Monthly Archives: February 2016

FarmShares Week of February 29, 2016


Murcott Tangerines* — Manas Ranch • Fennel, Red Dandelion Greens & Rutabagas — Riverdog Farm •    Plus everything in the Peck


Navel Oranges — Blue Heron Farm • Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Chioggia Beets, Red Leaf Lettuce & Spinach — Full Belly Farm • Minneola Tangelos — Good Humus Produce • Leeks — Riverdog Farm •


Navel Oranges — Blue Heron Farm • Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Spinach — Full Belly Farm • Minneola Tangelos — Good Humus Produce • Murcott Tangerines* — Manas Ranch •

Bushel contains listed items plus Peck itemsem> All contents are certified organic unless otherwise specified with an asterisk em>

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 statement was well said in 2004 by Fred Kirschenmann of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.  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. 

All the water testing was meant to help regulators zero in on problem areas, but what next? Agricultural pollutants in a watershed are usually difficult to trace to any one particular farm. There’s also the fact that the use of water-soluble fertilizers and pesticides are part of a multimillion-dollar industry, not about to give an inch. And finally, there are agricultural lobbyists in denial that there actually IS a problem, kind of like the climate change deniers, no matter how big the mountain of data grows, they will always maintain that there is some other explanation.

The result has been a convoluted set of messages coming from various regulators, a mixture of attempts to educate, regulate, threaten and cajole.  This year was going to be the first that each and every one of the 40,000 enrolled farms was supposed to develop a nitrogen management plan, hopefully to help them make better decisions, but more likely a rote attempt to fill out the paperwork and be done with it.  Luckily this requirement was abandoned barely a week before the nitrogen management plans were due.  Perhaps it became clear that it was a lot of work with an unclear payoff.

For our very diverse farm, we would have had to estimate yields of all of the 80 or so products that we grow, supposedly so that we could then use scientific data to determine how much nitrogen fertilizer could safely be applied to each of the different crops without leaching nitrates into the groundwater.  But organic fertility approaches like the use of cover crops and compost are not as straightforward as the use of soluble nitrogen fertilizer poured into irrigation water. In fact, farmers with diverse farms and organic methods were clearly going to have a pretty hard time filling out the plans with any accuracy.

Now that a fortune in time and money has been spent, I am left wondering about the 265 California communities that have nitrates in their drinking water that exceed safe levels. Mostly they are small communities in the southern San Joaquin Valley with no alternative source of water. What kind of program would prevent additional communities from suffering the same plight?

My view is that incentives are the best complement to regulations. Research, technical assistance, and on-the-ground demonstrations of management practices that reduce pollution have proven effective in many agricultural settings. There are all kinds of reasons why California farmers aren’t applying more compost, planting more cover crops or growing plant cover to protect waterways.  But these are the practices that should be encouraged as a way to create soils that hold more water during droughts, fields that capture more carbon underground, and farms that don’t pour nitrous oxide (a powerful greenhouse gas) into the air.  Building a soil fertility

program based on organic sources of nutrients could go a long way towards reducing groundwater pollution. Developing regulatory programs that encourage these practices would be a great way to produce more lasting change in agriculture.

–Judith Redmond

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FarmShares Week of February 22, 2016


Gold Beets & Wild Mustard Greens — Full Belly Farm • Minneola Tangelos — Good Humus Produce • Sage — Riverdog Farm •    Plus everything in the Peck


Navel Oranges — Blue Heron Farm • Broccoli, Collards, Green Butter Lettuce, Purple Carrots & Watermelon Radishes — Full Belly Farm • Murcott Tangerines* — Manas Ranch •


Navel Oranges — Blue Heron Farm • Broccoli, Green Butter Lettuce & Purple Carrots — Full Belly Farm • Murcott Tangerines* — Manas Ranch •

Bushel contains listed items plus Peck itemsem> All contents are certified organic unless otherwise specified with an asterisk em>

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.  

Recent reviews of research conducted over the last two decades comparing organic and nonorganic meats produced in Europe, the U.S. and Brazil has confirmed that there are important nutritional benefits to eating organic meat.  Because of their diet high in pasture, meats from organically raised animals contain higher levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids — in fact an average of 47% higher levels than nonorganic meats.  Omega-3s are said to help in lowering heart disease, reducing inflammation-related problems and fending off cognitive decline.

The researchers found that levels of another polyunsaturated fat, omega-6, were slightly lower in organic meat and dairy.  These two compounds, omega-3 and omega-6, are essential for the human body and we can’t manufacture them ourselves.  Centuries ago, people ate roughly equal amounts of the two fatty acids. Today, most Americans eat more than 10 times as much omega-6 compared to 3, because of our diets high in fried foods and conventionally-raised meat.

One other factor in the decision about eating organic meat is that it has a much lower risk of containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Antibiotics are used routinely in conventional animal husbandry — over half the antibiotics in the U.S. are used in food animal production.  The Full Belly animals are not fed antibiotics in their food, and nevertheless, stay healthy for their entire lives.

The following organically raised meats are now available to our CSA members, all in fairly limited quantities.  The meat is only available for pick up at select sites — you will need to check with us for the most convenient delivery location. The meat arrives frozen, in an ice chest.

1. Lamb for your Easter dinners:  Our lambs are all born and raised here at the 
farm and are fed 100% on pasture, organic vegetables and hay. They are sold by the half share (15-20 lbs) for $185, or whole share (30-35lbs) for $350. 

These are the cuts of meat for half share lamb (double for whole share lamb):

2 packages Breast (ribs) –OR– Neck & Stew Meat

1 package Leg

2 packages Racks – 4 ribs/pkg

2 packages Shanks 

4 packages Loin Chops – 2 chops/pkg

4 packages Shoulder Chops – 2 chops/pkg

Organs (Heart, Liver, Kidney & Tongue) – Optional

2. Pork: Our pigs are organically fed, born and raised at Full Belly, living their entire lives on acres of pasture, rooting up tasty black walnuts. You can order a half share or a whole share.  The Half Shares are $80 for 7.5-pounds and include 1 pack of natural bacon, 1 pack of sausage, 1 pack of loin chop and 1 shoulder roast.  The Whole Share is $160 for 15-pounds and includes 2 packs of bacon, 2 packs of sausage, 2 packs of loin chop, 1 shoulder roast and 2 packs of spare ribs.

3. Other Pork Products: A 3-pack of sausage (3-pounds) for $30 contains Italian, Bratwurst and Simple Breakfast Sausages. We also have some extra, very special Shoulder Roasts that you can use to make delicious carnitas or stew.  The Shoulder Roast is available Large (5-lb or more) for $40 or Regular (4-lb or more, to 5-lb) for $32.  If you are interested in pork offal, lard or pig feet, let us know.

4. Stewing Chickens: We do not raise meat chickens, only egg-layers.  We are always sad that we do not have sufficient quantities of our eggs to offer them to our CSA members.  The only place that you can get our eggs is at our farmers markets. After two years of laying eggs, we cull the chickens and they are available as stew birds.  They are approx. 3-4 lbs and make delicious broth, soup or stew and cost $12.

5. Exciting News – Beef offering coming soon! 

If you wish to order any of our meat products, please contact Becky.



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News From the Farm | February 15, 2016

It may be time for your seasonal check-in here at Full Belly. It is always fun to inform you of the day-to-day processes of farming. As you open your box each week to see what the farm is providing, the produce reflects work done and decisions made 90 to 120 days ago. We are busy this week transplanting and planting for spring boxes. The break from a wet January has us in all of the fields, tilling in weeds and some of our cover crops while we set up our work and harvest schedule for the spring. 

This past week we were watering flowers, onions, and our new lettuce and broccoli transplants.  We are starting to water things like our strawberries, carrots, garlic, peas, broccoli, greens and lettuces planted last November. The produce that you are receiving in your boxes was generally planted as seed last November. Growing slowly in the late fall and cold winter it gathers strength as the days lengthen and average temperatures warm up. We do gamble a bit as we plant in the fall. There have been colder years in the past when December temperatures have all but freeze-killed even our hardiest crops and the months of January and February have ended up being pretty bleak.   

Valentines day is our target for planting our spring potatoes—we hit that pretty dead-on by planting a 7-acre block of potatoes on Friday. At the same time we are harvesting the end of last fall’s potato crop. We like to store these potatoes in the ground during the coldest months where they are kept completely cold and at full moisture. We essentially have two planting windows for spuds: February for spring potatoes and early September for fall and winter harvested potatoes. 

Andrew, Dru and Jan are busy planting flowers. Besides the transplants that will be available for harvest in 60 days or so, the seeds that we are planting now will be harvested at the end of March and into June. The first sunflowers were planted this past week as the soil has warmed sufficiently to germinate them. Everything that is being planted is cold hardy and able to tolerate a frost should we get one. Asparagus beds have been tilled lightly to clean up the more aggressive weeds. Harvest of the first asparagus should start in the next few weeks.

We are thinking about tomatoes and melons, but those plants are being carefully nurtured in the greenhouse where the temperature and moisture can be managed. Chica is planting flats of heirloom tomato seeds that we selected last fall. This seed was squeezed from the nicest fruits, allowed to ferment a bit and then washed and dried. About 80% of our tomato seed is from saved seed- a project that Andrew manages each year. Melon, peppers and eggplants are also seeded in the greenhouse for end of March transplanting. We also purchase some organic transplants from a nursery in Gilroy. These plants provide security should something go wrong in either of our greenhouses.

We also planted 800 trees last week. New varieties of peach, some aprium, pears, mulberries, quince and pomegranates were all added to fill out some of the spots in the season where we need a bit more fruit. We planted into a complex cover crop of grasses, legumes and flowering plants.  We will allow this cover crop to grow and mature as it provides shelter for the soil, harvests carbon to feed the soil microbes, takes nitrogen from the air for the trees, and blooms for the pollinating insects. Our later spring planted fields are green with cover crops that we will slowly mow, graze or incorporate to feed the melons, tomatoes, peppers, or greens in a cycle of annual harvest.

orchard planting 2

We have been pruning the orchards furiously, trying to keep ahead of the blooms and buds that are pushing their white, pink or red flowers as trees open for ‘beesniss.’ The year has been better for trees thus far. Unlike the last couple of years, we have had the cold weather to support a healthy bloom while previous winters did not provide adequate ‘chilling hours’. We have also had some gentle soaking rain to feed roots and the early bloom. Apricots are in full bloom; many almond varieties are a fragrant and fluffy white; the first peaches and plums are out; pears are swelling and soon to be out; and apples and walnuts are slowly waking.

The 800,000 acres of almonds in California are all in need of bees and these small creatures are being trucked in from all over the country to pollinate the 4.3 billion dollar almond crop. Some growers are reporting an inability to find bees for hire. The pollination business is a mess. This winter, local beekeepers flooded our valley with thousands of hives to take advantage of our native plants that produce some pollen and nectar. I am seeing fewer native pollinators because they facing stiffer competition for available food. It is a bit of a race to mine natural forage with far too many bees imported into the area—a system way out of balance and showing signs of deep stress with collapsing colonies and now natives that may be starving… 

We are letting our fall crops that are finished, bloom out to provide some food for hungry pollinators. Arugula, many weed species and mustards provide food for pollinators. These fields look a bit unkempt and messy – the impulse to keep them clean and tidy is something that requires restraint – the weeds would not be tolerated by landlords and farmers who see bare ground as a reflection of good management. We see our job as moving/managing the complexity of life forms on the farm to hum in their particular note in order to create a symphony energy and vitality. Many of these ‘hum-babies’ are not appreciated in the potential ‘harvest’ of a farm. It will become absolutely essential for the survival of healthy agriculture that we design for the edges and the under-appreciated life forms that are at the very foundation of our food system. 

The list of spring projects is a long one. Add to the list that our pregnant ewes are ready to bring new lambs to the farm, our chickens need to be moved and protected from the itinerant bobcat or coyote; our crops need to be picked washed and packed up; our trees need to be sprayed to keep fungal pathogens in check; and all of the repairs are lined up when the wheels are in danger of falling off. Then you have a pretty complete February day. 

–Paul Muller

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FarmShares Week of February 15, 2016


Red Spring Onions & Spinach — Full Belly Farm • Spearmint — Good Humus Produce • Gold Top Turnips — Riverdog Farm •    Plus everything in the Peck


Navel Oranges — Blue Heron Farm • Nantes Carrots — Full Belly Farm • Fennel & Minneola Tangelos — Good Humus Produce • Eureka Lemons* — Motroni Ranch • Chard — Riverdog Farm • Celery Root — Say Hay Farm •


Navel Oranges — Blue Heron Farm • Nantes Carrots, Spinach & Red Spring Onions — Full Belly Farm • Minneola Tangelos — Good Humus Produce •

Bushel contains listed items plus Peck itemsem> All contents are certified organic unless otherwise specified with an [...]

News From the Farm | February 8, 2016

Here in the Capay Valley we take our traditions quite seriously – with no messing around. February, first coined as Almond Festival month in 1915 is no exception. Starting in the beginning of the month, as the almond trees begin their month long blooming period, the valley is dotted with pink and white puffy blossoms on dark trunks all along the hillsides and valley floor. Some of these orchards date back to the early 1900’s – planted by farming settlers who often dry farmed in the hills. Their gnarled twisted trunks are testimony to a struggling history of farming on the rugged hot hills. In more recent years many new plantings have sprouted up on the rich valley soil, comprising over 2,000 acres of this much-heralded nut, with many new varieties and more modern farming techniques.

The real tradition of the Almond month begins in the third week of February when the Almond Queen Pageant is held in Yolo County’s only Grange Hall – the Guinda Grange. This hall, dating back to 1910, provides a perfect home for the annual dinner and competition among a group of the valley’s finest high school seniors. These young women are judged on scholastic prowess, community involvement, an interview session and their crowning moment – a speech to the dinner’s attendees. In the speech they answer a series of questions that often revolve around the rural theme of growing up in the valley and how their lives may have been shaped by the agricultural flavor of the area. Over 250 locals pack into the Grange Hall for the evening of farm food and speeches and all are anxious to see who that year’s winner will be. Tears and clapping abound as each one of the woman present their practiced speeches, and family members watch on in pride. The crowning of the Queen is a special moment in all of their lives, though it is less about the actual “crown” and more about celebrating each young woman as an individual. The Queens prestigious duty is to reign over the valley’s Almond Festival the next weekend.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 10.58.13 AM

Hannah Muller, second generation Full Belly Farmer, was crowned the 2010 Almond Queen. 

The actual Almond Festival itself, traditionally held the last Sunday in February, is one of California’s longest running agricultural based festivals and is the only festival of its kind that encompasses five different townships all showcasing the Capay Valley’s finery. At the south end of the valley the town of Esparto kicks off the day with a now famous Pancake Breakfast, a fundraiser for the High School’s Ag Department and local FFA. The park in Esparto is filled with vendors and local non-profits; the local library has its biggest annual event in a used book sale. Going further north the towns of Capay and Guinda both have demonstrations revolving around the history and agricultural heritage of the area – crafters selling quilts and baby blankets, knitters selling sweaters and hats, Granny Wyatt’s Legendary Almond Roca and a blacksmithing demonstration. There are lots of options for food. The Fire Department serves grilled sausages and oysters in Guinda and there is tri-tip for sale at the Grange.

The town of Rumsey, at the north end of the valley, is perhaps the jewel of all five towns, with the beautiful old Rumsey Town Hall building as its backdrop. Built in 1903 this National Historic Building was renovated by dedicated volunteers in the last ten years and is a gorgeous spot. Rumsey pulls out all the stops, with music, wood-fired pizzas using all local ingredients and a farmers market, which includes some of the valleys’ finest growers. Full Belly Farm is actively involved in this town’s activities – tossing 500 pizzas throughout the day and running a market stall with all our best flowers and produce. Olive oil, lavender soaps, native plants, locally brewed beer and, yes, almonds are for sale throughout the day.

The second generation of Full Belly farmers are very active in the entire festival planning process. Hallie and Hannah (both former queen pageant winners!) now spearhead the Queen pageant planning; Ellis and Jonas will be flipping pancakes in Esparto; and Amon and Rye coordinate the food booths in Rumsey. It is a delight to see them carry on the Almond Festival’s values of life in a rural region, bringing new ideas and energy to a century-old tradition.

Please join us for this the 101st Almond Festival on Sunday, February 28th 2016. There is no admission charge to the 5-town event but be prepared to buy some delicious food, homemade crafts and of course, yummy almonds!

The post News From the Farm | February 8, 2016 appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

News From the Farm | February 1, 2016

Seasonal Reflection

Here in the Capay Valley, the days are short and the shadows long. With the cooler weather and long awaited winter rains, the dust has turned to mud and the golden hills have turned a soft green. The coyotes are out roaming the hills, the creek is running swiftly and the bright ornaments of winter decorate the citrus orchards. 

When I arrived in Sacramento five months ago to start my internship at Full Belly, I was hit by a wave of 107-degree heat as I stepped off the plane. My first afternoon on the farm I lay spread-eagle on the floor praying that my body temperature would soon adjust from the cold snowy rivers of the Yukon to the brutally hot fields of California. When I drove back into the Capay Valley at the beginning of January after our winter break, I was stunned at its transformation. The hills were no longer golden but a brilliant emerald, bursting with life and heavy with moisture. That first evening back, I spent stoking my wood stove trying to keep the yurt warm as the rain drummed on the roof and the wind rattled the door. 

Here on the farm, where life is lived outside and our work relies on the weather, one is acutely aware of every change the seasons bring. You feel the change in the intensity of the sun on your face, you smell winter in the breeze and you watch as the colors shift from one pallet to another. As I worked in the strawberry field this morning, I watched an orb-like sun burn away the fog and warm the sodden ground. As I watched the early morning sun grow higher in the sky, I thought of Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay:

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf,

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay. 

Frost neatly captures the rhythm and beauty of life on the farm. The orange globes that currently sprinkle the orchards with color will in time fade and drop from the trees. But as one tree sheds its fruit, we will welcome in the blossoming of another. In a month we will watch as the almond blossoms burst throughout the valley and just as quickly we will watch the petals wither and fall. So the cycle goes. As we witness the return of one crop to the soil, we await the arrival of the next as it grows from its seed, filling the greenhouses with a blanket of delicate green. 

The beauty of the farm has an ephemeral quality: it is a dynamic beauty that is constantly changing. From one day to the next the touch of frost may change a leaf from green to yellow, a rainstorm may spray mud over the bright colors pushing up from the earth, or a farmer may visit a field to harvest, leaving behind bare ground. There is no permanence. But each day is filled with an infinity of beautiful moments as we watch and feel and smell the seasons swirl around us.

— Jill Britton

Jill Britton

Jill started at Full Belly Farm in September, as the whirlwind of summer was slowing and the freight-train of the Hoes Down was barreling towards us. A graduate of Dartmouth College where she was a leader on their organic farm, Jill has spent time in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Costa Rica as a guide for wilderness backpacking trips for teenagers. Her diverse experience is lending perfectly to her time as an intern. We are glad she is part of the Full Belly Farm crew! 

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2016 Farm Dinner Series – Reserve Your Space Now!

Join us for a delightful dinner at Full Belly Farm! Dinners are now available for reservation – call our office at 530-796-2214 and ask for Ana or Jenna. 

2016 Dates:

March 12

April 9

May 14

June 18

July 9 (Sold Out!)

August 13

September 10

October 22

November 12

Pricing: Dinners are $70 for CSA members or $80 for the general public. Full payments is required to save your spot. Dinners are refundable up to two weeks prior to your dinner date. More information can be found here.

Above photograph by Ashley Bruhn of Hither and Tither. 

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