Member News

It’s Been a Long Year…

2021-02-24T18:23:35+00:00February 24, 2021|

When Covid 19 arrived in California around this time last year, our local area was the epicenter for a brief moment, with infected passengers from cruise ships in Asia disembarking at Travis Airforce Base causing a small outbreak at the hospital where they were taken.  For the rest of the year, the virus pretty much left Terra Firma alone.  Despite dire warnings, there were very few cases among agricultural workers in Yolo and Solano [MORE ...]

A Texas-Sized Message on Climate Change and Agriculture

2021-02-17T17:58:36+00:00February 17, 2021|

Just a few months ago during the historic heatwave that gripped our state, I remember reading that officials at the Independent System Operator (ISO) that controls the power grid in California had "never foreseen" such massive electricity demand. "Historically", coastal regions never experienced extreme heat at the same time as inland areas. The geographical extent of the heat, combined with the reduction in output from solar panels due to wildfire smoke, led to extensive [MORE ...]

Got to Run, the Spinach just Emailed me

2021-02-10T17:05:08+00:00February 10, 2021|

With travel and holiday gatherings out of the picture, I got to spend a chunk of time earlier this winter with my nose in a book and my feet up next to the woodstove.  One book I read was a science fiction novel about a planet where -- you'll have to bear with me here  -- certain insects were infected with a human-created nanovirus that allowed them to evolve over a thousand years into [MORE ...]

Mid-Winter Update

2021-02-03T17:23:47+00:00February 3, 2021|

Every season offers its own particular challenges at our farm.  Some are new while others are familiar.  Each of them ends up affecting the contents of your box eventually.  Winter is no exception. In past years, we have had hard freezes in December that killed or damaged any number of our crops in the field, including one year where we lost the mandarin crop halfway through harvest, but not the rest of the citrus.  [MORE ...]

The OSHA/Covid Conundrum

2021-01-27T19:29:49+00:00January 27, 2021|

We're approaching the one year anniversary of the first time that most of us ever heard the term "Covid-19". Like many of you, I have spent probably hundreds of hours "doom scrolling" through media coverage of the virus and the pandemic. I consider myself fairly well-educated about it. But I have always been concerned that this virus was simply too difficult to understand, even for a college-educated, science-oriented person like myself. And it hasn't [MORE ...]

Resetting the Immigration Debate

2021-01-20T18:19:17+00:00January 20, 2021|

By the time you read this, we will have a new President.  And in a break from the policies of his predecessor our new President Joe Biden today is announcing proposed legislation to provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.  Many, if not most, are now and have always been "essential workers".  In particular, they feed our country:  tend, harvest and process our crops.  They prepare our [MORE ...]

Some Positive News this Week

2021-01-13T18:41:39+00:00January 13, 2021|

Amidst all the bad news we've had since the start of 2021, I thought it might highlight a few positive trends that are unlikely to see much coverage in the press or on social media. First and foremost:  the vast majority of workers on farms in California got almost an 8% raise this year.  That the third raise in three years of more than 5%.  This raise is due mostly to California's annual mandated [MORE ...]

Losing a Local Hero

2021-01-06T18:18:27+00:00January 6, 2021|

2020 was a year of enormous loss and tragedy for our country.  In December, we lost a local and state hero, lifetime farming advocate, and TFF subscriber:  Richard Rominger.  Rich was a Winters farmer who became a leader representing California agriculture first as State Secretary of Agriculture during Jerry Brown's first term, and then later at the federal level as a Deputy Secretary of Agriculture under Bill Clinton.  Later in his life, he became [MORE ...]

A Different Kind of Holiday Season

2020-12-22T17:58:12+00:00December 22, 2020|

For most people, the 2020 holiday season is playing out very differently than it does most years. Thousands of people -- whether patients or providers -- will be spending it in crowded hospitals away from their loved ones. Many others are out of work, struggling to pay the rent. Most people have drastically altered their normal plans for festivities and get-togethers, and will have to make due with gifts sent by mail, phone calls, [MORE ...]

When will Farmworkers get the vaccine?

2020-12-16T21:24:14+00:00December 16, 2020|

The big news this week may have been the delivery of the first Covid vaccines, but we were also excited to get our first real rain at the farm. The rain wasn't much -- just over an inch -- but it was enough to settle the deep dust, clear the air, and provide sufficient water that we were able to turn off our irrigation pumps for the first time since March. This is the [MORE ...]

Countdown to 2021: Important Schedule Update

2020-12-09T19:00:50+00:00December 9, 2020|

There's just a few weeks left in 2020, and I think we're all looking forward to giving it a shove out the door and into history. With most TFF subscribers and employees telling us they are planning on sheltering-in-place for the year-end holidays, we are cutting our annual "vacation" back by a week. We'll be taking just one week off from deliveries this year: the week of Dec. 28th. We will be making just [MORE ...]

Zooming in on Organic Inspections

2020-12-02T17:45:04+00:00December 2, 2020|

Here at Terra Firma, we take advantage of many forms of "technology" in our daily operations.  Of course we rely heavily on cell phones for communication between the dozens of staff members who are coordinating what needs to get done, where, and when.  We also use Slack for internal communication, as well as the less-well-known Farmigo platform that helps us manage your CSA accounts.  We have an Instagram account. There is one extremely popular [MORE ...]

A Thanksgiving Thank You

2020-11-18T18:53:34+00:00November 18, 2020|

2020 has been a terrible year for so many reasons that it's easy to imagine many people will have a hard time finding much to celebrate on Thanksgiving.  And in the twisted logic of this messed up year, that might not be such a bad thing, since Covid 19 seems to excel at spreading itself through celebration. At Terra Firma, next week will mark the first time since March that any of us will [MORE ...]

Let Us Grow Better Lettuce

2020-11-11T18:40:27+00:00November 11, 2020|

To celebrate the arrival of our first fall Lettuce in your boxes today, I'm going to do a deep dive into that vegetable. For decades, 100% of the lettuce consumed in the U.S. was "head lettuce": entire lettuce plants harvested by cutting at the root and sold that way. The most popular type by far was "Iceberg"; other types included Romaine, Red Leaf, and Green Leaf. As the 20th century drew to a close, [MORE ...]

Fall and Winter Holiday Schedule Update

2020-11-04T16:06:48+00:00November 4, 2020|

Just a quick post today, given that many people's attention is likely elsewhere. Thanksgiving Schedule Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is coming up quick! Thursday and Friday boxes will be delivered on Tuesday, November 24th. Weds. boxes will delivered as usual. We will post a draft Thanksgiving Box list on the website next week. We will also be sending out an email with a link to a special order form for anyone who wants [MORE ...]

The D-word

2020-10-28T20:04:22+00:00October 28, 2020|

With everything that is going on right now, most Californians can be forgiven for not noticing something that -- in any other year -- would be a huge story and major topic of conversation:  A large part of our state has experienced no rain since March. That in itself would not be alarming except for the fact that the same area received about half its normal rainfall last winter. Of course we've all been [MORE ...]

Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change is Everyone’s Problem

2020-10-28T20:05:36+00:00October 21, 2020|

For decades, any time the media discussed farming and climate change, agriculture was addressed as a culprit to be blamed for its contribution. This put farmers dealing with the daily realities of a changing climate on the defensive. Instead of helping us adapt to the challenges, it appeared likely that the government was going to force new regulations on us that would make it even harder to survive economically. Yesterday on NPR, I heard [MORE ...]

An Update: LNU Fire Relief Fundraiser

2020-10-28T20:06:46+00:00October 14, 2020|

Alicia here, to announce that you, our CSA members, raised a total of $10,640 for our olive oil producer and beekeeper, who experienced much loss and damage to their supplies and properties as a result of the LNU Complex Fire in August. Andrea, our beekeeper, and Susan, our olive oil producer, will each receive $5,320. We are deeply grateful for all of the donations we received, big and small. Below are updates from them. [MORE ...]

Please Excuse our appearance while we remodel

2020-10-07T16:16:13+00:00October 7, 2020|

I guess it's been a while since I have updated the template for the newsletter on the email program I use; they informed me yesterday -- for the first time that I am aware of -- that I could no longer use the template because it is incompatible with their new software. I suppose for some people designing a new template is something they can knock out in an hour and still get their [MORE ...]

Planning for the End…of the Year

2020-10-28T20:14:45+00:00September 30, 2020|

I once again find myself writing this weekly newsletter while a new giant fire burns just 30 miles away from here (the fire poses no risk to Terra Firma).  I used to love Autumn, now I find myself hating it. We escaped relatively unscathed from the horrendous hot, windy weather that caused the Glass Fire.  We've learned over the years to make sure that all our fields are well-irrigated prior to this type of [MORE ...]

Adapting our CSA to Climate Change starts now

2020-10-29T01:08:30+00:00September 23, 2020|

While humanity spent twenty years denying, blaming, and arguing about how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, climate change has arrived.   And we have spent almost no time planning for how we will adapt to the new reality. On our farm, we have been making small tweaks in response to ten years of individual weather events that, when put together like pieces of a puzzle, now provide a portrait of our new climate.  Mostly hotter [MORE ...]

Power Outages, Mealy Peaches & the Cold Chain

2020-10-29T01:09:05+00:00September 16, 2020|

It seems that if 2020 has a theme, it will be about not taking basic things for granted like spending time with friends and relatives,  having a home that hasn't burned down, having clean, breathable air and enjoying time outdoors. For our food supply, refrigeration is the equivalent of fresh air for humans.  Without it, fresh food would not exist for most people. I'm not talking just of the refrigerators and freezers in our [MORE ...]

The Year of Endless Fires and Smoke

2020-10-10T19:15:46+00:00September 10, 2020|

It’s 7 a.m. on Wednesday, half an hour past sunrise. It should be sunny. Instead, it is still pitch black outside, with just a disturbing red-orange glow to east. Massive fires to the north have covered the Sacramento Valley with a giant high cloud of smoke, and a new fire is currently threatening communities around Oroville. In the future, 2020 will certainly be remembered for the worst pandemic in modern memory. But it also [MORE ...]

CSA Members Affected by the Fire

2020-10-29T01:09:33+00:00September 2, 2020|

Last week's giant LNU fire destroyed hundreds of homes and dozens of farms in the Pleasants Valley area of Winters and Vacaville.  Two of the farms destroyed belonged to long-time TFF subscribers who also happen to be suppliers to the CSA. Susan Hassett of Buzzard's Roost Ranch produces organic olive oil that we have featured in our boxes.  In addition to losing her home, the irrigation system in her orchard was destroyed -- although [MORE ...]

Fire on the Mountain

2020-08-26T17:20:13+00:00August 26, 2020|

I have never been terribly worried about wildfires impacting Terra Firma's operations dramatically.  Despite our location at the eastern edge of the fire-prone Coast Range, most of our fields, our office, and our packing shed are safely ensconced in a large area of irrigated orchards and other farmland.  For a fire to reach us, it would have to burn through several miles of leafy green foliage that is kept hydrated all summer. By now, [MORE ...]

Household Food Safety Tips

2020-10-29T01:10:42+00:00August 12, 2020|

Most of the produce items in your boxes right now are not washed between leaving the field and entering your house.   Cooking at high temperatures, when applicable, is a reliable way to kill bacteria.  For items you plan to consume raw, you should do the following, you should take the following steps to ensure they are safe to eat: For Melons and Onions, washing the peels is not effective.  Use a separate cutting board [MORE ...]

Don’t Throw Away your TFF Onions

2020-08-12T17:40:11+00:00August 12, 2020|

Last week, as part of our obligations under the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2015, we conducted our annual  "Mock Recall".  That involves tracing a single product shipped on a single day and finding out how much the buyer still has on hand as well as how much has already been sold.  For many of our crops, it's a simple task -- over half of what we grow ends up in your CSA boxes. Contrast [MORE ...]

We’ve got Summer Covered

2020-08-05T18:23:48+00:00August 5, 2020|

Most organic growers in California grow cover crops to protect their soil and build fertility naturally.  They are not harvested for a crop, but rather fed back to the soil. The primary season for growing cover crops in our area is winter, when the harvest season for most crops is over and rain provides natural irrigation.  But at Terra Firma, we plant just as much acreage of winter crops as summer. Our winter-harvested fields [MORE ...]

The Fruitiest Month

2020-07-29T17:16:06+00:00July 29, 2020|

August is our fruitiest month at Terra Firma. The late season peaches and nectarine varieties we harvest this time of year have complex flavor profiles usually associated with fine wine. Not sugary sweet, they are smokey, rich, and tangy.  All the peaches we grow generally set fruit within the same 4-week period, but these ones spend fully eight or ten weeks longer on the trees than their early-season cousins.  Most of them trace their [MORE ...]

The Black Box of the Produce World

2020-07-22T17:33:38+00:00July 22, 2020|

Watermelons are hands-down the most challenging fruit or vegetable to harvest, for a number of reasons.  Obviously the flesh of all melons is hidden from view.  But with other types of melons, the rind changes color completely when they are ripe, and they continue to ripen once picked.  Watermelons do neither.  And because of their size,  people are unlikely to buy more than one watermelon at a time, so if they get a unripe one [MORE ...]

Field-Testing your Future Tomatoes

2020-07-15T16:47:59+00:00July 15, 2020|

Every winter, I peruse websites and seed catalogs looking for new or newly available tomato varieties that sound promising.  Several years ago, I saw a striking dark purple tomato with green and red stripes, completely unique in appearance. The seed catalog claimed it had a rich flavor and excellent production in addition to its eye-catching appearance. Of course, that's what seed catalogues say about every tomato. I ordered a small amount of the seed [MORE ...]

The Gourmet Diet of TFF Jackrabbits

2020-07-08T17:27:40+00:00July 8, 2020|

After a bumper crop of early Painted Serpent Cucumbers back in June, we've been struggling to harvest enough for all your boxes.  The culprit is our farm's healthy population of (very large) jackrabbits. Painted Serpents -- or more correctly, their seedlings -- appear to be the rabbits' favorite food this time of year.  They snip off the baby leaves in the first week or two after the seeds sprout above the soil, effectively killing [MORE ...]

Celebrating the 4th with Immigrant Foods

2020-07-01T17:55:36+00:00July 1, 2020|

Sweet Corn. Tomatoes.  Watermelon.  These are items that many Americans associate with the Fourth of July holiday.  Yet in most parts of the U.S., it is simply impossible to harvest a crop of any of them by July 4th.  Even with climate change. Like most Americans, the favorite fruits and vegetables of Independence Day have immigrant ancestors.  Sweet Corn and Tomatoes are better known as Elote and Jitomate in their native Mexico.  And Watermelons were [MORE ...]

Survey Says…

2020-06-24T17:25:14+00:00June 24, 2020|

Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to our survey about the CSA box price increase.  About a third of subscribers responded, which gave us a very good sample size and confidence in the data.  Anyone who responded was able to see how their responses compared with everyone else. The results were not ambiguous.  Well over half the Medium and Large box subscribers who responded support a price increase that allows us [MORE ...]

Help Us Make Some Decisions

2020-06-17T16:56:15+00:00June 17, 2020|

I'm going to talk a little more today about the nuts and bolts of Terra Firma's CSA.  Pay close attention because there will be a test at the end; well, actually it's a very short survey. When you open up and unpack your box today, take a look at the contents.  Now try to visualize how much time it might take for one person to plant, weed, irrigate, harvest and pack the vegetables and [MORE ...]

Give a Garlic Braid a Home

2020-06-10T17:32:58+00:00June 10, 2020|

Over the last ten years as subscriptions to our CSA --  the backbone of our farm -- dwindled, we began to grow more produce for  restaurants, distributors, and food service.  This was not easy.  Households who subscribe to CSAs do not use the same produce as Michelin-starred restaurant chefs or corporate cafeterias.  So we found ourselves growing a wider variety of items in an effort to keep our completely different customer bases happy. A recent [MORE ...]

S.I.P Squared

2020-05-27T17:22:46+00:00May 27, 2020|

This week, much of Northern California is not just Sheltering in Place, we're Sweltering in Place too.  Despite starting off at a cool, almost chilly 53 degrees Monday morning, this week turned into a real scorcher.  It was 101 here yesterday and will get hotter today.  A quick look at the weather map shows that very few areas are escaping the heat. For a first heatwave of the season is coming a little early, [MORE ...]

Short & Sweet

2020-05-20T18:14:53+00:00May 20, 2020|

It's a point of pride for us that Terra Firma has one of the longest tomato growing seasons of any farm in Northern California.  Our strawberry season is the opposite. Strawberries like the same cool, dry weather that most Californians prefer.  They prefer the narrow strip of land along the coast where it rarely gets too hot or too cold.  In that area, it's possible to grow berries for 7 or 8 months or [MORE ...]

A Little Bit of Good News

2020-05-06T17:32:45+00:00May 6, 2020|

Terra Firma Farm might be a tiny island of good news right now in an ocean of sadness and anxiety.  I'm a little uncomfortable telling some people that right now, everything is going pretty well here, given the state of the world.  But to this audience it seems entirely appropriate. First of all, it feels like a huge privilege right now to able to work outside every day in the fresh air with plenty [MORE ...]

Be Your Own Chef

2020-04-29T17:55:54+00:00April 29, 2020|

In this stressful time, there may not be that many things that most of us can do to feel in control of our lives.  Preparing food is one of them. Over the last ten years, the economy of food shifted dramatically towards "outsourcing":  eating food prepared by others, whether at a restaurant or brought to your home. Coronavirus has changed that. Almost everyone is eating all of their meals at home now.  Cooking and [MORE ...]

Pandemics, Droughts and Earth Day?

2020-04-22T17:33:28+00:00April 22, 2020|

Since March, people's attention has been focusedly almost entirely on the pandemic and the resulting damage to the economy.  But there's a big story in California that hasn't gotten as much attention. Many areas north of San Jose all the way to the Oregon border got less precipitation this past winter than they have had in the last 50 years.  And some areas, including Winters, set or tied records for lowest precipitation in recorded [MORE ...]

Strawberries, Supply Chains & Crystal Balls

2020-04-15T17:45:49+00:00April 15, 2020|

In the past few weeks, products that everyone needs and takes for granted have become scarce.  Thanks to the Covid 19 pandemic, Americans are learning more about "Supply Chain" issues than they might ever cared to have known. Recently, stories have emerged about how much food is being wasted as a result of the almost-overnight closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service establishments.  Milk is being dumped and vegetables plowed under, even while shoppers [MORE ...]

Opening Day of Berry Season: Rained Out

2020-04-08T16:40:03+00:00April 8, 2020|

It's a bit of a cliche at Terra Firma that no matter what the weather has been doing in the weeks prior to the start of our first Strawberry harvest, it's safe to predict that it will rain on "Opening Day". For more than a month now, we've been harvesting a very small amount of ripe berries -- what you might call a "soft opening" to the season.  A few times we've even gotten [MORE ...]

CSA: Our Mutual Commitment

2020-03-25T17:20:18+00:00March 25, 2020|

As I mentioned last week, subscriptions to TFF's CSA have soared with the shelter in place orders related to the coronavirus.  Although many of these are subscribers who re-activated old accounts, we have never added so many additional box deliveries in such a short period of time.  Our CSA Coordinator Alicia has seen a big jump in her work and we are asking new folks to be patient about email response time.  Alicia also [MORE ...]

The “Essential Service” of CSA

2020-03-18T17:46:57+00:00March 18, 2020|

With the full approval of our state and local governments, Terra Firma Farm will remain open for business delivering our subscribers fresh organic produce they need to stay healthy in this crisis.  We have posted a Covid-19 update on the home page of our website and will update it from time to time. The last week has been one of the busiest in recent memory for us at the farm as our sales have jumped in [MORE ...]

Hydroponics are not Organic

2020-03-11T18:43:09+00:00March 11, 2020|

With everything that is happening in the news this week, I was a little surprised that a few subscribers even noticed the story that Terra Firma Farm had signed onto a lawsuit against the USDA regarding its policy of allowing hydroponically grown vegetables to be sold as Certified Organic. Organic farming has two fundamental principles:  to build soil biology in order to grow healthy food, and to use only safe, non-synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.  [MORE ...]

Little Purple Flowers Everywhere

2020-03-04T18:53:11+00:00March 4, 2020|

From Thanksgiving through March, Terra Firma's fields are "covered" with lush green vegetation that we never harvest.  These "cover crops" protect our soil from pounding rain and wind, and give our soils a nice vacation from their job of growing vegetables.  But winter cover crops have two major potential downsides. In a very wet winter, they grow very tall and lush, forming a living mulch that keeps the ground wet.  This can delay a [MORE ...]

A Global Pandemic, for Tomatoes too

2020-02-26T18:49:20+00:00February 26, 2020|

The spread of the latest Coronavirus is giving humanity an unpleasant lesson in exactly how quickly micro-organisms can move acros the world and reproduce in our age of ubiquitous air travel and global free trade.  Farmers have been confronting this reality for decades now in the form of invasive pest and weed species as well as viral and bacterial diseases. Late last month, I received an email from the nursery that grows all of [MORE ...]

A Tale of Two Februaries

2020-02-19T18:19:34+00:00February 19, 2020|

February is commonly our wettest month in Yolo County, and there are plenty of years when we find ourselves wishing it would stop raining for just a day or two. Last year parts of the farm were flooded for weeks and the total rainfall for the month was over 15 inches. This year it's a very different story.  We've gotten less than 10 inches over the entire winter, and at 0.00 inches, February 2020 [MORE ...]

Aphids, Cauliflower, and Warmer Winters

2020-02-12T19:03:53+00:00February 12, 2020|

Broccoli, Cabbage and Kale are among our most important crops at Terra Firma, and we grow them from October through March.  Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts are very closely related to those crops, but we grow very little of the first and none at all of the second.  Why? Because of aphids. Aphids like brassicas in all forms, and we spend quite a bit of time controlling them as best as possible. But once they [MORE ...]

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