News & Photos

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

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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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!

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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

February 3, 2015

Well it looks like we received absolutely no measurable rain in January. How is this going to effect us? It may or it may not.  If we don’t get any more rain, we are looking at a very dismal supply of water available to irrigate crops with, not to mention for use in households.

Having a well is a little less risky than having to depend solely on surface runoff but only slightly less so. Water tables and aquifers need to be recharged by rainfall and in Santa Cruz County that means the rain that falls this side of the Santa Cruz Mountains Summit. A creek that stops running also means there is less water underground to pump out of a well.

The optimistic view is that we will get some good late winter rains. That likelihood is shaping up through the longer range forecasting models we have seen. This weekend is looking particularly good for significant rainfall totals and we are very happy about that.

We are hoping for the best and have begun spreading compost onto our fields to maintain soil health. We are also planting in the fields and sowing in the greenhouses for later field transplanting rounds. We have gotten a good head start on the season as the weather has been so dry for mid-winter that we have been planting earlier than normal.  Besides planting we are also playing musical tractors, of sorts, a lot of needed equipment repairs are being made even though we need to be using that same equipment for the early planting work.

What equipment do we have and use, you may ask. Our equipment lineup consists of 2 larger 75 hp tractors, a 50 hp loader, all three of which can be used for turning the soil.  In addition we also have 4 smaller cultivating tractors which are used for cultivating, seeding, bed shaping and a 3 bed spray rig for foliar leaf spraying.

The implement yards are an assortment of mechanical cultivating tools, sweeps, knives, shanks for aeration and weed control,  a spring harrow, subsoil rippers, discs (we frown on rototillers because of the soil compaction they cause), 4-row seeders, bed shaping and row markers.… Read the rest

January 20, 2015

You call this winter?  We are looking at record warm temperatures this week for this time of the year. We are trying to take advantage of the dry spell as it’s become evident that we are just going to have to learn to live with some substantial climate changes and adapt our strategies.

Our crew is busy spreading nourishing compost and limestone on the fields for the early season plantings.  Our first major round of plantings took place this last weekend on our coastal fields just south of Davenport. We either transplanted or direct seeded, kale, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, arugula, dill and radishes.

Even though the ground still has plenty of moisture from the heavy rains in early December, our rather light winter harvest is being helped by the warmer weather with very little of the normal wet ground implications. Usually we would be diverting water to keep it from pooling in lower and not so well drained areas. Not this year. We are hoping that February and March will see some more moisture come our way.  There are some longer range weather forecasts that look promising.

We have assembled a great pruning crew and so the winter fruit tree pruning is moving along well and we have even planted 40 more Red Bartlett Pear trees. Not only does this planting grow our orchard but it also greatly increases the amount of fruit we will be able to offer our customers in years to come. It would be great to get some more cold nights to better the fruit set (some fruit trees need a certain number of night time chill hours) but of course, we just have to take what we get in that department.

Outside of field happenings, the big news has leaked out that yes, the 6 acre property we have been farming on Ocean Street Extension has been sold and it’s great news for everyone! Jack O’Neill of surfing and wetsuit fame has stepped forward to purchase and preserve this perfect little piece of urban fringe farmland.… Read the rest

January 6, 2015

Happy 2015!  We think its going to be a great year and we are excited to be heading into a new year with new plans and intentions.

We are getting a head start with lots of baby plants growing robustly in the greenhouse and a nice break in the weather to work up some ground and put out early transplants of lettuce, cabbage, kale and a few other assorted greens that do well in cooler weather.

We did have a bit of frost last week so the overwintered crops took a bit of a hit and suffered from the extreme (for us anyway) cold temperatures. Most will come back though and this tends to be a normal occurrence.

Our acre of dahlias from last year have all been dug out of the ground and are stored for several months. We usually dig up the dahlia tubers every winter and select the best ones then replant them again when the time comes. They just seem to do better that way instead of leaving them in the ground year round.

The ranunculus and garlic are already in the ground swelling and sprouting. The irises are going into the ground this week. Planting winter/spring flowers is relatively new for us and we are love the amazing colors and shapes that brighten the cold crisp days of the winter season.

Though we are loving the break in the cold weather we are still hoping for more rain in the coming weeks to get us back on track a bit with replenishing ground water and reservoir stores.

We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a great start to the new year!

 

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