December 19, 2011

Winners Announced - Share Your Farm with Friends Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who both shared our service and their comments in our Refer-A-Friend program and Share Your Farm With Friends Giveaway!  We were extremely honored by the comments received and hope that you take a moment to enjoy some of the stories. 

Now on to our winners...

Carie Frantz and Michelle Danley

Deanna Courtney, Laura Becher, Yvette Cursoli

Kimberley Miller, Lauren Thomas and Makiko Kambayashi

Heidi Gallegos

Thank you again for all the wonderful ways you already share our service and to everyone who entered.  We'll be sending an email to all the winners on Tuesday.

Learn more about our

December 14, 2011

Green Garlic

From the Fields — Farm News, December 12th 

Garlic Shoots

Farming always requires a good measure of patience. I am constantly reminded of this. Today, we will finish pulling the weeds out of our current crop of garlic, which has a little story of its own.

Last fall, I decided to plant garlic because I love it, and it is an enjoyable crop to grow, but it was tough to find seed at the time we wanted to plant. After weeks of searching we found a little, bought it, and planted a half acre of it — over a year ago. By spring, it had grown up nicely and the seeds had matured. We pulled the heads out of the ground, dried them out a bit, put them in cold storage, and were eager to plant them back in the ground in the fall.

The summer passed with the garlic stored in bins, and we were careful to keep it dry and cool to prevent any rot or early germination.

Garlic Shoots

A few months ago when the weather cooled down in September, we decided it was time to plant our precious seeds. We planted them in a field that we irrigated and cultivated twice in order to germinate and kill some of the weed seeds that inevitably accumulate in the soil and threaten to out-compete our little garlic plants.

One morning, the barn was filled with the mouth watering perfume of freshly cracked garlic heads. The crew wears gloves when cracking and striping the heads. Can you imagine how intensely your hands would reek after shucking two tons of garlic? Each clove was separated from the bulb and planted by hand to fill a three-acre field. We are pleased with the growth of our original half-acre investment.

Garlic - Before Weeding

As I am writing this, over two months after we planted it, the first cultivation of the garlic field is almost complete. We started by dragging the tractor cultivator sled through the field to cut out the easy weeds, but the real work was done by hand. Our crew has spent the past five days hoeing and tugging out the dense grasses that sprouted up between the garlic shoots.

Garlic - After Weeding

In the spring, we will harvest the bulbs and bunches of tender green garlic leaves, and they will make their way to you. Every vegetable has a story!


December 1, 2011

Book Giveaway - The Quarter-Acre Farm

It’s true when they say that anyone can benefit from rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands a little dirty, all for the sake of growing something. It’s true because this simple act of growing—whether in a pot on your patio, or in your home garden—teaches you as much about life as it does the art of bringing a plant from seedling to fruit.

The same is true of The Quarter-Acre Farm book by award-winning author Spring Warren. It’s more than informative, as it too is a tale about life and humor and enjoying food as Spring tells the stories and recipes behind her year of eating from her yard’s bounty. 

Living in Davis, California, Spring created an adventure of a lifetime for herself and her family when she decided to “take control of her family’s food choices, get her hands dirty, and create a flourishing garden in her not so spacious suburban yard.”

A View of The Quarter-Acre Farm - Backyard

Whether you consider yourself to have a green or black thumb, you'll find that Spring's book reads like a novel with witty adventure, good times and bad times and a humorous cast of real characters from her own family, their pets, the local community and her childhood. Not your typical how-to-garden book, she shares stories of "bunny berries," coffee-ground Christmas presents and "mummifying" olives!

A View of  The Quarter-Acre Farm - Front Yard

And did we mention that there are seasonal recipes! 

We would also like to mention that Spring has very generously donated two signed copies of The Quarter-Acre Farm to share with you!  And she keeps the goodness coming by appearing as a guest blogger here on our site next week with a wonderful post and recipe using fall & winter greens.

Quarter-Acre Farm as Illustrated by "Nemo" Spring's oldest son Jesse

Here's How to Enter –

To win one of two signed copies of Spring's The Quarter-Acre Farm book, simply leave a comment below answering this question by Monday, December 5th -

 As we head into the chilly season, how do you continue to enjoy the natural world around you?  What's your favorite part of the late fall and winter season?  Is it the leaves?  Watching the rain?  Getting muddy? 
Tending a winter garden?

Thank you for all the amazing comments! They were so wonderful that we chose TWO WINNERS!

The first winner chosen at random is: Shari who wrote: 
     I like my rain barrels being full from the rain and being able to water my fruit trees with my own saved rain. Watching my chickens thrive while looking for worms in the wet earth. The long evenings mean that I stay home and cook my wonderful organic vegi's.

The second winner chosen at random is: Susan who wrote:
     Living in Southern CA it can be difficult to tell that Fall has truly arrived some years! I know fall has arrived when I rake the neighbor's leaves from my yard and start dreaming of baked sweet potatoes, fresh pomegranate, and pumpkin bread!

Thank you again to all who entered - we are enjoying your comments so very much!  Winners were chosen by Random Number Generator and announced on our blog on Tuesday. December 6th.

 A big thank you to Spring Warren and be sure to check out The Quarter-Acre Farm and Guest Blog Post & Recipe

November 29, 2011

Calling for Comfort Food - Winter Greens & Polenta

Guest Post by Spring Warren, author of The Quarter-Acre Farm

Now that we are well into the chocolate season, a time of monumental overindulgence (fudge nudges all other food aside as the base of my personal food pyramid), I try to balance sweet excesses by eating healthy dinners.  However, the season is also a grey and rainy one and that chill requires a balance of its own – and that’s warm, comfort food.

Fortunately, this is not only the time of year for those chilly days, but also for the greens that grow in cool temperatures: chards, beet greens, collard greens and kale.  And nothing beats greens and polenta as comfort food.

Sauteed Greens and Polenta

I’ve bought pre-made polenta; just slice it up and stick it under the broiler.  I’d rather make my own, however, and add my own seasonings.  The recipe is simple – Four cups of liquid (water, broth, and/or milk) to one cup of (coarsely ground) cornmeal.

I cook the polenta on low, stirring every so often, adding a bit more water to the mix if seems too thick. I have found that 15 minutes of forgetfulness gets me a lumpy mess, but 30-45 minutes of intermittent spoon wrangling provides a soft, creamy polenta. I sometimes stir a knob of butter into the polenta at the finish, or shredded hard cheese, sautéed garlic greens, herbs or truffle oil. I spread the polenta into a pan so that it’s about an inch thick.

When it has cooled, I cut the set polenta into pieces then broil it until the top is brown and crispy.

The perfect counterpoint to sweet, creamy polenta is slightly bitter greens. Sadly, my kale is not yet harvest ready.  But while my beet roots are only about the size of ping pong balls, there’s lots of delicious beet greens to be had at the farm as well as lots of chard.

I wash my greens very carefully (I can tell you nothing ruins a good meal like garden grit, or the surprise meeting of a Quarter-Acre Farm snail on one’s fork), then cut out the ribs, chop them and set them aside.  I roll the rest of the chard, then coarsely chiffonade the leaves.

In a large fry pan (I use a big pan because the greens diminish in volume remarkably during the cooking process), I heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil, and sauté a teaspoon of pepper flakes, the chard ribs, and ¼ cup of sun dried tomato batons (I actually dried the tomatoes in a dehydrator, but dehydrator tomatoes don’t sound nearly as delicious).

When the rib sections are tender, I add the rest of the greens to the pan, turning and stirring until the greens are evenly wilted and tender.  I finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar...

...heap the greens on the plate with the polenta (hot from the broiler) and serve.  Enjoy! Spring Warren

From Farm Fresh To You A big thank you to award-winning author Spring Warren for sharing her wonderful Polenta and Greens dish with us!  We highly recommend filling your tummy with polenta and greens and then settling in with her equally satisfying book, The Quarter-Acre Farm, a book chocked full of stories, garden information, humor and delectable recipes.

Spring has generously offered two signed copies of The Quarter-Acre Farm to giveaway.  Enter to win here by Monday, December 5th!  Thank you Spring for sharing your wonderful recipe with us! Be sure to check out her book The Quarter Acre Farm!

November 9, 2011

In the Mushroom Mix

You may find a few new fungi favorites as specialty organic mushrooms arrive in your boxes. Here are a few mushrooms that go beyond the basic "button."

Alba Mushrooms

Pearly white with dime-to-quarter-size caps and three-inch stems, these beauties are richly flavorful and a great addition to seafood dishes, sauces and stir-fries.

Alba Mushrooms

Chefs recommend using the Alba with olive oil, garlic, tomato, red bell pepper, citrus juices and thyme. You may also blanch Albas in salted water for two minutes to soften the flavor. Drain and cool, then proceed with chosen recipe. Our mushroom source recommends a hot sauté to then elicit the full flavor of the Alba. Excellent in salads: cut or tear into strips.

Brown Clamshell Mushrooms

Similar in size to the Alba, the Brown Clamshell variety, has a medium brown cap. Like its Alba cousin, it also has a wonderfully rich flavor noted by a mild, appealing shellfish flavor.

Brown Clamshell Mushrooms

In addition to seafood, the Brown Clamshell works well in dishes with nuts and herbs. These mushrooms will be a bit firm even after sautéing. Similar in character to Alba Clamshell, some use a quick blanch to soften the flavor.  The Brown Clamshell is a bit more flexible and is easily able to pair with red wine sauces as well as Asian influenced stir fry. Roast to deepen flavors. Grilled veal, almond, cashew, garlic chive, thyme.


Sometimes called the “baby Portobello,” Criminis are the younger version of the Portobello. Portobello is the mushroom variety at later maturity.


In fact, if you let a Crimini grow only 5 more days, you will get a small Portobello cap. The Crimini has an earthy, meaty texture, and stands up well to baking, roasting and stewing. They’re a favorite in Italian dishes, especially those with tomato sauce and beef.

Trumpet Royale Mushrooms

With a sturdy, light brown cap, the Trumpet Royale has a nutty flavor and a great culinary range. It can be sautéed, grilled, braised, stewed, or broiled. Its stem can also be used, sliced into medallions.

Trumpet Royale Mushrooms

The Trumpet Royale's firm texture allows for grilling or cooking on high heat. Chefs recommend cooking them in dishes with cream, walnuts, sherry, parmesan, rosemary or balsamic vinegar.

The flavor of fresh, organic mushrooms add "something" to nearly any dish at any time of day.  In addition, mushrooms not only provide protein and fiber, but also vitamin B, vitamin D, vitamin K, copper and other minerals.

How are you enjoying these tasty morsels? 
Any recipe links to share?

Variety tasting notes provided by Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. with over 30 years experience growing exotic specialty mushrooms at our farm in Sonoma County, California.

October 20, 2011

Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools

Nutrition Education Cards

"The nearly 900 million meals served yearly in California schools today present 900 million opportunities to create positive systemic change. After all, what better way is there to build healthy lifelong eating habits, support student well-being, and promote our economy and environment than by offering delicious, appealing meals that celebrate our agricultural abundance and rich cultures?"
Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools

Last week, communities across our country used National School Lunch Week (the week beginning the 2nd Sunday in October) to raise awareness about the importance of school meals in children’s health and our food system. As part of this, we were able to visit with award-winning cookbook authors, Georgeanne Brennan and Ann M. Evans, who have co-written a new cookbook and menu planning guide for schools and families, in partnership with The Center for Ecoliteracy and TomKat Charitable Trust, Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools.  

Here's our conversation with Ann and Georgeanne about school lunch programs, how parents can learn more about their schools' programs and how we can incorporate more locally grown foods into school lunches.

What is your vision when it comes to school lunches in California?
ANN - I’d like to see lunch as part of the school day – with a focus on flavor and agricultural literacy as well as nutrition. I’d like to have CA School Lunch be a part of a statewide green economic development program that raises up the standards for those working in the kitchen and of those in the fields and processing plants. Ideally, teachers and students would eat together, just as they are together in the classroom for other kinds of learning, at least at the elementary level.
GEORGEANNEI’d love to see students having more than a few minutes and sit down and enjoy a home-style, cooked-from-scratch meal, served on real china with real utensils, with pitchers of water on the table. 

Busy parents often wonder what they should know about their children’s school lunch programs. What are some of the first steps a parent can take in finding out more about their program? What questions should they be asking?
ANN - I suggest they go to their school district’s website and look up the student nutrition services program and become acquainted with the menu and the philosophy; next, eat school lunch with your child – letting the school know in advance in case there are protocols to be followed; thirdly – seeing if the district has a Wellness Committee or Nutrition Committee – and signing up to help with it. An email to the food service director, letting them know you are interested in helping and whom should you contact (once all the above is done) would be nice as well. 
GEORGEANNE - They can go to the district website, see the menus that are posted there. They can eat at any school – usually prior request is needed from the principal or food service director – and see for themselves what is being served. 

Is there a common step we can take as parents, or as a community, to help the school lunch programs to incorporate more local foods into their meal plans?
ANN - Get involved and become knowledgeable about the constraints the food service operates within, which are considerable. Understand what food service has made in terms of changes and has in terms of plans for future changes. Work with a group to create support for the food service director making changes – sometimes this means getting the board of education to say they are supportive of changes.
GEORGEANNEFind out what is being served, meet the school food service director and ask how you or your community group might help. Find out what he or she needs, but do not be adversarial. In my experience, all the hard-working food service staff wants to do is provide good, tasty meals, but they are frequently hamstrung by regulations and financing. Try to help, not criticize. 

Your book Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools is more than a cookbook - it's also a tested guide for food service professionals.  It's quite a resource and it's free for anyone to download online.  What are your hopes for this book?
ANN - My hope for the book we authored, and that Center for Ecoliteracy produced, is that it be as widely used as possible to inspire change in school lunches.  
GEORGEANNE - I hope that it will encourage families as well as school districts to cook seasonally, and to discover how good food can be when using fresh, in-season ingredients. 

Outside of a school lunch program, how can the average family use this book?

ANN - The recipes are family size, so families might want to cook together from the book.
GEORGEANNEThe recipes are family size, so they are easily done at home. By using six different dishes – wraps, pastas, pizzas, soups, salads, and rice bowls – multiple dishes can be created, depending upon season and the different flavor profiles, so once the concept is mastered, people won’t need recipes – they’ll internalize the matrix. 

Asian Noodles with Lime Chili Sauce and Spring Vegetables: page 111

You chose 5 ethnic flavor profiles (African, Asian, European/Mediterranean, Latin American, and Middle Eastern/Indian) for your book. Why?

ANNCalifornia was built through the ingenuity and labor of many peoples from around the world. When they came here they brought their cuisine – I wanted to both educate and celebrate that fact, and ensure that students were exposed to a variety of foods – as a part of a lunch education.

GEORGEANNE - Because they seem to broadly reflect the world’s culture, and by extension, the melting pot culture not only of California, but the United States. 

How have school lunch programs in California changed in the last 3 years? Where do you think we can be 3-5 years from now?
ANN - There is much more awareness now, and I do think that in some cases, fresh fruits and vegetables have moved from the salad bar into other parts of the menu. Some districts are purchasing directly from farmers, or getting their produce vendor to tell them where the food is coming from. State and national professional conferences now focus on incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables on the school lunch plate.
GEORGEANNEMany school district food service directors are moving forward at a rapid pace to change the lunch - from the huge LA District, to the small Winters one. 

What can parents do at home to help make the connection between farms and food?
ANN - Join a CSA, eat seasonally, shop at a farmers market as a family and talk about what is offered and why.
GEORGEANNEGrow a garden at home with their children.

Black Eyed Peas and Chard: page 90

What’s your favorite recipe in the book?
ANN - I love the Black-eyed Peas with Chard as a nod to my southern heritage, and the Curried Potatoes in Chapatti just satisfies a special craving if I’m really hungry, and the Chicken Yassa is a favorite too. Hard to know where to stop, I love them all really.
GEORGEANNE - Curried Potato Wrap.

Do you have a favorite website or tools you recommend that would help spread the word about healthier eating habits?
ANN - Cooking is the best thing I know to help people fall in love with fresh, seasonal food – healthy eating follows from that.
GEORGEANNETaste, taste, cook and cook. If it tastes good, and children help cook it, they will eat it. Eat real food, just less of it. Whole milk, real cheese, lots of vegetables and fruits – so many adults, upon eating a broccoli topped pizza have said, “I hate broccoli, but I like this” – that’s because they’ve usually had frozen, steam table broccoli and who would like that?

Thank you Ann and Georgeanne for sharing your school lunch and healthy eating insights as well as your cookbook with us!   

Georgeanne Brennan is an award-winning cookbook author, journalist, and food policy consultant with a distinguished culinary and business career spanning several decades. As a principal of Evans & Brennan, LLC , she has been working over the past several years piloting professional development with the Davis JUSD, focusing specifically on enhancing the skills and creativity of the nutrition services staff using the 6-5-4 School Lunch Matrix. The author of more than 30 books on cooking and food, and a cooking school owner and teacher, she brings her considerable expertise to Rethinking School Lunch in rural and urban settings.

Ann M. Evans has a long history of involvement in sustainable food systems, community leadership, educational reform, and the marketplace. She has worked for a decade with Davis Joint Unified School District, bringing her expertise as former mayor of Davis and Special Advisor to the Superintendent of Public Instruction on school gardens and food, to transforming school food. Cofounder of the Davis Food Co-op and the Davis Farmers’ Market, she has a 30-year career with California state government. As a principal of Evans & Brennan, she is working with rural and urban communities to improve children’s health through Rethinking School Lunch.

October 3, 2011

Our First Capay Crush Festival

I shoveled about two dozen scoops of fresh, Syrah grapes into the ‘stomping tub’ and stood back, leaning on my shovel and dreaming about cool grapes squishing under bare feet. A half an hour later, dozens of guests were taking off their shoes, rolling up their pants, and living the dream!

Our First Annual Capay Crush was held on the farm the last Sunday in September, and it was great fun! Like our Capay Tomato event in July, our Capay Crush event benefits The Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit for Sustainable Agriculture, an organization that donates school supplies to farm workers' families and gives scholarships to students studying sustainable agriculture or related fields.

Although some mid-day showers threatened to muddy up the afternoon, the sun broke through the rain clouds in time to dry the ground and shine up the Capay Valley into a beautiful, bright backdrop.

The Grenache grapes on the vines perked up during the brief rain and looked wonderful in the sun as guests pulled off clusters and ate bunches. All around me people were harvesting grapes by hand, eating grapes by mouth, and crushing grapes by feet!

Freshly Picked Grapes

Then there was the wine.

I saw faces concentrated in sipping, swirling, and smelling the many local vintages that six wonderful local wineries brought to Capay Crush to be sampled. Tempranillo, Viognier, Malbec, Zinfindel, Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet, and more were poured in glasses, tasted, and scored on tasting sheets all evening long.

Fascinating insights into the finer points of wine tasting were presented in our Wine Talk by Dr. David Block of the UC Davis viticulture and enology department. My favorite part: Dr. Block had volunteers come on stage to sample and compare tasting notes to prove the differences in personal preference and taste. Volunteers used a wine aroma wheel to identify the flavors and smells in their wine – grapefruit, fruity, oaky, spicy were among the responses.

The live music was lovely. The tractor rides were picturesque thanks to the morning rain and sun beams. The photo booth activity we had set up couldn’t have had a prettier backdrop as the sun lowered and lengthened the shadows in the hills that flank the valley.

Capay Crush 2011

The sun set over the valley and the event was winding down as folks stopped by the market stand to buy some Capay Organic carrots or tomatoes or figs on their way out. I saw a lot of smiling couples and happy families, but the pleasure was all ours. We love having folks out on the farm!  Hope to see you at next year's Capay Crush!

View a slideshow of images from our Capay Crush event here.

Are you in any of the photos and want to save a copy?  Scan through our Photostream here. Find instructions on how to download photos from our Flickr Photostream here.

WINERIES: A big thank you to these local wineries pouring at Capay Crush:

- Berryessa Gap -
- Capay Valley Vineyards -
- Rominger West -
- Seka Hills -
- Simas Family Vineyards -
- Turkovich Family Wines -

We would love to see the revelry your camera captured at Capay Crush and add your images to our 35th Anniversary Scrapbook.  Here's some of the ways you can share your Capay Crush images with us:

- Share on our Facebook Wall
- Share on our Flickr Community Group

We can't wait to see your Capay Crush Photos!

September 30, 2011

Cookbook Giveaway - Put 'em Up!

Put 'em Up!
"People are rediscovering the pleasure of the process: the delight of squirreling away locally grown corn, the joy of putting up some of those treasured summer strawberries, the kinky thrill of opening up our own jarred tomatoes in the middle of February."
Sherri Brooks Vinton in her cookbook Put 'em Up!

In today's marketplace nearly everything is available year-round and yet, "putting up"-the act of canning and food preserving-has experienced a resurgence in popularity that doesn't appear to be a fleeting one.  Those who do it promise that it's not long before you're hooked and looking to preserve any and every little last morsel before the season moves on.

With a modern sensibility, canning and food preserving today doesn't have to mean massive amounts of produce to prep and a long, tiring process.  The list of reasons to preserve include better taste, quality, affordability, tradition and being planet-friendly among others.

But there's another reason that seals the deal for us.

It makes us feel good-really good-and it's a lasting sort of good that crops up in the middle of winter when there is local, summer-sweetened blackberries in the freezer for adding to oatmeal-or when 6 jars of pickles that were canned with a friend greet you every time you open the cupboard. It makes you feel like you have grabbed the heart of the season and managed to savor it - literally and figuratively.

As Sherri notes above, there's a pleasure in the process and even novice "put 'em uppers" can find simple ways to save the best of the season. This is especially true if you're armed with a book like Sherri's Put ‘em Up!-a truly comprehensive guide that features a complete how-to for every kind of preserving: refrigerating, freezing, canning, pickling and others.

With ingredients calling for as little as a pound or as much as a gallon, Put ‘em Up! is perfect for our Farm Fresh To You CSA members who might, for example, have extra green beans on hand and want to freeze some for winter soups-or the members who can't pass up a good tomato deal at the farmer's market and are thinking salsa!

In the spirit of September, a perfect preserving month, we wanted to stir up a little canning and food preserving talk, and end with a little giveaway.  Put ‘em Up seemed like a perfect pick!  In addition to answering some of our customer's canning questions on our Facebook wall, Sherri helped us preserve the last bits of summer by giving us a copy of Put ‘em Up to give away.

Here's How to Enter –
To win a signed copy of Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'em Up! cookbook, simply leave a comment below answering this question -
What method of food preserving
(canning, fermenting, freezing, drying, pickling, etc.) appeals to you most?
Thank you for all the amazing comments!  They were so wonderful that we chose TWO WINNERS!

The first winner chosen at random is: The Emery Board who wrote:

I've never tried any of these methods, as I hadn't even thought of using my produce in this way! It excites me greatly, as I just bought a house recently and finally have a kitchen in which I can cook! I think canning sounds like a lot of fun. Whether I win or not, I think I need to start buying some super cute jars!
The second winner chosen at random is: Maureen who wrote:
I am interested in learning about all the methods, but I could really use drying for food on sailing trips and am intrigued by fermentation of foods!

EmeryBoard and Maureen - please email us at with your contact information. Thank you again to all who entered - we are enjoying your comments so very much!  A big thank you to Sherri Brooks Vinton and be sure to check out Put 'em Up!