Member News

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

What does September rain bring?

Dear (Contact First Name), 2013 send a pretty strong message on Saturday, the day before the Fall Equinox, i.e., the first day of fall:  Attention Northern California, it is now fall. The “Harvest Moon” setting last week We got over … Continue reading

Family Trees

When I was two years old, my parents bought their first house and planted a pine tree in the sideyard.  There is a picture of my mom holding me next to the tree, which was about her size.  By the … Continue reading

Digging Deeper into “Superfoods”

You may have read a humorous blog post a few weeks back spoofing kale’s exploding popularity as a trendy food.  In these last few years, certain vegetables have been included on the list of so-called Superfoods — foods packed not … Continue reading

Paper or Plastic?

“Paper vs. Plastic?”  Terra Firma subscribers are aware that most of the time, when it comes to the packaging we use in your boxes, we usually make the choice for you.  This is the process we use to decide: Whenever … Continue reading

Which Tomato is Sweetest?

Long ago when Terra Firma still had a stand at the farmers’ markets in Berkeley, San Rafael, and Davis, there was one question asked most frequently when a customer was confronted with the vast array of tomato varieties we grew:  … Continue reading

It’s not a Dry Heat

I grew up on the East Coast, and if you’ve ever spent any time there — or of course, in the South — you’re familiar with the term “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”.  We got a tiny taste … Continue reading

A New Crop of New Drop Sites

Terra Firma doesn’t do paid ads for our CSA like some other farms, or Groupon deals like some of the big organic produce delivery services.  We rely almost 100% on referrals from our subscribers for new customers, and we try … Continue reading

Drought of 2013

It’s been a long dry season this year; the second year in a row with below average rainfall.  So I wasn’t shocked to hear discussion at a local watering hole recently turn to talk of wells in the area running … Continue reading

The Big Tomato Issue!

Dear (Contact First Name), The three-acre tomato field we are harvesting right now is alongside a private gravel road.  Every morning our employees park along that road, grab empty boxes from the piles arrayed there, and start harvesting tomatoes by … Continue reading

Viticulturitis

There’s a manual used by professional psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose their patients, and the list of disorders and syndromes in it gets longer every time they publish it.  I am completely certain that a t some point in the … Continue reading

Death, Taxes…and Weeds

Everyone knows the old cliche about life’s only certainties:  Death and Taxes.  For farmers, however, there’s a third.  But unlike the other two, this is a certainty that is in your face every day, reminding you who is boss, taunting … Continue reading

Good News for Sweet Pepper Fans

Sweet Bell Peppers are one the most difficult vegetables to grow organically, especially in the Central Valley of California.  The standard supermarket bell pepper is dark green, almost black, while it is ripening.  Meanwhile, the plants generally make excessive amounts … Continue reading

Happy 4th of July Heatwave

Happy Fourth of July!  We hope you are enjoying the holiday and, if you are in town and getting a box this week, are planning on celebrating with lots of great seasonal produce. Unless it falls on a Sunday, Fourth  … Continue reading

All Aboard the Peach Train

Important:  We are not changing our delivery schedule this year for the 4th of July holiday.  Please see the note below for more info.  Peaches are the quintessential summer fruit and, in our opinion, a critical component of any good … Continue reading

The Other Andean Superfood

Potato consumption in the U.S. has been down quite a bit since the dawn of the Atkins and other low-carb diets.  Meanwhile, consumption of quinoa has skyrocketed.  I find this slightly amusing since together, they are two of the three … Continue reading

The Results are In.

The results of last week’s survey in the newsletter are in.  280 of you took the time to respond, which is pretty good — fully a quarter of Terra Firma subscribers.  That makes the data a pretty accurate reflection of … Continue reading

Survey Says…

Sometimes it seems like everywhere you go on the world wide web, a survey pops up with some random question (“Do you love Cheetos? Vote now!”).  Everyone in the marketing business is looking for data to help them make their … Continue reading

Earliest Tomatoes Ever?

I spent some time this morning going back through several years of our CSA packing lists and newsletters for late May — all the way back to 2006.  But I couldn’t find another year when we had tomatoes in your … Continue reading

Immigration Reform Moves Forward

There aren’t too many times of year on California’s farms that are busier than mid-May, and Terra Firma is no exception.  There are so many different tasks that need doing here right now that just listing them all would take … Continue reading

Rating the Season

At our farm, diversity is both an ecological and economic strategy.  Growing numerous crops helps us keep at least some insect pests and diseases in check, but it also protects us from the financial damage that most farmers suffer if … Continue reading

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Carrots are Back!

For the last week or two we’ve been waiting for our first fall Carrots to size up enough to begin harvest.  Part of our job as farmers is normally to check on our maturing fields to determine when crops are … Continue reading

The Crop that Gives Back

Most of the crops we grow at Terra Firma fall into a small group of plant families.  Of course there are the Solanums — Tomatoes, Peppers and Potatoes.  Cucurbits include Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Melons, Watermelons and Winter Squash.  Brassicas or … Continue reading

Team Building, TFF-Style

We don’t do any structured teambuilding exercises at Terra Firma, but everything we grow at Terra Firma is the result of constant daily teamwork between the fifty or so people who work here.  Every item in your box gets to … Continue reading