News & Photos

June 21, 2016

Happy Summer Solstice as well as happy strawberry full moon! The gravitational pull of the moon in tandem with the longest days of the year are combining to accelerate plant growth to the max!

So much is happening all at once, it’s been difficult to keep up with it all. Usually, nature will ramp up slowly but it seems that this year it’s full throttle out of the gate.  It’s a fine balancing act to keep up with consistent weekly plantings but at the same time keeping up with what we already have in the ground. Between the row crops, flowers, and the more long-term summer crops like peppers and tomatoes, finding time to deal with the permanent fruit tree crops is a challenge.

Speaking of tree crops, it’s an ON year for the avocados. Yay! The good thing about them is that you can spread out the harvest over a much longer period then say stone fruit, so there is some flexibility in finding time to get up in the trees.

As we move into summer there are fruit crops that are starting to ripen. Green Gage plums are sweetening up with the peaches aren’t too far behind. As I was walking the fields I noticed some ripe Sun Gold cherry tomatoes on our Ocean St. Extension farm. This is the first year we have ever harvested outdoor grown ripe tomatoes before July.  Guess we need to find the time to start staking them up. Maybe by the light of the full moon?  Ha ha.

I am happy to say that the water situation is holding out and it looks like we will be okay this year. We are putting in a new drip irrigation system in the orchard up at our Rancho Del Oso fields, in order to conserve water.  Getting regular water to where it’s needed will keep the trees healthier and also make the job of irrigating trees (especially new ones) a heck of a lot easier than it’s been in the  past.

Welcome to all of our new and returning CSA shareholders! … Read the rest

June 7, 2016

We were very excited to begin our 28 week CSA last Tuesday after we had to put our winter CSA on hiatus. We look forward to an increasingly diverse mix of crops for all to enjoy as the season progresses.

Things are looking pretty good out in our fields. There’s a good flow on Waddell Creek and the groundwater on Ocean St. Extension seems to be holding its’ own for now. It may take a couple of years of more normal rainfall to get the aquifer fully recharged but this year we are assured enough water to get us through the season if we use the available water wisely.

Pretty much every one of the 55 acres we farm have gone through the transition from winter crop and/or cover crop into freshly worked ground with lots of compost spread and shaped up into new beds ready or already planted. It’s kind of surprising that some of the very first areas planted in early spring have been harvested and are getting ready for round 2!

The 2016 main season is gearing up even if the persistent fog is slowing growth rates a bit. Compared to a little further inland, where temperatures have reached well into the high nineties, we have only seen a few days that have hit eighties here on the Santa Cruz coast. Still, we are already picking lots of summer squash and looking at quite a few tomato blossoms in the dry-farmed patch.

Hot weather crops planted out so far are a variety of peppers: bell, paprika, poblano and jalapeño.Tomatoes that will be coming down the line are Early Girl, cherry, heirloom and orange varieties. We also are watching the eggplant, winter squash, basil, beans, and a few melons grow and grow. The abundance is on it’s way!

One last thing, don’t forget to VOTE!!! Polls are open till 8 p.m.… Read the rest

December 8, 2015

As we head into the middle of winter, there is still a lot to do on the land. Some of the tasks in the slow season include keeping the winter crops weeded in between the rains and getting ready to start winter pruning now that the fruit trees are finally losing their leaves.

Most of the cover crop seed has now been sown for areas that we leave fallow in the winter. If any more lettuce or spinach patches get harvested through the winter they will then be listed up into beds for early spring crop rotations, as seeding at this point in the year will be too slow growing to do much good. Pulling all the irrigation drip lines out of the  now spent pepper and eggplant patches is another job. Winter is also a good time for making all the repairs on trucks and equipment that we never seem to have time for in the growing season.

The real winter break will likely be happening after the holidays as we are anticipating more rainfall for our thirsty land and waterways. There will be plenty of time to crop plan for the coming year and assess our strategies moving forward. There are always ways to improve and get a better understanding of how we can work with nature to keep the farm healthy and balanced.

This will be our last newsletter of 2015 so our best to all during this holiday season!… Read the rest

November 24, 2015

Reflecting on the past year, it’s obvious we have a lot to be thankful for. Even when dealing with the many variables of nature as well as the fixed realities that farms in our modern world have to contend with to survive, we have been very lucky indeed. The inspiration from the natural beauty of the land where we farm and the extremely supportive community we live in are keeping us going.

Farms and farmers are like canaries in the coal mine that feel changes in a lot of ways before others do; listening to what the land and nature is telling us. We did see noticeable differences that were brought on by the drought in terms of pest pressures and stress related problems in both trees and annual crops, but overall it was not a bad year at all. Our strategy to stay highly diverse is paying off.

Also listening to what our employees are saying and allowing them a greater voice in the operations in terms of processes and direction is key. Understanding between employees and employers is necessary and having good communication skills to foster understanding is a priority.

The market is also very important to pay attention to. People’s food choices and preferences are always changing and if you don’t change with them then you get left behind in the cold.

Reflecting on what worked and what didn’t work is always smart. Each year we have to do this. The directions we are going in are becoming more and more clear. We are resisting the pressures to be more competitive with larger scale farms in the wider market but also trying to keep healthy food affordable by being efficient in our processes is the goal.

Of greatest importance is understanding how we relate to the rest of the world and finding the most sustainable path to produce healthy food. What good is growing organic produce if at the same time your ecological impact, whether it be carbon footprint or use of natural resources, isn’t in tune with the environment?… Read the rest

November 10, 2015

Yesterday was a messy day but we are not complaining 🙂  It really is feeling like winter now. It was pretty cold this morning with reports of frost on the rooftops in Felton and possibly frost here in Santa Cruz tonight!  Yesterday’s downpours were pretty heavy with up to 2 inches in the local Santa Cruz area. Yay!!!

The roof of one of the warehouses at the New Leaf on the Westside was hit by lightning yesterday before 10 am. The warehouse is less than a block from our warehouse/office! It knocked their power out for most of the day. They were finally able to reopen around 5 pm. Our warehouse was spared and only lost power for a brief minute, but it was loud and scary when it hit.

This week we will be stripping as many peppers and eggplant off the plants as they will likely be done for the season with the very cool temperatures that are forecasted.

We got a fair bit more of the fields cover cropped on Saturday along with a good size transplanting of lettuce, cabbage, kale and kohlrabi into the ground. No  Irrigation necessary!

Let’s hope this trend continues and the rain keeps coming!

 

 

 

 … Read the rest

October 27, 2015

The seasons are ever so slowly changing from summer into fall. It is still warm, but it looks like we may get a little rain in the near future. Forecasts are still unclear about quantities and timings of regular rain, so we are not able to call an end to the drought just quite yet. We are still hoping that El Niño will materialize into a wetter winter. Of course we have no short term control and Nature will do as it pleases.

A nice crop of persimmons is turning color and a good amount of potatoes are being dug as time permits between other farm tasks. The peppers are still producing but that won’t last too much longer. All the tomatoes are gone except for one small patch of Sungold cherries which seem to never die, thank goodness!

We had very good production throughout this season, with abundance that we spread near and far.  It has been a very long growing season with little actual winter weather since last December,  so here is our chance to give back to the ground that has given so much year after year.

We have decided after much thought and for several reasons, not to do our 14-week Winter CSA.  One consideration in our reasoning is that we are starting to feel the longer term effects of drought.  On about half of our land at our Rancho Del Oso farm, we are now unable to irrigate due to low water flow of Waddell Creek.

The creek has been dammed at the beach by the sand and in the meantime larger oceans swells have come up and over the sand into the lagoon causing the water to back up the canyon and in turn it has become brackish at our lower pump site. Salt is very harmful to most crops so we’ve had to cease using it until the flow breaks through the beach head again. When that will happen, we have no clue or control over.

Winter crop plantings on these fields can’t happen at this point because we cannot water them in upon planting or to continue their growth.

Read the rest

October 13, 2015

Climate change is on the front burner leading up to the upcoming Paris Climate Conference. The farmers of the world are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to changes in the climate. We have been feeling it and we need to pay attention so that we don’t become the frog who doesn’t get out of the pot of slowly boiling water.

Are we going to ignore the changes until it’s too late? It is easy to get lulled into thinking everything is going okay. As long as there’s food in the supermarkets, it’s fine, right?

For being in the middle of the worst drought in 500 years, we actually seem to have an abundance of crops still. We have been lucky in that our current water sources are still providing for our needs to keep things going and growing. There are plenty of peppers, summer squash, herbs and leafy greens. With that said, we have had some isolated cases of insect pest pressure and disease problems that you would expect to experience as a result of such a drought.

The big question and issue though is how long can this last? If we don’t receive above average rainfall this coming winter season, there will likely be some major crop disruptions next year.  Time will tell but we are hedging our bets and starting the to plant the winter cover crop seed early in case there will be the need for a shortened growing season next year.

 … Read the rest

Potential CSA Pick Up Location In Lompico

We are hoping to open a pick up site for our CSA in Lompico by October 20th. We need 5 new shareholders to do so and all we need are 2 more folks. If you know folks in those parts, please pass this onto them and help us spread the word. Thanks!… Read the rest

September 29, 2015

A huge thank you to Santos Majano and his team from the Kitchen at Discretion Brewery for the awesome fall farm dinner they prepared for our guests this past Sunday. It was another magical Ocean St. Extension evening under the chestnut tree completed by the super harvest moon and eclipse. Thanks also to all of our dinner guests and wait staff who made it a very special evening indeed.

Our harvest season is continuing and shifting into cooler weather fall crops. The tomato crop is ending soon with winter squash, apples and sunchokes becoming the main focus. The herbs and greens that are year round are enjoying the change in weather. We have also started cover cropping empty patches of earth as they open up, to protect and rejuvenate the ground through the coming winter. Hoping for a wet one!

It’s clear that fall is upon us. Our harvest crew now starts work at 6:45 because of the lack of early morning light. The persimmon trees are starting to turn color and we’ve even seen some of the fruit turning orange, which is a little earlier than normal years.  We are starting to realize that “normal” doesn’t exist anymore.

A lot of the trees have already lost their leaves for reasons other than seasons.  It is interesting to see which plants are still doing okay and which ones aren’t quite able to deal with the drought.

There are tomato plants that have been dry-farmed all season yet are still putting out green growth and producing tomatoes while other crops which have given up and are going into their reproductive mode due to the lack of water, or worse, by being ravaged by bugs than can find no other hosts in this dry world around us.

We have tools that can help to cope but to some extent we are at the mercy of what nature bestows upon us. Learning to be adaptable in the face of uncertainty is probably the best tool to have.… Read the rest

September 15, 2015

Summer is slowly turning to fall with hints of yellow and orange in the deciduous trees. There already was some changing of colors from the drought but now there’s a lot more.

The state of farms and farming in general is always precarious with many factors and variable conditions that come into play.  Climate change is not making that easier, even for those of us lucky enough to live in a Mediterranean climate. We still have water but we worry about the future and whether the coming El Niño will bequeath us with its’ predicted moisture.

One good thing about farms growing a wide variety of crops is that if certain crops fail, for one reason or another, there are always other crops that make it through to harvest. This has been our mantra from the beginning and it is what has been keeping us going.

Beyond that, it is also the best strategy for ecological farming. Planting crops that aren’t even harvested but rather increase the biodiversity on the farm is what it’s all about. Not to mention that it keeps your soul fed by having a beautiful farm to work in.

Speaking of crops…peppers, peppers and more peppers!  Peppers of all shapes, colors, sizes and flavors are exploding. The flowers are still in full swing and now we are starting to harvest some pears and Gala apples. The winter squash is curing in the field and the potato harvest continues on. Oh and did I mention peppers?

 

 … Read the rest