Member News

Drought Declared…Finally

Last week, Governor Brown finally made official what farmers have known for a month:  We are in a drought.  Many people were expecting him to issue strict restrictions on less than essential uses like watering lawns.  After all, farmers all … Continue reading

Freeze De-Briefing

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to give a little report about the status of our fields and how it is going to affect what you get in your boxes in the foreseeable future.Halfway into Juneary, with its … Continue reading

When is it going to rain?

Welcome to 2014!  Cold weather is getting lots of press right now, what with the “polar vortex” that clobbered California farms a month ago now battering the Midwest and East Coast.  But the same movement of the jetstream responsible for … Continue reading

Last Delivery of 2013

This is our final week of deliveries for 2013.  We will resume deliveries on January 11th, 2014. 2013 appears to be ending much the way it started.  The first week of January our fields were frozen every morning; by the … Continue reading

The Big Freeze of 2013

It’s been a rough week since I wrote wondering “how cold is it going to get”.  The first day of the “cold snap” it was actually much colder in the Bay Area than it was at Terra Firma.  We caught … Continue reading

A Wintry Week

There’s an agricultural region in Argentina that is almost perfect for growing winegrapes.  Mendoza is located just east of the Andes, and just enough cool air flows down into it to balance the heat of the valley and ripen Malbec … Continue reading

Not a 9-5 Job

On Sunday night, many of you were in disbelief when darkness descended upon us at the too-early hour of 5:45 or so.  “That extra hour of sleep, it wasn’t worth it!”.  “I hate Winter.”  Etc. The early risers among you … Continue reading

A Glorious Fall

Some years we don’t really get “Fall” in the Sacramento Valley.  Instead, we just go straight from hothothot to non-stop rain — last year, for example. We might have had a great summer this year, but it ended up being … Continue reading

Now is the Time!

Friends, Subscribers, Countrymen and Countrywomen…the time has come. In just a few weeks, the US Food and Drug Administration will close the comment period on the regulations governing the growing of fresh fruit and vegetables, also known by the unfortunate … Continue reading

Carrot Conundrums

A friend of mine is in charge of the “organic program” for one of the largest carrot producers in the world.  I remember when I first met him I sheepishly asked him about a problem we were having growing the … Continue reading

Dance of the Machines

Dear (Contact First Name), On the largest farms in California and the rest of the U.S., harvest is completely mechanized.  For commodity crops like corn and soybeans as well as canning tomatoes, almonds and walnuts, a handful of workers operating … Continue reading

Trying to Stop Pathogens with Handcuffs

Last year, cantelopes grown on a Colorado farm and sold at Walmart sickened hundreds of people.  Thirty three of those people died.  The culprit was listeria, a pathogen that is more commonly associated with dairy products than fresh produce.  It … Continue reading

What does September rain bring?

Dear (Contact First Name), 2013 send a pretty strong message on Saturday, the day before the Fall Equinox, i.e., the first day of fall:  Attention Northern California, it is now fall. The “Harvest Moon” setting last week We got over … Continue reading

Family Trees

When I was two years old, my parents bought their first house and planted a pine tree in the sideyard.  There is a picture of my mom holding me next to the tree, which was about her size.  By the … Continue reading

Digging Deeper into “Superfoods”

You may have read a humorous blog post a few weeks back spoofing kale’s exploding popularity as a trendy food.  In these last few years, certain vegetables have been included on the list of so-called Superfoods — foods packed not … Continue reading

Paper or Plastic?

“Paper vs. Plastic?”  Terra Firma subscribers are aware that most of the time, when it comes to the packaging we use in your boxes, we usually make the choice for you.  This is the process we use to decide: Whenever … Continue reading

Which Tomato is Sweetest?

Long ago when Terra Firma still had a stand at the farmers’ markets in Berkeley, San Rafael, and Davis, there was one question asked most frequently when a customer was confronted with the vast array of tomato varieties we grew:  … Continue reading

It’s not a Dry Heat

I grew up on the East Coast, and if you’ve ever spent any time there — or of course, in the South — you’re familiar with the term “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”.  We got a tiny taste … Continue reading

A New Crop of New Drop Sites

Terra Firma doesn’t do paid ads for our CSA like some other farms, or Groupon deals like some of the big organic produce delivery services.  We rely almost 100% on referrals from our subscribers for new customers, and we try … Continue reading

Drought of 2013

It’s been a long dry season this year; the second year in a row with below average rainfall.  So I wasn’t shocked to hear discussion at a local watering hole recently turn to talk of wells in the area running … Continue reading

The Big Tomato Issue!

Dear (Contact First Name), The three-acre tomato field we are harvesting right now is alongside a private gravel road.  Every morning our employees park along that road, grab empty boxes from the piles arrayed there, and start harvesting tomatoes by … Continue reading


There’s a manual used by professional psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose their patients, and the list of disorders and syndromes in it gets longer every time they publish it.  I am completely certain that a t some point in the … Continue reading

Death, Taxes…and Weeds

Everyone knows the old cliche about life’s only certainties:  Death and Taxes.  For farmers, however, there’s a third.  But unlike the other two, this is a certainty that is in your face every day, reminding you who is boss, taunting … Continue reading

Good News for Sweet Pepper Fans

Sweet Bell Peppers are one the most difficult vegetables to grow organically, especially in the Central Valley of California.  The standard supermarket bell pepper is dark green, almost black, while it is ripening.  Meanwhile, the plants generally make excessive amounts … Continue reading

Happy 4th of July Heatwave

Happy Fourth of July!  We hope you are enjoying the holiday and, if you are in town and getting a box this week, are planning on celebrating with lots of great seasonal produce. Unless it falls on a Sunday, Fourth  … Continue reading

All Aboard the Peach Train

Important:  We are not changing our delivery schedule this year for the 4th of July holiday.  Please see the note below for more info.  Peaches are the quintessential summer fruit and, in our opinion, a critical component of any good … Continue reading

The Other Andean Superfood

Potato consumption in the U.S. has been down quite a bit since the dawn of the Atkins and other low-carb diets.  Meanwhile, consumption of quinoa has skyrocketed.  I find this slightly amusing since together, they are two of the three … Continue reading

The Results are In.

The results of last week’s survey in the newsletter are in.  280 of you took the time to respond, which is pretty good — fully a quarter of Terra Firma subscribers.  That makes the data a pretty accurate reflection of … Continue reading

Survey Says…

Sometimes it seems like everywhere you go on the world wide web, a survey pops up with some random question (“Do you love Cheetos? Vote now!”).  Everyone in the marketing business is looking for data to help them make their … Continue reading

Earliest Tomatoes Ever?

I spent some time this morning going back through several years of our CSA packing lists and newsletters for late May — all the way back to 2006.  But I couldn’t find another year when we had tomatoes in your … Continue reading

Immigration Reform Moves Forward

There aren’t too many times of year on California’s farms that are busier than mid-May, and Terra Firma is no exception.  There are so many different tasks that need doing here right now that just listing them all would take … Continue reading

Rating the Season

At our farm, diversity is both an ecological and economic strategy.  Growing numerous crops helps us keep at least some insect pests and diseases in check, but it also protects us from the financial damage that most farmers suffer if … Continue reading

No Vampires at our Farm

I’m sure you’ve heard that garlic is good for you.  For thousands of years, all around the world, people have attributed health benefits to eating the so-called stinking rose.  But it also turns out to be a big help in … Continue reading

April 2013: Every Day is Windsday

I was talking on Sunday to a friend of mine who has a very large farm of mostly conventional crops.  “Everyone’s farming organically this year” he told me laughing.  We were discussing the seemingly endless fierce wind that has plagued … Continue reading

Antibiotics on Organic Apples?

You may or may not know that “Certified Organic” is a legal definition enshrined in federal law and governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program.  But who decides, for example, whether a certain fertilizer or pesticide is … Continue reading

Onions for Every Season

I had thought about addressing a big issue this week like the just-released proposed immigration legislation or the FDA’s food safety regulations, but with the sad news from Boston I’m going to drill down a bit into the comforting world … Continue reading

Silver Linings Berry Patch

The theme of this week’s newsletter is Silver Linings, and we’ve a some pretty big ones today.  Silver Lining #1: For all the damage that last week’s hailstorm wrought on our farm, it very clearly missed one important spot:  the TFF … Continue reading

Easter Sunday Hailstorm

After giving us less than an inch of rain in three months, Mother Nature decided to play catch up Sunday.  We got more than inch of precipitation, most of it in just one hour, accompanied by lots of thunder and … Continue reading

What’s small and red and ripens in the spring?

What’s small and red, juicy and slightly crisp and grows in the spring?  On our farm there are three different crops that match that description, and one of them is in some of the boxes today. But it may not … Continue reading

Equinox Update

Happy First Day of Spring!  It seems a bit of a formality this year, since it’s been warm and sunny for two months now.  But you will notice a distinct difference in your boxes today.  Generally we like to roll … Continue reading

Spring is here — No Whining

There’s an old joke in rural areas:  “What do you call a basement full of farmers? — A whine cellar.”  There’s always something to complain about when you’re a farmer, and sometimes it’s hard for me not to use this … Continue reading

Driest February on Record

   Unless you’re a skier or a Water Resources Department manager, you’ve been pretty happy with the warm, dry weather this February.  Let’s face it, everyone was pretty tired of wet weather after the six weeks in a row we … Continue reading

Sell-By Dates and Food Safety

On Thursday February 14th a large organic producer issued a recall on bagged spinach that had been sold in 39 different states due to concerns that the spinach was contaminated with E. Coli.  The fact that the product had already … Continue reading

Seed Buying Season

Late winter is seed-purchasing season at Terra Firma, when we get out our lists and start looking at web sites and catalogues, and order much of the seed we will use for the year.  Our annual budget for seed is … Continue reading

So who made the farmer?

   I had a topic planned for this week’s newsletter, but then this ad Official Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial “Farmer” played in the middle of the Superbowl… It’s just not very common to see realistic imagines of farmers on … Continue reading

Coming in from the Cold

Some good news this week:  We’ve tallied up the damage from the cold weather early this month, and it appears to be manageable.  Most of our citrus:  navel oranges, grapefruit, and tangelos — is fine.  This is great news, since … Continue reading

The Real Soylent Green: $

This week I’m going to continue more or less on the topic of our government’s food policy, and how directly connected it is to our biggest nation health problems.  There is no real scientific debate about what is making Americans … Continue reading

It’s 2013 but the Farm Bill is still stuck in 1983.

Welcome to 2013!  A few months back, Michael Pollan wrote a piece in the New York Times discussing whether there was a real movement to improve food in the U.S., or if it was just a trend or fad.  This … Continue reading

Ten Days ’til Solstice

With just eleven days to go until the shortest day of the year, it still doesn’t feel much like winter around here.  So it might be easy to forget that next week is our final delivery week for 2012.  There … Continue reading

Fill’er Up!

Everyone knows that water is a precious resource in California, and that there’s not enough to go around.  Except that really, there is plenty of water in our state.  Unfortunately, most of it is located many hundreds of miles away … Continue reading


The Fruitiest Month

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 … Continue reading

The Black Box of the Produce World

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 … Continue reading

Field-Testing your Future Tomatoes

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 … Continue reading