Member News

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 ...]

The Last Stand of Summer 2019

2019-08-28T17:06:32+00:00August 28, 2019|

After the "nicest July ever" that I mentioned a few weeks back, Summer of 2019 seems to have had second thoughts. Like a child just realizing that it's time to go back to school, it's making a dramatic last stand against the coming Autumn.  This month has been far hotter than its predecessor, not setting any records thankfully but still much hotter than we would like. On our farm, there is one big difference [MORE ...]

CSI Terra Firma: The Farm Detectives

2019-08-21T18:27:46+00:00August 21, 2019|

At least a few times a year, we come across the scene of a minor crime on the farm. It's almost always theft of small, easy-to-transport items like chainsaws or other valuable tools. Occasionally, someone will steal a farm pickup truck and take it for a joyride. Earlier this year, someone made it just a few hundred feet down the road before driving one into the irrigation canal. On those occasions, we call the [MORE ...]

Farmers Need Help Adapting to Climate Change

2019-08-14T17:02:35+00:00August 14, 2019|

Last week the U.N. released a report that clearly stated that the world's food supply is threatened by climate change. It received quite a bit of attention from the media, including this article in the New York Times. Any time the media talks about climate change and agriculture, I get nervous. Agriculture is not separate from humanity, it is one of our most basic activities. Humans caused climate change through a variety of activities; [MORE ...]

Confused Onions: The Sequel

2019-08-07T16:17:10+00:00August 7, 2019|

Back in the spring I wrote a newsletter about our confused onions that went to seed instead of making edible bulbs for us to harvest. While we were initially disappointed, our attitude changed when we found out seed for that the onion variety, the Early Red Burger, was no longer available for us (or anyone else) to buy. We now had an opportunity to save the seeds ourselves for our own use, as well [MORE ...]

Everyone’s Favorite Tractor

2019-07-31T18:10:23+00:00July 31, 2019|

If you drive around a rural area, you'll see some big, shiny new tractors out in the fields just about every day. But during the busiest times of year -- planting and harvest seasons -- you'll see plenty of old tractors as well. Farmers tend to use their newest tractors more, because they are less likely to break down. But they also keep their older tractors around, sometimes for twenty years or longer, for [MORE ...]

Nicest July Ever

2019-07-24T17:51:26+00:00July 24, 2019|

Just this week we added yet another feature to our list of social media resources: a Terra Firma Farm You Tube channel. We will use this channel every once in a while to post videos of cool stuff that we see around the farm, live action farming footage, and other things we think might enhance your experience of being a TFF subscriber. First up? A quick  video I took of a noisy bumblebee pollinating [MORE ...]

All the Colors of a Sunrise, in a Peach

2019-07-17T17:28:31+00:00July 17, 2019|

Way back in 2003 when a group of our CSA subscribers helped us first secure a piece of land with the security to plant fruit trees, we decided to focus primarily on Peaches and Nectarines. Taken together, these so-called "stone fruit" produce over a long season and are far more popular than Plums, Pluots and other summer fruits. If you've ever had a summer fruit tree in your yard, you know that all the [MORE ...]

Cucumbers and their Diabolical Pests

2019-07-10T17:48:00+00:00July 10, 2019|

Growing cucumbers organically is challenging just about everywhere in the continental U.S. thanks to a small pest with a big appetite. Two actually. Cucumber beetles are the size and shape of Ladybugs, but that is where their similarities end. These "Diabrotica" as they are known to entomologists, are green and yellow. One variety is striped, the other spotted. Cuke beetles will eat any number of dark green plants, including many of the vegetables we [MORE ...]

Interactive Tomato Identification Guide

2019-08-11T22:58:13+00:00July 3, 2019|

Happy July 4th Holiday! We've packed you a seasonally appropriate box of produce this week; more on that below. With tomato season hitting its full stride this week, we present the following interactive textual Ven diagram to help you figure out which of the many varieties of tomatoes you get each week. Click on the links to see the seed catalog description of each variety. First, identify the color of the tomato. We do [MORE ...]

Stuck in the February Mud: A Tomato Tale

2019-06-26T18:05:06+00:00June 26, 2019|

Tomato season kicked into full gear at Terra Firma over the weekend, as you will see in your boxes today. As TFF subscribers, you are sharing the harvest of one of the only producing tomato fields in Northern California right now. We pride ourselves on pushing the limits of how early we can plant tomatoes, generally shooting to start right around March 1st. It's not always a winning strategy: wet weather can cause numerous [MORE ...]

“Your Cheatin’ (Apricot) Heart”

2019-06-19T18:04:27+00:00June 19, 2019|

If more country tunes were written by farmers, there would be a song about Apricots: how they love you and leave you with a broken heart and an empty bank account. Then, just when you are getting over them and moving on, they show up again, knowing full well that you still love them and will take them back. Our apricot crop this year is the kind that makes a farmer fall in love. [MORE ...]

Celebrating the Annual Garlic Harvest

2019-06-12T17:59:10+00:00June 12, 2019|

We have been growing Garlic at Terra Firma since, well, since before it was Terra Firma. In fact, when our founder Paul Holmes starting farming up, garlic and tomatoes were his primary crops. The climate in Winters is very close to perfect for growing garlic. The "stinking rose" is a winter crop, planted in the fall and harvested in late spring. It loves water when it is growing, and hates it when harvest time [MORE ...]

Summer Starts…NOW!

2019-06-05T17:36:23+00:00June 5, 2019|

Imagine you come to work on a Monday morning to find your workstation has been moved to a room with no climate control. Your job description has been changed without any notification. The project you were working on on Friday has been cancelled, and there is an email in your inbox that says "New Project Tasks: Deadline, today at 5 pm" with 25 attachments. That was essentially the situation we found ourselves in at [MORE ...]

Potatoes, Parsnips and Lessons Learned

2019-05-29T18:01:09+00:00May 29, 2019|

There are many ways to learn your lesson farming, but many of them involve failure. I remember quite clearly arriving for the first time to work at Terra Firma (called Sky High Farm back then) in February of 1993. It was warm and sunny and we were busy planting potatoes. A couple of weeks later it started raining, and kept raining for most of a month. The potato field flooded, and the potatoes rotted [MORE ...]

The Heartbreak of Rain on May Fruit

2019-05-22T15:51:50+00:00May 22, 2019|

The storms that swept through California during the last week produced record amounts of rainfall as well as record cool temperatures for late May. They also ruined millions of dollars worth of cherries and strawberries. Cherries and Strawberries have a few things in common. Although the first grow on trees and the second on small plants, together they are generally the first fresh fruits of spring. This makes them vulnerable to wet weather. When [MORE ...]

The Sad Tale of the Confused Onions

2019-05-15T18:24:24+00:00May 15, 2019|

Most vegetables go through a series of life stages including vegetative growth, flowering, fruiting and senescence (aka, "death"). Our goal as humans -- farmers, gardeners, and eaters -- is generally to succeed in growing them until they produce the part we like to eat. But like all plants, a vegetable's goal in life is to reproduce: to flower and then create offspring. The happier a plant is, the more likely it will spend more [MORE ...]

Tariffs and Tomatoes

2019-05-08T17:53:56+00:00May 8, 2019|

If you're paying attention to trade policy at all, you've probably heard that the Trump Administration is threatening to raise tariffs on Friday on a large part of the exports that China sends us, again. This news caused the stock market to fall, and it also likely caused the hopes of soybean and corn farmers throughout the country to fall as well. They have taken the brunt of China's retaliatory tariffs against the crops [MORE ...]

CSA and Climate Change

2019-05-01T18:04:57+00:00May 1, 2019|

There's a lengthy series in the New York Times this week about farming and climate change that includes a "How-to" guide for consumers to reduce the carbon footprint of their diet. I would guess that most TFF subscribers are already doing most of these things: eating less meat and more plants, for example. But nowhere is there a mention of eating locally and in season, shopping at farmers markets or joining a CSA. Our [MORE ...]

Berry Season has Begun.

2019-04-24T17:41:57+00:00April 24, 2019|

Strawberry season is here! We started harvesting a trickle of strawberries last week from our field; mostly too late to get them into your CSA boxes. But we knew that with summer-like temperatures coming this week, the numbers would jump dramatically and they did. The first berries of the season are in your boxes today. As things often work on the farm, our other short-season spring crops also jumped into the fray. After teasing [MORE ...]

A Shout-Out to the Production Crew

2019-04-17T15:43:24+00:00April 17, 2019|

On our farm, "the harvest" is a daily, never-ending activity that involves the majority of our team's time and energy. Picking the crops, washing them, sorting them and packing them is a year-round activity. Anyone who calls this "unskilled labor", as it is so often referred to by the media, has never done it. There are lots of tasks to be done at Terra Firma other than harvest, but they are done by a [MORE ...]

The Revenge of the Fungi

2019-04-10T17:49:47+00:00April 10, 2019|

The use of antibiotics in conventional livestock production has made meat cheap and abundant, but it has also contributed to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacterias like E. Coli and Salmonella. Now, a new drug-resistant pathogen is spreading rapidly through hospitals and nursing homes around the world that might also be linked to the overuse of agricultural chemicals. But in this case, the pathogen is not a bacteria. It's a fungus: Candida Auris. People don't [MORE ...]

Foraging in our own Fields

2019-04-03T15:37:03+00:00April 3, 2019|

During the fall, spring, and winter I enjoy foraging for wild mushrooms in our fields as well as the surrounding woods. We don't get many of the exciting varieties that Bay Area mushroom hunters treasure, like chanterelles or morels. But there are tasty varieties that are easy to identify and find. 2019 has been a good winter for mushrooms, as they love rain and constant humidity. It hasn't been such a good year for [MORE ...]

Go to Top