Monthly Archives: February 2019

News From the Farm

 

Stop Plastic Bags!

One advantage of being a CSA member that you may not have thought about is the very significant amount of waste that is removed from the landfill by a CSA program compared to the grocery store alternative.  We have done a little bit of analysis, comparing the packaging for the first 4 CSA boxes of the year to the packaging that we would have used if we had sold the same produce to stores, restaurants and wholesalers instead. If we had sold to stores, we would have packed the produce into 1,095 waxed cardboard boxes, 319 non-waxed cardboard boxes and 61 plastic 25-lb bags! The plastic bags and waxed cardboard boxes generally end up in the landfill so the CSA results in a pretty significant reduction in the waste stream.  

The Full Belly CSA program strives to reduce non-reusable packaging as much as possible and I believe that this may not always be true of the meal kits and other produce box options.  We first bought our Stop Waste CSA green totes in 2013 and they have been very durable and successful.  The only problem with them is that people like them so much that they are not always returned to the farm!  The only other packaging that we use are the bags inside your CSA box and we usually only need one or two bags per week, so the overall packaging is minimal.

But…  before we get too self congratulatory, I note that we are still using plastic bags, especially during the winter months.  That is because lettuce or spinach in a paper bag can result in a wet mess. In the next few months, we hope to phase out the plastic bags because there are many environmental problems that they cause, aside from the fact that they end up in the landfill. They are a unique threat because unlike other waste, they travel long distances, blown out of garbage trucks and landfills, reaching streams, rivers and the ocean where they do not biodegrade. In waterways they break apart into smaller pieces and soak up toxins, becoming a deadly threat to sea turtles, birds and marine mammals. When plastic bags are put in the recycling, they jam machinery and can be expensive to remove. These are some of the reasons that many plastic bags have been banned in California grocery, and convenience stores.

We have to find an alternative that is not cost-prohibitive, and one option is to use BioBags made from a compostable plant resin that includes non GMO corn starch.  BioBags are more expensive than plastic, but are preferable because they do not cause as many environmental problems.  In fact BioBags, if composted seem like a great solution – but that “IF” might be a big one.  If BioBags are put into the trash, they end up in the landfill and sit there, just like everything else.  Modern landfills are designed to safely entomb waste and to protect the environment from the liquids and gases that are produced during the very breakdown of waste. By design, the landfills greatly retard the degradation process to reduce the by-products that might otherwise contaminate groundwater and the air. With little exposure to air, water and sunlight the BioBags do not break down efficiently if they end up in a landfill. 

Most of our CSA service areas have curbside pick-up for compostable items.  In Alameda County and the city of Davis, BioBags can be put into the curbside compost bin for pickup.  We are checking with the Sacramento yard waste curbside pick-up to find out if that is also the case there.  So BioBags seem like the most likely solution and you will probably start to see them in your boxes soon.  

Waxed paper bags seem like another option (with a similar price point) because like BioBags, they don’t cause the environmental problems that plastic does.  But waxed paper bags should not be put into your paper recycling – in fact they can ruin entire batches of recycled paper.  Like the BioBags, waxed paper bags should be composted, but that might be less obvious to our members, since the BioBags are clearly printed with information about composting.  Perhaps we would have to print that message onto the waxed paper bags to be on the safe side.  We are interested to see which option our members would prefer.

What do you think?  We would love to hear your opinion.

—Judith Redmond

Sometimes we get enthusiastic when we pack your boxes!  Thank you Michael for sharing this photo of the big butternut squash that you found in your CSA box…

The post News From the Farm appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

News From the Farm

 

Stop Plastic Bags!

One advantage of being a CSA member that you may not have thought about is the very significant amount of waste that is removed from the landfill by a CSA program compared to the grocery store alternative.  We have done a little bit of analysis, comparing the packaging for the first 4 CSA boxes of the year to the packaging that we would have used if we had sold the same produce to stores, restaurants and wholesalers instead. If we had sold to stores, we would have packed the produce into 1,095 waxed cardboard boxes, 319 non-waxed cardboard boxes and 61 plastic 25-lb bags! The plastic bags and waxed cardboard boxes generally end up in the landfill so the CSA results in a pretty significant reduction in the waste stream.  

The Full Belly CSA program strives to reduce non-reusable packaging as much as possible and I believe that this may not always be true of the meal kits and other produce box options.  We first bought our Stop Waste CSA green totes in 2013 and they have been very durable and successful.  The only problem with them is that people like them so much that they are not always returned to the farm!  The only other packaging that we use are the bags inside your CSA box and we usually only need one or two bags per week, so the overall packaging is minimal.

But…  before we get too self congratulatory, I note that we are still using plastic bags, especially during the winter months.  That is because lettuce or spinach in a paper bag can result in a wet mess. In the next few months, we hope to phase out the plastic bags because there are many environmental problems that they cause, aside from the fact that they end up in the landfill. They are a unique threat because unlike other waste, they travel long distances, blown out of garbage trucks and landfills, reaching streams, rivers and the ocean where they do not biodegrade. In waterways they break apart into smaller pieces and soak up toxins, becoming a deadly threat to sea turtles, birds and marine mammals. When plastic bags are put in the recycling, they jam machinery and can be expensive to remove. These are some of the reasons that many plastic bags have been banned in California grocery, and convenience stores.

We have to find an alternative that is not cost-prohibitive, and one option is to use BioBags made from a compostable plant resin that includes non GMO corn starch.  BioBags are more expensive than plastic, but are preferable because they do not cause as many environmental problems.  In fact BioBags, if composted seem like a great solution – but that “IF” might be a big one.  If BioBags are put into the trash, they end up in the landfill and sit there, just like everything else.  Modern landfills are designed to safely entomb waste and to protect the environment from the liquids and gases that are produced during the very breakdown of waste. By design, the landfills greatly retard the degradation process to reduce the by-products that might otherwise contaminate groundwater and the air. With little exposure to air, water and sunlight the BioBags do not break down efficiently if they end up in a landfill. 

Most of our CSA service areas have curbside pick-up for compostable items.  In Alameda County and the city of Davis, BioBags can be put into the curbside compost bin for pickup.  We are checking with the Sacramento yard waste curbside pick-up to find out if that is also the case there.  So BioBags seem like the most likely solution and you will probably start to see them in your boxes soon.  

Waxed paper bags seem like another option (with a similar price point) because like BioBags, they don’t cause the environmental problems that plastic does.  But waxed paper bags should not be put into your paper recycling – in fact they can ruin entire batches of recycled paper.  Like the BioBags, waxed paper bags should be composted, but that might be less obvious to our members, since the BioBags are clearly printed with information about composting.  Perhaps we would have to print that message onto the waxed paper bags to be on the safe side.  We are interested to see which option our members would prefer.

What do you think?  We would love to hear your opinion.

—Judith Redmond

Sometimes we get enthusiastic when we pack your boxes!  Thank you Michael for sharing this photo of the big butternut squash that you found in your CSA box…

The post News From the Farm appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

Almond Festival

 

The entire Capay Valley turns out for the Almond Festival, from the fire department to the library, to celebrate our agricultural bedrock. The 105th Capay Valley Almond Festival is on Sunday, February 23rd and there are activities including food for sale, music and a crafts show, in each town of the Valley, from Esparto to Rumsey.  Full Belly farm will participate in the Rumsey farmers market and will be serving our Wood Fired Pizzas. 

The post Almond Festival appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

News From the Farm

Three  beds of tulips have all started to bloom at once, the first flowers available for 2019. They will be available at our farmers markets: Berkeley on Tuesday afternoon; San Rafael on Thursday morning and Palo Alto on Saturday morning. 

What You Ate Last Year  – On our Full Belly web site in our description of our Community Supported Agriculture program, we promise that if you join, you will “eat the freshest, most nutritious fruits and vegetables available.”  There are lots of ways to parse that promise, but this week we’re going to take a look at our program using a pretty straightforward metric:  What did we deliver to you in your boxes last year?

The Full Belly boxes, filled with the harvest from this farm alone, are seasonal, with the hot summer standing out as quite different from the cooler months.  The summer staples in 2018 were melons, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant (all were in your boxes 12 weeks during the summer).  Beans of several kinds also made a pretty regular appearance.  Cucumbers (6 weeks), basil (5 weeks), summer squash (4 weeks) peaches (2 weeks), apricots (1 week), plums (1 week) and corn (one week) were in shorter supply.  Some summers we are happy to send more stone fruit, but 2018 just wasn’t a good year for the peaches and apricots on our farm.  Lack of labor to pick some of the crops like summer squash and basil sometimes had an impact on our ability to put them in your boxes more often.  It may be that there is a little less variety in the summer than in the rest of the year, but it’s hard to argue with summer melons, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant!

The winter, spring and fall are FULL of variety, with the staples being greens, alliums (onions, leeks and garlic), carrots, lettuce, potatoes and winter squash.  The Greens category is a fun one — there were many weeks when the boxes had more than one kind.  Here’s a list of greens we put in the 2018 boxes, for those of you who are thinking back and remembering your favorite meals: spinach, collards, chard, dino kale, karinata kale, mizuna, red Russian kale, box choi, arugula, joi choi, and broccoli raab.  We hope that all of our members are comfortable in the kitchen with these vegetables.

What gave real structure to your diet and to the cool weather CSA boxes was an inspiring list of stalwarts that made a frequent appearance, sometimes every other week or so, often taking the place of one of the more common items. Broccoli, grapes in the fall, cabbage, beets, spring strawberries, various herbs, radishes, spring asparagus, rutabagas and turnips fall into this category.  It’s true that there are things on this list that some of our new members aren’t necessarily jumping up and down about, but I think that there are definitely a few that hit a home run.

The final group of surprises in your boxes are special treats that are only available a few weeks out of the year.  It is increasingly difficult for us to grow these specialty items because farm labor is scarce, expenses are high, and efficiency is at a premium on farms these days.  Nonetheless, we are likely to stubbornly continue to experiment and grow the oddballs, simply because they make farming and eating fun, not because they make money for the farm.  These are the crops that get planted secretly.  They don’t come up at the crop planning meeting.  They aren’t on the spreadsheets.  The seed packets turn up in someone’s back pocket, supposedly as an afterthought. We are trying to break the habit of artichokes, cranberry beans, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and guavas, but we are addicts, rebel farmers who know we need to sharpen our pencils, but haven’t quite gotten there yet.  

It’s this interplay between “get-dinner-on-the-table-it’s-a-school-night” and “what-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-this?” that our wonderful CSA members have to put up with.  The staples and the specialties; the common and the rare; the profit and the loss and certainly also the hit and the miss.  We sincerely hope that the home runs more than made up for the foul balls in 2018 and we want all of our members to know that we appreciate you tremendously!  Keep eating your fresh fruits and veggies!

—Judith Redmond

Our sheep are lambing! As of early Monday morning (2/4) 17 have been born.  This lamb is taking its first steps.

The post News From the Farm appeared first on Full Belly Farm.

News From the Farm

Three  beds of tulips have all started to bloom at once, the first flowers available for 2019. They will be available at our farmers markets: Berkeley on Tuesday afternoon; San Rafael on Thursday morning and Palo Alto on Saturday morning. 

What You Ate Last Year  – On our Full Belly web site in our description of our Community Supported Agriculture program, we promise that if you join, you will “eat the freshest, most nutritious fruits and vegetables available.”  There are lots of ways to parse that promise, but this week we’re going to take a look at our program using a pretty straightforward metric:  What did we deliver to you in your boxes last year?

The Full Belly boxes, filled with the harvest from this farm alone, are seasonal, with the hot summer standing out as quite different from the cooler months.  The summer staples in 2018 were melons, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant (all were in your boxes 12 weeks during the summer).  Beans of several kinds also made a pretty regular appearance.  Cucumbers (6 weeks), basil (5 weeks), summer squash (4 weeks) peaches (2 weeks), apricots (1 week), plums (1 week) and corn (one week) were in shorter supply.  Some summers we are happy to send more stone fruit, but 2018 just wasn’t a good year for the peaches and apricots on our farm.  Lack of labor to pick some of the crops like summer squash and basil sometimes had an impact on our ability to put them in your boxes more often.  It may be that there is a little less variety in the summer than in the rest of the year, but it’s hard to argue with summer melons, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant!

The winter, spring and fall are FULL of variety, with the staples being greens, alliums (onions, leeks and garlic), carrots, lettuce, potatoes and winter squash.  The Greens category is a fun one — there were many weeks when the boxes had more than one kind.  Here’s a list of greens we put in the 2018 boxes, for those of you who are thinking back and remembering your favorite meals: spinach, collards, chard, dino kale, karinata kale, mizuna, red Russian kale, box choi, arugula, joi choi, and broccoli raab.  We hope that all of our members are comfortable in the kitchen with these vegetables.

What gave real structure to your diet and to the cool weather CSA boxes was an inspiring list of stalwarts that made a frequent appearance, sometimes every other week or so, often taking the place of one of the more common items. Broccoli, grapes in the fall, cabbage, beets, spring strawberries, various herbs, radishes, spring asparagus, rutabagas and turnips fall into this category.  It’s true that there are things on this list that some of our new members aren’t necessarily jumping up and down about, but I think that there are definitely a few that hit a home run.

The final group of surprises in your boxes are special treats that are only available a few weeks out of the year.  It is increasingly difficult for us to grow these specialty items because farm labor is scarce, expenses are high, and efficiency is at a premium on farms these days.  Nonetheless, we are likely to stubbornly continue to experiment and grow the oddballs, simply because they make farming and eating fun, not because they make money for the farm.  These are the crops that get planted secretly.  They don’t come up at the crop planning meeting.  They aren’t on the spreadsheets.  The seed packets turn up in someone’s back pocket, supposedly as an afterthought. We are trying to break the habit of artichokes, cranberry beans, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and guavas, but we are addicts, rebel farmers who know we need to sharpen our pencils, but haven’t quite gotten there yet.  

It’s this interplay between “get-dinner-on-the-table-it’s-a-school-night” and “what-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-this?” that our wonderful CSA members have to put up with.  The staples and the specialties; the common and the rare; the profit and the loss and certainly also the hit and the miss.  We sincerely hope that the home runs more than made up for the foul balls in 2018 and we want all of our members to know that we appreciate you tremendously!  Keep eating your fresh fruits and veggies!

—Judith Redmond

Our sheep are lambing! As of early Monday morning (2/4) 17 have been born.  This lamb is taking its first steps.

The post News From the Farm appeared first on Full Belly Farm.