Monthly Archives: April 2018

News From the Farm | April 23, 2018

Many of you may have heard about the outbreak of disease related to romaine lettuce that has been traced to processing plants in Arizona. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people not to eat any form of romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona area.  Since the origin of greens, especially those that are pre-washed and bagged, is not easily identified, the CDC adds helpfully that you should throw out any romaine lettuce you might have if you don’t know where it came from.

On Saturday morning we had several phone calls from people concerned about the news, asking if our lettuce was safe to eat.  We were able to reassure them that it was, that it all comes from our farm in Guinda, and that we have been eating our lettuce for months, along with our farmers market customers and CSA members, with very positive results.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is so important to health that it comes as a blow when people get sick from contaminated produce.  The outbreak of illnesses are terrible for the people who became ill, but also sad because these disease outbreaks erode people’s confidence in fresh produce.  Even though the number of people affected is statistically small, the problem has a big impact.  

There is a history of illness related to leafy greens, especially those that are purchased pre-washed and bagged.  Awareness of the problem in the US skyrocketed after spinach processed by Natural Selection Foods in Salinas triggered a big outbreak in 2006.  I am using the word processed here, because the ‘ready to serve’ bagged greens (lettuces, salad mixes, cut vegetables) that have become ubiquitous on supermarket shelves are part of an industry that has exploded in size in the last 25 years. The bagged, ready to eat vegetables are used in restaurants and sold in supermarkets, and have become a significant percentage of produce sales in many categories — fruit mixes, melons, apples, carrots, broccoli and other vegetables.

The industry is known as the ‘fresh-cut’ industry.  Fresh-cut processing plants for greens are large-scale, buy from many growers, and are located primarily in California and Arizona. Despite precautions to protect consumers from pathogens, there are a number of risks uniquely associated with the fresh-cut industry: cutting tender young plants, mixing them in large batches from multiple sources, and shipping them in bags that require constant refrigeration to maintain freshness and safety. These issues are very different from potential risks that might be associated with growing and marketing whole produce in a more traditional, non-processed manner.

Cutting, peeling, and grinding vegetables to make them ready-to-eat, removes natural barriers to pathogens, like peels and intact surfaces.  The wounded surfaces are exposed and may be more susceptible to infection from pathogens.  The other thing that many consumers do not realize about the bagged produce is that the greens in those bags have been rinsed in chlorinated water (even those that are labeled organic), a practice that is prohibited in some European countries due to the potential production of by-products that are bad for people’s health.

The good news is that the option of buying from a CSA or a farmers market means that your vegetables aren’t rinsed in chlorine and haven’t travelled around in specialized plastic bags with “differentially permeable films, co-extruded plastics, gas permeability…” — whatever that all means.  And even though the ‘ready to serve’ bags may be convenient, my advice is to buy whole produce in the produce section.  Wash it and cut it up yourself!  Full Belly Farm will be taking lettuce to the farmers markets this week, and we will be putting it into our CSA boxes as well.  Enjoy it without fear.  

—Judith Redmond

Our baby chicks have arrived and they’re irresistible!

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News From the Farm | April 16, 2018

Mothers’ Day Sunday always presents a plethora of options for families wanting to spoil that amazing mother (or grandmother!) for her special day. Well, we have a secret up here in the Capay Valley – the most perfect experience you could ever give your mom – the Capay Valley Mothers’ Day Garden Tour. Here are the top five reasons why this tour is exactly what that special mother (or gardening fanatic!) deserves for Mothers’ Day:

#1. It is in a spectacular setting. There is nothing more beautiful than this agricultural valley (that we are lucky enough to call home) in the middle of May. The Capay Valley is home to 5 small towns and winds through them all over 20 miles. The gardens are blooming, the temperature is typically ideal (usually in the mid 80’s) and best of all, the first fruit of the season will be starting with peaches, mulberries and strawberries!

#2. The Garden Tour is flexible in order to meet every mom’s needs. This self -guided tour lets you go when and where you want from 10 am to 5 pm. Spend the WHOLE day and visit all seven of these spectacular gardens or, if you just have a few hours, be picky and go to exactly the ones you have always wanted to see. The gardens are all so unique and each one has its own special charm. You may find it tough to choose which ones to visit!

#3. Stretch your legs and spend the day outside.  So many Mothers’ Day options involve a day of lethargy and too much to eat. Get moving and stroll through fields of lavender, rows and rows of cut flower production, a garden designed for low water use with native plants or a plantation of olive trees. While those who want a more leisurely day can go at their own pace, there are plenty of possibilities for those with movement in mind. We guarantee fresh air and plenty of sunshine!  

#4. Don’t spend too much money this Mothers’ Day and give it to a good cause! The Garden Tour is only $10 per adult, and children twelve and under are free of charge. Pretty darn reasonable in this day and age! Your dollars go towards a worthy cause. The tour is 100% a fundraiser for outdoor community projects in the Capay Valley. All proceeds from this tour will go towards establishing and enhancing garden projects in the communities of Esparto and the Capay Valley, including the historic Guinda Grange Hall restoration project. Thank you for helping keep the Capay Valley beautiful!  The Grange Hall will have delicious boxed lunch available for sale for only $12, using locally sourced organic ingredients.

#5. Educate yourself throughout the day. This year we are increasing the number of workshops at some of the gardens – a flower crown class, two floral design classes (at Full Belly Farm) and especially for children, a chance to do hands on leaf and flower printing. All of these workshops last for an hour and the cost is $10 for some (while others are free!)

At Full Belly Farm we are pulling out all of the stops. We have three gorgeous gardens to choose from and LOTS of flower fields to enjoy, along with a few lovely grassy lawns for picnicking and running around. We will definitely have our yummy strawberries for sale and lots of flower bouquets designed by our own floral specialists! The floral design workshops will be at 11am and 2 pm and we will have a “pick your own bouquet” directly following the classes.

We hope to see you on the Mothers’ Day Garden Tour on Sunday May 13th. To purchase tickets online visit www.thecapayvalleygardentour.com. Tickets may also be purchased on Mothers’ Day in the Esparto Community Park. Please call with questions – 530-796-3464.

— Dru Rivers

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News From the Farm | April 9, 2018

The Water Information report from our local Water District says that Indian Valley Reservoir received just over 11-inches of rain this year, compared to almost 31 last year.  This includes runoff from last week’s storm, which added a precious 3-inches for the two surface water sources (Clear Lake and Indian Valley Reservoir) that provide irrigation water at Full Belly Farm.  Word is that despite the very low water year overall there will be enough water in Cache Creek for our summer irrigation season.  

Spring rain creates a forceful motivator on the farm when there is a long list of projects to complete.  Not only is there a daily deadline when the sun goes down, but the promise of rain on the way means that all field activities will have to stop when the rain arrives.  Last week, tractors were still out in the fields as the first drops fell. 

We had about a 7-day window after the last storms, when fields had dried out enough for us to get to work.  So we did, planting crops that will show up in your CSA boxes over the summer: Asian, Italian and other varieties of eggplant; corn, beans and summer squash.  Our first planting of tomatoes is now in the ground and our 3rd planting of tomatoes has been seeded into trays in the greenhouse.  As usual, we have cherry tomatoes, romas, slicers and about 15 varieties of heirlooms. Getting the tomatoes into the ground is a layered process. First wemow down cover crops, then we apply compost and work it in.  Next, for tomatoes and many other summer crops, we apply a fertilizer and get the drip irrigation tape buried in the soil.  Finally we put polymulch (plastic) on the beds and then, only then when all of these preparations are complete, are we ready to get a big transplanting crew out and on the job. In some fields we only got so far as preparing the beds before the rains.  The melons and basil are waiting anxiously in the greenhouse, long overdue for planting. As soon as the soil dries out, they are next in line.

Our sheep and chickens are working very hard, munching their way through cover crops and weeds. This time of year is one of the peaks in their work responsibilities, when the grass is abundant, the weather is perfect and they are as happy as can be.  But the sheep can’t keep up with all the weed growth, and we spend many hours hoeing and cultivating so that the crops have space to grow.

No report of this week’s activities would be complete without mentioning the Celosia, Ammi, Delphiniums, Coreopsis, Gaillardia, Yarrow, Verbena and Sunflowers that got planted last week.  We are already harvesting an explosion of Anemones, Calendula, Iris, Stock, and Ranunculus that you are all welcome to enjoy by adding flowers to your produce pick-up!

The next three weeks are a time when the winter crops become scarce and the spring crops planted in February, while kicking into a major growth spurt, aren’t yet ready to be picked.  Because of that, we may have to get creative, and our members may have to be patient with the contents of the box.  But never fear, in May there will be a fanfare, a veritable Spring Bonanza, as all of the beautiful crops that we have in the ground burst onto the scene and into your boxes.

— Judith Redmond and Andrew Brait

We are happy with our potato field and it LOVED the rain.  We are expecting to start harvesting these potatoes in early May.

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