News & Photos

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

September 1, 2015

There is a slight hint of fall in the air with the sun going down noticeably earlier, although during the day it’s been as intense as ever. For better or worse, we had another triple digit hot day(102°F) recorded on Ocean St. Extension last week.

Some of the peppers are turning color and the jalapeños are HOT, so finally, we can now say that the peak of the summer season is upon us. There was some damage from the intense heat (that we are not accustomed to) that happened to some of the leafy crops, but too not badly.  The McIntosh apples and some of the pears are showing good sugars so they should be harvested very soon.

It’s time to shift our planting schedule toward more fall friendly crops and even towards some crops that will grow all winter long like more chard, kale, root crops and perennial herbs.  We are also getting ready for some early cover cropping as soon as possible and are hoping it will start raining before not too long.

Protecting our hillsides takes advance planning in order to get things established before the coming, uh, deluges :) It’s kind of a balancing act between having to irrigate non-produce crops and conserving what water we do have for food crops.

Nature-wise I am thinking of declaring war on the ravens.  It seem like their numbers have been growing in recent years. To the point that they are a threat to other species, especially endangered bird species and important predatory birds.  We rely on these important birds for some of our gopher and rodent control. It’s frustrating to see our resident red-tailed hawks getting harassed by them to the point that they aren’t around as much as they used to be. There will be more discussion on that subject to come.


 … Read the rest

August 18th, 2015

Have the lines of latitude moved north?  Are we now in the tropics?  Santa Cruz hit a record 101° on Saturday, which would be great if we were just melon growers but we’re not and it’s certainly tough on the greens to have such hot weather.

On Sunday we were very worried that our planned second seasonal farm dinner at Rancho del Oso was going to be uncomfortably warm for our guests. Much to our relief the ocean breeze picked up around noon and by the time the guests arrived it was actually quite pleasant.

It was so great to be able to host old and new friends for some farm talk, some great wines from our featured winemaker Denis Hoey from Odonata Wines and an amazing feast prepared in the field by Chef Adolfo Martinez and his crew from Ristorante Avanti.  Both Denis and Adolfo have pushed the boundaries for wine and food and what can be done with our local produce much to our delight.

We also do tend to push the boundaries of what is traditionally grown close to the coast.  But the fact that it’s getting easier to grow heat loving crops here in Santa Cruz may not be a good thing, especially if, in addition, these climate changes also mean more consistent drought. We are still holding out hope for a wet rainy season.

The West Coast drought is something that has entered almost everyone’s consciousness around here at this point. What we all need to discuss on a public level is what we can do about it. Whether or not you believe the climate changes are human-made, it’s happening nonetheless.  Its complex but we do need to talk about it.

Our agricultural activities can be a big part of the positive changes that will have to be made to keep our food system flexible and sustainable. Making food choices can also encourage those kinds of changes as well. That is one of our main focuses as we develop our agricultural endeavors.

We are committed to techniques and practices that we believe will lead to a more ecologically sustainable and sound agriculture.… Read the rest

August 4, 2015

Our staple crops of greens and herbs continue to thrive but now flowers, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers, in all their colorful summer variety, are making their appearances.  The field crews are working long hours with little time for anything else beyond harvesting. It’s a fine line between keeping consistent production going and dealing with the summer abundance at hand. Decision upon decision to make, with little time to think about direction. But we must…

Direction, we all need to make decisions. Everybody makes choices which can alter their direction.  As far as what our food system can provide, you can choose direction, both with your food dollars and of course your votes. Food policy tends to follow consistent trends and eating habits. Buying high quality, local and sustainably grown food is more powerful than you might think. It’s one way we can show support for the growing local food movement.

Any farmer, who is practicing or would like to practice more sustainable techniques, knows there is a better way. We are always looking for ways to reduce waste, conserve energy and make our work more efficient.  It’s not just labels, but what’s beyond the label, and what direction we want to go. With the bigger picture in mind, we know we have to make decisions for our own survival going forward. Besides the commitment to grow organically, we have taken it further and like to call what we do “ecological growing”.  This includes practices beyond USDA organic law.

Trying to do things that reduce our footprint takes into account things beyond just what we do biologically in the soil.  We have installed 15 kilowatts of solar power on our warehouse rooftop to power our cooler and charge our electric forklift. We also use biodiesel in our delivery trucks and tractors.

Making choices about packaging is another major way to reduce our impact. Using a re-useable crate with a deposit for local deliveries has allowed us to save tons (literally) of waxed cardboard from ending up in dumpsters.

Focusing more on our markets closer to home or making sure the truck is packed full when heading out further away is also a concern of ours.… Read the rest