Member News

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

Summer into Spring!

2015 has been a race at Terra Firma.  The dry, warm weather sped up everything on the farm, and we have had a hard time keeping up.  Sure it’s nice to have strawberries on April Fool’s Day and Peaches for … Continue reading

And the Leafy Green Winner is…

Kale has been in the news a lot lately.  From the spoof article on the internet last year questioning whether there was enough land in the U.S. to meet the demand for kale, to the recent announcement by McDonalds that … Continue reading

Brand Loyal Beetles

The country roads around our farm are a popular weekend destination for automobile enthusiasts who appear to enjoy sharing the scenic beauty of farmland and hills with others.  A few weeks back, a caravan went by the farm and every … Continue reading

A Sacrifice to the Rain Gods

While areas north, south, east and west of Terra Firma got soaked on Friday night, the rain here was barely enough to get the ground wet.  With lots of ripe strawberries to pick, we were initially happy about the short … Continue reading

The Kings of Spring

I hope you have been enjoying your Terra Firma strawberries in your boxes; emails, Facebook comments and other sources seem to indicate that you are. Strawberries and tomatoes are the “Alpha” crops, the royalty at our farm:  strawberries are the … Continue reading

Saving Water the Old Fashioned Way

New technology offer lots of opportunities to conserve water, and it gets lots of coverage in the news.  Last week on NPR I heard that San Francisco recently passed an ordinance requiring new large apartment buildings to install plumbing that … Continue reading

Deserts & Droughts

Last week at a press conference declaring a drought emergency, Governor Jerry Brown used the word “desert” to describe our state. Dictionary.com defines a “desert” as follows:  “a region so arid because of so little rainfall that it supports only … Continue reading

April 1st Berries?

Every few years, April 1st falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and I get a chance to play an April Fool’s prank on Terra Firma subscribers.  Some of you may remember the time I declared that out of frustration with … Continue reading

Electric Cars and Water Conservation

If you are one of many of people who own an electric vehicle, or hope to one day soon, you may have heard that Tesla and other electric car owners can now sign up for a special program where PG&E … Continue reading

A Busy “Winter” at Terra Firma

We have been busier at the farm this winter than I ever remember us being. So busy, actually, that it feels like mid-spring.  In many ways, it has been a Goldilocks phenomenon for us at Terra Firma.  We received just … Continue reading

Bloomtime in the Valley

It’s bloom time in Winters.  We have perilously few crops to harvest right now, but we sure do have lots of flowers.  From our pea field to the strawberry patch, from the cherry orchard to the citrus groves — just … Continue reading

Orange is the new Orange

In July of 2013, the irrigation well failed in one of our bigger and nicer citrus orchards.  The trees wilted and died before a new well could be drilled.  We did not own the orchard, which was several acres of … Continue reading

“No Water for You!”???

If you’ve been a Terra Firma subscriber for a while — or a subscriber to any CSA farm — you’re accustomed to hearing a million reasons why there are certain items in your boxes and not others.  The weather is … Continue reading

Two out of Three

Almonds have been grown in California for hundreds of years, since the Spanish missionaries arrived here in the 1600s.  And walnuts are actually native to the state, Black Walnuts, that is.  Spanish settlers figured out long ago that you could … Continue reading

The Dance of Rain and Earth

One of the most amazing things about soil — or dirt, as we so often call it — is its interaction with water.  And there is no better time to watch this interaction than during a storm like the one … Continue reading

No Other Label Needed

Fourteen years ago, Congress passed a set of national standards for organic food and established the National Organic Program to regulate it.  The legislation was hundreds of pages long, but the core principles were clear: — No synthetic pesticides or … Continue reading

“Big” News

Scale is a hot topic when people discuss agriculture.  In the media, and in certain circles, “big farms” is a derogatory term often associated with ecological destruction and social injustice. What is a big farm and what is a small … Continue reading

Certainly Uncertain

This is the time of year when we at Terra Firma have a few moments to sit back and think about things we might want to do differently in the coming year.  It is much, much easier, however, to conduct … Continue reading

Miracle Cures from the Soil

Dirt was in the news last week.  Scientists at Northeastern University in Massachusetts appear to have isolated a brand new type of antibiotic found in the soil in a farm field in Maine.  Teixobactin is said to aggressively kill even … Continue reading

The Little Mandarin Trees that could

Welcome back!  I hope that everyone had a restful and relaxing holiday season.   We had hoped to keep the farm completely closed for a full two weeks this year during our “winter break”, but the weather (as usual) had … Continue reading

Thanks for a Good Year

This week is our final week of deliveries for 2014.  Thank you for supporting our farm for another year.   For many farmers and ranchers in California, this year was a slow-motion disaster thanks to the drought.  We are cautiously … Continue reading

Fair Trade in the U.S.A

I have written a few times in the past about the reality of our food supply versus the perceptions that many folks have about it, especially those living in urban areas like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  But … Continue reading

Drought’s Not Over Yet.

We’re just a few days into the first real wet weather we’ve had in California in more than two years, and I’ve already heard people proclaiming “The Drought is Over!”  Not so fast. The weather we’ve had since Thanksgiving is … Continue reading

A Real Thanksgiving Pardon

In a few days, the President of the United States will perform the silly annual ritual of pardoning a single turkey as part of our nation’s celebration of Thanksgiving.  But last week, he issued a pardon of sorts that will … Continue reading

Thanksgiving Box Preview

Thanksgiving is one of the few annual holidays on which we always shut down the farm.  Everyone at the farm has been working hard for a long nine months, and we are looking forward to getting a long weekend to … Continue reading

A Look Inside an Organic Farm Inspection

Every year around this time, we start getting ready for our annual audit by our organic certifier, CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers). Of all the aspects of organic farming, I have found this is the one that most people — … Continue reading

Farm Day Rainbows

The rainbow theme from my newsletter last week continued right through Farm Day on Saturday.  It was touch and go in the morning deciding whether or not to hold the event, especially since we hadn’t selected a raindate.  But in … Continue reading

Yes on Proposition One

Several subscribers approached me at Farm Day to ask my opinion on Proposition 1 — the water bond on the November ballot — and suggest I write about it in the newsletter.  So here goes. Unless and until we pass … Continue reading

Rainbows with No Rain?

The dramatic change in seasons here mostly over the last seven days is wonderful for our fall crops, but it’s left me fighting some type of bug and not feeling very well.  So in the place of writing, I’m just … Continue reading

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How does an Orange become Organic?

Why is some of Terra Firma’s citrus fruit Certified Organic, and some not yet? There’s a pretty simple explanation and it helps explain some of the quirks of how we farm and get you such a wide variety of produce. … Continue reading

The View from Below

As you probably have heard, over the last week a series of events occurred at Lake Oroville — the second largest reservoir in the state — that caused the mandatory evacuation of almost two hundred thousand people living downstream in … Continue reading

Dear Diary

Fifty years before Terra Firma came into existence, George Hemenway tended dozens and dozens of acres of fruit trees and vegetables on much of the land we currently farm.  He kept a handwritten daily dairy of his work on the … Continue reading