Monthly Archives: March 2016

FarmShares Week of March 28, 2016


Green Garlic — Full Belly Farm • Purple Top Turnips & Red Mustard Greens — Riverdog Farm • Oregano — Say Hay Farm •  Plus everything in the Peck


Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Romaine Lettuce — Full Belly Farm • Eurkea Lemons — Lamb Valley Farm • Navel Oranges* & Sanguinello Blood Oranges* — Manas Ranch • Purple Carrots & Red Bor Kale — Riverdog Farm •


Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Green Garlic — Full Belly Farm • Navel Oranges* & Sanguinello Blood Oranges* — Manas Ranch • Purple Carrots — Riverdog Farm •

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

News From the Farm | March 28, 2016

Much of the rich diversity and prosperity of California’s remarkable agricultural landscape came from the efforts of immigrants. Men and women settlers who came, occupied a landscape that was incredibly rich in an abundance of resources—cheap land, deep fertility of remarkable soils, abundant water, a sparsely settled landscape, along with oil, gold, fish, timber and rich grasslands. They undertook a vast harvest of timeless wealth with the energy of new converts to a religion of abundance. Hard work enabled so much harvest.

My father was one such immigrant, as were my mother’s parents, emigrating from Switzerland to California where opportunities seemed limitless. My father immigrated after the war and first worked in the Redwood forests of Northern California, felling what he called ‘beautiful giants’.  He and my mother went on to establish a successful dairy in part of “the Valley of the Hearts Delight” – the Santa Clara Valley – now Silicon Valley. The cows left as the silicon moved in… By 1968 most of the cows were gone and the fabric of the native landscape torn and forgotten. 

My parents joined other Swiss, Portuguese, Dutch and other European expatriates in rural communities up and down the state, becoming the milkers, cheeesemakers, farmers and grazers there. I grew up in a household surrounded by these Swiss entrepreneurs – energetic peoples in a land of opportunity driven by an ethic of hard work and imagination. They were part of an agriculture that helped to build our cities with the security of abundant food and cheap resources. We built a prosperous California on the patterns, expectations, and seemingly unrestrained access to this natural wealth. There was so much.

Also clear, was a green light to disregard any rights of indigenous peoples – that moral restraint is still being developed – along with the ability to manipulate a seemingly endless pool of importable cheap labor to harvest and tend the expanding fields. Many of the Mexican and Pacific Rim farm laborers became, in time, new farmers. California’s landscape was leveled, inland oak forests razed, lakes were drained and rivers straightened to meet the burgeoning demand for the fruits, grains, meat and vegetables that this rare climate made possible. The land became a magnet for the poor from all parts of the Americas and the world in a remarkable story of abundance harvested from a seemingly limitless natural wealth.

Any talk about a ‘sustainable’ harvest was lost in a struggle to be economic survivors in a world of abundance and low prices. Virtue and survival merged in a strategy to harvest more at a lower price. Research and economic theory merged to support more abundance and the tools for a faster taking. The consequences of new technologies weren’t often accounted for. 

For example, applying nitrogen as plant food, created powerful and measurable increases in crop yield, yet nitrogen has moved through the soil to make groundwater in some rural areas undrinkable. Pesticides worked to kill problem insects and yet often missed targets or spawned resistant insects that could adapt far more quickly than new products could be developed. Wells were drilled to tap the storehouse of water underground—but often with little restraint as to how much one could take. 

Farmers and researchers are addressing many of these issues. Yet the vestige of the immigrant experience is still being felt in the food production process. The very design of how we farm and which farms succeed may be rooted more in the philosophy of extraction and less in strategies for regeneration of the resources that are the foundation of a 1000-year perspective. Water, for example is often thought of as the water that is pumped and stored in our rivers or snowpack and less as the incredible reservoir of water in fog, dew, or moisture that falls on soil protected by living plants. Little is thought of evaporation moisture lost on unprotected soils-, or how we slow down the runoff from the rain that we do get and how to make soil more sponge-like for greater infiltration and slower release.

It is a different time than the era when my father immigrated to California in 1948. As population grows, the solutions to managing our resource base for multiple considerations become more necessary.  The investment in this broad and creative new design is a public investment, with farmers as the implementers. Rather than the sticks of new regulation, there needs to be greater social investment in the carrots – strategies to reward practices that achieve multiple goals at the same time. Sustainable production of affordable food needs to be part of a pattern that solves at the same time water use efficiency, carbon sequestration, soil building, healthy farm ecology and a vibrant human community. 

Old patterns are hard to break and patterns that produce as much food abundance as we have enjoyed are hard to criticize. But we need to understand the pattern of extraction upon which we have built much of our food system, and all begin to invest in new ideas that become a society-wide commitment to sustainability and regeneration of our basic resources and to the lives of those who labor to sustainably produce that abundance.

–Paul Muller

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Veggie Tips

Carrots: We send you the carrots with their tops, picked fresh. The best way to store them is to remove the tops and put the carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The tops can be used to make broth.

Leeks: A good way to clean leeks, if they have soil embedded within the layers, is to slice the leek in half and soak it for 10 minutes. Most people don’t use all of the thicker greens on the top — but they are great if you are making broth.

Parsley: Make salsa verde or a green sauce and use it with your potatoes or other vegetables!

Potatoes: store in the refrigerator, or in a cool, dark place. 

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FarmShares Week of March 21, 2016


Spinach — Full Belly Farm • Cilantro, Fennel & Leeks — Riverdog Farm •  Plus everything in the Peck


Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Green Butter Lettuce — Full Belly Farm • Valencia Oranges — Guru Ram Das Orchards • Sanguinello Blood Oranges* — Manas Ranch • Baby Savoy Cabbage, Dandelion Greens & Red Beets — Riverdog Farm •


Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Green Butter Lettuce & Spinach — Full Belly Farm • Valencia Oranges — Guru Ram Das Orchards • Sanguinello Blood Oranges* — Manas Ranch •

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

News From the Farm | March 21, 2016

Periodically in this newsletter, we share stories from our employees.  This week we talked with one of our long-time employees, Jose Gomez Imperial.

Jose was born and grew up in the state of Sinaloa in a tiny town called Ejido Vinaterias, which is about 20 minutes outside of a larger town called Los Moches.  Los Moches was the town that people from Ejido Vinaterias went when they needed supplies, and when you ask Jose where he is from, he will often say, ‘Los Moches’.

Ejido Vinaterias has grown quite a bit, so maybe there is more going on there now, but Jose hasn’t been back since 2007, so he isn’t too sure.  He grew up with his mother and 2 brothers – a family of boys.

Jose and his brothers went to the local school, but when Jose turned 12, he started working with his mother picking vegetables. She was paid according to how many boxes she picked, so if she had help, she was able to pick more boxes.  The schools were scheduled to make it possible for the kids to work – In the mornings the kids worked in the fields, picking squash, chilies and tomatoes, and in the afternoon they went to school.

Jose liked to work – more-or-less.  At any rate, he didn’t want to be in the house all the time.  The farms in Sinaloa are very big, growing lots of vegetables and exporting them to the United States, often to California.  Jose says that a lot of his friends started working full-time when they were 10 or 11 years old – right after finishing elementary school. A lot of those kids, even if they said they were going to return to school, didn’t ever make it back.  The economy wasn’t so great and the kids got used to having money – so they just kept working.

Jose finished his high-school-level schooling, but his two brothers were not able to.  Jose says that the schools he went to were very different from schools in Esparto that his kids now attend. In Mexico he had to buy everything for himself – notebooks, textbooks and pencils.

When Jose turned 18 (almost 18 years ago), he moved to the United States. He came here for work.  There wasn’t a lot of work in Mexico, and mostly it was very seasonal.  Farm work stops from May through August in Sinaloa because it is too hot to grow anything.  During the summer, a lot of people go to Nogales and work in factories, moving back and forth from Nogales to Los Moches.

Jose arrived in the Capay Valley almost immediately upon moving to the U.S.  He worked for a short time on a different farm, but has worked at Full Belly pretty much the whole time that he has been in the United States.  When he arrived he didn’t know how to drive, and relied on one of his brothers who was also working at Full Belly.

Jose has a family here in the Capay Valley. They live 30 minutes away from Full Belly, in the town of Esparto.  His wife Catalina also works at Full Belly, a key part of the packing shed operation.  Jose and Catalina have 3 children, two girls and one boy ranging in ages from 5 years to 14 years old.  The kids go to school in Esparto, with ambitions to take up professions like doctors, lawyers, astronauts and firemen. All of them were born in the U.S. and all are bilingual

Jose says the only people who can study professions in Mexico are people who have relatives in the U.S. sending money home for their studies. He is happy that his children are in school thinking about their future.

Years ago, Jose went to the farmers market once a week, and also helped with deliveries in the Bay Area.  He commented that at the farmers market, when he talked with people, he noticed that many of them didn’t know a lot about how vegetables grow out in the field.  Nowadays, Jose’s job includes things like loading trucks, cleaning CSA boxes, organizing things around the packing shed, checking that the porta-potties are in the right fields and staying clean, checking temperatures in the coolers – things like that. 

Jose and his family like to eat almost all of the vegetables that are grown at Full Belly.  A lot of the same vegetables were grown on the farms in Sinaloa – lettuce, chiles, tomatoes, corn and beans.  When asked what his favorite vegetables are, Jose produces a long list for each season – pretty much, his family likes them all!

The post News From the Farm | March 21, 2016 appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

Spring Farm Tour

A spring farm tour to the Capay Valley is offered by the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op.   The tour will stop at Full Belly Farm for a farm-fresh lunch cooked from our own farm-grown produce and including wines from Capay Valley Vineyards.  The tour will also visit Pasture 42 and Good Humus Produce.  The tour is from 9am to 4pm on Saturday April 2nd.  To register, and for more information, go to  The price for general public is $85.

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Moon of the Flowers and Blooms

That’s what the Ojibway called an early spring month, and it could certainly describe Rumsey in March 2016. Redbuds, iris, miners lettuce, wild milkweed, and many other plants are blooming up and down the roadside leading into the canyon.

I’ve been using redbud and miners lettuce flowers in roast beet/goat cheese salads. I serve this at breakfast. Both grow in my own yard.



News From the Farm | March 14, 2016

Two weeks ago, I picked the first ranunculus out of our spring flower field. It was just one bunch, and the pink, purple, and red petals were all lightly dusted with rain. The stems were snipped close to the base of the leafy plant, and then wrapped carefully with one of the green rubber bands that I seem to have permanently attached to my wrists. It was just one bunch, but I felt a budding excitement anyway. In my last two years of picking flowers for wedding and events here at Full Belly Farm, I have seen how quickly one bunch of flowers transforms into an entire field of beautiful blooms ready for clipping. The first sweet peas are finding their way up the twine to finally push forth fragrant buds, and the snapdragons are growing towards the sun – raising their heads higher and higher until they begin to bloom with bright colors. And so it goes. Spring is coming soon, and the flowers at Full Belly Farm are paving the way, calling to the insects, farmers and customers to get prepared to join in the spectacle of the spring equinox parade. 

The flower fields this year are some for the record books. Rows upon rows of Love In The Mist, Bells of Ireland, Calendula, Feverfew, Godetias… the March rains have transformed the fields into an emerald dreamland, where drip tape has not been needed, and weeding has been easier to stay on top of than in years past. Last year at this time, the fields were cracking and the soil was dry. Drip tape gave enough water for single plants to grow, but left the rest of the field thirsty. It is such a stark contrast, and while the famers are itching to get summer planting underway, they are also grinning from ear to ear every time they look at their rain gauges, thankful for this “miracle March.” The flowers are blooming a bit slower, and are coming at a steadier pace than last year, but as soon as this next storm passes, and April draws nearer, we know that we will have flowers blooming ‘out of our ears’ as they say. 

Full Belly Farm grows about 8 acres of flowers, starting in January when tulips and other bulbs begin to bloom and growing all the way until November when the last sunflowers and broomcorn finish off the year. We sell our flowers at the Farmers Markets, through Wholesale distributers, to stores, and through our CSA. Week after week, new varieties of flowers are harvested and arranged, to make seasonal bouquets for homes all over the Bay Area and the Sacramento region. They are just gorgeous – a beautiful mix of greenery, and bright blooms that last about a week, and sometimes longer! This April, Full Belly Farm will start up our CSA flower delivery once again. This allows individuals to add a seasonal bouquet to their order and pick up their beautiful arrangement whenever and wherever they pick up their box of produce. What a fun way to celebrate the start of spring, and support the local flower movement!


April 1st is the start of the Full Belly Farm CSA flower season and it is also the beginning of “wedding season.” Full Belly Floral is now in its second year of offering flowers for weddings and events. Starting next weekend we will design bridal bouquets, boutonnières, arches, flower crowns and table arrangements for over 25 weddings! These custom arrangements will also be at the center of every farm dinner, and event being held at Full Belly Farm. Full Belly Floral will also be teaching classes throughout the year for those who are interested in learning the specific techniques of floral design. It is going to be a lovely year full of fresh flowers, and unique events.

This year’s flowers are beautiful, and we want you to enjoy them! If you are interested in learning more about the flowers grown or designed at Full Belly Farm, feel free to email Hannah Muller. If you want to pick up flowers when you get your CSA box, you can order one bouquet per week for the entire season (26 bouquets, $7.50 each, $195 total).  You can also schedule your bouquets month-by-month (4 bouquets, $8 each, $32).  Just send us an email to place your order.

–Hannah Rose Muller


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News From the Farm | March 7, 2016

Last week we announced in this newsletter that limited quantities of Full Belly organically raised, pasture fed meat are available to our CSA members.  In response, several members wrote to us questioning the sustainability of raising animals – doesn’t’ it use a lot of land and a lot of water? Is it really ethical?  Here are some of our thoughts…

Thank you to our members for their thoughts about the Full Belly animal program.  I am one of the owners of the farm and also one of the animal managers, so I have lots of insight into your question! Also as a vegetarian for 30 plus years (now eating only Full Belly meat for the past few years) I have an interesting perspective from that viewpoint as well. I think we should maybe take each species separately.

Chickens: We started raising chickens as an FFA project for one of our children about 10 years ago. They are all egg-layers and we now have about 1,000 hens. They are pasture raised, moving all around the farm in mobile coops, eating insects, grass and weeds. They are very productive and downright spoiled. We raise most of our protein feed for them here – all organic cracked corn and wheat. The stew chickens that we offer are all from the older hens that are no longer laying eggs. For egg eaters this seems to be the best and most humane solution to older birds. The eggs have made a huge impact on the economics of our farmers markets. Our eggs are hugely popular and can account for up to a quarter of our income at the farmers market which has made the long trip to the markets much more worthwhile.

Sheep: These are my “babies” and I have built the sheep program here for the last 25 years. We started with just a handful and now have a flock of about 80 breeding ewes that give birth to 120 or so lambs each year. They are a wool breed primarily (Rambouillet, Lincoln and Merino) which we have now also mixed in with California reds which are more of a meat breed. Like the chickens, the sheep also graze around the farm, eating down all of our crop residue, weeds, pasture and cover crops. They make SO much sense in our diversified farming system. They are the “mowers,” replacing tractors and fertilizing the fields as they move around. We have a complex system of tracking their movements so that we know when and where they have been. When the flock was first starting we did mostly use them for wool, but realized that selling the lambs for meat was also a niche that could be filled. Our sheep are certified organic and there is a big need for certified organic lamb. We sell most of them to our CSA members but also to Chez Panisse where they are appreciated because they are raised so carefully and humanely. One of my biggest efforts is to make sure that no part of the animal is wasted, so we tan the hides, sell the sheepskins, and continue to sell all of the wool as certified organic yarn for knitters and weavers. We are one of a handful of certified organic yarn producers in the whole country!

Pigs: We have one sow who gives birth to about 20 piglets a year (2 litters). This is a very small and rather intimate pig “operation”. The sow’s name is Blueberry and the boar’s name is Gerard. This also started from a school FFA project of one of my kids. We love our pigs. They use up TONS of waste product from the farm – old squash, cracked grain, extra milk. They graze off grass and weeds and are also very spoiled! Their meat is all sold through our farmers markets and CSA.

Cows: Our cow “program” is similar to the pigs. Originally we started with one milk cow to provide milk for the people living here at the farm. In order to get milk we need to breed the cow each year. She has given birth to many males over the years and thus we occasionally offer beef, as it is too much meat for just the farmers here to consume. Our cows are also outside for the entire year, on pasture or grazing down crop residues in our fields. We LOVE our “girls” and they in turn love us. The beef that we offer is very limited. In fact we may only be offering it this year and then not have any again for several years.

I firmly believe that our animal program increases the sustainability of the farm. We grow amazing cover crops that serve as carbon banks to mitigate global warming and we have the animals digest those crops instead of using fossil fuels to mow them down. Like some of our CSA members, I am also a little “surprised” at our animal production after all these years of living here and even being a vegetarian. However I LOVE our animal program and am very proud of what we are doing. It makes a lot of sense to me as a sustainable way to use products like grass, crop residues and vegetable wastes that humans can’t digest.  In each field that the animals graze, we see multiple “yields” – increased soil fertility, animal protein, and finally the vegetable crop that we grow.

–Dru Rivers

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