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.

The cruelties of this disease are everywhere to see. One of our employees is now 65 years old. She was able to get an appointment for a vaccine the day before her 65th birthday (they were hard to get and that was the day that was open). When she arrived, she was turned away because she was not yet 65. Tragically, she since has developed COVID. When an employee gets COVID, it has a significant and wide-reaching impact. Co-workers have to be quarantined and tested. Tests need to be timed correctly with respect to exposure to the sick individual. Housing has to be found for people who don’t want to take the chance of infecting others in their homes. The work of all the quarantined people has to be covered by others. The sick person has to be monitored and cared for. Anxieties need to be assuaged and questions need to be answered. 

We have treated Full Belly like a bubble with respect to COVID.  We have restricted access to visitors and severely limited social activities.  Within our Full Belly bubble, there are smaller bubbles — the kitchen bubble, the packing shed bubble, the intern bubble, the office bubble, and several other crew bubbles.  We have tried to keep the bubbles separate, but they do tend to bump into each other. The same is true out on planet Earth.  None of us are really in bubbles that can be kept isolated from the rest of  humanity.

After taking so many precautions for a year, it will be some time before we are ready to lift too many of the restrictions, despite the vaccinations.  We intend to stay the course that we have established, maybe with a few small adjustments. We are hugely grateful that our crew has been vaccinated, and hope that all others across the globe, who want to be vaccinated, will be able to get it done soon.  Meanwhile we hope that you stay healthy and eat your veggies!

Blessings on your meals,

Judith Redmond

The post News From the Farm | March 15, 2021 appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation Elects New Tribal Council

BROOKS, CA (January 19, 2021) – All five members of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation Tribal Council will return for another term of service after being re-elected by their community at the Tribe’s annual Community Council meeting on Sunday, January 17. The members took their oaths of office this morning.

The members of the Yocha Dehe Tribal Council are:

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.

This past year, the Seeds we planted awakened and blessed us with another germination, unfolding the magical expression of their character as a gift from generations of seed keepers. This gift of Seed to us from the past represents an inheritance.  The seeds we use represent generations of careful choosing.  We are thankful for that gift. Farmers take their seeds and match them as best they can with their skills and with the uncertainties created by a cloudy sky, a sweltering day, or a few drops of moisture or rainy torrent. 2020 was a year to be grateful for all of the gifts of our ancestors.

Those 36 years here have been an adventure, representing our best attempt to make a farm that has a small role in building a healthier food economy. That work has built upon our relation to this land and our continuing connection to all of you.  As your farmers, our first task is to create good, safe, and wholesome food while stewarding this land and all of the life that resides here. Your investment in our food helps to fund these two simultaneous goals.  In 2020, CSA membership grew as you all took out your cookbooks and honed your skills as cooks. We are thankful for your choosing our farm and for your support.

There is so much to be humbled by and be excited about as we deepen our relationships with our farm in order to manage the growth of sweet carrots or good melons or perfect and near perfect tomatoes. Every year becomes an adventure associated with the idea of doing this work on this same ground year after year. We are exploring the idea of sustainability and multigenerational stewardship, and building fertility greater than what is harvested and sold. We live on a generous land – it can forgive our missteps and return the love and attention that we give it. We are grateful for that generosity. 

You might think that we would have it wired by now – that there should be no excuse for a crack in a tomato or a less than perfect piece of fruit.  But it is far from a formula with us here. In the practice of Organic Farming, the closer one looks, the more the miracle of soil and plants reveal the millions of years of order in that design. The patterns of diversity and living systems reveal our fundamental limits and potentials. Into the notion of doing no harm, we have the challenges of a month of smoke, or a dry spring, or the caution needed by those who labor here to keep a virus at bay and be safe. We are grateful for the flexibility built into our model, and for our creative and talented crew bringing their skills to the farm each day to labor here. In 2020 we have been blessed and thankful for their commitment to their work here.

I suppose the final Beet of the year then, is one that needs focus on gratitude. To begin each day understanding the ways we are all blessed– even in the smoke of fires; the lockdowns stemming from a foreign virus; the tumult of politically charged speech; the specter of climate change; or the dark reality of racial discrimination and its own deep infection. Even with the fear and din of all of these uncertainties brought home and landing on each of our doorsteps, the acknowledgement of our deep, abiding, and profound concerns isn’t meant to be cavalier, and if it seems that way, I apologize, but a moment of gratitude is a mechanism to cope with all of its weight.

To acknowledge, each morning, a thing for which one might be grateful, to take that deep breath and reflect a moment and listen, gives us an appreciation for the generous earth that harbors us. We can then share that hopeful moment by extending it to another. Gratitude offers a pathway to hope and happiness, and is a doorway to empathy. 2020 is perhaps offering us insights that we might never have had about family, responsibility for one another, social fissures, the food we eat and how we go about our work each day.

We have missed all of the direct connections to you as a result of suspended farm visits, Hoes Down, summer camp and farm events. This has been a year to reflect on how those simple events have enriched us here and to be grateful for our many years of connecting to you, our farm patrons and supporters.

Farm visits and tours used to be quite routine before the pandemic. Above Paul is showing a small group a newly prepared field.

Finally for the last beet of 2020 some thoughts from a website called Dharma Wisdom:

In the Bible the disciple Paul instructs, “In everything give thanks.” What he means is that from your limited perspective it is not possible to know the outcome of any event. What can seem unfortunate at first may turn out to be an unforeseen blessing.

There is a very old Sufi story about a man whose son captured a strong, beautiful, wild horse, and all the neighbors told the man how fortunate he was. The man patiently replied, “We will see.” One day the horse threw the son who broke his leg, and all the neighbors told the man how cursed he was that the son had ever found the horse. Again the man answered, “We will see.” Soon after the son broke his leg, soldiers came to the village and took away all the able-bodied young men, but the son was spared. When the man’s friends told him how lucky the broken leg was, the man would only say, “We will see.” Gratitude for participating in the mystery of life is like this.

The Sufi poet Rumi speaks of the mystery of life coming from God in his poem “The Guest House”: “This being human is a guest house / Every morning a new arrival. / A joy, a depression, a meanness / some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. / Welcome and entertain them all! / Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows / who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture. / Still, treat each guest honorably. / He may be clearing you out for some new delight.” (The Essential Rumi. Coleman Barks, HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.) Gratitude practiced in this manner brings delight, balances out your tendency to focus on the negative, and can even lift a dark mood.

We’d also like to share with you a gatha to chant. This was composed by a Buddhist teacher, Jion Susan Postal.

For all beneficent karma, ever manifested through me, I am grateful.
May this gratitude be expressed through my body, speech, and mind.
With infinite kindness to the past,
Infinite service to the present,
Infinite responsibility to the future.

— Paul Muller

The post News From the Farm | December 7, 2020 appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

News From the Farm | November 30, 2020

As you’ve hopefully heard, we’re fast approaching our annual winter break. We’ll be closed from December 13 through January 10 with just a skeleton crew making sure the plants and animals have what they need. During the break, we’ll be catching up on some much needed rest and we won’t be packing and delivering CSAs, making deliveries to stores and restaurants, or going to the farmers markets.

Until then we’ve got produce to harvest, transplants to get in the ground, and soil to prep. Some places on the farm have already started their break – our fields. After a summer being the home for tomatoes, melons, winter squash, eggplant, peppers, flowers, and more, they’ve earned their rest too. Some fields will be turned over to a winter crop right away but for those that we can rest, what’re our options?

Driving around Yolo County right now you see a lot of fields that recently had a crop and have been plowed, the rows have been shaped for next spring’s plantings, and they’ll be left as is until then. During the winter a few weeds will sprout, but they’ll largely stay as they look now, just exposed soil.

Fallowing is one option but it comes with significant risks and downsides and isn’t what we do. Instead we plant cover crops. They’re a key tool in the organic farmer toolbox and in many ways they’re one of our more important crops – so lets explore what they are and why we plant them.

A cover crop is identified by its purpose not the plant type. A cover crop might be something that can be eaten but it’s grown to benefit the soil, not to yield a crop that will be harvested and sold.

If we don’t get paid for growing them, why do it? Cover crops can (1) slow or prevent soil erosion, (2) enhance water infiltration and water availability, (3) control weeds, pests, and diseases, (4) increase crop yields, (5) add nitrogen and other essential plant nutrients to the soil, (6) sequester carbon, (7) improve soil tilth and reduce compaction, and (8) create an ecosystem for beneficial insects and pollinators, and more. Over time, cover crops can increase crop yields and create better soil health. Soil is teaming with life that needs care and nourishment just like the plants do. While these crops dont feed us, they do feed soil microbes and increase soil fertility. Cover crops are a long-term investment in health of the farm; often these benefits take a few years to reveal themselves. There’s a lot we do know about soil and the soil microbiome and the benefits of cover crops, but scientists are still uncovering more every year and the positive results have led the state of California to develop the Health Soils Program, which provides financial incentives to California growers and ranchers to implement conservation management practices, including cover cropping, that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases, and improve soil health.

If these benefits are so well known, then why don’t more farmers use them? A few key factors stand out. First, the cost – from the seed, potential irrigation, and the time and fuel used to plant and then eventually cut down and mow these crops. Then, the nutrients will not be immediately available to the plants, unlike synthetic fertilizers. Additionally, some plant species can act as a host for plant diseases and pests. And having to process the biomass from the cover crops can create scheduling and equipment challenges, especially in a wet year when the water-retaining skills of a cover crop can make a field too wet to work.

After weighing the tradeoffs, we think it’s worth it, as do many organic farmers, so we’ve got a decent chunk of our land planted in cover crops right now. What do we plant?  We plant a cover crop mix, not just one plant. We use a mix of legumes (peas, vetch, fava beans, clovers), grasses or grains, and other plants like radish for the mix of benefits that they provide. Legumes will fix nitrogen, grasses add carbon, and large-rooted plants like radish break up the soil. We have cover crops going all seasons of the year, but we tend to do most in the winter since (in theory) rain will provide most of the irrigation.

So we’ve got a lot of fields that look like the picture on the left. By next spring, we hope it’s a tall, healthy cover crop (like the photo on the right). You’ll never see the cover crops in your box, but every bite of produce that you do enjoy is due in part to the cover crop that preceded it in the field.

 

The post News From the Farm | November 30, 2020 appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

News From the Farm | November 23, 2020

   

A recently transplanted field of onions!


Every family has their own set of Thanksgiving traditions. One thing my family often does is go around the table and each of us reflect on something we’re thankful for. A natural pessimist, I appreciate the opportunity to look past all the things going wrong and instead focus on all that I have to be grateful for. 

If you were to invite Full Belly Farm to your table this year, what would we say? On Friday, I checked in with some of the Full Belly Farm team to see what we’re feeling thankful for this year. There were a lot of similarities in our answers, lightly edited and condensed for you below:

  • health: the health of our families, friends, and the Full Belly crew
  • family: a healthy family (especially family working in hospitals and health care), kids who say funny things 
  • other people: good co-workers, the customers who buy and eat our produce, a supportive community
  • weather: the end of fire season, fall colors, cooler weather and shorter days, crisp autumn mornings, the rain we got last week, carrot season!
  • animals: puppies (from two different people!), our happy and well cared for chickens and the eggs that they lay
  • bigger things: “todo” (everything) – from a particularly peppy crew washing produce in the shop, “dios” (God), good food to eat, our homes, “a place to live that is beautiful and healthy”

And the thing everyone mentioned, from those of us that have been at the farm for 23 years or three weeks like me: that we are thankful not just to have a job in a time when so many don’t, but that we are specifically thankful to be working at Full Belly Farm. Why? Meaningful work feeding people, good leadership, good coworkers, doing tasks that we like, opportunities to learn and grow, and a collaborative, supportive environment where you feel cared for as a person. 

Thanks to Andrew, Antonio, Bonafacio, Brenda, Francisco, Heather, Hector, Isabel, Jenna, Judith, Maria, Panchy, Paola, Shannon, and others for sharing. And thank you CSA members for your support of the farm! Wishing you all a healthy and happy Thanksgiving.

— Elaine Swiedler, CSA Manager

The post News From the Farm | November 23, 2020 appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

Thanksgiving CSA Deliveries

For the week of Thanksgiving – All Thursday CSA members will receive their boxes on Wednesday, Nov. 25th. All pick-up locations and hours will remain the same. Only the pick-up day will change to Wednesday.

 

The Full Belly Farmers Market Stand at the Farm is currently closed until further notice.

 

You can still find us at these Markets:

      Every Tuesday – Berkeley Farmers

      Market (2pm to 6:30pm)

      Every Thursday – Marin Farmers

      Market (8am to 1pm)

      Every Saturday  – Palo Alto Farmers

      Market (8:30am to 12:00pm)

The post Thanksgiving CSA Deliveries appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

News From the Farm | November 16, 2020

Full Belly Yarn Gift Box available on our ‘Shop’ page  — 

Here at the farm, it’s pretty easy to notice the changing of the seasons.  People move a little slower, we plan around the weather, but most of all… we have time for side projects! These projects are often the type of thing that don’t need to happen immediately but make life easier and more enjoyable in the future. This could be pruning the fruit orchards, mending broken equipment, or cleaning the iris beds.  Just last week, however, I was able to use my experience with natural dyes and I made the time to dye some skeins of wool that will soon be available in our on-line Farm Shop.

The day right before our first hard frost, I picked the last of our marigolds (thankfully!) and used them to dye a bunch of our Full Belly Farm Yarn a beautiful marigold yellow.  If you’re interested in grabbing a skein for yourself, keep an eye out on our on-line store (it should be available by the end of this week), or any of our farmers markets to check them out! 

For those of you who are looking for your own winter project, I thought it would be fun to share with you how to make your own plant dye from regular kitchen scraps. If you’re up for a bit of an adventure… consider buying some of our white (cream-colored) yarn and trying to dye it yourself!   Here is a recipe…

   

Materials

Yellow Onion Skins from at least 4 Onions

1 Saucepan (approximately 4 quarts)

100% natural fiber item (t-shirt, bandana, Full Belly Farm white Yarn – 100% natural fiber means it should be 100% made from cotton, silk, wool, or any other animal fiber.

Step 1

Fill the saucepan ¾ full & heat until it simmers (as if you’re making pasta)

Step 2

Pour all of your onion skins into the simmering water and stir so that all onion skins are submerged.  

Turn down heat and simmer for 1 hour

Step 3

Drain out onion skins, so that you only have the liquid in the sauce pan – that’s your dye! 

Step 4

Place your item to dye into the pot and stir.  

Let it continue to simmer in the dye for 30 minutes.  

Step 5 

Rinse in the sink, wash preferably with a Dr. Bronner’s or Mrs. Meyers soap product, and let dry

Step 6 

Show off your new wonderful treat! Look what you made! 

Now that you’ve played with natural dyes a little bit, try out some tie-dye! Experiment with other plants! What else can make a color? 

This is a great way to dip your toes into the world of natural dyes.  If you’d like to experiment more, I suggest going to a Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland or Dharma Trading in San Rafael to purchase supplies that can help enhance colors, and help colors to stay on your clothing.

I love working with (and talking about!) natural dyes so please feel free to reach out to me!

 

— Sierra Reading

Educational Director

The post News From the Farm | November 16, 2020 appeared first on Full Belly Farm.