Member News

Dry Farming in the Winter?

Important Note:  This will be the final week that you get your CSA box packed in the larger size boxes we use during the summer.  Beginning next week, your box will be smaller.  Make sure to check the label so … Continue reading

Unwelcome Guests

Somewhere in Africa, a man gets on a plane bound for California.  He has visited several friends and relatives just before leaving, collecting letters and other items from them.  Once here, he again visits friends and relatives, delivering the letters … Continue reading

Drought Update

Last Wednesday we were thrilled to wake to the sound of steady raindrops that brought us almost half an inch of rain over four hours.  The first rain of fall is always welcome around here after our normally long, hot … Continue reading

Important Farm Day Details

Every year after summer has ended and things have slowed down a bit, we invite you, our subscribers, to come out to the farm for a mellow day of picnicking in the orchard, strawberry picking, pumpkins, music and farm tours. … Continue reading

Winter is Coming (we hope)

It’s crunch time at Terra Firma right now.  Despite the unseasonal hot weather we’ve been having since Labor Day (it was 103 on Friday, for example), we are scrambling to get ready for winter. That’s right.  I said “Winter”.  I … Continue reading

Facebook, Farm Day, and more

Thanks to everyone who responded to last week’s newsletter with helpful suggestions and great ideas.  We now have quite a to-do list of things we need to get done over the next month or so. Several subscribers pointed out that … Continue reading

Help us Grow!

It’s been over twenty years since we started packing CSA boxes at Terra Firma.  Some of you have been with us since back then. Just a few years ago, we had waiting lists for many of our drop sites and … Continue reading

Earthquakes and Dams don’t mix

If you got woken up on Saturday night by the 6.0 Earthquake in Napa, you  might have thought something along the lines of “Drop, cover and hold.” If you live in Winters, California though, your first thought was likely “The … Continue reading

Ecology Ain’t Pretty, Part Two

In last week’s newsletter I talked about beneficial insects and how they control certain pests on farms — an illustration of how evolution works to fill ecological niches.  Ladybugs, for example, thrive on aphids. If you’ll forgive the comparison, humans … Continue reading

Ecology Ain’t Pretty

Beneficial insects are bugs that eat or otherwise kill bugs that damage crops.  Ladybugs are perhaps the most famous beneficial insect —  young ladybugs (technically, larvae) in particular are fast-moving, quick-growing ravenous eaters.  They eat aphids like teenage boys snarfing … Continue reading

A Day with No Sunshine

A strange thing happened in the Sacramento Valley yesterday.  I’m not speaking specifically about the light rain that fell several times between sunrise and sunset.  While it’s not very common, it’s not unheard of.  Actually, it’s happened so many times … Continue reading

Well, well, well

Inside a house, there is a bucket next to the sink and another next to each shower.  A bowl in the sink catches every drop of water used to wash dishes and is then emptied into the bucket.  In the … Continue reading

What is Killing the Walnuts?

Dear (Contact First Name),   A monoculture is an agricultural system that depends primarily or entirely on a single crop.  In theory, monocultures are widely acknowledged to be a bad idea, susceptible to any number of threats:  price crashes, devastating … Continue reading

Flower Power

Tomatoes have one of the most delicate flowers imaginable.  Tiny and frail, it must withstand the elements for long enough to pollinate.  (Tomatoes do not require bees for pollination, although bumble bees do frequent the flowers)  Wind, either cold or … Continue reading

Agritourism vs. Pyrotourism

Most people who come to visit Winters, California, where Terra Firma is located, come for our cute rustic downtown area with its handful of wineries and eateries, often on their way to Lake Berryessa just to the west. But long … Continue reading

Box Upsizing this week. Happy July 4th!

Important:  Please note that your CSA box is larger this week.  We moved all the boxes up a size to accomodate the first watermelons of the year.  Check the label before taking a box! We have grown and packed you … Continue reading

Wherefore Art Though, Water Bond?

This week our elected officials in the State Capitol once again played kick-the-can on one of the biggest issues facing our state:  the future of our water supply.  There had been hopes that politicians could cobble together a bond proposal … Continue reading

Terra Firma at your Doorstep?

When we started packing CSA boxes — just one size — and delivering them in 1994, we were just the second farm with drop sites in San Francisco and one of a handful in the East Bay and Sacramento.  For … Continue reading

Tomatoes are #1

As you are well aware, we grow dozens of different crops here at Terra Firma.  But the reality is, we are really tomato growers.  Tomatoes are the hub crop, the sun around which our farm spins.  If we have a … Continue reading

Proposed Price Increase

On July 1st, 2014, the minimum wage in California will jump by 11.5%, to $9 an hour.  For people who earn the minimum wage or close to it, this is great news. At Terra Firma, the minimum wage is an … Continue reading

Ancient Alliums

Alliums — onions, garlic,  leeks, shallots and ramps — are ancient foods that were harvested from the wild by cultures all over the world even before the advent of agriculture.  They were probably among the first vegetables ever cultivated by … Continue reading

Energy Independence For All!

There are some exciting things happening in the world of alternative energy that are allowing people and businesses to move away from using pollution and climate-change causing fossil fuels.  With any number of fully electric vehicles now available for sale, … Continue reading

Bay Area Heat Advisory and Your CSA box

I was completely shocked yesterday when I came inside for a drink of water and checked the weather map at Weather Underground.   Not at how warm it was here on the farm — 96 degrees is a hot day for … Continue reading

Terra Firma is Bee Heaven

We have plenty of problems on our farm, as frequent readers of this newsletter know: weather, bugs, weeds, mechanical breakdowns, etc.  So when people ask me:  “Do you have enough bees? I hear they are in crisis?”, I am happy … Continue reading

May is the New June

Last week was one of the chilliest weeks we’ve had in 2014, and April ended up being rainier than December, January and February combined.  But summer is coming soon.  Really soon. A glance at the box list today and you … Continue reading

Crops that Grow like Weeds

Dear (Contact First Name), Terra Firma subscribers are pretty aware that spinach and arugula, either on their own or mixed with baby lettuce, are key components of our CSA boxes for much of the year. For you, they are convenient, … Continue reading

Hijacking our Guacamole

Living in the Bay Area, one might believe that the “Locally Grown” movement has taken off so dramatically that farmers in the U.S. are struggling to meet the demand for fresh produce in cities and towns across the country.  Nothing … Continue reading

Spring is Sprung

We had several days of wild weather last week up here, with thunderstorms, heavy rain and even a tiny bit of hail totalling almost three inches.  In a drought year, it’s pretty hard to complain about.  Even if we don’t … Continue reading

April Showers: Good or Bad?

People have been asking me this week “is the rain right now good for the farm or bad?” Imagine that we have a meter that goes from “All good” to “all bad”.  Then insert the meter into each month of … Continue reading

Support Your Local Rice Farmers

If you’ve flown over or into Sacramento in a normal winter, you’ve seen it — a veritable inland sea of water surrounding the city and its suburbs.  These are the rice fields of the Sacramento Valley, which sit in the … Continue reading

The Whole World is in Bloom

How often do you stop and smell the flowers?  There is no better time than right now.  With the first day of official Spring just days away, the whole world is in bloom. Almost every plant that survives the winter … Continue reading

2014 = All Spring, All the Time

Three months in, the theme to the 2014 growing season is clear:  All Spring, All the Time!While the season doesn’t officially get started until late next week, don’t tell the plants.Asparagus is the groundhog of the vegetable farm, and as … Continue reading

Popular Myths about Water

It rained enough in February to get us close to normal for the month, but not enough to end the drought — even with more rain expected this week.  I’ve been writing a lot about water this winter, and so … Continue reading

We can’t do it without you!

The spring weather we had for the last two weeks gave us an opportunity to get a lot done around the farm, especially knowing that storms were coming.  To be honest, farming in the winter during a drought is a … Continue reading

We are Gluten-Free!

In the world of food marketing, labels are all the rage.  The continued success of organic food appears to have taught the food industry that making claims via certain terms will help a product sell.  Whether the claims have any … Continue reading

Giving the Pumps a Rest

We got about 4 inches of rain last week over 5 days here at Terra Firma.  Places further north got more — as much as 12 inches in Sonoma County, for example.  Further south, the amounts were much less except … Continue reading

And the Water Conservation Winner is…

We got almost half an inch of rain between the two small storms last week.  In laypersons’ terms, half an inch is enough to wet the soil completely.  It’s enough to make puddles but not run off.  Enough to irrigate … Continue reading

Making the Right Cuts

Every year beginning in mid-December or when the leaves drop from all our deciduous fruit trees, pruning season begins here at Terra Firma.  We start off with peaches, which are the first to flower, and then move on to apricots, … Continue reading

Drought Declared…Finally

Last week, Governor Brown finally made official what farmers have known for a month:  We are in a drought.  Many people were expecting him to issue strict restrictions on less than essential uses like watering lawns.  After all, farmers all … Continue reading

Freeze De-Briefing

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to give a little report about the status of our fields and how it is going to affect what you get in your boxes in the foreseeable future.Halfway into Juneary, with its … Continue reading

When is it going to rain?

Welcome to 2014!  Cold weather is getting lots of press right now, what with the “polar vortex” that clobbered California farms a month ago now battering the Midwest and East Coast.  But the same movement of the jetstream responsible for … Continue reading

Last Delivery of 2013

This is our final week of deliveries for 2013.  We will resume deliveries on January 11th, 2014. 2013 appears to be ending much the way it started.  The first week of January our fields were frozen every morning; by the … Continue reading

The Big Freeze of 2013

It’s been a rough week since I wrote wondering “how cold is it going to get”.  The first day of the “cold snap” it was actually much colder in the Bay Area than it was at Terra Firma.  We caught … Continue reading

A Wintry Week

There’s an agricultural region in Argentina that is almost perfect for growing winegrapes.  Mendoza is located just east of the Andes, and just enough cool air flows down into it to balance the heat of the valley and ripen Malbec … Continue reading

Not a 9-5 Job

On Sunday night, many of you were in disbelief when darkness descended upon us at the too-early hour of 5:45 or so.  “That extra hour of sleep, it wasn’t worth it!”.  “I hate Winter.”  Etc. The early risers among you … Continue reading

A Glorious Fall

Some years we don’t really get “Fall” in the Sacramento Valley.  Instead, we just go straight from hothothot to non-stop rain — last year, for example. We might have had a great summer this year, but it ended up being … Continue reading

Now is the Time!

Friends, Subscribers, Countrymen and Countrywomen…the time has come. In just a few weeks, the US Food and Drug Administration will close the comment period on the regulations governing the growing of fresh fruit and vegetables, also known by the unfortunate … Continue reading

Carrot Conundrums

A friend of mine is in charge of the “organic program” for one of the largest carrot producers in the world.  I remember when I first met him I sheepishly asked him about a problem we were having growing the … Continue reading

Dance of the Machines

Dear (Contact First Name), On the largest farms in California and the rest of the U.S., harvest is completely mechanized.  For commodity crops like corn and soybeans as well as canning tomatoes, almonds and walnuts, a handful of workers operating … Continue reading

Trying to Stop Pathogens with Handcuffs

Last year, cantelopes grown on a Colorado farm and sold at Walmart sickened hundreds of people.  Thirty three of those people died.  The culprit was listeria, a pathogen that is more commonly associated with dairy products than fresh produce.  It … 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