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One of the consequences of a prolonged, wet winter is that our cover crops can get out of hand. Because the soils are too wet to drive the tractor on, we simply have to wait while the cover crops get taller and taller before things are dry enough for us to mow them down.

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Back when we first moved onto our home ranch here on Harkins Slough, we quickly realized that our 40 horse power Ford tractor, the one that had seemed so big when we first bought it, was no match for the amount of acreage and the heavy clay soils we would now be farming on.

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I’ve always been very fond of swallows. They are hard-working, industrious birds who are a joy to watch fly.

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Those of you who have been faithful newsletter readers for a while know that we have been involved with the effort to transition the organic strawberry industry into using organically grown starter plants for some time now.

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Things are hopping on the farm now. We’re doing a lot of planting every week, and getting into the swing of harvesting more each week.

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lettuce transplantsWe are saying goodbye to Molly this week, which is a sad thing for us because she has done just an amazing job as our CSA administrator.

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fennel etcThe USDA has proposed imposing an Organic Check-off Program in which all organic producers would pay a percentage of their income to a federal program that would fund research and marketing for the industry as a whole. Think “Got Milk” or “The Incredible Edible Egg.”

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strawberry plants April 2017This “winter” just doesn’t want to go away—another storm is forecast for tomorrow. We are up to nearly 40 inches of rain this season, which is nearly double what we get in a normal year. This is how I imagine it is to farm on the East Coast, where they get rain throughout the spring and summer.  

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rainy harvest 4This first day of spring is being ushered in with yet more rain, making for a wet harvest day. Steve was on the tractor dawn to dusk through the weekend getting ground worked up and compost spread in advance of the storm. He wasn’t the only one. Some nearby farms have had tractors working through the night.

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Allis Chalmers G 2The National Weather Service reminds us that winter is not over—they are calling for a pattern change and chance of showers after the upcoming weekend.  But it has sure felt like Spring the last few days. We are in full production mode.

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cover crop 2017I hope you have all weathered the storms in your homes or are at least getting the relief you need at this point with a little sunny weather. It was a frosty morning here, maybe the coldest night of the year so far. We are seeing dry-ish weather in the near-term forecast and are jumping on the chance to knock down some of the cover crops at our Lewis Road property to prepare more ground to plant into.

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erosion5During a “normal” rainy season, if there is such a thing, the water in our neighboring Harkins Slough can, in places, turn the color of a cup of coffee with half & half mixed in.

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greenhouse 2017It is looking like we will soon be back into the wet and windy weather that has characterized this winter so far, but we are grateful for the brief sunny break that we are experiencing now. Combined with the longer days, it feels like we have turned a small corner of sorts in the stretch toward spring.

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alysyum in greenhouseJust as people resolve to make major changes in their lives at this time of year, these winter months give us the perspective to step back and think about the changes we want to make as a farm.

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vacuum-seederThe first week of the New Year is generally the time that we throw ourselves into preparations for the coming season with increased vigor—making seed orders, starting transplants in the greenhouse, and checking things off our long project list. This coming week is shaping up to be a very wet one. Between the storm that is expected here this afternoon and what the National Weather Service calls a “potent atmospheric river” event predicted for this weekend, we could get between 3 and 6 inches of rain here—a significant portion of the 23 inches that we get in an average year.

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bald-eagles-flying-croppedWell, I have to eat crow on my eagle post from last time. It has been pointed out to me that the young eagle has the white chest coloring of a 2nd year juvenile. We wanted it to be a new chick from this year, and we hadn’t seen last year’s juveniles in a long time, and it was flying with both adults, so we just assumed it was a new fledgling. But you know what happens when one assumes…

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bald-eagle-fledgling-closeupIn my last eagle report I noted that one of the bald eagles that had been nesting here on Harkins Slough since 2014 died, and that the remaining adult appeared to have found a new mate this spring. Our eagle-eyed daughter saw an adult flying with an immature just before Thanksgiving. The youth obliged by perching on a tree in our restoration area long enough for us to get a good picture. The young eagle is as big as his or her parents, but won’t develop the white head and tail for a few years.

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soilHealthy soils not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration, but also provide tangible benefits to farmers’ bottom lines, their communities’ health, and the wildlife around them. So wouldn’t it be great if the farmer you get your share from could get paid to improve their soil’s health? Thanks to new groundbreaking legislation, they can.

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yuma-myotis-batOctober is Bat Appreciation Month, and with the celebration of Halloween this week I thought I’d take a moment to share with you some of the awesome things I learned about bats while earning my degree at UCSC.

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rainbowHere atop our coastal terrace where our home ranch is located, there is very little between us and the coast to slow storm systems down as they come off the Pacific Ocean. For most of the day last Sunday it felt as if our house was in an enormous car wash—being buffeted by near-40mph gusts and driving rain.

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pumpkins-2016You are invited to the farm this Saturday, October 15, for our annual Pumpkin Patch! Choose your jack-o-lantern, cinderella (rouge vif d’etampes), and pie pumpkins (Winter Luxury) for the upcoming season. The patch will be open from 10 am to 2 pm.

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harvestinglettuce_mobileTwo bills were signed into law that will have dramatic effects on all agricultural businesses in California. The one most people are familiar with is the minimum wage law that was signed back in April that will result in a $15 minimum statewide by 2022. People outside of agriculture, however, may not be aware that another bill, with possibly larger effects, was also signed into law–AB 1066.

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turkeysupclose2When the gang of wild turkeys arrived on the farm last year they didn’t cause much trouble. They hung around the pumpkin patch and scratched around in the grassy edges. However, they have now become a major farm pest for us.

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cinderella-pumpkinsIt’s starting to feel like fall around here—warm and sunny. At times the sun is filtered through smoke from the Sobrantes fire, casting things in an orange glow. As with past Big Sur fires, because of the rough terrain, it will probably burn until the rains start later in fall, and our air quality will suffer as a result.

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elkhorn sloughAs I start planning out the cover cropping scheme for our farms this fall, I am thinking back to the workshop I attended last summer at Moss Landing Marine Labs concerning water quality issues in Elkhorn Slough.

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strawberry field Feb 2It’s the time of year when strawberry growers throughout the valley start preparing their fields for next year’s strawberry crop and we are no exception. Conventional growers start to plant in early October—those who grow organically usually keep their plants in the cooler to give them more vigor and therefore don’t normally start planting until the later part of November. That may seem like a long way off, but a lot goes into getting the field ready.

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sarahtruckthumbnailFor the past five years Sarah Brewer has been our CSA administrator (a job she meant to take over only “temporarily” when her mother Chrissi moved out of the area). Sarah has done this job so well that I don’t ever have to worry about the running of this end of the farming venture.

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broccoli fieldWithout a doubt it has been one of the coolest summers I can remember in some time. Nearly every morning has been damp and drizzly, and if the sun comes out at all it is only for a few hours in the afternoon. For some crops these conditions can be problematic—downy mildew has set in to some of our lettuce, cucumbers and basil crops. Other heat loving plants like tomatoes, peppers and squash just slow way down. There are, however, crops that love it cool and damp and of these, the broccoli and cauliflower in your boxes this week are fine examples.

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scrub jay in orchardFor today’s essay, here are some recent pictures from the farm. At lefGoat - redbeardt, a scrub jay in the orchard on a misty morning.

At right, our goats enjoying some beets leftover from Sunday’s Mountain View Farmers Market. This goat’s new name is Redbeard!

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blackbirds in treeOne of the advantages of being a CSA farm is the flexibility that we have in putting together the boxes each week. When a farm is geared towards wholesale markets, it needs to meet the expectations of providing a consistent product throughout the growing season. For instance if you want to be the carrot supplier for a wholesale outlet, you want to be able to harvest a consistent quantity and size of carrots every week throughout the season. This sort of marketing favors large farms, and in fact, there are two huge producers that grow the majority of carrots consumed in the US (Grimway and Bolthouse Farms). As a diverse small farm, we can take some risks in trying new varieties, and we have the flexibility to constantly change what we are growing on any given part of the farm to try to stay ahead of pest and disease problems.

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SIGN UP FOR CSA PROGRAM

When you join our CSA, you sign up with the farm to receive a share of the harvest during our 36 week season from mid-March to mid-November. In return, you get a weekly box of organic vegetables and fruit (and optional flowers) delivered straight from our farm to a pick-up site in your neighborhood.

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View our CSA Members Page

This is where you can go to find out what's coming in your box each week, find recipes, identify your vegetables with pictures, and view or print the current and past newsletters. Check here for the information you need to use your box to the fullest.

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