June 2,2014

The Water Pinch

Your Farm in Photos - The Water Pinch
The farm in 1976

The year that keeps coming up in the farming world about the water situation is 1976.For our farm,the last time the canal didn't open up was in 1976.The one tangible piece of data that could be used to make a prediction about how much water will be in the creek and how long wells will hold out for is what happened in 1976.I was not yet born in 1976,and the piece of farm land that my parents were farming (ironically,1976 was the year our farm was founded) was small and fed entirely by a small ground water well that had enough water to get us through the year.

Your Farm in Photos - The Water Pinch
Cache Creek on the farm.

For my kids,I started a "Water Log"in my journal for this year.  In it,I am keeping track of the details.The most significant detail this year is that the canal was able to take care of our water needs until May 15th after which point it went dry.Cache Creek is currently holding out for us,but the neighbor across the way who is farming 220 acres of olives and is completely dependent upon canal water moved his pumps into Cache Creek last week.It is hard for me to picture the creek having enough water for both of us through the entire summer.

Your Farm in Photos - The Water Pinch
Irrigation pipes

The farm has a set of ground water wells that we have historically not had to use.The other issue is that the wells are not in the best of locations,some of them are sitting in the middle of fields that we have elected to fallow due to the water shortage (we reduced our farmed acreage by 70 acres this year).The challenge is that it's a lot of pipe needed to move the water from the various wells to all of the fields that need the water.

Your Farm in Photos - The Water Pinch
Water pump
The good news is that we have options.We sit on top of a healthy aquifer of water that got most farmers through 1976 and will do the same for our farm today — all we have to do it access the water.I sat down and made a water budget for the summer,looking at the crops we have committed to,historical weather patterns and added it all up.In the month of July,our farm will need about 15.7 acre-feet of water per week.If we ran our pumps six days per week,12 hours per day,they would need to generate 1,187 gallons of water per minute.If we ran the pumps seven days per week,18 hours per day,we would need 678 gallons per minute.Without the creek,I have a total of 525 gallons per minute of water in my wells.

Your Farm in Photos - The Water Pinch
Drilling a new well.

So,time to drill some new wells.On average,wells on our farm yield 100-200 gallons per minute (wells are about 250 feet deep).I need to develop another 300 gallons per minute,and I need to get that water from one end of the farm to the other.We just finished installing large,buried pipe and as you read this,I have three new wells being drilled.Well drillers are so busy that most of them will tell you they are booked out until December — we have been lucky to get this guy out.Cross your fingers for 300 gpm!

May 20,2014

Cover Crops!

Thad Picking Cover Crops
Field of Cover Crops 2014
If you just take crops from the ground,year after year,it will not take long until the ground stops giving you good crops.Someone once told me that good farmers feed the soil and let the soil feed the crops.  As soon as you are feeding crops directly,you have a problem.I have found that to be true.Planting crops into soil that has the resources it needs to care for the crops is the best way to farm.

Cover Crops

Field of Cover Crops 2011

This may sound simple,but it can be complicated to understand and even more difficult to implement.When farming organically,there are some organic fertilizers that you can apply like feather meal,composts and seaweed extracts.These items are primarily used to add nitrogen to the soil that plants can use.They work okay,but are expensive and often have negative side effects that reduce the quality of a soil (salts in feather meal,non-compostable trash like broken glass in compost).

Cover Crops 1

These tools have their place when you are trying to give a little extra bump to a crop,but they are not tools that can be relied upon to care for soil and plants.The only way I have found to take long term care of soils is to grow cover crops,as often as possible.On our farm,we make a point to budget the expenses to grow one cover crop with each crop.

Thad Sharing Cover Crops

Thad Shows Off Our Cover Crop Mix of Grasses and Legumes

Cover crops are typically mixes of grasses and legumes.The exact mix depends on your location and the time of year.Right now our farm is using a mix of 80% Iron and Clay Peas and 20% Buckwheat.This is a mix that grows well in the summer heat.The peas have some nitrogen-fixing roots that take nitrogen gas out of the air and turn it into mineralized nitrogen that will decompose over time and turn into nitrates and nitrites that future crops will eat up.

Tomato Seedling

A Tomato Seedling Benefits from Last Season's Cover Crop

The green matter from both peas and the wheat will add valuable organic matter to our soil (we try to keep the organic matter level of our soils over 1%,which is easier said than done).This provides amazing benefits to the soil structure,enabling roots and water to easily travel through it.It also provides food for soil microbes to eat,digest and secrete valuable food for our plants.

All of these benefits are obtained by nothing but the local resources of land,water and seeds — they are without a doubt the most sustainable way to maintain healthy soil.Cover crops should be the cornerstone of every farm's fertilization program.Unfortunately,they are not — but they are the cornerstone of your farm's fertilization program!

April 25,2014

A Carrot Story & Contest

In this week's Farm News,I mentioned a little something about a carrot contest.After you root around our carrot story and enjoy a few photos from our fields,leave us a comment or two with your creative carrot name or story!If you have one of the best comments,there just may be some "carrots"in it for ya!

Carrots - Really Good Ones!
FARM NEWS April 28 - May 2nd,2014

Thad Showing Carrots Growing
Sneak Peak of our Carrots Growing
The sweet smell of carrots fills the air surrounding the field that we have broken open for the carrot harvest.Beautiful,sweet,crunchy and tender carrots are organized on the bed in two lines,each with their roots pointing toward the center of the row.Their green tops hang down into the furrow.The group of people who have plucked the carrots from the soil work quickly,keeping up with the tractor that is running a blade below the roots of the carrots to loosen the soil.

Carrots in my hand on the left are almost ready for harvest.
Carrots in my hand on the right still have a ways to go.
A second crew bunches the carrots,shaking off as much of the residual loam soil that still clings to the root before banding a bunch together with a twist tie and putting them into a reusable plastic container that is destined for the packing house where the last of the soil will be washed from the gems.

The team treats the carrots with great care.These carrots are SUPER SWEET because they have lots of natural sugars in them,which also make them delicate and prone to easily snapping in two.

Big Carrots,Little Carrots
Carrots Just Starting To Grow
The key to amazing carrots is simple – the variety.Most carrots grown are selected to grow large,straight,last a long time and to not break during the harvest,packing and transportation process – ever notice how bendy some carrots are?The oversight in this process is that characteristics like taste and texture are ignored.

We grow a variety called Nantes,named from the place in France where humans first bred really good-tasting carrots.The seed is the secret to our amazing carrots,but seeds need to be put into the right circumstances to thrive.

Thad Holding Carrot Seeds
Carrot Seeds

We work our carrot soil deep,taking care to ensure that the carrot root can easily make its way eight plus inches into the soil.Beds are made perfectly smooth and a special seeder is used to precisely seed each bed with six lines of seeds,separated by 3/4 of an inch down each line.The result is a plant population of nearly one million carrots per acre!

Sprinkler and Carrot Crop

These little seeds are irrigated with overhead sprinklers on a schedule that is customized to the stage of the carrots growth.Carrots are slow to germinate,taking almost two weeks to get out of the ground.We take lots of care to ensure that we have grown and removed as many weeds as possible before the carrots are planted,and the weed seeds that do germinate are pulled out by hand.Once the carrots get established,their tops easily cover the bed,absorbing the beautiful sunshine and delivering it to the roots.

Our Farm Fresh Carrots
Freshly Picked Farm Fresh To You Carrots188bet.手机注册
The last step in the process is to wash the carrots and to place a band around the carrots themselves to minimize the jostling that can shatter the precious roots.I know that I often find a tip of a carrot in the bottom of my Farm Fresh To You box and have no problems eating it before the rest of my family can get to it!188bet.手机注册Over the years,I've heard some great stories and names for our carrots.I know some of you ration them out,one per family member,not forgetting the dog.Others have called them "Candy Carrots."

Thad and Lola
Lola Helps Me Show Off Our Carrot Seeds

Carrot Contest!

Enter our carrot contest by leaving your creative carrot comments on this blog post below.Enter as many times as you'd like before Friday,May 9th,at 8:00 p.m.

I've shared our carrot story - what's yours?
Can you come up with a good name for our carrots?

On Monday,May 12th,we'll pick the 3 best carrot comments and announce the winners here on our blog post and by responding to the email included with your comment.

Winners will receive a credit to their Farm Fresh To You account.188bet.手机注册
1st Place: $31.50 - 2nd Place: $20.00 - 3rd Place: 15.00.
Thanks for playing along and good luck!

No purchase required to enter giveaway.No limit on the number of entries.Entries will close on Friday,May 9th at noon.Three total winners,(1) $31.50,(1) $20.00 and (1) $15.00 winner will be chosen by merit of comment and announcedon Monday,May 12,2014 on this blog post and via email included with winning comment.Email addresses shared in the comment will not be displayed publicly and will not be used for any purpose other than to notify the winner.

*Prizes are not redeemable for cash and can only be redeemed for use on Farm Fresh To You deliveries.188bet.手机注册Contest is open to Farm Fresh To You members and California residents who are eligible to receive a Farm Fresh To You delivery by being over the age of 18 and by living in our delivery area.188bet.手机注册Check our Delivery Areashere.

Thank you for all the wonderful stories and name suggestions.
We are so impressed and flattered!

Congratulations to all our winners!

1st Place:Rheawho said:Nantes Your Average Carrot.

2nd Place:Lizwho said:When we moved into our home 16 years ago,we quickly discovered that our next door neighbor was not just a gardener,but a farmer.He was a retired railroad engineer who grew enough produce on his extra 1/2 lot to feed the entire block.Steve grew many things,but he was best known for his carrots.He swore that Nantes Red were the best variety,and you couldn't stop by his house without digging up a few to take home.All the neighborhood kids loved "Steve's carrots".On Halloween he would make a special bag for each child on the block containing a piece or two of candy and several sweet Nantes carrots!Steve passed away this spring,aged 98,and we miss him sorely.However,thanks to Farm Fresh To You,188bet.手机注册we are still able to enjoy "Steve's"carrots.He was right.They really are the best.

3rd Place:Yvonnewho said:These are truly the most delicious carrots I've ever purchased and can't bring myself to cook them,usually savoring one (or 1/2) after dinner.I'd say they are like "diamonds in the rough"and "worth their weight in gold"so how about Capay's "Kandy Karats".

Congratulations Rhea,Liz and Yvonne!