Monthly Archives: January 2017

Veggie Tips

Broccoli – This broccoli has weathered a lot of rain and cold, but now it’s ready to eat!  We have lots of recipes for broccoli in our archive, including several soups.

Cilantro – widely employed in savory dishes in almost all parts of the world, especially Asia and Latin America.  Like other herbs, cilantro contains many compounds known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.  Some people dislike cilantro and the scientists say that this is probably due to the smell (which is a surprisingly large factor in taste).  Great in burritos, or to season fish, tofu, eggs, beans or corn.  See our recipe for cilantro pesto, below.

Rutabaga – a great storage crop, common in northern cuisines —  Russia, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Scotland, England and Wales. Roast it with potatoes and carrots, turn it into soup, make a mash with potatoes, or include it in stews and casseroles.

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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.  

A highlight of the conference for me was a short presentation by Dr. Asa Bradman, about the CHAMACOS research based in the Salinas Valley, also known as the “nation’s salad bowl.” The study (Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas — Chamacos means ‘young child’ in Spanish) has been ongoing since 1998 when it started with a cohort of pregnant women, assessing the health effects of environmental exposures to pesticides and other chemicals. Over 300 children are still participating as they enter adolescence. The research studies the health impacts of pesticides as well as social factors like housing quality and neighborhood conditions. Organophosphate pesticides were found in dust from all of the households in the study.  Breast milk and food were confirmed as additional pathways that resulted in the presence of pesticide metabolites in the children (so make sure to feed your kids their ORGANIC fruits and veggies!)  Negative health and social outcomes were shown to result from the presence of pesticides in the children’s environment.  The study has resulted in almost 150 publications shedding light on environmental chemical exposures and health.

There was also a session on the use of no-till, or reduced till in organic vegetable systems.  Tillage (plowing, rototilling, disking) is ubiquitous in most of agriculture, but it can have negative impacts like dust, erosion, loss of organic matter and impaired soil structure. Many farmers, including Full Belly, have been trying, for years to figure out how to reduce, improve and even eliminate tillage from our farms, something that farmers in other climates and farming systems have been able to achieve more readily. We are ever more committed to these experiments now, as the world recognizes that soil can be used as a huge carbon sink, thus a powerful mitigator of greenhouse gas emissions. 

No-till can be a very technical subject, but one of the panelists, Jim Leap of School Road Farm, summed up the panel in a pleasingly non-technical way: “There is a lot of misinformation out there and I think our session helped in that regard… I think there are many systems that can function with lower yields (that may result from no-till) but here on the Central Coast we face the reality of $3,000 per acre/year land rents which make no-till practices in organic systems extremely challenging to say the least. So much of what farmers can do in terms of soil management is dictated by climate, soil type and land rent values. I think moving forward, more accurate data on carbon sequestration from various farming scenarios will be critical. It is so absolutely reassuring to know that the organic community is so committed to ‘doing the right thing’ to enhance the sustainability of our systems.” 

Mycologist Paul Stamets (TED talk: 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World) gave a phenomenal closing plenary, leaving everyone talking about the mycelial ‘world wide web’. (The mycelium is the vegetative underground network of mushrooms.)  Paul covered the benefits that mushroom extracts can have on bees, their ability to cure viral diseases, and their importance in many forest ecosystems.  “The rainforests of the Pacific Northwest may harbor mushroom species with profound medicinal properties.  At the current rates of extinctions, this last refuge of the mushroom genome should be at the top of the list of priorities for mycologists, environmentalists and government. If I can help advance this knowledge, I will have done my part to protect life on this planet.”

— Judith Redmond

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Join us for Pizza Night on the Farm!

Pizza Night August 16th!

Come to a fun and casual community evening at Full Belly Farm. We will be baking pizzas in our wood-fired pizza oven, serving up delicious side salads, and scooping farm fresh ice cream. No reservations are necessary! Friday, August 16th, 5pm to 9pm. To see the full list of Pizza Night dates check our Events calendar.


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Letter to the Editor

I’ve been meaning to email you and let you know that I’ll be taking a hiatus from veggie boxes for right now. I’ve lived in a condo for the many, many years I’ve been a Fully Belly Farm CSA member and it’s been a lifesaver. I was able to get a garden plot in a local community garden this past year (well, actually, I now have two!) and I’m producing enough veggies at this point that I can’t get through all the FBF veg, even when I went down to every other week.

I’m heartbroken to leave since you’ve a staple in my life for a decade, and I love supporting a farm that I’ve visited, met the farmers and believe in the practices. This feels like more of a dear John letter then just a transaction!

I do hope that I’ll have room in my life (and fridge) at some point to start up again, but I’ve been so lucky with heavy harvests from my garden.

I wish you all the best and will dearly miss the recipes & the produce. The artichokes, the cranberry beans! Those amazing strawberries and the best carrots I’ve ever had. The list goes on. I now love rutabaga, celery root, I can eat kale by the bunch in every form imaginable, I love quince and turnips and fennel fronds – I can’t imagine how much I’ve learned from having the CSA box. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Thank you all so much!

Jaime & Ben  

Note: Anyone who is interested can continue to get the Full Belly Beet, CSA member or not.  Just send us your email and we will continue to send it to you — or your friends.

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Keep Our CSA Running Smoothly

As we begin another year, we would like to review some guidelines for our CSA. If you are a long time member, or just starting with your first CSA box, we need your help in the following ways…

1. Please bring your own container to carry your produce home. Leave our green plastic ‘Stop Waste’ box at the site.  If we deliver your CSA box to your home or work place, please make sure that all of our boxes are returned to the farm.

2. Pick up your box only during the hours listed on our web site and sign-in sheet. These are the hours that the host has set. We do not guarantee the boxes past the designated pick-up times. No credit is issued if you arrive late to claim a box, but find none there.

3. Do not leave a mess! Please nest your empty CSA box with the others.

4. Park in designated parking spots. Do not double park and do not block driveways.

5. Direct your questions to Full Belly, not to the host. Please don’t disturb the host.

6. Please notify us five days in advance if you would like to defer your box.

7. Please sign the sheet when you pick up your box. The list will help you to remember if you are picking up a Grey Box (with special order items) rather than a Green Box.  Additionally, if someone forgets to pick up their box, it will be easy for the host to identify that person if all the people who remember to pick up their box have signed the sheet.

8. If you have already set up an account with us, you can use it to manage your schedule, your credit card and your renewals.  You can also use your on-line account to auto-renew specific orders.  If you have not set up an on-line account yet, and would like to do so, drop us an email and we will send you your account key.

Thank You – We appreciate your help!

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Veggie Tips

Cabbage: A delicate vegetable that can be led in numerous directions… Gently simmered or steamed and then topped with rosemary, blue cheese, and cream.  Shredded raw and massaged with salt and a bit of lemon. Parboiled in salted water for a few minutes, then tossed with olive oil and crushed garlic.  Kitchen wisdom is to avoid overcooking cabbage!

Bok Choy: Very popular in Asian cuisine, think about using this in a simple stir fry with garlic and sesame oil, served over rice. Morsels of meat can also be added.  The contrast between the crisp stems and the tender greens of bok choy is delicious in a stir fry. 

Scarlet Turnips: After describing a wonderful turnip soup made with Gruyere cheese and cream that she used to make at Green’s restaurant in San Francisco, Deborah Madison asks, “What was it that gave turnips such a bad name?” (Vegetable Literacy, Ten Speed Press, 2013).  Just try these scarlet turnips raw and you will be a convert.  You can make ¼-inch slices and enjoy them as a salad with roasted walnuts, feta cheese, salt, pepper, lemon and olive oil.

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News From the Farm | January 23, 2017

The sun has broken through this Sunday afternoon after a powerful storm blasted through the valley at about 3:00 this morning. We have had our world soaked and saturated with rainfall that started around the first of the year and has scarcely let up. Cache Creek, the river that we use for summer irrigation and swimming, will peak today at 14,000 cubic feet per second. The high this year has been 25,000 cubic feet per second—a raging brown torrent.  To date compared to last year, Clear Lake and Indian Valley Reservoir have 175,000 acre-feet of increased water storage. This is water that will be saved and released for summer irrigation. 

The farm is high, yet hardly dry, and looking forward to a few days of sunshine. We have a full crew that has been slogging boxes out of the fields. They work rain or shine—mostly in rain this month. Our stalwart crew has been picking carrots or potatoes in flat-out downpours and need some time to wring out. So far this year we have been Wringing in 2017!

The water and snowpack has changed the outlook for California farms. There should be enough water for farmers to plant up every acre of San Joaquin Valley farmland that can possibly be planted. When given the resources farmers show little restraint for expanding farmed acreage. This has me a bit worried. For the trends in agriculture aren’t positive at this point.  I fear that a good deal of the drought-idled acreage in the central valley will be enrolled as organic acreage and prices will tumble. Vegetable and melon receipts were already down by 7% this year. 

Farmers can quite literally expand production to their own ruin. 2016 was a year when mid-western farmers were once again the victims of their own success. Corn and soybean prices have tumbled and net cash farm income was projected to drop by 17%.

In California, where almonds have attracted institutional investors like TIAA-CREF, hedge funds and even Oprah Winfrey, acreage and harvests of almonds has doubled since 2003, and prices have fallen to a place where some are projecting that farmland may be overvalued by 70 billion dollars, largely driven by the almond boom.  History has shown that when the rush for the door starts, as returns fall and institutional investors flinch, momentum to be the first one out becomes disastrous.  Added to the potential for a Trump trade war with China, almond prospects seem shaky at best. 

In this past year we have seen increased competition among grocers and the corresponding drive among wholesalers to buy our farm products more cheaply. Often, prices offered for our fresh fruits and vegetables were the same as those we received 10 years ago. This is part of what has been a trend of food price deflation as grocers try to outcompete one another.  In the end, that competition, makes it hard to remain viable as a farm.  It is reported that nearly 20 % of US farms are in financial distress.

We are entering our 34th year of farming here in the Capay Valley at Full Belly. We would like to think that our market mix and cultivated relationships have insulated us somewhat from the dropping prices in the marketplace. But when we add the justifiable increase in the minimum wage, and new overtime rules for farm workers, I am anticipating a squeeze that may challenge us to adapt and modify our expectations about the coming season.

Don’t worry, Full Belly is doing fine, but the need to think critically about the state of the marketplace requires adaptability. We will not compromise on our commitment to a healthy farm system and organic production. We will remain committed to an open and transparent farm, welcoming visitors and farm patrons to walk the farm and see what we are up to. We will create a healthy work environment for out employees, many of who have been with us for nearly 25 years. We will remain committed to growing food and crops with flavor that are healthy and wholesome. And we will tighten our belts and become more efficient in everything that we do. 

It is an old story for farmers and a cycle that shows itself with regularity. Granted, I am speculating here, but in tying this back to rainfall, farmers would be best served if restrained from planting each and every acre that can receive the plenty of this year’s rain and snow pack.  Restoring the San Joaquin River, or healthy salmon fisheries in our California rivers and balancing production with a better overall environmental story might serve them best. They may be best served by regulations that target the few ‘bad actors’ who look to cut costs while harming the overall environment. Why not argue for rewards for practices that enhance the overall health of land, water, and the wildlife that lives above, in and around a farm?

So on this afternoon, when the sun has found its way to warm the soggy lands of the farm, I hope that my mood wasn’t too rainy. I have been a part of a farm nearly all of my life, and honor those who farm as a wonderful and resilient lot who are clever and smart if they have survived to this point. Yet farmers are repeatedly caught in their own drive to produce great yields that lead to surplus and low prices, caught in forces that are larger than themselves and that they have no power to control. This may only change when success is measured by more than cheap food. It will change when value, mindfulness and fairness are central to the responsibility that each of us has to create the world that we want to live in.

— Paul Muller

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Letter to the Editor

Concerning those green plastic boxes – here’s a solution that works for me: This technique has worked for me since before the green plastic boxes.  There’s no need to take Full Belly’s boxes anywhere.

Find a cardboard box about the same size as the Full Belly box. Shouldn’t be too hard, with all the deliveries people get these days. Reinforce it with duct tape if necessary.  Keep it in your car, with the grocery bags. Take it with you to your pickup site.  Do Not Remove the green box from the site. Transfer everything in the green box to your own box.  Put your box in your car, unload it at home, immediately. Return your box to your car for next week. Repeat.

Here’s hoping this idea makes a difference.

Helen  –  Lake Ave, Piedmont site

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Veggie Tips

Nantes Carrots:  This variety is so crisp that they could never be harvested by machine (unlike most common supermarket varieties) because they would break.  The frosty weather has made them especially sweet this year, so we are sending them as a weekly treat.

Celery Root:  A variety of celery cultivated for it’s wonderful root, rather than for the shoots, although if you enjoy the celery flavor, don’t overlook the leaves and stems. It will store well — but you should remove the leaves if you aren’t going to eat it in a few days.  The first time I was introduced to celery root I made soup with it and felt as if I had made an incredible culinary discovery.

Mizuna:  I recently ate out at a restaurant and was served a delicious mizuna salad with vinaigrette dressing.  So fresh and delicious!

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News From the Farm | January 16, 2017

At this time of year an unusually large number of people join our CSA program for the first time, and that brings our attention around to the fact that getting used to the CSA box is sometimes challenging for new members. Sometimes people ask why they can’t just get one box as a starter, before they decide to commit for a longer term. But we encourage new members to make a commitment of trying at least 4 boxes when they first start, so that they have more of a chance to build a connection with the farm and to try and develop a greater knowledge of cooking ‘out of the box’.

Because there are so many new members right now, this is a good time of year for us to use this newsletter to answer some questions about how the CSA program works.  Here’s an example of one of the questions that we received recently: 

“I have always thought about getting a box but haven’t done it until now. One of the reasons that I would get a weekly box is to be able to get produce that is fresher than what I can get at the store. Can you give me an idea of the length of time between when your vegetables are picked and when they arrive at the drop-off location? I couldn’t find anything about it on on your website.”

At Full Belly, we pick our produce the day before it is delivered.  Every night, we load our truck, and the majority of the produce in the boxes will be less than 24-hours from the fields by the time it gets to your kitchen.

Although it may be counterintuitive in this world of instant communication, this is part of the reason that we need several days notice if anyone wants to change their delivery schedule.  If we had stacks of picked and packed vegetables in our cooler, we could work out of inventory each day. If the number of boxes we needed changed during the day it wouldn’t really matter — we could just save up the extras for the following day. That would be kind of nice because once we figured out how many boxes we needed on a given day, we could just grab them off the shelf and load our trucks, while the crew just picked ahead for the future. 

Maintaining an inventory of produce to use as needed would introduce a lot more flexibility into the farm’s schedule and would take some daily deadline pressure off of the farm, but it would most certainly result in produce that was less fresh, and that is why we don’t do it. Our commitment to our CSA members is to try and get the freshest possible produce to you every week.  There are a few things that may be stored — potatoes, winter squash, oranges – but the majority of the fruits and veggies in your box were growing in the field pretty darn recently when you open the box in your kitchen. 

We have had some frosty, freezing mornings this year, which is great in some ways, but it can damage tender broccoli and greens.  We apologize if some of the vegetables don’t arrive in absolutely perfect condition.

If any of you have questions about how the CSA works, or if any of our longer-term members have stories about their first experiences with the CSA program, let us know!  We can share your stories in this newsletter.

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