Member News

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 ...]

Finding Citrus Gold

2020-02-05T19:05:01+00:00February 5, 2020|

Over the last thirty years, there's been a different kind of gold rush in the hills of the central valley.  Mandarin Oranges have gone from a specialty and highly seasonal fruit item to a staple of produce departments and lunchboxes, available from California for almost six months of the year.  I think most fruit lovers don't have any idea how many different varieties are grown, and how much work plant breeders and farmers have [MORE ...]

Los Brocoleros

2020-01-29T19:41:05+00:00January 29, 2020|

All vegetables are sensitive to temperature changes over their lifespan, from "birth" through to harvest.  Seeds germinate more quickly when the soil is over 60 degrees, but will simply cook if the soil gets above 85 degrees.  Tomatoes ripen much slower when it's cool then when it's hot. This time of year, Broccoli is the most temperature-sensitive crop we grow.  Cold temperatures can slow down the maturation of the broccoli heads, adding a month [MORE ...]

A Labor of (Carrot) Love

2020-01-22T18:55:31+00:00January 22, 2020|

Everyone loves Terra Firma carrots.  For years they have been far and away our most popular winter vegetable, and we've never quite managed to keep up with the demand for them.  Back in the days when we sold at farmers markets, there were weekends when we could have sold a thousand bunches if we had been able to harvest that many. You've probably noticed we put Carrots in your CSA boxes every week in [MORE ...]

One Dry Day

2020-01-15T22:29:15+00:00January 15, 2020|

Sometimes the difference between us having an item in your boxes at a certain time of year comes down to a single day.  Today is one of those days.   Planting vegetables in the winter is often a frustrating process.  Heavy dew or frost every morning means that it is rarely dry enough to work the soil before 11 a.m. -- and that's only we get the right combination of sun and wind.  Since [MORE ...]

An Abundant Start to 2020

2020-01-08T18:42:22+00:00January 8, 2020|

Happy New Year and Welcome to Terra Firma's 2020 CSA! For many people January represents a blank slate, a fresh start, a chance to get things right that might have not gone so well the year before.  We often see a jump in the number of folks subscribing to our CSA, as people make resolutions to eat better, cook at home more often, or buy more local food.  If that describes you, then welcome! [MORE ...]

2019 TFF Annual Report

2019-12-18T19:30:00+00:00December 18, 2019|

At the end of each year, it's common to hear people talk about how the time has "flown by" or otherwise passed in a blur.  I have never found that to be true on the farm.  Every year that goes by feels like a long, long time. 2019 had the potential to be a rough year.  The weather was challenging almost from day one, offering few breaks between the storms.  February in particular was [MORE ...]

Expanding the Culinary Tastes of Picky Eaters

2019-12-11T19:56:38+00:00December 11, 2019|

One of the most ubiquitous pests we deal with on our fall crops is the appropriately named Cabbage Moth and it's offspring the Cabbage Looper (so called due to it's inchworm-esque mode of walking).  In addition to its namesake, the Cabbage Looper also is quite fond of most other cole crops including broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.  Or put in another way:  roughly half the crops we grow in the fall, by acreage. Unlike some other [MORE ...]

Catching up in Hurry

2019-12-04T18:58:36+00:00December 4, 2019|

What a difference a week can make on the farm, and in California in general. Last Monday our area was actually under a Fire Weather Watch, with dry wind blowing dust everywhere.  One week later and the farm is a muddy mess. It was still dry on Thanksgiving, as the first storm last week essentially missed us completely.  But we received five inches of rain over the weekend from the second storm.  At any other time [MORE ...]

The Families Who Really Grow Our Food

2019-11-20T21:54:12+00:00November 20, 2019|

Terra Firma is a family farm, but not in the mainsteam mythology, TV ad kind of way where everything is done by the members of a single family.  Hector and Elena are full-time owner-operators, along with their son Hector Junior.  But they have lots of help from dozens of other people on the farm who work alongside their spouses, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and in-laws.  I may be one of the few people [MORE ...]

Dreaming of a Wet Thanksgiving

2019-11-13T18:22:21+00:00November 13, 2019|

We started picking Satsuma Mandarins on Saturday, and with that, we have now fully settled into "winter mode" -- a relatively calm period at Terra Firma where we harvest citrus, root crops, and leafy greens. But it doesn't feel like winter, especially not when it's 85 degrees and sunny every afternoon as it has been for well over a week.  And there's no winter rains in the forecast. It's not time to panic yet [MORE ...]

A Bitter and Sweet Lettuce Tale

2019-11-06T18:28:47+00:00November 6, 2019|

Last week I wrote about carrots -- a vegetable we grow that few other farmers in our area grow.  Another one is lettuce. Most of the lettuce that grows in the area around our farm is actually a weed:  wild lettuce.  This thistley country cousin bears little resemblance to the stuff in your salad -- it's one of the least palatable plants imaginable, bitter and spiney.  But it thrives in the hot dry weather [MORE ...]

Your Source for Hand-Crafted Carrots

2019-10-30T18:15:33+00:00October 30, 2019|

It might surprise you, but for over 25 years, we've been one of the largest carrot growers in the Sacramento area.  But that is a deceptive statistic.  Very few farmers grow carrots at all in this area, so the 4 or 5 acres we grow each year put us at the top of a very short list. California produces most of the carrots grown in the U.S, but the majority of them are grown at the [MORE ...]

Season Ender

2019-10-23T17:49:31+00:00October 23, 2019|

There's something missing in your boxes today, something you've gotten from us every week since mid-June.  That's right, for the first time in 18 weeks, there are no tomatoes in any Terra Firma CSA box. Some years, our tomato season ends with a bang.  That bang most often comes with an early fall rainstorm that saturates the soil and soaks the plants, causing all of the fruit -- even the unripe ones -- to [MORE ...]

Power’s Out: The Aftermath

2019-10-16T18:26:19+00:00October 16, 2019|

At Terra Firma, we rely utterly on PG&E not just to keep the lights on, but to run our irrigation, washing and drinking water pumps and refrigerate our produce. But for the many people who might take it for granted exactly how dependent they are on the giant utility company in their daily lives, it was frustrating and inconvenient to have no power for an entire day and night last week. The initial media coverage [MORE ...]

Power’s Out!

2019-10-09T17:41:14+00:00October 9, 2019|

We woke up this morning with no electricity on the farm.  The powers that be at PGE in their infinite wisdom shut the lights off just after midnight.  For Terra Firma, that means our coolers and irrigation pumps are not running today -- and for possibly several days. There is no Recipe this week, we apologize for the inconvenience. You've probably already heard that PGE was planning on shutting power to hundreds of thousands [MORE ...]

The Orange Glow of Autumn (Produce)

2019-10-02T18:38:28+00:00October 2, 2019|

Orange is getting a bad name right now, what with all the crazy news coming out of Washington these days. That's unfortunate, now that it's fall.  I would hazard a guess that if you gave people a box of crayons and told them to write the names of the 12 months using a different crayon for each month, most people would use the orange crayon for October. Unlike many parts of the U.S., California [MORE ...]

Terra Firma’s Aerial Defense Squad

2019-09-18T17:12:24+00:00September 18, 2019|

Late summer is Dragonfly season in Terra Firma's fields.  Every day around sunset, thousands of them take to the air en masse, hovering and swooping over our tomato, melon and other fields.  I enjoy watching them, but until recently I had never given any thought to what they were doing. I've always known that immature dragonflies, which live in water, were carnivorous.  But I hadn't known that their primary source of food is mosquito larvae.  [MORE ...]

Countdown to Equinox

2019-09-11T17:55:02+00:00September 11, 2019|

We're a week away from the Fall Equinox, and despite all the hot weather we've been having, summer is wrapping up on our farm.  It's true that it can stay plenty hot in the Sacramento Valley this time of year -- the record high temperature for today is 106.  And in the Bay Area, you may be just getting your first taste of "summer weather" that can often last through October. But the summer [MORE ...]

Spending the Summer Under Cover

2019-09-04T17:38:44+00:00September 4, 2019|

Cover crops -- crops grown specifically to improve the soil rather than to produce income -- are a critical part of our farming practices at Terra Firma.  In the winter, over half our land is normally "covered".  But since we also grow quite a few winter vegetables, there are times when we want to grow a summer cover crop in a particular field.  A good example is our overwintered onion and garlic fields, which we finish [MORE ...]

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