News & Photos

August 3, 2016

We can’t believe it’s already August! There is no problem with an abundance of crops ready to harvest right now. The tomatoes are on and so are many of the other summer crops, such as potatoes, bell peppers, summer squash and coming on soon, eggplant. McIntosh apples and red pears are next in the fruit lineup.

Our main problem which won’t likely be solved soon and is something that is statewide in scope is a shortage of farm worker labor. There are several reasons for this that are coming to light. We typically have about 30-35 full-time field workers during the peak months, which for us runs April through to about Thanksgiving.

Some will stay here and work all winter, some just take time off for a few months, and others return to Mexico to visit relatives and maybe tend to family farms there. Most of our workers have been with us for a long time, some as long as 25 years or more.  This year the shortage is severe and we have only 18 full time field workers.

It’s a wake-up call that some of those who have been with us for a long time are now not returning. In one respect it’s possibly a sign that maybe life is getting better in Mexico and has more appeal to remain now. There is also a building boom around here and construction work can typically pay more than farm work does.

Another factor is that, as many of you know, the cost of living and housing availability around here is extremely difficult. Unfortunately we can’t supply worker housing for our employees as has been done on farms in this area over the last hundred years. Property values being what they are, make it impractical for us farmers who lease land to house our workers. Things are changing and hopefully a solution will be found so that more crops don’t remain unharvested because we don’t have the labor to bring them in.

We are using a little more part-time labor than years past to supplement the field team.… Read the rest

July 19, 2016

Midsummer and the bounty is ever expanding. The potatoes are now entering the mix as are yellow onions and early Gravenstein apples. Gravensteins are an old favorite but are not planted as widely as they were in the past. Newer varieties bred for their size and productivity have become the norm in the larger apple growing areas, but smaller local producers still grow them for their earliness and excellent unique flavor especially good for applesauce, tarts and pies. Following the Gravensteins are the McIntosh, Gala and everyone’s favorite, the fall ripening Rubenstars.

The dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes are on now and will be making their way into the CSA boxes and farmers markets pronto. We are also dry farming the cherry tomatoes for a super sweet treat as well.

The peppers are firming up on the plants on Ocean St. Extension but are still in the green unripe stage. We think the colored bells should begin ripening mid-August with some sun. Following the bells will be the jalapeño, poblano and then the paprikas.

Our first dinner of the Summer Farm Dinner Series was this past Sunday at Rancho del Oso. Thanks to the heroic organizing efforts by Jasmine, it went off amazingly!  Brad Briske, our guest chef, knocked it out of the park with a dazzling performance with the help of his crew from la Balena in Carmel. The ‘out of the box’ earth grill he created worked perfectly for every course!  Barry and Jennifer Jackson of Equinox provided an awesome selection of bubbles, reds and whites. It was so much FUN!  A perfect midsummer evening!… Read the rest

July 5, 2016

The fog is in full effect as is usual for mid-summer. Clear mornings aren’t happening as they were earlier in the summer. This is somewhat welcome in slowing down the crops as we are still working hard to keep up with them and all of their needs.

We got the drip irrigation system installed in our orchard at Rancho Del Oso, flushed the lines and ran it for the first time. Not only will this save tons of water but it will be much easier than hauling irrigation pipe up and down the hill whenever the trees there need watering. Now, all we have to do is turn on the pump, open some valves and let them send moisture to the roots of the trees. The bit of maintenance we may have to do is clean out any clogged mini sprinkler heads should that happen.

Since this orchard is up on a hillside in pretty well drained soil, it needs water about every 3 weeks. In contrast, the fruit trees on our Ocean St. Extension farm, can do fine without any irrigation whatsoever. Those trees are totally tapped into the underground river, as the farm borders the San Lorenzo River.

As for crops coming on in the near, near future, it looks like tomatoes will be happening soon! We can’t wait! Caprese salad anyone?… Read the rest

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