Member News

How Covid shaped our 2021 Tomato Field

2021-06-09T18:15:08+00:00June 9, 2021|

Growing tomatoes takes a combination of good planning, specialized farming techniques, and the right location. But in the end, nature decides whether we'll have a good crop or a bad one, a short or long season, an early or late start.  We've raced against approaching storms and finished planting in the rain. Other years, we've had multiple frosts that require late-night intervention to prevent the young plants from freezing.  We've had wind storms and [MORE ...]

Surfing the Heatwave

2021-06-02T17:43:24+00:00June 2, 2021|

There's never a good time for a heatwave, but the timing of the particular heatwave we're having right now could be worse.  If it doesn't last too long and the weather cools back down soon, it could kickstart our summer season into a higher gear without too much of a downside -- a dress rehearsal to get us ready for the main event. With the warm spring we've had, our summer crops have been [MORE ...]

We’re all in this (Drought) Together

2021-05-26T17:07:20+00:00May 26, 2021|

Earlier this spring, I mentioned in a newsletter that you would likely see "farm shaming" occurring in the news and social media: attacking farmers in California for their use of water. The shaming has begun.* Every Californian lives in a glass house where water is concerned. Without the vast, costly infrastructure that delivers water from one corner of the state to the other, our state could not support a fraction of the population it [MORE ...]

New Potatoes in May!

2021-05-19T15:15:50+00:00May 19, 2021|

The first time I visited "the farm that would later become Terra Firma" was early February of 1992.  Among the other activities that were happening that day, the crew was planting potatoes:  dropping the cut pieces of potato (aka: "seed") in the ground and covering them with soil.  It was a warm, sunny and dry day.  A few days after I visited, it began to rain and basically didn't stop for the rest of [MORE ...]

The not-so humble Onion

2021-05-12T15:57:44+00:00May 12, 2021|

Onions are often described as "Humble", but they are actually sophisticated world traveling gourmands:  grown all over the world not for mere sustenance, but rather to make other foods more flavorful and enjoyable.  Their ubiquity makes them relatively abundant and affordable thanks to thousands of years of breeding and adaptation by farmers and more recently, plant breeders. Like most food crops, onions are sensitive to the weather and the time of year.  They can [MORE ...]

Are You Ready for Summer (Produce)?

2021-05-05T17:32:53+00:00May 5, 2021|

Summer is ramping up pretty quickly here at Terra Firma. I know this probably comes as a shock for those of you who live within a few miles of the Pacific Ocean, but temperatures since early April have been running 10-15 degrees above average for areas without a coastal influence. It's been very warm, verging on hot. That warm-to-hot weather has been great for our summer crops. Our tomato field looks amazing, and we [MORE ...]

The (1st) Drought of the 2020s

2021-04-28T17:21:36+00:00April 28, 2021|

Standing in the dry bottom of Lake Mendocino last week, Governor Newsom declared a drought for Sonoma and Mendocino Counties.  After the driest winter on record for many areas north of San Francisco, many people are wondering stopped there.  Farmers are chief among those wondering, given that many of them around the state have already received notice that they will be receiving limited amounts of water from the state and federal reservoirs this year.  [MORE ...]

Everyone’s a Winner with Mini-Lettuce

2021-04-14T16:50:28+00:00April 14, 2021|

If you only ever shopped at big supermarkets, you might be excused for thinking that there are only a few types of lettuce: iceberg, romaine, green leaf and red leaf. Produce departments with a little more diversity might have Oak or Butter leaf types. Over the years, the market for whole head lettuce has dropped as packaged, washed salad mixes have become popular. But while that has been happening, lettuce breeders have also developed [MORE ...]

April Abundance

2021-04-07T18:09:47+00:00April 7, 2021|

April is always a busy month across the farm fields of California, and Terra Firma is no exception.  It marks the real start of planting season for the summer crops that will fill up our CSA boxes in July, August and September:  Green Beans, Corn, Zucchini, Melons and Watermelons, Peppers and of course Tomatoes. But April is not always a busy harvest month here.  After a very wet winter, April can be a time [MORE ...]

Diving Headfirst into April

2021-03-31T17:39:17+00:00March 31, 2021|

Thanks to everyone who answered the survey I posted in last week's newsletter asking about summer vacation.  We got over 250 responses, which is a really great sample size at almost a quarter of our active subscribers.  What we learned is that just about everyone is planning on taking a month's vacation this summer.  So, based on the information we garnered in the survey, we have made the momentous decision to do the same:  [MORE ...]

Summer Vacation 2021?

2021-03-24T17:05:14+00:00March 24, 2021|

Now that last week's blustery storm is just a distant memory, 2021 seems to have turned the seasonal page on winter just as the calendar announces the start of Spring.  People are doing their best Puxatawney Phil impressions: poking their heads outside, blinking their eyes, and venturing out into the warmer weather to enjoy a few activities outdoors. Asparagus is the groundhog of the vegetable world.  After going into hibernation with the first fall [MORE ...]

Contact Tracing for Weeds

2021-03-17T17:41:08+00:00March 17, 2021|

Walking through Terra Firma's field of Snap and English peas, all you can see is lush vegetation and an abundance of white flowers -- exactly what a farmer wants to see. But bend down to inspect the just-forming pea-pods, and you see something else. There, underneath the canopy, is a sprawling weed, growing almost flat on the ground. It has sprouted and grown up directly under the pea plants, and like them, it is [MORE ...]

The 2021 Garlic Season starts today

2021-03-10T20:16:31+00:00March 10, 2021|

We have always grown garlic at Terra Firma, even before our farm received its name. Garlic grows all over the world, and is fairly ubiquitous among international cuisines. There are varieties that grow better in areas with very cold winters, and others that thrive in the tropics.  For us at Terra Firma, Garlic is an "overwintering" crop, planted in the fall and harvested right at the start of summer. Garlic doesn't produce seeds like [MORE ...]

Spring Gets a Headstart in 2021

2021-03-03T18:59:21+00:00March 3, 2021|

There is always something to do at Terra Firma if it's not raining, and we all know it hasn't been raining much this winter.  So we've been busy and the farm is already getting pretty "full". From April through October, you could say our farm planting schedule is written in stone.  It is very rare that we miss a planting of any of our crops during the dry season.  But from November through March, [MORE ...]

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 ...]

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