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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
LATEST RECIPESGarlicky Green Beans in Tomato Vinagrette
Two-Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Carrots
Glass Noodle Veggie Stir Fry (Japchae)
Spring into Summer Salad
Spinach and Pea Curry
Japanese-Style Zucchini and Onions
Zucchini “Pasta” with Green Garlic and Peas
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Where’s the Garlic this year?
We have a long tradition of growing garlic at Terra Firma. In fact, Paul Holmes was growing it here in Winters during the first incarnation of the farm, before we changed the name. Most years we harvest tons of the … Continue reading
4th of July Pyrotechnics
People in the Bay Area who had never heard of Yolo County got a geography lesson when they woke up on Sunday to smoky skies and falling ash. Terra Firma subscribers, on the other hand, may have been wondering “Is … Continue reading
Clandestine Corn Farmers
Corn has an image problem. In recent years, in certain circles, among people who “know a few things”, and so think they know everything. “Everyone knows” that all corn is genetically modified. That it’s subsidized. That it’s a monoculture. A … Continue reading