Theme: Paul Muller

News from the Farm | January 29, 2024

For the past 44 years Dru and I, Andrew, Judith, and others from the farm have been attending the EcoFarm Conference, a gathering of farmers, activists and researchers probing the potentials of organic and biologically-driven food and farming systems. Our participation started with a first gathering of farmers in the shade of a large walnut tree in Winters in 1981. At that time organic farming was an idea, seen by many as farming heresy. We were probing the possibilities of eliminating synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides from our food and farming ecosystems. Experts dismissed organic agriculture as an irresponsible path to world starvation.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | January 8, 2024

Dear CSA friends, 

We are back and rested after a much-needed end-of-year break. After a good deal of greeting, handshaking and backslapping this morning at 8am our crew is in the fields, evaluating how we did in leaving our crops to rest over the past few weeks. As of now, things look good- lots of carrots, broccoli, greens, cabbage, potatoes, and roots to fill your boxes in the coming weeks. Oranges had a chance to ripen and sweeten as the milder December and early January largely avoided frost or freeze damage to the crops. So we are off to another annual race to a full year of farming.

All of our hopes for the coming year and past successes stem from being blessed by residing on this gracious and generous earth beneath our feet. Its abundance has been feeding us and our extended family of eaters for more than 40 years. A benign winter without damage from a deep cold spell or too much rain allows us to harvest and begin this new year with a continuation of a harvest suspended last December. We are happy to be your farm again as we start this new year and this morning we are excited to begin that work again. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | December 4, 2023

It has been one of our customs to try to condense our year in review into a final, last gasp News from the Farm for the year, recalling the past 12 months now fading in our rear-view mirror.

Every morning the partners and managers roll in about 10 minutes before the official start of the day to ask and answer “what do you have on your list today?” Tensions rise a bit as hastily penned lists whipped from pockets reveal eight opinions about where the fires are burning hottest and what needs to happen— in each opinion, now!!! There are always too many priorities across our several lists: pickingweedingwateringplantingflowersfixingbrokenstufftractorworkpartsneeded….. With but mere minutes for asserting one’s own territory and the horse trading begins. Multiple opinions, priorities, projects, personal predilections, and pluckiness collide at our office most every morning. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | November 20, 2023

The storm clouds that had been flirting with us for a week dropping a few drizzles became serious Friday evening. The field activities, cover crop planting and terminating tomato and pepper fields, stopped. We parked tractors and seeders inside and reveled in the feisty winds and the melody of rainfall.

The heavy clouds were generous, releasing 1.5 inches of rain. We’ve been sowing fields with a cover crop mix of pea, vetch, oat, tillage radish, clover, and wheat. Those seeds were thoroughly soaked and settled into finished summer. Earlier in the week we planted onions and the rain also settled the transplanted onion sets into their winter beds. Fields of lettuce, cabbage, greens, potatoes, and leeks were wetted with the clear nourishing rainwater. The farm breathed out a palpable sigh of welcome – opening the pores of the earth, releasing and exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. As the Earth sighed in gratitude, we, this land’s caretakers, did the same. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 4, 2023

Friday morning’s meeting – every Friday, we start the day with stretches and exercises (usually led by Andrew) followed by announcements.

Like every morning this summer, our crew of about 90 came to work today to plant, irrigate, weed, irrigate, pick, and pack our harvest for distribution to the many purchasers of our produce. For the almost 40 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, and eating.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | December 5, 2022

The annual all-farm photo of the year-round crew, minus a few folks, with our new sweatshirts

The cold November has rolled into an early wet December. We are grateful for both and have been reveling in the rain – what a gift! Even though it means this week, as we wrap up the 2022 CSA, farmers markets, and produce sales, we will be slogging crops out of wet fields. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | September 12, 2022

Saturday night’s moon was a remarkable fuzzy peach orb. It was a beautiful harvest moon, breaking through the suspended dust of a long valley summer hanging in the stale air. A full red/orange beacon, ushering in the ending of a long 2022 summer, rising though the haze of the Mosquito fire, and signaling the change to fall. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | July 25, 2022

We are heading into our 3rd week of triple digit temperatures here on the farm. High heat creates stress on everything and everyone. Plants and animals need more water, and we humans do too as we remain in the fields to do our work. We emphasize frequent water consumption, more breaks, monitoring for heat stress (in yourself and team members), and we try to be done earlier in the day. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | April 18, 2022

This week’s Easter celebration involved Sunday brunch and farm walks, then an afternoon family dinner featuring my 97-year-old father, Joe Muller (in the picture above) and lots of stories of life in Switzerland in the 1930’s and 40’s, and of the journey to the states after the war to a life of farming in a wildly open and abundant California.

Ask him a question and the memories and stories are clearly recalled: walking cows into the Alps from his home in Altdorf, a journey of more than 20 miles made each spring when snow cleared and the grass turned verdant and lush, his first potato crop as a teenager, and great tales of the mischievous pranks that he and his brothers were well known for in their small Swiss town. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | January 17, 2022

The Capay Valley, looking southeast from just north of Rumsey

This week on the farm, talk is once again turning to planning: what varieties of tomatoes, onions, and melons to be dropped as seed in greenhouses. Green bean, corn, and potato varieties are being evaluated. Okra? Eggplant? How many pepper varieties? We begin our annual cycle once again. This week we try to hone quantities to plant, project market changes that include CSA numbers, and determine the balance between sales to wholesalers, restaurant and local stores and direct to customers.

[Read more…]

News from the Farm | December 6, 2021

LAST CSA BOX OF 2021 – We are drawing to the end of another wildly rambunctious, fecund, fertile, fruitful and vegetableful, edge of dryin’ and dying circle of winterspringsummerfall that became 2021, now fading into the dazed look of where did that year go-ish bewilderment wrought more serious by dust-coughing stretches of cloudless, rainless skies marred only by fuzzy recollections of smoky over-burden where a cough may have meant covid or suspicious glances or the clearing of a throat to finally say that this year has set a new high water mark for all of everything that could complicate and/or celebrate and/or confuse well intentioned good citizen or simple minded farmer or distinguished CSA member or general follower of our travails, who might say to us “well, wait till you hear what happened to me this year!” Phew, here is my echo of that sentiment.

Recalling a little of the past 365 or so since the last year-end wrap up was written, the Full Belly Story this year involved mountain lions venturing close in, enjoying a ewe or two; coyotes who love a lamb; skunks who are merciless when it comes to chickens and bobcats that breech best defenses.  Rock ‘n Brock two Italian Maremmano sheep-guard dogs (who have been know to even guard penguins – not ours) came to the defense.  Rockinbrock, who have little fear, work as a team, sleep with the sheep, and as new additions to our dog fleet here at the farm, provide the rest of the rather affectionate but largely useless doglot a good example of purpose and single mindedness to their task. They work for their kibble.

Rock ‘n Brock on duty

Recall last January when the unseasonably warm fall turned into an unseasonably warm winter and then to an unseasonably warm spring. We were able to farm like crazy. Soils were dry, seeds popped and prospered, and fruit and nut trees were unencumbered with the regular fungal symphony that we play in wetter springs.  Our fruit and nut trees set better than average to abundant crops.

Our four-person fruit crew pruned, snipped, thinned and then picked everything from spring peaches to fall pears. All the plantings of the many types of fruit trees and vines of the past 38 years bore sweet treats. Nut trees made best-in- show almond butters, shelled nuts or candied walnuts; figs and apricots were soft and delectable; peaches were corner of the mouth slurping-dripping good; open pomegranates revealed caches of precious jewels.

These crops were part of the legacy of a warm dry January and February when fragile blooms are vulnerable to a hostile spore hitchhiking to open flower on a drop of moisture, settling there and exploding when moisture and warmth trigger their biological clock. Little moisture (no rain) reduced the number of spore busses leaving the station for Bloomington.

While dry days reward a fruit grower with beautiful treasures, those same dry days mean that there is no break from work. When the soil is dry, tractors are running.  When warm days render the spore world dormant, they trigger in farmers all the bee like impulses and buzz-like itches to hustle.  Our farmer sap starts to run. We planted up. There was little time to breathe deep. This farm, like an insistent child or lover, continually tugged at our collective sleeve for attention.

Moon setting over the western Capay Valley hills

This year has seemed particularly intense. We are generally exhausted here as this last Beet is written. We started our running earlier this past January and it was briefly slowed by rain in November.  I have never, in my many years of farming, seen soil so dry in February. Our hay and grain crops withered unless we had the ability to irrigate them, thus more than 1/5th of our fields produced no crops.

All plantings this year required that we soak the soil with a deep irrigation prior to adding seed.  We started the year in moisture deficit and didn’t recover until the wonderful rain in November.  In response, our crew changed many miles of pipes, and unrolled miles of drip tape only to retrieve it again in the fall.  We tried many ideas like covering soils with mulches to slow evaporation.  We scrambled for water, watching Cache creek run low and then dry for some of the fields we were farming. Uncertainty was met with adaption.

That being said, our little farm enterprise produced wild abundance. Full Belly farms about 500 acres in total. Not all this land grows flowers, vegetables or fruit. The system is curated by a team of nearly 100, that grows soil, harvests sunlight, stewards livestock, and inadvertently feeds an occasional mountain lion, deer, skunk, possum, bobcat or wild pig.  Our Avian life here is remarkable – so many migratory flights each year of starlings, hawks, robins, geese, bluebirds, bats, orioles, monarch butterflies, ladybugs, finches, swallows, and rufus-sided towhees, to name but a few. They all use this place as a touchstone in their migrations.  They are part of a near timeless relationship with this land. We are the interlopers who can understand this association or choose to be blind to it. It is a remarkably beautiful annual delight – they came again!  They choose this as a place to rest and renew and maybe eat a few grapes, moths, aphids or fat caterpillars. Thank you for coming again, hope you had a good rest and restaurant – bon voyage!

The food we grow is less a product than the result of an ongoing process of adaptation, adjustment and renewal. We spend our time balancing observations and new ideas with the need to stay in business. The ‘Stay in Business’ part is a practical mandate that could be a singular focus, but we are trying to balance delight, creativity and curiosity with the way we farm. We do see marked differences in soil texture for example – a big deal to a farmer intuiting that that soft, sweet-smelling soil is better when we stop tilling.  There are more homes for earthworms, or for the actinomyces bacteria, or families of fungi who add the rich smell to soil or help hands to release serotonins to the body as soil is run through one’s fingers. (Yes, to touch the soil is healing and can adjust mood. A remarkable inexpensive therapy for a harried farmer is simply to feel soil and smell it a bit. It can elevate mood and create a sense of well…. relaxation. Try it yourself.)

Sustainability is only possible if there are new generations to replace the old and atrophying. We now have a next gen movement here. There are new energetic replacements for the ‘old and in the way’.  Andrew’s sons, Ellis and Jonas are hip deep in the work each day and are taking a good look at the farm as a place to settle. Ellis as an agronomist and Jonas as the steady good humored trouble shooter.

Jenna, Amon and family are defining and imprinting the farm with delicious treats from the farm kitchen, at farm dinners or at community Pizza Nights and are growing their crop of children who see the work and hear the vibrations of a working organism. They are ingesting the inoculation of romance and serotonins.

Rye and Becca design rotations of animals who graze and remediate the farm while giving eggs, meat, milk and wool.  Their vision is integration of these animals who live a protected life as grazers.  These creatures live their character – scratch, cluck, moo, munch, baa chew, spew – probing with their relentlessly foraging beaks, tongues or supple upper lips. R and B’s children are part of the semi-feral here where survival means hustling a burrito from crew members while mom and dad are washing eggs – grazers in their own right.

And of course, Hannah who can make art from flowers, sees texture in the landscape and gleans plant sprays, stems, seed pods, fruits, and wisps of grass, and converts them into remarkably beautiful arrangements. Her eye catches association and things that another might not see, making new creative combinations and then sharing the work with the Instagram world. Her newly honed skills of driving tractors and planting seeds makes her a versatile designer- calloused but creative, imagination up while throttling down.

We have youth at work: Shannon doing selling, Elaine in the CSA, Ben in trucking and logistics. We are grateful to have their skills here. They are working with our great farm crew – wives, husbands, cousins and friends who have chosen to build this farm with us. They are part of the farm’s renewal and new energy.

2021 is nearing a full year and we have spent the last two years adjusting to the masked menace in our midst, while we keep things as safe and creative as possible. Covid has taken a toll in our social connections, we have seen less of you all in person. But rest assured, we will begin the cycle again. We are interdependent with you all. There are many of our CSA customers and farmers market customers who have been partners in our journey now for more than 30 years. Each choice about sustainability and sanity starts in heading off of this chair and out the door to put my hands in the soil, feel its texture and let timeless connections give me perspective.

Thanks to you all for sharing our journey. We look forward to being your farmers again for another round. With affection and thanks from all at Full Belly Farm.

— Paul Muller


From a foggy morning to an amazing sunset here on the Farm 

News From the Farm | August 23, 2021

Recently transplanted broccoli for the fall, grown in soil like we’ve always done  —  

We wear many different hats here at the farm. Each partner tries to embody their ideal and spirit of being activist farmers on top of our day-to-day work. There is an underlying sensibility that comes from the simple act of growing food and making a farm into a living, breathing, productive whole. We have been active in the Organic Food movement for over 40 years as our effort to solve for a pattern of health: in rural communities, in order to eliminate toxic pesticides from farms, in order to make safer workplaces for farmers and farm workers, and in order to supply better, safer food for those consuming what we produce. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 1, 2021

Griffin the Guard Dog  —  

What a wild turbulent week we have had here on this Full Moon end of February week here at the farm. Warm sunny days were followed by howling north winds and then more dry warm sunny days…. The old comment goes that we had 4 inches of rain this year and 14 inches of drying wind to soak it up.  The winds have been powerful and persistent, the days far too warm for February and the worries about a drought have us making plans for a dry year. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | December 7, 2020

2020 Looking Back, Looking Forward

Oh my, the last of the Beets for another year. And what a year it has been. Your Full Belly Farmers have been on this wonderful piece of land since 1984. Each year, as the discoveries continue here, our connection to all of the work and care of the past stewards of this place reminds us that our responsibility as farmers is to love this land and to help life blossom here. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | October 26, 2020

Verdant beauties graced by tender pinks!  Maria Grazia Romeo  —  

Outside the wind is howling on this Sunday evening, tonight gusts are expected somewhere near 50 mph. The massive Eucalyptus tree that hovers over the north side of our house is always a concern during powerful winds. Its huge boughs are each themselves an enormous tree. We sleep on the far side of the house out of respectful caution.  As I write here at the kitchen table, under that enormous tree I am thinking that if you are reading this at home dear customer, then I probably made it through -as did the tree. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | September 21, 2020

It sometimes feels like our lives have been put on hold as we navigate the current reality. Our friends are more separate, our children tethered close to home, we are using our computer screens to assess body language and connect in ways that aren’t real and human. It is not a healthy development and we need to redesign. Now may be a time of opportunity.

My daughter, Hallie and my sister Marianne are grade school teachers faced with the task of trying to create effective on-line learning for their students. They witness that it doesn’t work to have young students spend hours looking at a computer screen. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 17, 2020

Lightning in the hills south of the farm on Monday morning  —  

It has been some time since I have taken time to write a Beet. In the middle of August, on a quiet Sunday, it seems a good time to change that. Yesterday, Saturday the 15th, we had temperatures reach 112º by early afternoon. Temperatures experienced by those picking in the rows of tomato plants were probably many degrees higher.  We get our crews out of the fields when we experience those high temperatures, an environment in which it can be dangerous to work.  This next week, we will be starting earlier, drinking more water, taking more frequent breaks, getting the pick done as early as possible and bringing crew inside to pack in the shade while watching one another for signs of heat stress. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 11, 2020

What a challenging time, navigating fears, isolation, suspension of touch and comfort-giving and millions of unemployed.  Our Full Belly community sends hope that all of you are safe, strong and resilient. Dru and I shared a notion when we were parenting our 4 children and there was a particularly challenging moment:  It was, “this too shall pass” – a small comfort, but generally more than true. [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 | March 16, 2020

Full Belly Situation Room —This is what our meetings look like!

Flu Safety — 

The Coronavirus outbreak illustrates that the health and well-being of each of us is connected, from one person to the next. Full Belly has been getting many calls from friends asking how we are doing and how they can help at the same time as many people are concerned about the safety of the CSA boxes and the farmers markets.  We wanted to tell you that we always take precautions to make sure that our fruits and veggies are sanitary and we will double down on those procedures even more now. [Read more…]