News & Photos

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.

 

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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

July 21, 2015

July 21, 2015

The full bounty that summer has to offer is starting to appear. All of a sudden it’s ripe tomato season.  The first big wave of Early Girls are being packed and headed out to all our local friends. ‘Tis the season to be living in the present! Summer crops are coming on strong with the help of some unusually high temperatures here on the Central Coast.

It’s quite often that we say that farming is kind of like being in the Army.  When it’s time to move, it’s time to move, and there’s no other priority than the job at hand, which at this point in time consists of harvest, harvest and harvest.

Most all of the peppers and eggplant have been put on drip irrigation tape to conserve water but of course, the tomatoes are being dry-farmed so they need no irrigation.  Making time for keeping on top of weeds and keeping crops irrigated is important but the priority remains getting the crop out when it’s ready.

There are myriads of other things to tend to but we have to make space somehow with all hands on deck.  I have found it wise to slightly back off from planting as many leafy greens in early summer in order to make time for dealing with midsummer warm weather crops that all seem to come on at once.

Our to do lists are still long but day by day we try to make our way thorough one or two items on them 😉

Jeff rocking a F*A*R*M*Y t-shirt made by Soil Sisters, aka Jasmine Roohani & Kirsten Roehler, who farmed together at Everett Family Farm in Soquel. Jasmine is now the Route 1 Farms office/CSA manager and farm dinner coordinator. Kirsten is now a bookkeeper for small farms and other businesses. If interested in a shirt, please contact Jasmine at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

 

 

 

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July 7, 2015

Summer is in full effect as the Fourth of July fireworks were getting muffled by the usual fog rolling in. The first ripe dry-farmed tomato was noticed right on the Fourth so it won’t be long before the red tomato tide rolls in as well. Fresh and local tomatoes at the farmers markets are always a much anticipated event in our Central Coast community.

Other crops that are ripening right now are Green Gage plums and a small number of peaches. The other plum varieties aren’t far behind.

Potato digging has begun in earnest and the first crop up are the Purple Vikings (food journalist Mark Bittman’s favorite!) with their pink and purple skin and delicious white flesh.

We have slowed down the plantings of some greens in expectation of the coming abundance of the warm weather loving crops of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and summer squash. With that said, we still do keep a good supply of greens going throughout the summer because after all we are coastal growers and everyone needs their greens!

Besides getting down in the dirt and keeping the weeds down, the crops watered and picked there’s even more happening in the fields. Maintaining and repairing all the trucks and keeping the tractors rolling and operating smoothly is a full time effort. The best thing about farming near the urban edges is getting parts, supplies and repairs done a lot easier than those who farm in rural areas.

We are looking forward to all the great new crops of produce that is about to burst forth from our fields.

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June 23, 2015

Summer Solstice is here. Long days and short nights. Getting up at 5 a.m. isn’t quite so hard when it’s actually starting to get light out at that hour.

The drip irrigation lines are being set out in the beds filled with long term crops in order to conserve water use and keep the weeds at bay.  Our summer crops are coming along quite nicely. The peppers and eggplant are still a ways off, but the tomatoes are forming beautiful fruit and it looks like the middle of July might see a few riper ones on  the vines.

The tree fruit is going to be sporadic this summer due to the lack of winter chill hours.  The effects of a warm winter are that in the spring, the dormant buds don’t push with any vigor and the results are a lack of new leaves and/or fruiting buds.  We have some peach trees with lots of little fruit set but no leaves pushing through.  Very bizarre.  Not something I’ve seen before around here. Other fruit trees are doing fine, so it’s just going to be sporadic this year. Another argument for have a wide diversity of crops.

The surrounding open spaces are starting to look rather dry which can make us a target for insect pressure, not to mention wild land fires. We are trying to alleviate any such pest pressure by planting a little more late summer habitat for a more balanced on-farm environment. So far, so good. The plus side of the drought will be increased flavors in most crops, whether it’s sweetness or bitterness, depending on the crop.

Onward into the summer!… Read the rest

June 6, 2015

And in our spare time, we sleep  :)  The second round of crop plantings has started in some areas that had an early crop in and out.  It takes about 2 weeks for the plant refuse to decompose before we can turn it around again and form new beds for planting. We’re rotating crops on our land among the 6 different plant groups and families that we grow.

There has been a lot of fog and humidity along the coast as the inland valleys are starting to heat up making it real steamy around here. This kind of weather is ripe for powdery mildew to form on a lot of our leafy vegetables like lettuce, chard and spinach.  Making sure that our plants get plenty of nutrients is the best defense against fungal diseases.

There are also many newer varieties of these crops that have natural resistance built into them, so we are always on the lookout for these new hardier varietals. Doing any kind of irrigation is also important as early in the day as possible to allow the moisture to dry off during the day.

The earliest planted dry-farmed tomatoes are now looking pretty good.  There are a lot of little green tomatoes now forming since the nighttime temperatures have stayed well above 50 degrees.  The big worry for tomatoes is really wet and warm conditions.  Just warm is good but not wet too.  That makes ideal conditions for funky fungus and late blight, the scourge of tomato growers. For some reason tomatoes that have to reach for their water seem to just be hardier, healthier and happier. Not to mention tastier!

 

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May 26, 2015

Here in the lowlands the coastal clouds are the story of late. Despite the persistent grey skies this past week, there is a fair amount of greenness coming off the farm right now. Literally, there is tons of lettuce, cilantro, parsley, dill, kale and spinach, etc. growing and it’s looking good.

It seems the greens like this dreary weather…. but the fruit, uh, not so much. We still have some fruits trees that are just barely putting out leaves. Most of the warm weather fruit and vegetable crops are in a holding pattern waiting to bust out once the sunny skies return.

It’s when you see a lot of weather-related crop issues, that you can imagine how crop diversity can be a good strategy.  If one crop doesn’t like the weather, there is another that may thrive in it.  This has always been our strategy because it avoids the boom and bust cycles common in farming. We don’t often hit home runs with individual crops but instead we depend on a crop system of being consistent hitters of lots of singles and doubles.

Another plus from the cool weather is less evaporation as our irrigation frequency has diminished to every 10 days from every 7 days. This is allowing us to start getting the weeds under control as they had become pretty out of control early on in the season.

Today we are kicking off our first main season CSA pack-out and delivery. We are looking forward to a productive and interesting season with all our great shareholders and supporters.

Thank you all in advance :)Read the rest

May 12, 2015

We are really getting into the thick of the growing season now.  All of our eggplant, tomato and most of the peppers have been transplanted into comfortable surroundings with plenty of side-nutrients. They are now ready to burgeon into the beautiful fruit and vegetables that we love to eat in the summer months.

Initially plants go into a vegetative state as the days are increasing and then they start to fruit as they mature. Some of the plants seem a little confused though.  I hope they aren’t thinking it is fall or something.  The winter was warm but the late spring has been relatively cool in comparison to the past and the plants aren’t sure what to make of the flip flop in the seasonal weather patterns.The zucchini are forming fruit but ever so slowly. Once we get some heat then it will be game on! We would however welcome another inch or more of rain at any point :)

On another note, there seems to be a lot of confusion in the marketplace about all the different types of labeling and ratings out there.  I would like to say one thing about that. We are a CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) certified organic farm and as such we use no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), fossil-fuel fertilizers and use only very low risk organic allowed/approved pesticides (if we use them at all), fertilize with naturally occurring fertilizers and biologically active compost to increase our soil health.

We are inspected annually, keep detailed input records and have traceability as part of this certification. We also plant habitat to encourage beneficial insects which we depend on to keep our farm in ecological balance. None of these ratings and labels except Certified Organic takes all these things into account.  Enough said for now.

 

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April 28, 2015

Today we thought we would bring you a big announcement from a popular eatery across the US. We hope that this sets a precedent that other establishments start to follow.

(Reuters, reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, editing by Lisa Von Ahn) – Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. on Monday said the 46 ingredients used in its roughly 1,800 restaurants were now free of genetically modified organisms, becoming the first major U.S. restaurant chain to make that switch.

U.S. diners, particularly those in the sought-after young millennial generation, are seeking fresh foods that are less processed and more natural or organic. Part of that trend includes GMO-free foods.

GMO advocates have warned that producing foods that are not genetically engineered would increase costs. Chipotle, however, said its move did not result in significantly higher ingredient costs, and it did not raise prices as a result of going GMO-free.

Some of the most popular U.S. GMO crops are corn, soybeans and canola, which are staple ingredients in virtually every type of prepared and packaged food, from soup and tofu to breakfast cereals and chips.

Scientists have spliced the DNA of those GMO crops with that from different species. The aim, among other things, is to make them resistant to pests or more tolerant to drought.

Organic foods do not contain GMOs.

While proponents and critics disagree over the safety, environmental impacts and effectiveness of genetically engineered crops, a consumer backlash against them already has led General Mills Inc. to remove GMOs from its original Cheerios.

“Though many countries have already restricted or banned the use of GMO crops, it’s clear that a lot of research is still needed before we can truly understand all of the implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption,” Chipotle founder and co-Chief Executive Officer Steve Ells said in a statement.

“While that debate continues, we decided to move to non-GMO ingredients.”

The company said its small ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen chain also became GMO-free.

Shares of Chipotle, which is also removing tortilla additives such as preservatives and dough conditioners, were up 0.6 percent to $641.11.Read the rest