 40 crew-members out each day with the pick, and another 10 in the shop packing the orders that we harvest. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 22, 2019

Wow… three weed eaters in working condition at the same time!

“What is your worst pest?” – this is a common question asked by visitors to the farm. Weeds are definitely up there on my list — sometimes there seem to be more weeds than there are crops. The spring weather brings our weed-eaters out, and with them, drifting on the wind to all corners of the farm, are the constant sounds of those little high-pitched engines moving through the vineyard and along field edges.  By the end of the day, the workers’ clothes are coated in dust and plant parts, and their joints are zinging.  Everyone is happy to put the weed eaters down overnight. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 8, 2019

Lambs on their way to do their part for Open Farm Day!

A recent article in the N.Y. Times described the spread of a deadly, drug-resistant fungus, infecting people around the world.  The fungus has developed resistance to common drugs that used to be effective in treating it and thus most patients do not recover from infections. Many researchers believe that the drug resistant fungi causing these infections in humans, developed as a result of the heavy use of fungicides to control plant disease on crops. Many of the fungicides used in agriculture are closely related to the antibiotics used to treat fungal infections in humans.  Repeated exposure encourages the fungal populations to develop resistance. This is similar to the concern that antibiotic resistant bacteria have developed as a result of the excessive use of antibiotics in animal feed.  Unfortunately, in confined animal production systems, antibiotics are commonly administered to healthy livestock in low does for disease prevention. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 29, 2018

The big fall harvests are moving along — Almonds, Walnuts, Winter Squash, Sesame and Olives.  The walnuts are being cracked out of their shells at a neighbor’s who has the machinery.  This involves several members of our crew sitting at the machine every day, and a lot of ferrying nuts back and forth.  We have scheduled our olive harvest for Wednesday October 31st. This will require a large crew to be very focussed the entire day. The olives that we harvest on Wednesday will go straight to the mill down the road— the oil is best when it is pressed right away.  Our sesame isn’t quite ready to harvest, but since we ran out of last year’s crop, we are shaking the plants and cleaning them by hand a bucket at a time, just to keep the tahini and sesame seeds available for sales…  We also have a crew that we are trying to free up to make beautiful dried flower wreaths, but they keep getting called off to other projects! [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 24, 2018

Excerpts from graduation address to the 7th California Farm Academy class on the steps of the state Capitol, Autumn Equinox 2018.

I want to talk a little bit about why I feel blessed to be a farmer. I have always loved and still love being outside, nurturing things as they grow.  Taking care of crops is a form of connection with things that are real and honest — the challenge of pests, the effort of weeds, the anticipation of seeds. It is a true blessing to have work that includes a connection to Nature.

Another way that I love farming and can recommend it, is that I enjoy the Full Belly Farm community.  Both the interns and the year-round crew have taught me a lot over the years, including a lot of the Spanish that I know. Speaking Spanish made my visits to Mexico more meaningful, not to mention the fact that Spanish is pretty useful for living in California, not just for visiting Mexico!  Being a farmer in California is a bicultural experience, with many farms employing a majority of Spanish-speakers and operating in Spanish much of the time.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | April 2, 2018

We are in the first week of a beautiful spring – warm temperatures, soil drying, pears blooming snow white, the pink peach blossoms finishing while the oaks, willows and walnuts that are woven into the farm are bursting with a myriad of greens.

We are busy planting the first tomatoes, beans, squash, and corn – summertime treats that are a couple of months away. We have also been busy these past few weeks with some work that takes us away from the farm. Judith is working with a group called the Organic Farmers Association to advocate politically for Organic farmers; Dru is tending to the Ecological Farmers Association; Andrew is steeped in the work of the Marin Farmers Market; and I had an opportunity to meet with a group of leaders last week in Vermont to talk about the future credibility of the Organic farming movement.  This group is coming together and is proposing an add-on label to organic certification called, at this time, the Real Organic Project. [Read more…]

News From the Laboratory: Nutrition of Organic Foods

I recently came across a great web site put together by my friend Chuck Benbrook.  The web site is a source of science resources and information about food and food policy.  Here’s a nutrition nugget that I thought might interest readers:

“Most consumers initially seek out organic food in the hope of avoiding pesticide residues, food additives, genetically engineered ingredients, and a long list of other substances that certified organic farmers and organic food companies cannot use.  

“Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture has officially acknowledged that organic farming systems lighten agriculture’s environmental footprint, combat global warming by sequestering extra carbon in the soil, and promote biodiversity. 

“In recent years science has identified another reason to purchase organic food — improved nutritional quality.

“A solid body of research now confirms that on average, and across production years, regions, and different soil types, organic farming increases the concentration of a variety of health-promoting nutrients in plant-based foods (fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts).  While this body of work has not convinced everyone that organic food is more nutritious, it has clearly moved the scientific consensus in that direction.”

News From the Farm | November 6, 2017

On November 1st, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) issued a recommendation that crops grown in water rather than in soil (hydroponically), should be eligible for certification as organically grown as long as they followed the other elements of the organic rule — no use of chemical pesticides for example.

Many organic farmers are deeply concerned that Organic Certification is getting watered down(!) because of the increasing power of agribusiness in the organic industry. Note that this struggle for the heart and soul of Organic Agriculture didn’t just start with the hubbub about hydroponics. Some of our readers may remember that when the first draft of the national rule was proposed in 1997, the USDA and DC lobbyists had incorporated GMOs, irradiation and sewage sludge. This issue generated the most comments the USDA had ever received as people nationwide protested the inclusion of the “Big Three,” resulting in their elimination in the Final Rule of 2002. [Read more…]

News Feed

Sales of organic agricultural production continued to increase in 2016, when U.S. farms produced and sold $7.6 billion in certified organic commodities, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Results of the 2016 USDA Certified Organic Survey show that 2016 sales were up 23% from $6.2 billion in 2015. During the same year, the number of certified organic farms in the country increased 11% to 14,217, and the number of certified acres increased 15% to 5.0 million.

California, with $2.9 billion in certified organic sales, continued to lead the nation in certified sales, accounting for 38% of the U.S. total. It also had the largest share of certified organic acres and farms.

News From the Farm | February 22, 2016

Limited Amount of Pasture Raised Organic Meat Available

The domestic animals living at Full Belly Farm have an excellent diet!  It is not only rich in cover crops (with a mix of legumes and grasses), but it also includes a steady stream of organic vegetable culls, and grazing time on the plants left over in fields where we have finished our harvest.  The animals are moved frequently from pasture to pasture, enclosed by movable fencing.

Because animals can eat grasses and culls that humans can’t, we think of them as a very important part of the agricultural cycle, and also as a link in the chain of the food supply.  When we talk with researchers about “yields” of our organic crops, we encourage them to think of more than the actual crop that they see growing in a Full Belly field at a given time.  Each of our fields produces cover crops (fixing nitrogen and returning carbon to the soil), and also yields animal protein in addition to vegetables, nuts, fruits and flowers. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 12, 2013

Many consumers and organic farmers, if challenged to describe the production principals of organic agriculture, might list practices that build soil fertility, maintain ecological balance, promote biodiversity, reduce dependence on off-farm inputs, and allow farm animals to display their natural instinctive behaviors. But in the topsy turvy world of “food safety,” every one of those organic principals is being seriously challenged at regulatory levels. Because those principals are so fundamental to the way we farm at Full Belly, you will have to forgive us if we seem to return to this subject over and over.

Paul wrote in this column last week about the proposed FDA Produce Rule. Since then I have read the FDA’s proposed “guidance” for egg producers that provide hens with access to the outdoors (in other words “pastured poultry.”) In that document, there are absurd suggestions, like providing overhead cover to the outdoor pasture so that wild birds can’t swoop in and infect the hens (or be infected) with Salmonella.  In addition, this rule admonishes that “Disposable or reusable clothing should be provided for visitors, including maintenance and pest control personnel, as they come onto the farm.”  The FDA clothing recommendations include “bouffant caps” to cover hair!  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 27, 2013

I participate in a national group that for the past few years has worked to develop policy and action recommendations for food and agriculture.  The group includes people from various parts of the food chain, and it has been clear from the start that while there are many interesting discussions taking place, most of the participants view the practices of organic agriculture as a “niche” or “boutique” part of farming, rather than potentially game-changing solutions to the many challenges faced by the world’s increasing population.  When it comes to addressing the converging and increasingly pressing challenges of hunger, poor water quality and climate change, the proponents of chemicals, monoculture and an industrialized-type approach to farming are well represented.  

In part because of my participation in these discussions, I was especially interested in a recently published report about an experiment that was started all the way back in 1998, called the “Long Term Agroecological Research Experiment,” one of the longest running comparisons of organic and conventional agriculture in the U.S. In a nutshell, the  study concludes that producers making the switch to organic crops not only fetch premium prices, they also build healthy soil and sequester carbon, making organic agriculture a useful strategy for dealing with climate change.

[Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 22, 2012

I hope that everyone is enjoying the changing seasons that are reflected in your CSA box. The winter squash and cabbage are just what you need to warm up the cooler weather with a big pot of soup or stew. Everyone at the farm got involved last weekend in a push to prepare for the Monday/Tuesday rain this week: covering straw and hay stacks, picking ahead on some of the crops that would be damaged by rain, and getting boxes and supplies under cover.

This week we’re going to share an interesting piece of research that was reported in the summer issue of the University of California Agricultural and Resource Economics Update. It’s about the price of strawberries. Prices of produce are a complicated subject, perhaps worthy of additional discussion between CSA members and their farmers.

[Read more…]