Theme: regulations

News from the Farm | May 30, 2022

This week’s News from the Farm is from guest writer Dave Runsten, Senior Policy Analyst, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF). Dave and CAFF are long-time friends of Full Belly and advocates for farms like ours in Washington and Sacramento. We appreciate the great work that they do on our behalf and hope that you’ll support them (and us) by participating in their campaign. The images are some examples of the great artwork that recent farm guests with the Art & Ag Project from Yolo Arts shared with us. The top watercolor is from Johanna Pack and the bottom from is from Elly Gould.

The Drought and Small Farmers: #Don’t Let Small Farms Dry Up!

Like Full Belly Farm, there are many small farms in California that produce food for local communities. These are the thousands of farms at farmers’ markets, running CSAs and farm stands, and selling to restaurants. This group includes most beginning farmers, immigrant farmers, and farms run by people of color. Most of these farms are dependent on groundwater for food safety or because they are located outside irrigation districts. [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 | July 27, 2020

Our Fabulous Farmers Market Team in Berkeley  —  

Tradeoffs  —  

Last week, was hot and dry, but that is hardly news in the Capay Valley in July.  The fact that our field crews come to work every day in that sometimes too-hot weather, picking tomatoes and melons is also hardly newsworthy, but we do actively appreciate it.  A lot of lifting, carrying, bending, stacking and attention to detail passed over this farm last week — and every week of the year it seems.

Maria picking cherry tomatoes

One event that does stand out is that Full Belly acquired a brand new box truck to carry our produce down the road to market.  The truck arrived on Friday to join our already impressive fleet of five.  We often have two trucks and sometimes three on the road, usually driving down our two-lane state highway starting out in the wee hours of predawn.  We need at least another two trucks on hand to be loaded at the end of the day, ready for the round-trip to Sacramento, or the Bay Area. [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 | August 20, 2018

Photo by Diane Rothery Photography.

We recently received a certified letter from the Central Valley Water Board, an agency striving “To preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources…” The Letter states that Full Belly Farm is in violation of the Confined Animals Regulatory Program!  Since Full Belly has no confined animals, we had to do some investigation and in a hurry too, because the letter was full of legal Directives and allusions to fines.  “Please read this letter carefully” is the first thing it said, and we did!

Our Full Belly Farm egg-laying-hen program is actually something to brag about.  We have 3 to 4 groups of hens at any one time, with about 200 layers in each group.  They stay in paddocks that are about 25,600 square feet in size.  The hens have a movable structure to roost in at night, and every 4 or 5 days, when they’ve eaten the bugs and seeds in their paddock they get to move to a completely new site. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 16, 2018

Years ago I had the opportunity to learn something about farming in California’s Central Valley, specifically, a little bit about water politics and policy. I was poking around in Water Districts and County government offices of Kern, Fresno and Kings counties, looking at documents that allowed me to map farm land ownership, and overlay that with data about who was actually farming the land.  Many times the farmer is not the owner of the farm land and a number of large “operating” companies manage large tracts of land in the Central Valley.

The location of farms in California is described in many official documents, using townships (a 6-mile square) and sections (1-square mile or 640-acres), a logical surveying system created in 1785 when the US government was dividing up and selling off land where tribes of American Indians had lived for centuries. Most of California’s Mexican Land Grants weren’t easily described by the rectangular system, but it’s use continues today. This system of surveying land was supposedly first proposed by Thomas Jefferson and associated with his philosophy of the ‘family farmer’ as the rightful settler of the young country. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 18, 2018

Water that is safe to drink, straight from the kitchen tap is more of a luxury than we realize — There are many places around the world where access to safe drinking water is either non-existent, or only available for a high price.  When Californians visit Mexico, we all grab the bottled water and if we stay with friends or go to restaurants, we hesitate before eating fresh vegetables in case they might have been washed with dirty water.  

But wait! Did you know that 6 million of your fellow Californians are also forced to drink out of plastic bottles?  Not because they prefer the taste, but because the water in their communities is in violation of health standards.  Most of the problem water is in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions, where the State Water Resources Control Board says that contaminated water is “ubiquitous”.  These are highly productive agricultural regions and also happen to be the home of 80% of California’s 1.8 million adult cows… [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 8, 2018

With short days over the winter break, many of us were able to enjoy sunrise, sunset, and incredible clear starry skies in between, reminding us of the mysteries of our planet, as well as of human nature.  Here’s hopes for a peaceful and healthy year in 2018.  We will do our best to spread that spirit.

During the last few weeks of 2017, a few things happened on the organic policy front that are worth noting. We will discuss one of those things in this article, having to do with the welfare of organically raised livestock. Full Belly is home to a flock of sheep, several pigs and as of 12/10/17 a delightful group of 8 healthy piglets!  While many of our CSA members and farmers market customers have let us know that they would rather we not include farm animals in our production system, we have decided that the animals are an important element of our healthy farm, and we treat the farm animals with care and respect.  One of the most active responsibilities during the break, was the pressing daily need to care for the chickens, sheep, pigs, cows, goats, cats and dogs that make the farm their home. [Read more…]

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 From the Farm | September 25, 2017

No Funding for Healthy Soils or Water Use Efficiency in the Cap and Trade Budget Deal

Several weeks ago, California’s legislature made decisions on how to spend $1.5 billion out of the account that has been collected from our cap-and-trade program. To the dismay of a wide network of partners, the deal completely eliminated funding for the new Healthy Soils Program and Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program that had been funded by cap-and-trade dollars in the past.  This is a huge setback for these trailblazing efforts.

The Healthy Soils Program was in its first year of funding for practices like the use of compost, cover crops, hedgerows and improved fertilizer management on farms and ranches.  The funded practices all sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In it’s first year of funding for these soil management practices (2017), this program will cost $7.4 million (a drop in the $1.5 billion budget).  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 29, 2017

I spent the last week in New York state’s capital, Albany, at a conference of practitioners dedicated to strengthening regional food systems — farm businesses, food processing capacity for local farm products, distribution hubs and independent grocery stores.  These are the businesses that provide food to local communities and can serve as a locally controlled economic development powerhouse.

The people at the conference provide services to small-scale farmers.  They help them gain access to new markets; figure out how they can get loans if needed; provide legal services; run farmers markets and food hubs; and teach about new food safety and immigration rules.  Organizations that train new farmers as well as immigrant and refugee farmers were also there. Plenty of discussion ensued about business planning and financial record-keeping, all to promote viable farms that are economically profitable, with secure access to land and markets, using environmentally sound production practices. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 11, 2016

Hard at work for several years, regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been writing rules and regulations that some say are the most sweeping reform of our ‘food safety’ laws in 100 years. ‘Food Safety’ in this context refers to prevention of food borne illnesses, and the Produce Rule (finalized in 2015) sets on-farm standards that will apply to all farms growing fruits and vegetables.

Many farm-based organizations like National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and California’s Community Alliance with Family Farmers, mobilized volunteer and community leaders to advocate standards that were realistic on the ground and consistent with principals of sustainability.  These groups argued that there was too much focus on keeping wildlife off of the farm; too great an effort to eliminate the use of animal-based soil fertility (like compost); and unrealistic requirements to document every detail of vegetable production. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | June 13, 2016

The weekend has nearly run out on me – 9pm on Sunday evening and a Beet is due by tomorrow morning at 6am. There is simply a lot to report in the short space of a few paragraphs… The farm update: Spring is done and Summer has arrived. Our early peaches, though small, have been pretty tasty. We have run through the first four varieties with another 12 or so to go. The Royal Blenheim apricots are a couple of weeks early so you should see them in your boxes – at least this week. We have Santa Rosa plums, basil, beans, the first sweet corn is ripening, summer squash, goddess and orchid melons – all so early, and, the crème de la crème, the first pick of cherry tomatoes. It is getting too hot for the collards, kale, chards, lettuces, broccoli, cabbage and carrots. Spring has sprung out of here and summer is upon us. 

We have the ongoing tasks of preparing ground for late summer plantings – last tomatoes, summer cover crops, flowers, winter squash, leeks, celery root, and the final melons will go in the ground until the first of July. Planting will then take a break for a month as we focus on harvest. Indeed, we often have so much to do during the summer months that we are challenged to get it all picked, sold, packed and shipped. It is a period when the farm earns about 40% of our annual income as all of the springtime work of planting crops shifts to the harvest. This season it seems that things are a couple of weeks early so we are shifting to a yet higher gear to bring it all in.  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 29, 2016

“If we want farmers to help us produce clean water and clean air and quality soil and recreational areas that all of us can enjoy, farmers can produce all those things, but we have to create both the market system and the public policies to be serious about those things with farmers and to provide them with the kinds of incentives and compensations that enable them to be able to produce those services.” This thought was expressed by Fred Kirschenmann of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University in 2004. But truth be told, developing the public policies that yield results has proved difficult, for example in the case of pollutants in surface and groundwater – things like pesticides and nitrates from fertilizers  – that are used by farmers, flow off of their fields in storms or irrigation runoff, and end up in drinking water. Why have decades of federal and state programs to address this problem never hit the mark?

The state and federal governments have tried various regulatory approaches – one current California version is called the Irrigated Lands Program, with 6 million acres of California farmland and 40,000 growers enrolled. Vast amounts of money (much of it in payments to the program by farmers) have been spent testing water all over the state, with mountains of data piling up over the years to show that chemicals used on agricultural fields are still finding their way into our water supply.  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | March 3, 2014

Food Safety

Think for a moment about the complex chain of connections that brought the egg to your plate this morning – the sausage, potatoes or tofu that may have accompanied it – or the garnish of parsley, tomato or spinach that found its way to your table. Think about the dazzling display of produce offered in most every grocery store today.  Its abundance, low cost, and safety should be hailed as an incredible example of a ‘modern’ food system. Literally millions of meals are served every day with few issues. We enjoy abundance derived from a very complex system of production, processing, packaging and delivery that is often international in scope 

Yet, across California’s vast and productive agricultural landscape there is a profound change taking place. The traditional role of a farmer as a steward – responsible for not only the production of abundant fresh and safe fruits and vegetables, but also the larger ecological well-being of the land –  is being usurped by clean field/ clean edge practices. Non-crop trees are being chopped down; field borders are being herbicided clean to bare earth; all rodents, ground squirrels, wild turkeys, deer, birds and farm dogs are being seen as potential carriers of pathogens that might find their way into our food supply. [Read more…]

Food Safety Rule – there is still time to comment!

November 18, 2013

At 6pm on 11/17 there were 10,600 comments on the FDA’s proposed Produce Rule, which we have discussed extensively in these pages. Many of our members wrote to us that they had submitted comments. Thank You!!! We need many more to make an impression upon the FDA. Because the government web site where comments can be submitted was down repeatedly, the comment period has been extended to 11/22.  If you want a copy of the article that we wrote about this issue, contact There is plentiful information about the proposed rule on the web site of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition ( as well as instructions on how to comment. These proposed rules could become the law of the land – if that happens, family farming and growing produce in the US will be changed forever, and not in a good way.

News From the Farm | Week of October 21, 2013

Please submit comments on the proposed FDA Produce Rule

During the last year, we have written about the proposed “food safety” regulations many times.  Now we ask every single one of our members to please submit your comments to the FDA. The deadline is November 15th. If these proposals go forward, they will require costly changes in production practices with little scientific justification and doubtful reduction in food poisoning outbreaks. Based on previous history with implementation of “food safety” regulations in the 1980’s, many family farmers will go out of business, and others will stop growing certain crops once full implementation takes place. Please take a few minutes to submit comments! We have been to FDA hearings and we do think that they might pay attention. The FDA is staffed by people who know little about agriculture. Those of you who are in touch with a local farm may have more expertise than many of them, especially if you read this newsletter regularly!

The web site of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers ( has all the helpful information that you might need, including instructions on How to Comment. There are two proposed rules. The rule that we have been writing to you about is the “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.” If you want to go straight to the comment site: (!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0921-0199).   [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 | Week of August 5, 2013

I am sitting in the kitchen late Sunday evening putting some thoughts together regarding proposed rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a massive new set of regulatory proposals that are open for public comment until the middle of November. FSMA will affect many aspects of our integrated farm: the compost we apply; the management of our sheep and chickens; the record keeping; and the ultimate authority over the definition of ‘Good Agricultural Practices’.

Many of the farm practices used by entry level farmers use the same integrated design as at Full Belly, for example, pastured poultry as a cornerstone of soil restoration and fertility needed to produce healthy fruits and vegetables. FSMA will be a huge new barrier to entry for these beginning farmers.  At their heart, these ‘sustainable strategies’ employ the microbial world as workers in a system to create a healthy plant/soil/human ecology. FSMA sweeps all of these strategies into a category of suspect practices and overlooks many issues that should be at the heart of today’s food safety discussion.

Even the title, ‘food safety’ and ‘agricultural modernization,’ delivers a shot over agriculture’s bow, implying that the present system of food production is both unsafe and backwards, ignoring the incredible volume of safe food delivered by American farms to the marketplace each day. [Read more…]