Monday, April 13, 2015

What’s Up With Farm Water?

From the Fields - Thaddeus

Your Farm News in Photos - What's Up with Farm Water?

California is a beautiful state. In the south, its days are forever sunny, moving north we find the south end of the Central Valley that is blessed with a near year-round growing season. As we reach the beginning of Northern California, the Salinas Valley, we find temperate weather that is ideal for growing vegetables for only nine months of the year. Near Sacramento, the summer days are explosive and perfect for hot-weather, summer crops, and it doesn’t cool off enough for vegetables until fall and then it is too cold for many things through the winter. North of Sacramento exists a mighty chunk of our state, filled with mountains and natural resources, but shy of any significant population.

These places are connected by many things including a water system that captures snow melt in the north and delivers it down the Sacramento River to the delta where man-made canals pump rivers that run uphill to deliver water to farms cities. The reality of the water situation for farms is completely dependent upon wherein the state they exist. I have the pleasure to run our farm and work with our partner farms throughout the state and the topic of water always comes up.

The main source of water for farms south of Sacramento is delivered through the California Aqueduct. The supply for this source of water is the snow capture in Northern California. When that snow melts, it’s stored in reservoirs and then moved to farms. Farms that are dependent on this water are in big trouble. Our farm is not dependent upon this water. In addition to this water source, there are a series of local water projects throughout the state. Our farm in Yolo County uses rain water that is captured in Clear Lake. Last year, the canal was dry, but this year, we received enough water that our canal will be open. Our partner farm in the desert (southeast corner of California) gets their water from the Colorado River; they too have enough water.

After surface water options, we look at groundwater. In general, the more sunny days the area has, the less available groundwater there is. Farms from Salinas north, generally have a healthy availability of groundwater to draw from, however with a lack of other water sources the groundwater gets hit pretty hard. Farms in the southern part of the state generally don’t have the same groundwater options. Our farm in Fillmore has a well, but the water is very deep down and saltier that what is ideal.

The spot in the state that has been hit the hardest is the west side of the Central Valley, an area that had no agriculture until the State Water Project ran water to it and now that water is gone. They are really hurting. Groundwater in this area is hard to find, and the wells needed to get it are really deep and often the water is so salty it is of little value to crops.

Our farm and partner farms are doing okay for water, but we have all had to sit some acres out and adjust our crop selections. The nightmare for us will be if one of our groundwater wells goes dry this summer. Our focus will be using the water we have efficiently, which means matching water application rates to the rate at which crops will be using the water and focusing on really efficient application method which are drip irrigation methods, eliminating any leaks in the system and applying a thin layer of plastic mulch when possible to eliminate evaporation.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

We Got the Beet!

roasted beet hummus with mint garnish

Spring is arguably one of the most bright and colorful seasons on the farm. From the fragrant Satsuma blossoms to the wild purple bull thistle, we can’t help but feel a little inspired. Today, we wanted to share a bright and colorful recipe from Holly that is simple but impressive.

roasted beets

By Holly of Buttercup and Bourbon
Need to add a splash of color to your next dinner party? This delicious earthy dip is the perfect appetizer to add to the table while waiting for the main course to arrive.

chickpeas, garlic, and tahini

Roasted Beet Hummus
• 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
• 1 cup chopped beets, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
• 3 tablespoons tahini sauce
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1 lemon, juiced
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Feta cheese, for serving
• Potter's crackers or pita chips, for serving
• Mint leaves, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the beets with a pinch of salt and pepper and a small dose of extra virgin olive oil. Stir to combine and place on a baking sheet, roast for 30 minutes, flipping the beets one time halfway through cooking. After roasted, set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In a food processor, blend together the chickpeas, beets, tahini, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. Continue to blend until smooth. If the mixture is too dense, add water 1 tablespoon at a time and blend until the hummus reaches the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with a sprinkle of Feta cheese and mint leaves, enjoy!

Click here for a printer friendly version of this recipe.

How To Add Beets, Potters Crackers, Mint, Lemon and Salt to Your Delivery:
CSA members - head on over to our online Farm Stand Market to customize your upcoming delivery. Market is open from noon on Thursday until 10 am, 2 days before your scheduled delivery day. After you confirm your produce items, click the orange button "Confirm and Continue To Other Farm Products" to add the products to your delivery.

Not part of our farm family? Find out if we deliver to your neighborhood.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tomatoes on the Farm!

From the Fields — Thaddeus

It is beautiful tomato-growing weather on the farm. The days are hitting the low 80s, and the nights are well above freezing and cool, enough to let the plants have a good rest each night. While I still want more rain, the dry weather made the spring tractor work required to prepare the fields easy work that happened on schedule.

While the little tomato plants grew in the greenhouse under protection from the elements, the fields were being prepared for those little plants. The cover crop which thrived over the winter, was chopped up and tilled back into the earth. The soil was disked, leveled and pulled up into beds. Pre-plant fertilizer was installed, and it was incorporated into beds. The neat beds each received on row of drip tape and a thin layer of black plastic that will keep the weeds down and warm the soil up just a touch.

With the beds prepared, the drip system was turned on, wetting the soil in preparation for the little transplants. The crew walked through the field, punching holes in the plastic every 16 inches (there is a great video of this on my Instagram @farmerthaddeus), and finally the field was ready. The following day the plants arrived from the greenhouse. One plant at a time, they were pulled from their plastic cells in the greenhouse trays and tucked into their place in the field.

First their little roots will settle into their new home, and then the tops will begin to grow. It will not be long until stakes and string are put into the field for the vines to climb up. Then little yellow flowers will emerge from the green foliage, fruit will be set, and they will grow with the summer heat and finally, tomatoes will be harvested.

Your Farm News in Photos - Tomatoes on the Farm!
Enjoy the spring and its crops knowing that summer is already in the ground and remember to follow us on Instagram (farmfreshtoyou).

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What is Raw Honey?

honey harvest

We receive a lot of questions about what makes raw honey so special, and we think the answers are pretty interesting. Feel free to chime in on the conversation; we love to hear from you!

How Temperature Defines Raw Honey
The official definition of raw honey is a little loose.  Basically, raw refers to the fact that it hasn't been heated to the point of pasteurization. To understand what that really means, it’s important to first recognize what happens inside a beehive. When honeybees are at work, their collective body temperature rises and consequently warms their work area and the surrounding honey. The temperature of an active hive is about 95ºF and the enzymes in honey that give it the nutritional and beneficial qualities are alive. As long as the temperature of honey does not considerably rise past 95ºF, the honey is considered raw.

freshly poured honey
Photo courtesy of Lovers Lane Farm

Straining Raw honey Versus Filtering
When honey is harvested from the comb by a separator, it leaves behind the large portions of beeswax. When the mainly-honey substance is strained, little bits of beeswax are further removed. This process is called straining, and the result is called “pure honey”. It is clear and golden liquid that will be bottled and labeled “raw honey”. Filtering, on the other hand, removes significantly smaller particles, namely pollen, and the honey is that much further removed from its raw status.

bee on rosemary flower
Capay Organic Bee on Rosemary

We take pride in the raw and delicious honey that we offer and hope you enjoy knowing a little bit more about why its so special.

How To Add Raw Honey to Your Delivery:
CSA members - head on over to our online Farm Stand Market to customize your upcoming delivery. Market is open from noon on Thursday until 10 am, 2 days before your scheduled delivery day. After you confirm your produce items, click the orange button "Confirm and Continue To Other Farm Products" to add the products to your delivery.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Featured Single-Origin Coffee from Pachamama

Featured Single-Origin Coffee from Pachamama

Based in California, The Pachamama Coffee Cooperative of Small-Scale Coffee Producers is a unique global cooperative that is wholly-owned and controlled by small-scale coffee farmers around the world. The member-cooperatives represent tens of thousands of families in Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Ethiopia. 100% of profit are paid to the farmer-owners, whose best organic coffee is roasted in small batches in California.

For the month of April, we are featuring this Single-origin coffee from Santa Teresa, Peru. It is available to Farm Fresh To You customers for purchase through our Customization feature. This smooth, medium roast coffee is rich with notes of dark chocolate. It’s mild acidity makes it extremely versatile, in a drip cup, or even as an espresso. 

Alguilar Family

Farmer Highlight

Timeteo Alguilar along with his wife, son and daughter-in-law grow and process their coffee on their farm in the shadow of Macchu Picchu.

Monday, March 30, 2015

North from the House

From the Fields — Thaddeus

My house sits at a bend in the canal on our farm. The front of the house looks directly at the shop, as if, among the abundance of natural beauty surround the house, the shop is the best thing to look at. Clearly this home was built by a different kind of farmer (it was built by Johnny, our childhood neighbor in the 70’s who was less than excited about his new hippie neighbors).

The side door on this house is the one with the views. For this reason it is our side yard that received all the attention when we started the landscaping. From the side yard the view goes north, over the canal, across the lower fields and up the rolling hills, scattered with oaks, until the horizon meets the sky.

This spot on the farm is interesting because it is centrally located, but the canal doesn’t have a bridge over it, making the fields on the other side extremely difficult to reach. Hours and hours, miles over miles, have been spent by tractors and farm vehicles driving up the canal to the nearest bridge, then back down it.

Your Farm News in Photos - North from the House

North from my side yard, just across the canal, is a huge oak tree. This time of the year the oak leaves have grown to their full size but they are light green in color, awaiting the summer heat to darken them up. At the top of this oak tree, in the crux of some branches, a pair of red tailed hawks have put their nest. This is the third season in a row the couple has chosen this spot to raise their little babies.

Below the oak tree with the hawk nest, the construction on the much needed bridge across the canal has just been finished. Last week after my day had ended I sat in our swinging bench with my wife, beverages in hand, while the kids watered their garden. The smell of spring rolled through the yard with the breeze. The hawks came and went from their nest in the tree and below them a tractor returning from the field was able to use the bridge to get back to the shop - saving the first ten minutes in travel time. The tractor driver and I exchanged thumbs ups over the new bridge.

Doesn't get any better than this.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Irresistable Carrot Chip Sticks

Irresistable Carrot Chip Sticks

As a small organic farm, we grow a lot of carrots  so that means that our small family also eats a lot of carrots!

While it's hard to beat the sweet and earthy flavor of our Nantes carrots enjoyed raw, it's a fun treat to turn a few into savory chip sticks. 

Now, it may come as a surprise how quickly little ones can make an entire baking sheet of freshly roasted carrot chips disappear before their parents can get one —  so, you might want to plan on more than one batch if you have sneaky wee folks around. 

Carrot Chips
• 2-3 medium sized carrots
• 1 - 2 teaspoons olive oil 
• Kosher (or favorite salt)
• Fresh-ground black pepper (& other seasonings if desired)
• 2 rimmed baking sheets
• Y-shaped vegetable peeler
Irresistable Carrot Chip Sticks
Tip: Using a Y-shaped peeler (instead of a mandolin or regular peeler) makes it a little easier to consistently shave off longer, more uniformly thick carrot ribbons.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Although this recipe works with any size carrot, it's best to choose the larger of the carrots in your bunch. Try to choose similarly sized carrots so that the carrot ribbons are fairly uniform in size. Simply give the carrots a gentle scrub under water; there's no need to pre-peel. 

Holding the carrot by the stem, shave off a long thin ribbon of carrot using a vegetable peeler. Try to get the peels as uniform as possible and feel free to snack on any pieces that are too small or too thin to use. Place carrot strips in a large bowl.

Gently toss with olive oil, taking care to not break the strips. Start with a teaspoon of oil and increase if needed. Place the carrots on a lightly-oiled baking sheet in a single layer. While the edges can slightly touch, they should not overlap. 

Irresistable Carrot Chip Sticks
Tip: Don't use parchment paper for chips as they don't quite get that crisp. 

Before placing in the oven, season with freshly-ground pepper and your favorite salt or seasonings. While we tend to keep it simple with salt and pepper, chopping fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary into a little salt is also nice. Some folks like to add a little heat with a sprinkle of curry powder or red pepper flakes.

Bake for 6 minutes before swapping your baking pans from the top to bottom racks. Bake an additional 6-8 minutes until the carrot edges barely start to turn a golden brown. While toasty edges can be delicious, the thin, delicate carrot ribbons can quickly turn from just-right to burnt, so don't stray too far from the oven in the final minutes.

Leave the baking sheets in the oven, turn off the heat and leave the oven door ajar for about 2 minutes.
Tip: If you are going to make a second batch and aren't ready to turn off the oven, simply jump to the next step and crisp your carrots by leaving on the counter. 
To finish crisping the carrot chips, remove from the oven and place on the counter/wire rack to cool. Carefully remove from the baking sheet and enjoy!

Click here for a printer friendly version of this recipe.