Monthly Archives: July 2021

News From the Farm | July 26, 2021

Last week was a big one for harvesting eggplants and melons, just like the week before. It’s been a great year so far for both, in terms of yield and taste, especially the melons, and you’ve probably tasted. If you missed it, here’s the scoop on how we harvest both. And it was a big week for the flower crew too, but it’s always a big week for the flower crew. The everyone in the field is almost exclusively focused on harvesting crops, with some weeding and tractor work mixed in, and the irrigation team has plenty to do, setting up and maintaining drip tape, and moving sprinklers. The winter squash are up and some are starting to set fruit. Before we know it, well be focusing on getting other fall crops in the ground, whether by direct seed or transplant, but we arent to that point yet.

Those of us in the shop and office handle selling, washing, packing, and transporting the produce. Additionally, Paul was on the news, with some footage of the fields, and our crews at work. You can watch and read the coverage focusing on the ongoing battle about allowing Organic Certification for hydroponic and aquaponic operations and the Real Organic Project certification and consumer education work that we’re involved in.

In the CSA side of the office, I’ve been processing a lot of skip requests (as makes sense during period of high summer travel), signing up new members from our waiting list, and fielding various questions and inquiries. Based on some recent feedback from our site hosts (including our Farmers Market teams) and various questions and issues that we’ve received via phone and email it seemed like a good time to go over a couple of the CSA protocols. Even if you’ve been with us for a long time, or just joined last week and recently read all of the information we shared with you, please read it over again, just to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Scheduling and ordering:

Many people are back to traveling and we’re happy to accommodate skip or donation requests but please don’t forget to tell us with enough advance notice. You can submit a skip or donation request in your online account, or you can do the same via email or phone. We request four days advance notice and if emailing or calling, please provide your full name and the exact dates you want to skip (instead of referencing “this week” or “next week”), and site location. If you happen to know your account number, then we can know that we are making adjustments for the correct person. We have a surprising number of CSA members with the same, or very similar names

Special orders or renewals should also be requested four or more days before your pickup.

Even if it is less than four days before, if you will not be able to pick up your box, please let us know. We may be able to skip your box, but at the least, it’s helpful to let site hosts know if they’ll have an extra.

If you have not set up an online account yet but would like to, please let us know.

Picking up your box:

If you receive the Full Belly Beet the day before your pickup (almost always sent out by late morning), it means you have a box and/or flowers. If you don’t receive it, it means that there isn’t anything scheduled for you.

Before taking anything, please check the sign-in sheet to see that your name is on it, and what you have this week. If your name is not on the list, do not take anything and contact us instead, either by email or by phone, so we can figure out what the situations is.

Once you take your box and/or flowers, please sign or initial next to your name. We may not get the sign out sheet back for more than a week so if you have messages to convey to us (dates you want to skip, missing items, etc.) please email or call with that information; do not write it on the sheet.

Take a complete box; do not open other boxes or exchange produce between boxes. If your site has a swap box, great! Otherwise, please take all produce with you from your box.

Please leave the box at the site and just take your produce and/or flowers.

If you are sending a friend or family member to pick up your box while you are away, please share all of the pickup information and procedures with them.

Please continue to practice social distancing when picking up your box and allow everyone plenty of space.

When picking up flowers, make sure that the stems of the remaining flowers are still in the water for the subsequent flower pickups.

Communication:

If there is any problem with your box, or any issue at the pickup site, please let us know as soon as possible. We are always open to feedback, negative or positive, about your experience in the CSA, as well as recipe ideas and anything else you want to share. We aren’t always able to make changes to address each piece of feedback that we receive, but we do share it with the rest of the partners and farm leadership and appreciate the connection with our CSA members.

When emailing us, please use csa@fullbellyfarm.com and when calling, the best number is (800) 791-2110. Other farm numbers don’t reach us directly, thus increasing the chance of something not working correctly.

Thank you for reading this long list! The majority of the time when someone doesn’t get their box, it’s not a result of theft but instead accidental pick-ups by other CSA members. Given how many boxes, flowers, and special order items we send out each week, the number of issues that come up are pretty low, but it’s always disappointing when someone doesn’t get their box, and we want to honor your skip requests and get you your special orders on the day that you request. Hopefully these reminders help us and you minimize those disappointing events.

Elaine Swiedler (CSA Manager) & the rest of the CSA Team

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News From the Farm | July 19, 2021

The news from the farm from the past week is: eggplants and melons. And more eggplant and more melons. While our tomatoes are growing frustratingly slowly (we hope to have them in the boxes soon) these two crops are thriving right now and thus are worth diving into, accompanied by some photos of our crew at work.

Eggplant:

How do you harvest eggplants? With clippers, and ideally with long sleeves and gloves too since they can have thorns. Each picker has a 5-gallon bucket that they fill up and empty into the macro bins on the back of the tractor, separated by type. Right now, the eggplant plants are small enough for our tall harvest tractor to drive over them, but soon enough, they’ll be too tall to fit under, eventually growing up to four feet. Soon, the tractor will move over to one of the rows of basil we intercrop between every few eggplant rows. The rows of basil leave plenty of clearance for the tractor and attract pollinators because we leave sections to go to flower.

   

When the bins on the tractor are full, the tractor heads back to the shop where the eggplant are sorted, washed (and the water also serves to cool them down) and then packed for orders or CSA boxes.

This year, an additional reason to pay attention to our eggplants (in addition to their beautiful flowers and tasty fruit) is that these fields are part of an experiment looking at no-till farming and how it impacts soil health and plant yields. Tillage is how you prepare the soil for planting and control for weeds and no-till, or low-till, fields disturb the soil less, which is better for soil health. It’s long been used in the midwest for commodity corn and soy, but with the aid of herbicides, and the research for no-till in commercial organic production is lacking. We’re part of a group of organic farms trialing no-till farming methods. No-till farming could be the subject of this week, and every week’s, News from the Farm but since we need to talk about melons too, those who are interested in learning more about the research group and the background science can catch up with this piece from Civil Eats, this short update from CalCAN, or even watch the webinar that Paul participated in this year that the CalCAN blog references.

   

No Till                                                    With Plastic Mulch

The result is that we’ve got eggplant rows with and without tillage and without plastic mulch (for weed control, water conservation, and early season soil insulation) and all possible combinations. The jury is still out, but we’re very interested to see how the plants do. As of right now, they all seem to be doing great.

Boxes eggplant ready to be delivered

Melons:

We grow many different melons. We plant a lot of some varieties, and much less of others. Some ripen all at once, some are staggered. Some are slip melons (the stem separates from the melon when ripe) while others aren’t. Some need to be refrigerated once harvested while others don’t need to.

The few things that are consistent is that we harvest them ripe and while we’ve got some staples and clear favorites, we’re always willing to experiment with a few new varieties.

Like the eggplants, a tractor goes through the field pulling a trailer of large bins. The harvest crews pick up melons, add them to their harvest bags, and then when full, empty them into the bins. Except for watermelon, which are too heavy for the bags and go straight into the bin. Depending on the type of melon, we may only go over a row once, or we may visit it a few times to catch them all. After harvest, the melons head over to the shop where they’ll go through the washer, get sorted and then they too get boxed up and sent to their new homes.

Enjoy these two tasty summer fruits!

Elaine Swiedler, CSA Manager

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News From the Farm | July 12, 2021

We are having some very hot days here at the farm, an experience that we share with other inland Californians. The heat is bringing on the produce. Trucks and trailers full of melons, eggplants, peppers, beans and other delicious summer treats are driving along the farm’s dirt roads, from the fields and to the packing shed, in a parade that reaches a crescendo at the end of the day as the harvest is completed. It is ‘all hands on deck’ in the packing shed then, when several dozen people finish the last packaging, put produce in the coolers and load trucks.  Each day is incredibly detail laden, full of troubleshooting, decision making and continuous attempts to balance multiple needs.

                             

Samples of the new varieties of tomatoes, peppers or eggplants that are ready are brought into the office nested in someone’s T-shirt, found while scouting the fields. Green, orange, red, purple and all the colors of the rainbow are on show.  A list of availabilities shows that there are pallets of melons ready for new homes off the farm.  This is what the sales team lives for, each summertime of bounty when we can offer up sweet abundance.

The heat and drought inject a sense of uncertainty about the future — Will it rain next winter?  Will we damp down our planet-warming activities sufficiently to avoid the worst of climate change?  Not that there is any uncertainty about the reality itself, just about our ability to respond.  Climate change drove this heat wave and made it hotter than it would have been. Think of the town of Lytton in British Columbia which first suffered the country’s highest-ever temperature (121.3F) and then, the next day burned to the ground in the first week of July as hot, dry and windy conditions pushed a fire through town.

June 2021 was the hottest on record for interior California including the Sierra Nevada and southeastern deserts.  There were 175 all-time record high temperatures set in Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho between June 25th and 30th.  Hot, dry conditions have all kinds of effects — like the massive population of grasshoppers that is attacking everything green in Oregon and Montana.  The drought provides ideal conditions for their eggs to hatch and for the grasshoppers to survive into adulthood.  The USDA is engaged in a massive spraying program to attack the grasshoppers, while organic farmers in the landscape are fighting to protect their certification.

Agriculture can be a net sink for greenhouse gasses because of the ability to sequester carbon in soil and plants and also because of the very important opportunities in agriculture to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions.  The authorities will quibble about some of the details, but one thing is clear.  It is critically important right now that we keep plants and especially trees growing on the land. Agriculturally-driven deforestation, the conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural land, and urbanization are the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

Each of us can change elements of our lifestyle to reduce our personal climate footprint, but we should also take the present opportunity to encourage change at the federal level.  Congress is debating the Climate Stewardship Act and the Agricultural Resilience Act. The legislation would double Farm Bill conservation funding; triple research and extension project funding; and invest in rural and food system resilience over the next ten years. The Climate Stewardship Act would support planting trees and reviving deforested landscapes.  The California Climate and Agriculture Network is asking all of us to take action in support of these policies by calling or emailing our Senators and Representatives.

Our great grandkids and future generations of farmers may look back on these times and thank us for peering over the brink and then turning back. If we are organized and strategic, they too will have the opportunity to get sweet summer melons and tomatoes from their local farmer.

Judith Redmond

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News From the Farm | July 5, 2021

We keep reaching various milestones that make me think “well now it’s officially summer.” The first sungold cherry tomato, the first slice of watermelon, the first okra, the list goes on and on. In addition to all the great produce, summer for us means there’s even more to do. More to water, sell, harvest, sort, wash, pack, load, transport, and deliver. And we still need to plant and maintain fall crops so that we’ll have things to harvest when the summer crops (eventually) wind down.

Summer means that everyone is busier, but it was most apparent to me last week when looking at the truckload process at the end of the day. This is an important part of running the farm because it’s how the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor are delivered to CSA sites, grocery stores, farmers markets, restaurants, and wholesalers. This is a big task. First, we choose the right size truck to fit everything based on the orders that need to be delivered the next day. Then, it’s important that the right boxes go into the correct truck, that they’re loaded in the right order, and that they’re arranged and handled in order to keep them in good condition. There’s no point in carefully harvesting and packing a CSA box, flat of peaches, or bucket of bouquets if it doesn’t get to the person expecting it, or if it arrives damaged. This task, part Tetris, part Jenga, part magic, is spearheaded by Jose and Ben, executed by the intern crew, with Rye, Pancho, and Jan on hand on many days as well. It’s a flurry of activity – moving things around with pallet jacks, securing boxes with straps and shrink wrap, checking and double-checking various lists and box labels to make sure that everything is going in the right truck in the right order.

Like everything else at the farm, truckload also gets busier during the summer when we’ve got larger quantities of produce to deliver, including some really heavy items, like melons, and some delicate things, like stone fruit. It’s the same job, but now with larger volumes, more customers, and potentially more trucks to think about, it’s a little more complex and certainly takes longer.

When the last item is loaded, the doors of the truck are closed, the refrigeration units are switched on so that the produce stays fresh, and then the trucks are ready to go for the next morning when our drivers head out really early on their delivery routes. And they know that when they get to their first stop, the items they need won’t be packed all the way at the back!

It’s difficult to really understand the end of the day truckload via photo, but see below for an idea of what the end of our day looks like.

Starting with an empty truck

Just some of the items to load

Lyla with her finished masterpiece

Making final additions to a market truck

Pancho getting ready to close the door on a very full truck

 

Elaine Swiedler

CSA Manager

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