News & Photos

October 30, 2018

Happy Halloween and fall greetings from the fields. The season of orange is upon us (no pun intended). Orange winter squash, peppers, persimmons and pumpkins abound with shades of yellow and orange along with their purple leaves quaking in the breeze.
 
Temperatures have not really dropped that much and we are still awaiting our first rains. It’s dry but we needed to get the cover crops going so we are irrigating them to get a growth jump before the colder weather hits. It’s best to get things up and going before mid-November, otherwise growth is slowed down significantly. The same goes for the winter vegetable crops too. Most all of fall/winter plantings are now in the ground and it’s time now to start looking forward to different chores.
 
Okay, it’s election season and we’re going to get political here. The reason being that there are some real changes happening that are having an effect on us all. We have to realize our own part we play in the future. It’s important to be thinking about what kind of a world we are going to leave for our children. Not just our children, but our children’s children’s children’s children.That is what is at stake.
 
Because of the divisive and destructive behavior of our elected representatives, which include leaving the EPA in ruins, we are facing potential ecological collapse of the systems that we rely on, including the climate.
 
Fear mongering and political division are exacerbating other problems like the immigration crisis, general hyper partisanship and hostile public discourse that leads to inaction or worse, violent behavior, as manifested in recent events.
 
Voting is just one thing we can do but voting with your dollars is an even better choice. A better world is possible but we may have to take it upon ourselves to make that happen regardless; what we do now does effect that. Using less fossil fuels and more renewable energy does that. Using less single use plastics does that. Speaking truth loudly does that. Not allowing an authoritarian government controlled by large concentrated corporations to take political control of our lives does that.… Read the rest

October 16, 2018

The nights are getting longer, and with it come cool and crisp mornings. The field crew appreciates that we start out with 15 minutes of exercise before they start out into the fields. Gets the blood flowing and the muscles stretched.

The days continue to be sunny and warm but there’s just a little less of it and the shadows creep across the fields a little earlier every day. Soon our final plantings will be in the ground for the year. Most crops we grow need more days to mature this time of year. The time it took to grow a crop to maturity of cilantro or spinach during July was 45 days but now they will require about 55-60 days. We have to plan for that since we try to have a consistent supply of certain crops and that means having extra open ground available in the fall.

With that and the mixing in of the odd patches of cover crop, this part of the year is just as busy as the springtime planting only with the addition of a full lineup of crops to be harvested.  Woo hoo! Can’t wait until it really slows down…..… Read the rest

October 2, 2018

Fall is in the air. You can feel that the season has changed as we round the corner into fall. The leaves on the trees are changing color and the first chestnuts are falling on our Ocean St. Extension Farm.
 
We just had our final farm dinner of 2018 out there on that farm, under the big chestnut and it was a lovely and delicious evening. Everyone, including those who worked it, seemed to be stoked to celebrate the fall equinox with our guest chef Diego Felix of Colectivo Felix and our perennial guest winemaker Denis Hoey of Odonata Wines. It’s always great to share and connect with folks and to see what’s possible in this land of potential abundance. We hope that this special place remains special and protected for many generations and I think everyone that visits feels it as well.

The fall crop lineup still includes a lot of summer crops that will continue until the real cold weather begins. So far tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and a few melons are coming in. Mixed in with those are the late season crops like apples, potatoes, kale, broccoli, arugula, the various chicories, beets and the winter squash mix of delicata and kabochas. Persimmons are showing their first orange blush so that means they should be coming on at the end of October. Here’s to a bountiful fall season for all of us!… Read the rest

September 11, 2018

It is hard to believe that September is upon us already. It is the peak season and everything we have planted for summer, in addition to our year round crops, is contributing to a crescendo of variety that is hard to keep track of.  I think we counted 58 different food crop items and 7 flower crops on our tables at the farmers markets this week.  It is pretty mind-boggling for a farm our size. Some might think it’s insane but there is a bit of method to this big bunch of madness. Diversity as a strategy for organic/ecological pest control is one of the best ways to mimic how nature creates its own balance and thus be less dependent on conventional forms of control. 
 
We humans have gone through an evolution of food production that likely started out using natural systems in very small localized conditions. Then as agriculture became more widespread, it went through phases of trial and error until we reached what we thought was the pinnacle of modern science. In this mass production scale mono-cropping type of agriculture, success was achieved for a time by trying to control every aspect of the food system regardless of what was going on around it. What was going on around it was nature starting to fight back by trying it’s best to repopulate ecological diversity with its natural control agents, namely insects, weeds and diseases. Man succeeded for a time in suppressing nature. This success is now seen as temporary as it has become harder and harder to fend off ever more resistant diseases and pests in the agricultural sphere by having to develop more powerful forms of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Much of agriculture, even conventional,  is starting to take notice and is implementing biological controls more and more, not because of appearances but because they actually work in the long term. The old adage that “Nature knows best” still applies.
 
Speaking of nature, the climate is being fickle this year. The usual summer heat we get near the coast in September is not showing up so far but we are hoping to see some sunnier weather before the end of the month arrives.  In the meantime, enjoy the bounty and the diversity!… Read the rest

July 24, 2018

Keeping up is the name of the game in late July. It’s full summer mayhem in the fields right now. Every day it seems like another summer crop is maturing. We have been patiently waiting for tomato season and as of today, it is on! Quantities will be increasing daily and it will soon overwhelm us as usual, but like I say, it’s better to have too much than to not have enough! 
 
Although we are not baking like some folks inland, we are getting a fair amount of sun after the fog burns off. Nighttime temperatures are remaining warm due to the coastal fog cover that rolls in. Due to this, there is an acceleration of the ripening of crops. The Early Girl, heirloom and Sungold cherry tomatoes are all pumping out the first few colorful boxes. You should be seeing them at the local farmers markets this week. 
 
Pest issues have been minimal this year thanks to our very diverse plantings and the surrounding natural habitats. The one exception is that the Italian basil is now starting to be impacted by the dreaded black mold which infects the underside of the basil leaves. This has become more and more of a problem in recent years and we have yet to find a resistant variety to combat it.
 
Despite that mold issue on the basil, all the fruit crops are looking good. The Blenheim apricots came off well for us this year and the plums are ongoing and looking and smelling great! 
 
We placed all of our pheromone lures in the apple trees. These traps confuse the Codling Moth once it starts looking to reproduce and multiply; the proverbial worm in the apple. It’s the single best non-toxic effective control known. The apples are delayed this year but the fruit set looks good. Enjoy the summer!  Fall will be here before we know it…… Read the rest

July 10, 2018

The aromas on the farm are all the more potent due to the hot and sunny days we have had of late. Most of the smells wafting around are good…the surrounding redwoods, the bay laurel trees and of course all our patches of culinary herbs.
 
Now the added smell of ripening summer fruit is in the air. Plums, peaches and apricots are all changing colors and emitting their intoxicating aromas. It’s a great time but it also means the workload is doubling up. If there were 18 hours of daylight, it might still not be enough for us.
 
Irrigating, harvesting and weeding, they all need doing. Our walk in cooler is overflowing on a daily basis as we try to keep up with the summer bounty. We try to set aside times for all the different jobs but the daily harvest requirements leave very little time for much else. Prioritizing what needs to get done versus what has to wait is the game right now. 
 
It’s always interesting to see how people’s food choices change with the seasons. We end up selling a lot less kale and lettuce once summer fruit season starts. Makes sense right?  Fresh fruit is only around for a much shorter window, so why not make the most of it while you can? 
 
Flowers of all different kinds are also in bloom, finally. The majestic sunflowers, spiky gladiolas and the eye-catching dahlias all break up the neat crop rows and make work a little more pleasant.
 
If you haven’t been to a farmers’ market in a while, now is a great time to go. The diversity of vegetables, fruit and flowers is truly inspiring and eye catching!… Read the rest

June 26, 2018

Our regular weekly plantings this spring are now awakening. The cool days of May delayed some of the crops but have now given way to a Summer Solstice explosion. Everything seems to be happening all at once. Well almost everything. Except for a couple rogue early cherry tomatoes, we have yet to see any ripe tomatoes, peppers or tree fruit but that doesn’t mean the rest of the crops aren’t absolutely going bonkers. 
 
Our time is now being spent mostly picking pallet after pallet of cilantro, lettuce, fennel, radicchio, spinach and other greens and root crops. Other summery things are coming into maturity as well. Crops such as flowers, basil and zucchini are keeping us hopping with precious little time to do much else. Once this initial plethora has evened out we’ll get into a more consistent rhythm of harvest, cultivation, weed control, irrigation and more planting.
 
Maintaining a diverse local food culture has been a long term goal of ours in the farming community.  We are always looking for new crops to grow and experiment with year after year. In addition to that, a lot of what we do, instead of just the hard work of growing food, goes into keeping markets open and strong. It also goes beyond just maintaining, it also includes laying the groundwork for a longer term infrastructure. Shopping at a local farmers market or buying into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share is still a relatively small part of the overall food system in our community; even though we may have a big head start over other communities. There’s still room for it to grow and change and become more varied in what is available, affordable and consistent. Thanks to all who share our common concerns and goals!… Read the rest

June 12, 2018

Harvest time is starting to gather steam as temperatures are really starting to warm up.  We are harvesting pallet loads of cilantro, fennel, radicchio, dill, lettuce, spinach and dandelion greens for our wholesale accounts with an even more diverse list of crops for our local retail and wholesale accounts. We are happy to see things finally warming up to the point where we are on the cusp of summertime abundance. It’s hard to believe we are less than 2 weeks away from the summer solstice!
 
We have what is likely our full crew both in the field and at the markets. The larger labor issues facing agriculture have become obvious to us.  We simply aren’t getting any new and qualified field workers coming by looking for work. By qualified, I mean reliable, capable and skilled farm workers; people who really know the work and have the skills to make the whole process work smoothly and efficiently. So, we are doing our best to hang on to the people we have and make the workplace satisfying, interesting and most of all worth it for them. We wish we could be even more productive but this is the limiting factor we face right now. Regardless, we are staying true to our principals and standards and thank everyone for supporting us while we do so.
 
It is hard not to be concerned these days. I am not going to sugarcoat the realities facing the future of food. It is something that is invisible to most because of our dependence on supermarkets to supply us with an abundance of everything at any time of the year. We may not be noticing it but California’s fresh food production, as we’ve known it, is in a slow motion collapse and moving elsewhere. There aren’t enough people and there isn’t the financial viability to keep it going without some kind of reset.
 
The vast majority of people have over the last 100 years, disconnected from our agricultural roots.  This is a choice made, whether consciously or unconsciously, as a result of technology moving us towards convenience and alternate priorities.… Read the rest

May 29, 2018

Turning the corner from spring into summer has been a slow dance this year.  Here we are after Memorial Day weekend and I can honestly say it’s the coolest May I can remember.  I’d say most warm weather crops are a good 3-4 weeks behind schedule due to the cool daytime temperatures here on the Central Coast.  The cooler temperatures have kept the soil temperatures cooler as well, which is what really counts. Not to fret though, our warm weather crops will come into maturity and you will see summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, peppers, basil and much more in your CSA boxes and at the farmers markets!
 
A lot of farmers have resorted to using hoop houses to help get an early jump on the season but so far we have resisted due to the massive amounts of plastic involved. We are however starting more things in the greenhouse for transplanting, rather than direct seeding in the field, than we have in done in previous years.
 
A 25′ X 50′ greenhouse can hold 6 to 8 acres worth of transplants at a time. It’s a very efficient use of covered space when you need an early jump on the season. It also gives farmers the opportunity to still have a crop growing in the ground when the next successive crop has a 4-6 week head start. It’s not all gloomy though as the cool weather crops are doing really well.  For us this is our bread and butter, as our cool coastal growing niche stands out when the mercury soars further inland.

It looks like we are going to have an apricot crop as they are still hanging in and hanging on. No sign of the tree squirrels getting at them like we have seen in the past.
 
Even though there are still pockets of green grass up on the North Coast, the hills around here are showing hints of turning from green to a tanned blonde so we should start to see the deer becoming more and more interested in our irrigated field crops.  Not to worry though, pretty much all our fields are protected by fencing which, except on rare occasions, keeps the deer just looking in and onto our fields.

Read the rest

May 15, 2018

With the growing season fully underway, the fields are starting to fill up. Our regular weekly plantings of this year’s crop mix are on schedule but the cool weather is delaying some early crops that are usually coming on strong by now. It’s been a pretty cool spring although that February heat wave was pretty bizarre. We continue to harvest cool loving crops like cilantro, lettuce, dandelions, dill, chard, kale, etc. The warm weather loving crops are longing for the warm days; the basil, tomato and summer squash are in a holding pattern until we get some heat. Winter squash plantings continue and we should have them all planted out by the end of May. Another thing that we need to get done by the end of May is to have all the citrus trees pruned back. Doing that early in the season enables the stimulated new growth to get plenty of strength and hardiness before the winter arrives. The lighter harvest load right now is giving us some time to take care of some of the peripheral chores, at least for the moment.

With reports of recent food related outbreaks of E.coli, we have had people asking us if it’s safe to eat romaine lettuce. The answer is yes, but it is a trust based decision for everyone. The best thing is if you actually know the farmer and can ask them questions. Ask yourself if  you know if it’s locally produced and from a farmer who has good growing and harvesting practices? This question really needs to be addressed because with some practices, both in the field and in processing facilities, there are inherent high risks.

Whole heads are much safer than lettuce that is cut and packaged into plastic bags. Other questions to ask are how many hands have actually touched the product, do employees wash their hands, etc.? Some of the cut salad product is actually cut and cored in the field. This particular outbreak has been traced to product out of Yuma, Arizona and processed in a factory where product gets cut, washed and mixed with items from many different sources, then packaged in plastic bags which tend to become little incubators for food-borne pathogens.… Read the rest