Member News

2018 Pistachio Harvest: Just in Time

All over California right now, tree trunks are being mechanically shaken so hard that nuts rain down everywhere.  Almonds and walnuts are shaken onto the ground by metal claws attached to a hydraulic arm attached to a tractor.  They are … Continue reading

Blockchain will not make your Salad Safer

By now most people know the term “Blockchain”.  They know that a small group of people fervently believe it is a technology that is going to change the world, or at the very least make them rich.  But few people … Continue reading

The Mystery of the Missing Garlic

There’s no such thing as “perfect” in farming.  Unfortunately, that is rarely obvious — especially to consumers.  For every spotless, perfect, uniform piece of fruit or vegetable in the store, there is an ugly, pockmarked, moldy or otherwise entirely unperfect … Continue reading

Our Weediest Crop

The most common meaning of the word “Weed” is an unwanted plant that poses a threat to more desirable plants.  But on the farm it’s not always easy to tell them apart from crops. Tomatoes, peppers and potatoes are all … Continue reading

Almonds, Vanilla & the Giant Pool of Cash

Almonds and Vanilla, often combined in desserts, coffee drinks and other tasty products, are fascinating examples of global trade’s enormous impact on agriculture.  They are grown almost at opposite ends of the world from each other, but as crops they … Continue reading

Varieties of Spice (Onions)

For farmers and gardeners all over the world, the one subject that elicits the most discussion and the strongest opinions is what “varieties” of crops they grow.  Ok, I lied, it’s actually the weather.  But after that all-important subject, “varieties” … Continue reading

Fall Fakeout

We woke up on Monday morning to a welcome chill that seemed to last most of the day.  It felt an awful lot like the first hint of fall.  This “Fall Fakeout” is fairly common for our area, and it … Continue reading

An Everyday Verdict against Monsanto

Last week, a jury in San Francisco sided with a school groundskeeper who sued Monsanto alleging that his terminal cancer had been caused by their failure to warn users of the dangers posed by their herbicide Roundup.  They awarded him over … Continue reading

August is the Thirstiest Month

August is a thirsty month at Terra Firma.  And it’s not just our employees, who we keep constantly supplied with jugs of iced water so they can stay hydrated and safe in the heat.  It’s the crops — summer vegetables, … Continue reading

A New Kind of Fire Weather

Wildfires in Northern California have been in the headlines for weeks now, and our hearts go out to the victims who have lost their lives and their homes as well as the thousands who have been displaced. “Fire Weather” is … Continue reading

Grilling Sweet Corn 101

We are more than halfway through Sweet Corn season at Terra Firma.  That means that the moths have finally found the ears and the caterpillars have been chewing on the tips of the corn.  If you are squeamish about them, … Continue reading

Refrigeration: Keeping Produce Cool for…80 years?

Humans excel at taking technology for granted.  Take cell phone and internet service, for instance.  In just twenty years, they have gone from being a rare luxury of the privileged to an absolute necessity for modern societies.  They don’t fail … Continue reading

Where’s the Garlic this year?

We have a long tradition of growing garlic at Terra Firma. In fact, Paul Holmes was growing it here in Winters during the first incarnation of the farm, before we changed the name. Most years we harvest tons of the … Continue reading

4th of July Pyrotechnics

People in the Bay Area who had never heard of Yolo County got a geography lesson when they woke up on Sunday to smoky skies and falling ash.  Terra Firma subscribers, on the other hand, may have been wondering “Is … Continue reading

Clandestine Corn Farmers

Corn has an image problem.  In recent years, in certain circles, among people who “know a few things”, and so think they know everything. “Everyone knows” that all corn is genetically modified.  That it’s subsidized.  That it’s a monoculture.  A … Continue reading

Introducing Terra Firma’s 2018 Class…of Tomatoes

Gather round, folks, and you’ll hear the story of a tomato… Terra Firma Farm has a reputation in these here parts for harvesting some of the first tomatoes of the season each year.  It’s part luck: we have a tiny … Continue reading

The Spiral(iz)ing Popularity of Vegetables

Everyone knows that one of the best ways to eat healthier is to eat more vegetables.  And yet for decades, American consumers have tended to flock to faddish diets that promised to help them lose weight, lower their cholesterol, help … Continue reading

Farm Robots? Yes Please.

You may have seen a video on social media recently of a new “Weed Pulling Robot” that promises to eliminate one of the most costly and time consuming activities on farms while reducing worldwide herbicide use by 20%.  The solar-powered machine appears … Continue reading

Everyone’s a Winner…with Legumes

On any given day of the year, you can find legumes growing at Terra Firma.  Peas are harvested in the spring.  Green beans are a summer and fall crop.    We also grow leguminous cover crops — vetch in the winter and … Continue reading

The Pest You Can Barely See

How’s this for a clickbait grabber:  “This tiny insect you’ve never heard of and can barely see is the most destructive pest in the world!” And it’s true.  Thrips are tiny insects, barely visible to the naked eye, that feed on … Continue reading

First the Good News

It can be hard to stay positive in our world today, and it’s hard to escape the bad news even if you try.  When you’re writing a weekly newsletter like this one, the “experts” will tell you to make sure … Continue reading

Turning on the Pumps

For farms in California, water is the lifeblood flowing through them and keeping them alive.  At Terra Firma, the “heart” of our farm is the big natural gas engine that pumps water to our fields from the Putah South Canal … Continue reading

A Berry Abundant Week

Most of the fresh strawberries grown and eaten in the U.S. are grown in California, and most of those are grown in a narrow strip along the coast.  The mild weather that humans enjoy so much is also perfect for … Continue reading

No Pre-Chopped Romaine Here

Most people like convenience, and all businesses love efficiency.  When these two concepts come together in the same product, it can overcome any lingering doubts that might exist about things like…safety.  This seems to be what happened when someone decided … Continue reading

How Far is Too Far

A few people noticed that the Minneola Tangelos in last week’s boxes were not exactly local — they came all the way from Oceanside in San Diego county.  For many years, we had our own Tangelo orchard that we tended … Continue reading

Casualties of a Trade War

You’ve probably heard by now that our Tweeter-in-Chief started a trade war with China last week by raising tariffs especially on steel and aluminum imports.  China returned fire this week by announcing tariffs primarily on agricultural goods including pork and … Continue reading

Spring Update

We got a few days off last week thanks to the late season storm that dropped quite a bit of rain on the farm, but this week we are hitting the ground running.   The mostly dry spring this year … Continue reading

Four Years in the Making

In early February an oversized gopher saw its shadow in Pennsylvania and people took it as a sign that Spring was here.  That prognostication turned out to be incorrect. As vegetable farmers, we have use a different indicator: Asparagus. Like … Continue reading

Terra Firma Birds

Yesterday afternoon as I was about to turn into my driveway, a Great Blue Heron flew right in front of my truck, just a few feet overhead.  It was an amazing sight to behold so close up. For most of … Continue reading

Luck of the Draw

Agricultural freezes are not dramatic disasters like hurricanes, tornados or wildfires.  Even if they occur on a large scale, whether or not crop sustains or escapes damage comes down to little details.  How cold it gets in a particular area … Continue reading

What the Hail?

One fine spring day in 2001, I was working on the tractor on a gorgeous afternoon in late winter.  It had been rainy and wet for weeks, and I was taking advantage of a break in the weather.  I don’t … Continue reading

Skating Rink or Peach Orchard?

My first lesson about the risks that cold weather poses to fruit trees came from reading John Nichol’s “New Mexico Trilogy”, which included the Milagro Beanfield War. In the fictional valley where the novels are set, the farmers never got … Continue reading

Good Content vs. Good Neighbors

Over the many years I’ve been writing this newsletter, there have been many stories I’ve wanted to tell but couldn’t.  Some of the most “interesting” things that have happened on the farm involved people.  But our farm is a small … Continue reading

Happy Februly!

February is a sleepy month on most farms, even at Terra Firma.  The cold, wet weather of December and January has taken a toll on our winter vegetables, slow down harvest.  And the orchards and other permanent crops are still … Continue reading

Protecting Groundwater, the Organic Way

Nitrate pollution is one of the more vexing problems facing rural areas in the U.S. and around the world.  It is caused over decades as fertilizer, manure and sewage run off into surface water or are leached through the soil … Continue reading

A Few Changes for 2018

2018 is a new year, and new things are happening at Terra Firma.  We have a new staff member, Alicia Baddorf, who is going to take over most of the correspondence and communication with our CSA subscribers.  Alicia started two … Continue reading

January Fog brings June Fruit

It’s been five days since we’ve seen the sun at Terra Firma.  Two hundred feet outside my office window, there’s a crew harvesting cauliflower.  I can hear them chatting but I can’t see them through the fog. Totally unlike the … Continue reading

We Made it through a tough year, Thanks to you!

California is a place of weather extremes, but 2017 might take the prize for “Most Extreme Weather Year, Ever”.  We went from dams failing in the Wettest Winter ever to a crazy hot Summer that sparked the most destructive wildfires … Continue reading

Community Supported…Wedding?

By now, most Terra Firma subscribers know what “Community Supported Agriculture” means.  But what would a “Community Supported Wedding” look like? Maybe it would have most or all of the wedding guests make a contribution:  not simply purchasing a gift, … Continue reading

A Love Story

It’s well understood that humans have the capacity to love a place, from a humble spot like their local beach or hiking trail to majestic destinations like Yosemite or Pt. Reyes. The intense feelings of pleasure we get from visiting … Continue reading

Happy News for Thanksgiving

Like July 4th, Thanksgiving is a big holiday in the produce business.  Everyone in the country is eating the same things, on exactly the same day.  Demand for those foods spikes for a single week.  Turkey growers manage this problem … Continue reading

A Sad Sweet (Potato) Saga

Some of you have likely noticed the absence of one item from the boxes in general this year:  Sweet Potatoes.  We plant sweet potatoes every spring and normally harvest the first roots in October.  This gives them just enough time … Continue reading

Thanksgiving Green Beans and other Holiday Myths

For many years, we tried to have fresh green beans in your boxes for Thanksgiving.  As I’ve mentioned a few times, the warm, sunny days and cool nights here in the fall are perfect for growing long, slim, and tender … Continue reading

Eat your “Miracle” Vegetables

A few weeks back I wrote about the benefits of growing leguminous crops.  Planted on millions of acres around the world and consumed in some form by a majority of humans, beans and peas are an incredible example of how … Continue reading

Countdown to Winter

While we didn’t get much rain last Friday morning, it was enough to get things muddy and damp, and we were very happy with our decision to postpone our Farm Day event.  The weather this Saturday should be perfect for … Continue reading

Shovels are for Fighting Fires…and Irrigating

By now, everyone has seen the photos from the Napa and Sonoma fires of torched houses across the street from untouched grapevines.  Irrigated fields, whether the vineyards in Napa or the orchards and fields of Terra Firma and other farms … Continue reading

Carrots are Back!

For the last week or two we’ve been waiting for our first fall Carrots to size up enough to begin harvest.  Part of our job as farmers is normally to check on our maturing fields to determine when crops are … Continue reading

The Crop that Gives Back

Most of the crops we grow at Terra Firma fall into a small group of plant families.  Of course there are the Solanums — Tomatoes, Peppers and Potatoes.  Cucurbits include Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Melons, Watermelons and Winter Squash.  Brassicas or … Continue reading

Team Building, TFF-Style

We don’t do any structured teambuilding exercises at Terra Firma, but everything we grow at Terra Firma is the result of constant daily teamwork between the fifty or so people who work here.  Every item in your box gets to … Continue reading

Meet the New Kale, Same as ye Olde Kale

We’ve been growing kale at Terra Firma since the beginning of the farm — actually, since before it was even called Terra Firma. Kale is a great crop for anyone who has a limited amount of space.  A handful of … Continue reading

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Power’s Out: The Aftermath

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 … Continue reading

Power’s Out!

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 … Continue reading

The Orange Glow of Autumn (Produce)

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 … Continue reading