Member News

Another Kind of Tomato

Don’t look now, but we are almost mid-way through our annual Tomato season.  As has been the case most of the last few years, the first half of the season was a pretty wild ride for us.  In the past, … Continue reading

Robots in the Garden

Gardening is big business.  Every year, tens of millions of people head out to their local nursery, hardware store or home improvement chain store to load up on soil amendments, bedding plants and perennials.  They spend a day or two … Continue reading

New Ways of Storing Water

The drought isn’t making nearly as much news as it did last year, but you may have heard that the state recently allowed local water districts across the state to drop their mandatory conservation requirements.  Many of the state´s reservoirs … Continue reading

Reliving Summer Memories…and Making New Ones

One of my earliest memories of food is sweet corn and tomatoes that my family used to get from our local farmstand every summer.  There was just one small farm left in the New York City suburb where I grew … Continue reading

The Original McGyver

A farmer friend of mine sells his produce at the farmers’ market every Tuesday in Berkeley.  You probably know him if you ever shop there.  Yesterday morning when he jumped in his loaded market truck and went to start it … Continue reading

A Maze of Tomatoes

If you’ve driven on I-80 north towards Tahoe in the fall, you’ve seen the signs for the “World’s Biggest Corn Maze” just outside of Dixon.  There, people come out for the day to get lost among the paths cut through … Continue reading

Brand Recognition? Not for Peaches

A long time ago, before there were people who specializing in developing brands that resonated with consumers, there were fruit and vegetable variety names.  These names were not chosen to resonate with the shoppers who would purchase them.  Almost all … Continue reading

Changing of the Guard

We have a changing of the guard in your boxes today, a handing-over of the Produce Crown from one queen to another:  Strawberries to Tomatoes. Taken together, these are center of the galaxy of crops we grow at Terra Firma: … Continue reading

The Many Winds of May

We have many flavors of wind on the west side of the Sacramento Valley.  Some are large-scale phenomena that affect the entire region while others are more localized.  Each one of them has a profound affect on the climate here … Continue reading

Crooked Branches

There is an old Spanish proverb that is used in reference to both childrearing and training of trees and vines:  “El palo que nace chueco jamas se endereza” (A crooked branch will never straighten). If you travel to a region … Continue reading

Mayday! Mayday! (Peaches)

No, that’s not a typo or a mistake on the CSA box list for this week: peaches are in your boxes today.  I actually picked the first one on Saturday, the last day of April. When we planted our first … Continue reading

Many Hands to Grow Your Food

Spring is (one of) the times of year around here when there is always more to do than there is time to get done.  Which might explain why the illustration I made for last week’s newsletter was backwards and upside … Continue reading

Spring is for Lightweights

When you’re shopping for fruits and vegetables, more is less — money per pound, that is.  The highly detailed graph below illustrates how heavier items like potatoes and apples cost less than lighter ones like greens or berries. There are several … Continue reading

The Most Ephemeral Fruit

Thirty years ago — the summer of my sophomore year of college — I was riding a motorcycle across the English countryside to a musical festival with my first-ever girlfriend.  Suddenly an intense fragrance hit our nostrils:  strawberries ripening in the … Continue reading

Fair Trade and First Berries

In January of this year, California’s Minimum Wage rose to $10 per hour, and just last week Governor Brown announced a deal with legislators to implement a further 50% increase in that wage over seven years.  That move gave our … Continue reading

Everyone Loves Nelson

Everyone who is or has been a Terra Firma subscriber in the last 15 years or so knows Nelson.  A team player.  Works well with others.  Sweet.  Tender. But also crisp and crunchy. Nelson has been our primary carrot variety … Continue reading

March + Showers = ????

April + Showers = May + Flowers.  The equation has never really applied to California, where it more often is true that March + Showers = April + Flowers. A changing climate the last few years has necessitated further revision of … Continue reading

Dammed if You Do, Dammed if You Don’t

Over last weekend, El Niño finally delivered on its promised potential, soaking most of Northern California with heavy, sustained rain and snow.  Creeks and arroyos began to flow, filling reservoirs and turning rivers into churning muddy torrents.  By Monday morning, … Continue reading

A Perennial Favorite

Just a few decades back, before perishable goods were shipped thousands of miles on planes, there were a few perennial indicators that winter was ending and spring had begun.  Some were flowers like daffodils and crocus.  But one was a … Continue reading

First Tomatoes are in the Ground

Up until five years ago, we used to plant out our first tomatoes on or around March 15.  The exact date would depend on how many sunny days we got in January and February — seedlings grow much more slowly … Continue reading

Monoculture vs. Diversity

In the 1840s, the population of Ireland was decimated by a famine caused by an outbreak of phytophthora that wiped out the majority of the potato crop on the island.  While farmers grew other crops as well, Irish potatoes were … Continue reading

The Grass is always Greener

For the last four years, growing vegetables in the Sacramento Valley has been quite similar to growing them in the deserts of Southern California, the source of the vast majority of the winter produce eaten in the U.S.  There in … Continue reading

The Tale of the Fly and the Squash

Just ten years ago, our winter squash fields were infested every year by a type of stink bug called, appropriately, the Squash Bug.  Squash Bugs love all kinds of winter squash, spearing both plants and fruit with their probosces and … Continue reading

Double Standards and the “Gig” Economy

Farmers who want to provide an incentive for their harvest crews to work faster use a pay system called “piece rate”.  Workers get paid a certain amount for every pound or other unit of strawberries or tomatoes they harvest.  State … Continue reading

A Smaller Carbon Footprint…and Shallower Ruts.

Harvesting vegetables when it’s cold and wet presents lots of problems.  The rain and mud slows everything and everyone down, especially if it’s raining hard and windy.  It’s always our goal to minimize harvest activities on storm days or avoid … Continue reading

Cabañuelas and “the Big Short”

Happy New Year and Welcome Back! For centuries, a Spanish folk tradition called “Cabañuelas” has extrapolated the weather during the month of January to prognosticate the rest of the year.  It was pretty accurate last year, as we returned from our … Continue reading

Happy Holidays from all of us at Terra Firma Farm

This week will be our final delivery for 2015.  You can look for your next Terra Firma CSA box the first week of January. Farming the way that we do offers few opportunities for down time.  We are constantly harvesting, … Continue reading

The One-Degree Difference

I ran into a friend yesterday whose farm grows many of the same crops we do at Terra Firma, just 30 miles north.  “Terrible, huh” he said, “We lost everything to the freeze”.  He was referring to the frigid weekend … Continue reading

Dry-Farmed Alliums?

I’ve mentioned recently how important a crop Alliums — Garlic, Leeks and Onions — are to our farm and as a component of your CSA boxes.  During the winter, the three crops combined make up a quarter of all the … Continue reading

Thanksgiving is in your DNA

Thanksgiving celebrations are not a great place to discuss politics.  You are probably not going to convince your uncle/aunt/sibling/parent, during a single meal, that their deeply held convictions are actually completely wrong — and vice versa.  I sincerely hope that … Continue reading

The Allure of Citrus

Citrus fruit has been one of the symbols of California agriculture for over a hundred years.  While they are tropical plants, citrus trees thrive in warm temperatures and tolerate arid environments as long as they are irrigated.  Some of the … Continue reading

Behind the Blue Apron

Fifteen years or so ago, I did a newsletter about a service called Webvan, an internet start-up that was offering free home delivery of groceries ordered online and packed in a fully automated warehouse.  This was back in the Dot … Continue reading

No Leek Jokes Here

Weŕe expecting a pretty perfect Autumn Day for our Farm Day event on Saturday:  sunny and warm with temperatures in the low 80s.  There will be plenty of ripe strawberries for gleaning, and they sure are tasty. If youŕe coming … Continue reading

Bad Bugs, Bad Bad Bugs

In late summer of last year, a pest showed up in our fields that we had never seen before, attacking kale seedlings and cabbage transplants.  A type of Stinkbug called the Bagrada, the pest had been heavily publicized due to … Continue reading

Undergoing Renovations

Twice a year at Terra Firma we go through a major, grinding crop shift from the green leafy vegetables that love cool weather to the fruits and fruiting vegetables that love the dry warmth of summer, and back again. You … Continue reading

The Well is in, Now comes the Rain

Farming in the winter in Northern California presents all kinds of challenges, almost all of them weather-related.  Winter is wet and cold — at least, it used to be.  The days are short and sometimes the sun never comes out, … Continue reading

Farm Day Tickets Now Available

We invite all our subscribers, their friends and family to come out to the farm on Saturday, October 24th from 2 until 5 p.m.  There will be strawberries for picking and pumpkins just in time for Halloween, live music, and … Continue reading

Don’t Hate on Hay

If you drive or fly over the Central Valley during the spring, summer and fall, you will see vast expanses of lush green fields growing alfalfa for hay, a mainstay of the diet of cows and horses.  You can make … Continue reading

A New Venue for Farm Day 2015

Terra Firma owns about half the land we farm; the other half is leased from a number of different landowners.  Every few years one of those parcels of land gets sold for some reason, usually the new owner just continues … Continue reading

Artificial Autumn?

A funny thing happened around here about 6 weeks ago.  After starting off in May with a bang and continuing along at full tilt in June, our Tomato field basically, uh, went on strike.’ We don’t just have one tomato … Continue reading

Berry Shenanigans

For most people, the word “variety” denotes a varied mix, a smattering, a diversity:  “Jane uses a wide variety of apps on her smartphone.”  It is a singular noun that almost always describes something plural, in the same way that … Continue reading

El Niño vs The Blob

El Niño has been the news a lot lately.  Have you heard?  Its a monster, possibly the biggest ever.  It could end the drought. Or maybe not.  El Niño has to contend with the large mass of unusually warm water extending … Continue reading

Not All Ears are Created Equal

A few weeks back I got a text from a friend who was visiting his family on the East Coast:  “Why does sweet corn here taste so much better than in California?”  I quickly replied “You need to taste our … Continue reading

Summer Fruit in a Warmer World

Almost all vegetables are annual crops, planted for a single season that may last as long as 9 months or as short as 9 weeks.  Most are planted in successions over time, growing and then coming to a harvest that … Continue reading

The Spin Cycle of Agriculture

Crop rotation is one of the key principles of organic farming, but it is also practiced by most good farmers.  The idea, roughly speaking, is to not plant the same crop in the same field year after year. There are … Continue reading

Staying Safe in the Heat @ TFF

You may be aware that there’s a heat wave happening this 4th of July week, and some of you may be wondering and worrying how Terra Firma’s Team Members are dealing with it.  Over the last few years we have … Continue reading

Hybrids & Heirlooms: An Explainer

We’ve been growing tomatoes at Terra Firma since the beginning, and we started growing heirloom varieties in 1994.  Over the years, we have experimented with hundreds of varieties and settled on just a few dozen — some of each. A … Continue reading

Giving Peaches a Chance

There is no better way to experience a peach than to pick it fully ripe off the tree and eat it the same day.  That said, growing peaches in your backyard can also be heartbreaking.  Birds peck at the ripening … Continue reading

Water for 21st Century California

There continues to be lots of blame thrown around around the issue of water supply in California, but one thing seems clear:  our state uses lots of water.  Whether for keeping 30 million people bathed and hydrated or for keeping … Continue reading

Summer’s Just Around the Corner

There are big changes coming to your box in just seven days.  I know some of you are ready for it, but next week’s box will be so different from this week’s that you may find yourself scratching your head … Continue reading

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Another Kind of Tomato

Don’t look now, but we are almost mid-way through our annual Tomato season.  As has been the case most of the last few years, the first half of the season was a pretty wild ride for us.  In the past, … Continue reading

Robots in the Garden

Gardening is big business.  Every year, tens of millions of people head out to their local nursery, hardware store or home improvement chain store to load up on soil amendments, bedding plants and perennials.  They spend a day or two … Continue reading

New Ways of Storing Water

The drought isn’t making nearly as much news as it did last year, but you may have heard that the state recently allowed local water districts across the state to drop their mandatory conservation requirements.  Many of the state´s reservoirs … Continue reading