News & Photos

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!

 

 … Read the rest

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.

 

 … Read the rest

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

April 14, 2015

Being a farmer, especially an organic farmer, means a lifetime of learning. We are always having to learn how to adapt to the changing environmental conditions. Learning how to adapt, while sometimes difficult, can also be fascinating.

As a side note to this, there has been a golden eagle soaring above the land on the Ocean St. Extension farm this past week. This is very unusual and the resident redtail hawks are not happy about it.

Back to the subject at hand…this season is no exception to the learning curve and poses some unusual and interesting challenges to the business of farming. With the likelihood of not having sufficient water to carry out our usual crop plan we are adapting to that probable reality.

We will probably be devoting some more space to non-harvested beneficial habitat plants this year.  In addition to the lack of water, dry years tend to be “buggier” years with more pressure from bad insects to contend with. This is when our attempts to imitate what’s going on in nature can pay off.

Instead of farming as if farming were a form of warfare, we can add a little more beneficial habitat on the farm and grow more of the less thirsty crops, as opposed to increasingly intensive forms of pest eradication which can upset the balance of nature even further.

For us this will mean getting a lot of crops in the ground early and just letting them do their thing before our water sources diminish.

 … Read the rest

March 31, 2015

This week the greens really jumped in growth in all the fields. Spinach, cilantro, romaine, kale, cabbage and other lettuces are all coming on.  We are having a much earlier and heavier spring crop than I think we have ever had due to the summer-like weather. April showers bring May flowers…or so the saying goes. The thing is the flowers were already happening in March instead of May this year.

There are some faint hopes to still get enough rainfall in April to make a difference, but as it stands we could be in for some severe curtailment of our irrigated crops after July. We’ve never experienced not being able to irrigate crops, so this will be a new experience and one which we hope does not become the new normal.

The dry-farmed tomatoes and possibly the semi-dry-farmed sunchokes and winter squash probably won’t care too much but most other crops will likely be impacted late in the summer. Until we have to make that call though, we are proceeding as usual and our summer seasonal plantings are going ahead full steam.  Tomatoes transplants are in the ground and bell peppers should follow shortly. Looks like the stonefruit is having a good fruit set since it never rained during their blossom period and the trees keeps all their flowers. Let’s hope there’s tons of fruit to follow. Happy April!

 … Read the rest

March 17, 2015

The fields are starting to take shape post cover crop. We’ve been planting our mix of spring crops every week for about 6 consecutive weeks now. There are things at all different stages of development begging for our attention now.  Tasks include cultivating, weeding, watering and thinning and the work load is increasing along with the day length.

We haven’t set out tomatoes or peppers quite yet but are looking at next week as the ideal time.  Soil temperatures have warmed up enough that we will be safe from cold weather damage. I can tell because a lot of seed from abandoned squash left in the field has sprouted.

The unsettling thing is the already high air temperatures we’ve been experiencing so early in the year.  We know this isn’t normal. It’s not that unusual to have above 85 degrees in April but not in March!

Climate change is real now and we are feeling it.  Making a living on the land and having a closer connection to nature makes changes more obvious and impacts us directly but also shows us how we need to adapt.

The further we get away from nature these changes become less obvious and the decisions we may need to make are not as clear. It’s all connected though and in the end it is going to affect everyone if water becomes even more scarce or weather changes in such a way that things we take for granted now may not be possible later.

What can we do?  We know that the choices we can make on our small farm, along with a connected community of other farmers and consumers, can help to solve some of these issues and add guidance on a much bigger scale than in just our hometown. Check out this article from the LA Times that came out last week.

Sustainability isn’t just about this year or next year, it’s for the long haul.

 

 … Read the rest

March 3, 2015

What a nice rain shower this last weekend. Again, not a drought buster but some isolated fields got a good soaking. We gambled and transplanted in a field that we had not connected the irrigation system to yet. The watering in from the rain gave us a coupe days to get the irrigation system up and running. Please keep beating the drums for the rain spirits to visit us some more this spring :)

Even though it’s been difficult to tell what season it is as of late, the days are getting longer. This is the transition time of year on the farm. The overwintered crops are still putting out some but are feeling the increased day length.  This tends to trigger reproductive bolting by crops that we’ve been harvesting from like kale, parsley, chard, etc.

At the same time the newly planted crops are still mostly just babies. The quicker growing crops can fill in the gaps so we can still have something coming off.  Pretty soon we should be picking new crops like spinach and cilantro.  It is getting to be the time to start planting warmer season crops like basil directly into the ground.  Up until now it’s just been greenhouse plantings for the more sensitive items.

The amount of ground that is being worked and spread with compost is growing exponentially so we now have plenty of open spaces to plant in to.  It can seem overwhelming but this is when patience pays off.  Getting it done one step at a time and keeping the nose to the proverbial grindstone!

 … Read the rest

February 17, 2015

What is going on?  I don’t think the weather is this warm in the summer!  It is only mid-February but it seems like July.  If we had put tomatoes in the ground, they would be setting fruit right now.

There is the temptation to get going with the warm weather crops but experience says wait until March to set them out. The tomatoes will be ready to go out in a few weeks and the peppers and eggplant won’t be ready until April.

Everything else is growing just fine though so there is a silver lining to the ongoing drought/beautiful weather.  There is some noise about more rain by the end of the month but all we can do is hope that that becomes a reality.

Our third major transplanting is coming up this weekend with radicchio, cabbage, fennel, Italian parsley, several kales, and lots of different lettuces.  This time, without the help of free rainwater, we’ll be bringing out the irrigation pipe to soak them into place and help their roots spread deep.

Even with the insanely warm temperatures, the ground hasn’t warmed up enough for the bad bugs to really come out, thank goodness. There are only a few early cucumber beetles here and there and no sign of the Bagrada bug yet!… Read the rest