Theme: research

News from the Farm | April 29, 2024

Alicia Baddorf, a friend of mine who’s long been active in the Yolo County agriculture community, recently conducted research on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on Northern California CSA Farmers for her Master’s thesis in the Community Development Program at UC Davis. Full Belly Farm was included in this study and I found the results really interesting and thought our community would too! Thanks to Alicia for writing up some reflections and sharing them with us! For those interested in reading her entire thesis, you can find it here.

Elaine Swiedler, CSA Manager

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News From the Farm | January 28, 2019

Soaking potatoes before washing them  ––

I had the opportunity last week to join some interesting conversations about nutrition and health — and their intersection with organic agriculture.  We reported in this newsletter previously that researchers are increasingly finding that people eating more organic food have a reduced risk of cancer.  Of course, other healthy behaviors, in addition to eating organic food, are obviously also very important to staying healthy — things like getting exercise and not smoking tobacco.  But it turns out that healthy behavior (over which individuals have some control) may only be a factor of about 30% in terms of influencing your health outcomes.   [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 30, 2017

During the rainy season, in those years when there IS rain, there is a constant conversation about soil conditions at Full Belly as the tractor-driving farmers hope for a window, even if only for a day or two, when the soil has dried out enough to plant spring crops. This week, Monday and Tuesday promise to be those days, although the soil is still quite wet if you check a few inches down.  While we may not be able to cultivate out our weeds and lift new beds, we do have lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, kale and fennel transplants that are well-overdue for planting.  We also have beds that are still covered with plastic mulch.  Our plan is to hand-plant into the plastic mulch.  If we are able to get some light machinery into the fields we may try to deal with the weeds and do some additional planting.

Several of us went to the annual Ecological Farming Conference last week, for both education and inspiration — a wonderful gathering of practitioners from many fields.  Co-Owner Paul and a dedicated crew of shepherds stayed home to keep an eye on our herd of mama sheep giving birth to lambs earlier than expected.  As of today we already have 50 baby lambs. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | August 29, 2016

Why should people buy from local farms, and who cares if there even are any local farms?  These are questions for the dog days of summer, good questions for Californians and for CSA members.

Knowing where your food comes from, having a farm to visit with your family, knowing how your food is grown, getting your fruits and veggies picked at their peak  — these are a few good reasons that come to mind, for buying local. Many people also think that buying from a farmer that you know is good for the local economy.  To find out more, a group at the University of California, in Davis recently completed a research project and determined that for every dollar of sales, Sacramento region direct marketing farmers are generating twice as much economic activity within the region as compared to producers who are not involved in direct marketing.

The researchers were comparing farms that sell direct to the public, with farms that do not sell direct to the public. Direct marketing includes activities like CSA and farmers markets.  While the direct marketers had fewer overall sales, they purchased 89% of their inputs within the local region compared to 45% for farmers not doing direct sales.  One of the most striking differences was that for every one million dollars of output produced by direct market farmers, 31.8 jobs are generated (hired labor is a very high percentage of expenses on direct marketing farms) compared to 10.5 jobs created for every million dollars of output on farms that don’t do direct marketing in the region. Here’s a link to the just-published study. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | July 18, 2016

Several months ago we reported on a bird diversity survey being done here at Full Belly Farm by researchers from Washington State University. They are interested in understanding bird species diversity on farms and how the layout of farms and landscapes affects birds. They just completed their second survey and one of the researchers shared her thoughts: 

“Full Belly had the highest diversity index of the California farms for both surveys. (I haven’t calculated it for Washington and Oregon farms yet and will do this once we survey them again.) Full Belly also had very high species evenness without any particular species really dominating. Interestingly, the Capay Valley farms all had high evenness. I’m planning to explore further how the surrounding landscape is affecting the species we find on the farms and what the potential implications of this are. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 16, 2016

We recently had a visit from researchers from Washington State University on a project to understand the effect that farm landscapes have on bird diversity. While we love all the birds that live around Full Belly Farm, we often have to work hard to protect our fruit from them. So we have a bit of a dual relationship with the birds and we are always interested in learning more about them.

We have excerpted below from notes provided by the researchers after a few hours of studying the Full Belly birds:

“The bird surveys were very interesting. We detected 47 unique species after sampling 15 points throughout the farm and stratifying the points by habitat type (orchard, livestock, vegetables, creek, etc.) This is the highest number of unique species on the farms we’ve sampled so far. Your farm had far more landscape heterogeneity than other farms. Landscape heterogeneity is known to be important in attracting some species of birds. You’ve also got great habitat for the birds throughout, with thick vegetation located at different heights (ground level for ground foragers, shrubs for edge associated species, thick groups of tall trees for forest species, the creek for marsh birds).  [Read more…]

News From the Farm | May 9, 2016

On May 5th we planted some special melon seeds.  We were experimenting with varieties that we haven’t grown here before, hoping to find out how they will do under our conditions.  

Thirteen of the varieties came from Uzbekistan, collected by a friend who studies them.  Uzbekistan is something of a melon mecca. Melons are believed to have been grown there for 2000 years by farmers who are very proud of their tradition growing melons of unique taste and quality. Some of these varieties are already grown in California to a very limited degree, but mostly they are unknown here. Many of the Uzbek melons are large by U.S. standards, but extremely sweet and aromatic.

We also planted some melons that are new varieties from Vitalis Organic Seeds.  Vitalis is doing trials of their new varieties only on a few farms — in Bakersfield, Woodland and at Full Belly.  They had 12 varieties to try – new types of Galia, Charentais and Canary. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | Week of November 18, 2013

While many types of ‘fast food’ are heavily marketed and are made from ingredients that enjoy various government subsidies, fruits and vegetables don’t have their own lobbies, federal subsidies or ad campaigns. Subtle signals, and sometimes not-so-subtle messages in grocery stores generally nudge shoppers towards the processed foods and as a result, a healthy proportion of produce doesn’t always end up in the grocery cart.

Social scientists are experimenting with signals that might point shoppers towards the produce aisle.  For example, in one experiment a strip of yellow duct tape across the center of the grocery carts told the shopper to “put their fruits and vegetables in the front half of the cart!” Produce sales jumped… [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.

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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.

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