Member News

Weeds, Mud, and Price of Organic

2024-02-14T19:42:41+00:00February 14, 2024|

Where organic farming has succeeded wildly in marketing itself, it failed just as wildly at explaining itself. Most Americans, when surveyed, say they would buy organic products if they cost the same as conventional. This reveals a fundamental lack of understanding about the nature of organic: it will likely always be more expensive. The biggest reason? Weeds. Conventional farmers have generally controlled weeds with synthetic herbicides for over 50 years. But in 2024, forty [MORE ...]

Post-Storm Update

2024-02-07T18:54:07+00:00February 7, 2024|

Like many areas of California, we had some crazy weather here at the farm over the weekend.  Not only did we experience the widespread damaging windstorm that many other areas saw on Sunday, but prior to the wind's arrival, we got over 4" of rain in just 12 hours.  For a short period, we had the highest daily rainfall of any site in California.  Definitely not a distinction that I was happy about at [MORE ...]

Which is the Real “Wettest January Ever”?

2024-01-24T19:03:47+00:00January 24, 2024|

Last January was the wettest January we had had in several years. This January is also the wettest January we have had in years. But that is where the similarities end. January 2024 brought a number of incredibly wet storms that flooded our fields for weeks, although other areas saw much worse flooding. The storms were very cold, and the periods between them saw multiple nights of below-freezing temperatures. As a result, our crops [MORE ...]

Community S(o)upported Agriculture

2024-01-17T18:50:41+00:00January 17, 2024|

You may not know it, but January is "National Soup Month"-- until this morning, I didn't even know there was a National Soup Month at all.  But I wasn't surprised to learn that it is January.  Just look at the weather forecast for this weekend:  four straight days of rain. There is no "National CSA Month", but if there were one, it would also be January.  The first month of the year seems to [MORE ...]

A New Year and a New Look at a New(ish) Law

2024-01-10T18:44:51+00:00January 10, 2024|

Happy New Year and welcome to Terra Firma's 2024 CSA! We are excited to see that we are delivering quite a few more boxes this week then we did the last week in December.  If you're a new subscriber, welcome! And if you're an existing member who hasn't gotten a box in a few weeks or months, we're glad to see you back. If you've been a subscriber since before 2016, you may remember [MORE ...]

Happy Holidays from TFF!

2023-12-20T15:32:20+00:00December 20, 2023|

This week will be our final delivery of CSA boxes for 2023. Our next delivery will be on Weds., January 10th, 2024. Last week I talked a bit about the "Nut Recession of 2023" that resulted when an oversupply of nuts ran smack into a fall in demand due to Covid, inflation and a recession in China. Walnut growers have suffered the brunt of this recession because unlike almonds and pistachios, they can be [MORE ...]

Are we back to “Normal” yet?

2023-12-13T19:05:53+00:00December 13, 2023|

December tends to be a good time for looking back at and evaluating the year that has gone, and that is also true for farmers. It's been a tough four years since 2020, and we've had droughts, flooding, fires and of course "plague". 2023 seemed like a good candidate for a return to a semblance of normalcy, but instead we ended up with a societal case of "Long Covid". One obvious symptom was the [MORE ...]

December Heatwave?

2023-12-06T19:09:54+00:00December 6, 2023|

December is usually our coldest and often the wettest month of the year here at TFF, with alternating rain and freezing morning temperatures.  But so far this year, it has continued November's trend of sunny, dry and warm: it even hit 74 briefly on Monday, which set a record for that date.  This would seem bizarre no matter what, but it stands particularly in contrast to last December which featured weeks where the high [MORE ...]

Countdown to 2024

2023-11-29T18:49:22+00:00November 29, 2023|

I hope everyone had a relaxing and enjoyable holiday last week -- I know for sure all of us here at Terra Firma did. Thanksgiving is an important "hard stop" for us marking the end of our busy season and allows us to rest up to get through the next month until our longer year-end break. Speaking of which: Terra Firma will be closed the last week of December and the first week of [MORE ...]

Thanksgiving Pre-Game Huddle

2023-11-09T02:22:00+00:00November 9, 2023|

Our team has started our "Countdown to Thanksgiving" here at Terra Firma, by far the busiest three-day week of the year for us...actually, the only one. Most of the preparation will happen before you receive your boxes that week, but some of you have a very important role to play in making sure we can get a CSA box to everyone who wants one before the holiday: If you normally pick up your box [MORE ...]

November is Co-vember at TFF

2023-11-01T17:25:20+00:00November 1, 2023|

Happy Halloween, and welcome to November. We are just about done planting vegetables for the year at Terra Firma, which means it's time for planting something else: winter cover crops. Most farmers in California leave their fields fallow during the winter, exposed to the wind and rain that erode the soil and cause runoff into both ground and surface water. "Cover crops" are just what they sound like: plants that cover the soil and [MORE ...]

Surprise Rain

2023-10-25T17:34:55+00:00October 25, 2023|

Overnight, people in Acapulco, MX found themselves in the midst of a Category 5 hurricane that no one had prepared for. As of this morning, there is still little information about the impacts, but they are expected to be potentially devastating. Just twelve hours before Hurricane Otis made landfall in Mexico, it had been forecast to achieve Category 1 status -- one fifth the strength it ended up achieving. Globally, governments spend hundreds of [MORE ...]

Reducing the Plastic in your Boxes

2023-10-18T17:45:16+00:00October 18, 2023|

As recently as a hundred years ago, fresh produce was a luxury that was unattainable to most people in the world. A handful of "new technologies" made it possible to transport it from farms to cities without it turning into compost on the way: fossil fuels, refrigeration, and plastic. Fast forward to the 21st century and all three of those have been implicated in climate change and other environmental damage. And yet the consumption [MORE ...]

A Little Help from our BFFs (Best Friend Farms)

2023-10-04T17:23:23+00:00October 4, 2023|

The transition from summer vegetables to fall and winter ones is not often a smooth one here. Many years, hot weather sticks around until late October. Other years, fall arrives early in the form of a soaking rain that promptly ends the season for summer crops like tomatoes. Early Fall is also challenging a season for fruit. Apples love classic autumn weather, which is perhaps why they don't do particularly well here. Grapes are [MORE ...]

How to Slay a Drought in 12 Months

2023-09-27T17:24:27+00:00September 27, 2023|

A year ago, California was still deep in drought. Reservoirs and wells across the state were low or completely dry and water restrictions were in place. To paraphrase Steinbeck, it seemed that the drought was going to last forever. A year later, the drought has been vanquised. During periods of drought, a vicious cycle starts where dryness begets more dryness. Dry air pulls water from the landscape, from trees and plants, and from reservoirs. [MORE ...]

Short Newsletter for the Shorter Days

2023-09-20T16:22:40+00:00September 20, 2023|

Friday marks the official start of Autumn, and by next week the nights will be longer than the days. In recent years, this change was hardly noticeable here with the seemingly endless summer weather lasting well into October and even November. But beginning this week last year -- when we had a soaking rain just prior to the Equinox -- something changed. And if anything, fall seems to have already started this year. Believe [MORE ...]

30 years and counting

2023-09-14T00:33:29+00:00September 13, 2023|

Yesterday was my birthday, 57 to be exact.  I wouldn't normally mention that in the newsletter, but this year marks a full thirty years that I have been farming, all of them right here. I moved from New York to California in September of 1992, and moved to Winters after spending six months in San Francisco.  And while when I arrived here I had already lived 27 years, the reality is that almost the [MORE ...]

Solano County in the News?

2023-08-30T17:37:33+00:00August 30, 2023|

Terra Firma Farm is technically located in Winters, which is a town in Yolo County. But most of the land we farm as well as our packing facilities reside in Solano County, just south of Putah Creek from Winters proper.  We started out farming exclusively in Yolo County, but over the years we have moved about 80%  of our production over the county line.  We like it here. Solano County is actually part of [MORE ...]

Adapting to Longer Summers at TFF

2023-08-23T16:02:20+00:00August 23, 2023|

One of the frustrations of CSA farming is the mismatch between supply and demand in the summer.  Most years, the peak production of summer crops like tomatoes and peaches falls almost exactly during the long summer break when most kids are out of school and families tend to leave town.  Like most CSAs, Terra Firma sees a seasonal dip in the number of subscribers receiving boxes every summer, and a corresponding increase when schools [MORE ...]

Humidity, Organic Farming and California

2023-08-16T18:01:39+00:00August 16, 2023|

For six months of most years, California is a very dry place.  Sometimes our climate is called "Mediterrean", but that's a misnomer because many places adjacent to that body of water actually get regular summer rainfall.  In the Golden State outside of the mountains, we get an average of close to zero. So how can it be that California produces more agricultural bounty than any other state in the U.S. ? As so many [MORE ...]

Achieving Groundwater Sustainability the Local Way

2023-08-09T17:40:13+00:00August 9, 2023|

A few years back, during the height of the drought, it seemed that everyone knew that farmers in general -- and almond farmers in particular -- were using too much of California's water. Fast forward to 2023. The drought is over, having been spectacularly eradicated by one of the wettest winters in our state's history, and thousands of acres of almond orchards in the "driest" part of the Central Valley are under the water [MORE ...]

Mel-August

2023-08-02T16:40:04+00:00August 2, 2023|

If watermelons and sweet corn are the symbols of July at Terra Firma, then Melons are a sure sign of August. Melons, also known as Muskmelons, are part of the extended family that includes not just watermelons but cucumbers, summer squash, winter squash and pumpkins. Botanically, they are most similar to cucumbers as they share similar-looking seeds, flowers and leaf shapes. While most supermarkets in the U.S. sell only cantelopes and honeydew, there are [MORE ...]

It isn’t Summer until the Melons are ready

2023-07-26T14:44:19+00:00July 26, 2023|

Watermelons and Muskmelons are two of our most important summer crops here at Terra Firma. Both crops like hot weather more than anything else we grow; the hotter it gets, the bigger and more lush the plants get, and the better the melons taste. Our muskmelon season is fairly short, primarily late July and August. And while we grow several varieties -- cantelopes, orange honeydew, Galia and Piel de Sapo -- you will likely [MORE ...]

Heat Waves and Baby Grapes

2023-07-12T18:06:17+00:00July 12, 2023|

If you consume any media at all, you have probably heard about the devastating floods on the East Coast and the unrelenting heat in Arizona, Texas and other southwestern areas. We have been pretty lucky in California this summer to mostly avoid extreme weather lately, but we did have two days of near-record heat here in the Sacramento area over the 4th of July weekend. Saturday it hit 108 and Sunday was 109. That [MORE ...]

A Day late but just as Sweet

2023-07-05T17:45:37+00:00July 5, 2023|

Sweet Corn is the quintessential 4th of July food, and as I mentioned last week, we take a lot of pride in harvesting it before July 4th each year. Ideally in time to get our CSA subscribers in time for the holiday. This year the timing of the calendar and the holiday meant that that didn't happen. Instead, you're getting corn today, July 5th (or later). Turns out it's not really that easy to [MORE ...]

Head over Heels for Green Beans?

2023-06-28T17:20:32+00:00June 28, 2023|

One of the most common questions we get at Terra Firma is "Do you rotate your crops?". I understand why people ask the question, especially since the media so often uses the term "monoculture" when they are talking about agriculture. But for us, it's roughly akin to asking the average person if they eat, sleep and breath. Here's a fact that might surprise you: almost all farmers in California rotate their annual crops. (Perennial [MORE ...]

Which Solstice is it, anyway?

2023-06-21T18:04:07+00:00June 21, 2023|

Today is the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice. Beginning tomorrow, the days will begin getting shorter and the nights longer. But on the farm, it feels like it's still May. In fact, this week's CSA box list is almost identical to a box we would normally pack on May 20th instead of June 20th. The peach varieties we are harvesting this week usually ripen in May. And while our strawberries and [MORE ...]

The Tomatoes Made it!

2023-06-14T17:36:43+00:00June 14, 2023|

In the March 22nd newsletter, I told you how we had been forced by the endless wet weather that month to hand-plant our entire first planting of tomatoes. The first of those tomatoes make their appearance in your boxes today...taaaadaaa. Looking back now at that newsletter, I realize how many important details I left out that illustrate how desperate we were to get the tomatoes planted. Of course both of the days we were [MORE ...]

June Gloom? What the Heck?

2023-06-07T17:29:32+00:00June 7, 2023|

For many Californians, including many TFF subscribers, June can be a gloomy time with chilly wind, fog or marine layer clouds blocking the sun. In contrast, June on the farm is normally the sunniest month of the year. Although we occasionally see glimpses of it, the fog never makes it to our location. And the long days before and after the Summer Solstice mean the sun is at its highest point and the days [MORE ...]

Peach Season 2023: Better than last year!

2023-05-31T17:11:09+00:00May 31, 2023|

You might remember that for Terra Firma, last year was "the Year of No Peaches". A days-long hard freeze in February of 2022 wiped out almost our entire crop of "Stone Fruit" : Apricots, Peaches and Nectarines. Stone fruit is one of our farm's cornerstones. We grow 30 varieties that generally ripen over a five month season. Since we started growing Peaches in 2006, we've never lost the entire crop like we did last [MORE ...]

“No Electric Truck for you, Small Farmer!”

2023-05-24T17:49:24+00:00May 24, 2023|

Farming is expensive. It takes lots of money and equipment to prepare the soil and plant crops. Believe it or not, many farmers of the most commonly grown crops in the U.S. can't even afford the equipment to harvest them. They pay a contractor harvester to do so. And only a tiny number of farmers actually transport their crops to market. The big trucks required are a huge investment. So by default or by [MORE ...]

2023 is like a Dream…

2023-05-17T16:09:19+00:00May 17, 2023|

You've probably had dreams where you are racing -- to catch a flight, or finish a project, or get to an event -- but things keep popping up to keep you from getting there. You wake up in a panic when you miss your flight, deadline, meeting, etc. In Terra Firma's stress dream, now reality, we are finally getting caught up with our spring preparations to-do list for April 15th. But then we look [MORE ...]

Strawberry Season Opener

2023-05-10T17:56:25+00:00May 10, 2023|

Strawberry season starts this week! Two things immediately jump out about this year's berries. First, they are late -- very late. Today is the latest calendar date we've ever put the first strawberries in our CSA boxes. That follows the coldest winter and spring we've had in Northern California in twenty years. The second thing you'll notice right away is that the berries are HUGE, absolutely the biggest we've ever harvested. This is the [MORE ...]

Oh Hail, no!

2023-05-03T17:28:34+00:00May 3, 2023|

There's one weather phenomenon that terrifies every farmer, worldwide, no matter what crop they grow or where they grow it: Hail. It's hard to imagine anything more damaging to growing crops than rock-hard pieces of ice falling miles from the sky at hundreds of miles per hour. And while golf- or baseball -sized hail makes national headlines, even teeny-tiny hailstones can easily destroy many crops. Maybe you're thinking, "Why is hail any different from [MORE ...]

Water Aplenty for Irrigation Season

2023-04-26T16:33:10+00:00April 26, 2023|

It's hard to believe that just four weeks ago today, it was pouring rain while I wrote the newsletter. The high temperature that day was 54 degrees. Yesterday it was sunny and hot, reaching 88 degrees and today is likely to hit 90. That change has been as sudden for the crops as it has been for us humans. Over the course of those four weeks, we went from checking fields every day to [MORE ...]

Europeans Helping us out with Spinach Harvest?

2023-04-19T17:45:16+00:00April 19, 2023|

Over our thirty years of farming at Terra Firma, we have continually striven to improve our farming: growing nicer crops more efficiently while making our employees' jobs easier and reducing our carbon footprint. In the last five years, labor regulations in California have dramatically raised the cost of employment. And since the pandemic began, it has been difficult to find enough workers. In response, we have focused on mechanizing harvest of some of our [MORE ...]

Waking up from a long Winter Slumber

2023-04-12T15:01:38+00:00April 12, 2023|

Despite the pessimistic title of my last newsletter, over the weekend a seasonal switch was flipped and just like that, Spring Arrived. The change over just a few days is not just visible but palpable. On Thursday my sinuses started throbbing; the next day I noticed the bare branches of walnut and pistachio trees had begun to push out their first flowers -- the last of our tree crops to bloom each year. The [MORE ...]

Planting Tomatoes the Old Fashioned Way

2023-03-22T03:58:48+00:00March 22, 2023|

Over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of time on rainy days looking over farm records for the past 16 years -- as far back as I have them. Not once in that time period we were unable to plant a single crop for the entire month of March. Outside of the drought years, rain is fairly common for this time of year. We have an aspirational list of planting goals, [MORE ...]

Mud versus Flood

2023-03-15T17:07:24+00:00March 15, 2023|

Last week Governor Newsom issued a directive that would allow water managers to intentionally divert surplus water from rivers in the wet season into farm fields to recharge groundwater. Just a day or two later, the Pajaro River broke through a levee and flooded the small town of Pajaro as well as thousands of acres of prime, vegetable-growing farmland near Watsonville. It's very important to distinguish between these two phenomena. Carefully-planned, intentional flooding of [MORE ...]

Stuck in the Mud

2023-03-08T18:54:54+00:00March 8, 2023|

On a drizzly day last week a young man walked down my driveway calling out for help. It turned out that he had followed Google maps instructions to turn onto a dirt road through our farm fields and immediately gotten stuck in the mud.  Luckily for him, we were able to pull him out. Most Californians live in areas that are essentially waterproof. Wet weather is a minor inconvenience of short duration, unless it's [MORE ...]

The Humble Onion goes Premium

2023-03-01T17:59:47+00:00March 1, 2023|

There was a story last week in Bloomberg about a global shortage of onions that is causing price inflation and follow-on impacts for other farm products.  The shortage of wheat last year, caused at least partially by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, was widely publicized.  Onions are also a worldwide staple: the second most consumed vegetable in the world (the first is tomatoes), and they are a critical component of most cuisines worldwide. Some people [MORE ...]

Origin Stories and Old Friends

2023-02-22T18:58:35+00:00February 22, 2023|

In the summer of 1988, after graduating from college, I accepted an invitation from my good friend Sam Wagner to come out to work on his family's farm in Southeastern Pennsylvania. We spent the summer cutting and baling hay on 320 acres of rolling farmland along the beautiful Brandywine River. It was hard and dirty work, but I loved every minute of it. At the end of the summer, I left Deborah's Rock Farm, [MORE ...]

Broccoli: Good for you and Good for the Planet

2023-02-15T18:32:46+00:00February 15, 2023|

Broccoli is a mainstay of Terra Firma's CSA program and thus of our farm. We start transplanting it in early August and continue until about Halloween, just a few weeks after we normally begin harvesting it. Harvest lasts through winter and normally concludes sometime in March. If you pay attention to the broccoli in your boxes, you may have noticed that it changes over the course of this six month period. The heads look [MORE ...]

California Coin Toss

2023-02-08T18:38:52+00:00February 8, 2023|

Since 2020, farming in the winter in Northern California hasn't been much different than farming in the desert valleys of Southern California and Arizona where most of the winter produce in supermarkets is grown.  It's been sunny, warm and dry during the day and a little frosty at night.  Rain was rare and unsubstantial, meaning we had to irrigate every few weeks.  The crops grew at a predictable pace, we had no gaps in [MORE ...]

Drying Out

2023-01-25T18:28:53+00:00January 25, 2023|

Agriculture has a pretty unforgiving schedule most of year, and most everyone in the field looks forward to having a nice period in the winter to catch up on sleep, visit with friends and family, and relax.  But this winter has been the first of the decade at Terra Firma that we actually got to slow down and take a real break. For the last three years we've had barely any downtime, with warm [MORE ...]

A Year’s Worth of Rain…in one Month

2023-01-18T16:56:19+00:00January 18, 2023|

The atmospheric firehose that has been pointed at California for a month has finally been turned off. We had a sunny day without rain yesterday for the first time in weeks. Here at Terra Firma and in many places in our state, we have gotten more than our total annual average rainfall now. Our local reservoir and source of irrigation water, Lake Berryessa, has added 200,000 acre feet of water since New Years: 54 [MORE ...]

Happy Soup Year

2023-01-04T18:31:21+00:00January 4, 2023|

Welcome to 2023! I hope you all had a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season, although I expect more than a few people got tangled up in the holiday travel disaster -- as my wife Marisa and I did. The holiday period saw extreme weather in many areas. California escaped most of it, but it now appears we are just late to joining the party. For the last four years, we've seen mostly warm and [MORE ...]

Ending 2022 on a High Note

2022-12-20T23:58:19+00:00December 20, 2022|

It's the end of the year, and thus time for the obligatory year-end retrospectives. 2022 was another rough year in a decade that has specialized in them. We still have Covid, but now we've also got inflation and war as well. Here at Terra Firma, we were surprised and saddened in June by the untimely death of our founder, Paul Holmes. Although he had retired in 2018, he had continued to help guide our [MORE ...]

Important Year End Details

2022-12-14T18:16:13+00:00December 14, 2022|

Over the weekend, we got another very good soaking from the latest storm system to hit the state.  The 2.5" of rain we received brings the farm up average for the Halloween-Christmas period.  And although we did not get any rain in October, the very unusual heavy rain we received in September more than made up for it.  From a rain perspective, it feels pretty "normal" around here. The recent rains pushed the "pause" [MORE ...]

Digging in to (the Science of) Compost

2022-12-07T19:05:18+00:00December 7, 2022|

We've been farming many of the fields where we grow your fruits and vegetables for twenty years or more.  Over those years, we have added hundreds of thousands of pounds of organic material to every acre of our soil in the form of compost and cover crops.  And we have seen the results of that stewardship  in better and more abundant crops.  Other organic farmers have seen the same results.  And now the latest [MORE ...]

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