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alyssum with broccoli 3I’ve always liked sweet alyssum flowers. We planted them back in our San Francisco community garden plot before we moved out of the city to start farming, and they made a lovely delicate ground cover that attracted the most beautiful little crab spiders. The spiders are experts at camouflage, and can turn different colors depending on the color of flower they are on. The ones on the white alyssum would be white, but those on yellow flowers would be a bright yellow instead. They were welcome predators in the garden plot.

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Spring Farm Tour 2014It was great to meet several of you at our Spring Farm Tour last Saturday. It’s nice to put faces to our CSA members, and you always seem to have the most interesting, engaged children! We seem to have entered our summer weather pattern with fog in the mornings burning off to some sun later in the day. This type of weather is actually what makes our home farm and the Redman ranch so perfect for growing so many crops – including lettuces, greens, and strawberries–that do not do well with summer heat.

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Fava Beans growingIt looks like things will be dry enough here at our home farm by the end of the week for us to get back in with the tractors and continue to work up more ground to plant into. Before the last series of storms we had mowed and incorporated the cover crop on most of the fields and in the intervening weeks the residue has broken down to the point that we should be able to start planting into it in a week or so. My aim every year is to plant our large blocks of hard squash no later than May 1st, and it looks like we are on track to meet that goal.

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pear blossoms3You are invited to our Spring Farm Tour on Saturday, April 12th, at 10 AM, at our home farm. Come out and see where your food is being grown! We’ll take you around to the blueberry patch, as well as pear and apple orchards and the various row crops growing in the field. Special features on this property include our riparian corridor, native insectary hedgerows, the habitat restoration area, and the four-year UCSC research project on crop rotation that we are participating in.

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One of the happier things to happen here in the last five years is that the neighboring 400 plus acre property was purchased by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. The three parcels that make up this property are now in agricultural easements which will protect them from development in perpetuity. The previous owners had drawn up elaborate plans for a 1000 plus unit development, complete with shopping center and golf course.

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pear blossoms3The CSA is starting up again and it certainly feels like spring at the farm. The pear trees are bursting out in blossom, the blueberry bushes are loaded with green berries, and of course the weeds are going gangbusters. The bees are thick around anything in flower, ducks are flying over in pairs, and the swallows are swooping about overhead catching flying insects. It’s hard to argue with these beautiful sunny days, though we’re still hoping for some more winter rain before the end of March.

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lettuce in greenhouseThis week’s imminent rains are very welcome indeed. The timing of the first system, late Wednesday morning, should allow us just enough time to get the harvest done for our Thursday deliveries. Things greened up remarkably quickly after the last rounds of rainfall, the bell beans and peas in the cover crops are in bloom, and all is starting to feel right with the world again.

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Fava Beans growingThank you early subscribers! As we gear up for the year, the people who sign up early for the coming season are the backbone of our CSA. We use the early flush of money to pay for the cost of seed, compost, labor, land rent, and insurance that we incur before we can start to harvest the spring crops. We also use the number of early subscribers to gauge how much to plant and to make important decisions about land use and what improvements we can afford to spend some money on.

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Leeks_growing_in_fieldIn a typical year we start hoping for a break in the winter rains sometime in early January so that the ground will dry out enough to allow us to get in and plant. Although the overall long term water picture for the state looks increasingly ominous, the dry weather has allowed us to keep on top of tasks around here like never before.

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So long 2013 — it was a decent year for us, though it had its difficulties (and we’re still waiting for some rain!) But the winter vegetables that survived the frost are sweeter than ever, and we’re getting some time to relax with the every other week Winter CSA schedule.

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back hill with sloughThe drought continues. The National Weather Service website tacked a startling fact on to the end of their forecast discussion last week. With only two weeks to go and no rain in sight, the city of San Francisco is 3 inches below the record low rainfall year, with records going all the way back to 1849! For the 2013-14 “rainy” season, most areas in our region are currently only at 15-25 percent of normal.

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PelicansI hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving (and Hannukah!) holiday.

We finally got some rain last week—though much more is needed.  Including the dry second half of the last rainy season, this is the longest dry stretch that we’ve experienced since we’ve been here. Here in Watsonville, with the exception of Harkins Slough which our home farm is situated beside, nearly all of the five fingers of the freshwater slough system have dried up.

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lettuce 2013This is the final delivery of our weekly CSA shares for the 2013 season. It is time for us to look back on another year of crop successes and failures—the delicious and bountiful blueberry crop; the fire in the apple orchard; the first tasty little pears; the stressfully late strawberry crop; the beautiful cauliflower, broccoli, beans, and carrots;

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cover cropWe have prepared all the strawberry beds for next year’s crop, and this week we start planting the strawberries themselves. The lack of rain has made this task go perfectly smoothly, but it has thrown a wrench into our cover cropping. We try to conserve water as much as possible, and most years we time the planting of as many of our cover crops as possible to correspond with fall rain storms.

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I took some time this week to look into the FDA’s Proposed Regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act. Food Safety is of vital importance to us, as it is to all farmers, of course. It’s the Modernization part that I’m concerned about. I’ll be making my comments to the FDA this week and I hope you will also comment (see links below).

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October is always a super busy month on our farm and while there is still plenty to be done, it feels like we can finally pause long enough to catch our breath. All of the field prep for next year’s strawberry field is finished and we are just waiting for it to dry out enough to have the beds listed up (we pre-irrigate the field so that the extra-tall beds will hold their shape when they are formed). Every year our strawberry field gets extra attention, but this year we went all out.

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I took a break from the farm last week to chaperone our daughter’s 7th grade class on a field trip to the Catalina Island Marine Institute. It was an amazing week full of snorkeling, kayaking, tidepooling, hiking, and learning about oceanography. If children in your life ever have a chance to attend this program I recommend doing anything you can to make it happen! (And alas, no, we did not see the oar fish–we were in the next cove over.)

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Carnival SquashIf Dr. Seuss designed a food, I’m sure it would have been what we know as Winter Squash. From dull and stolid looking to wildly shaped and brightly colored, winter squash run the gamut. Like Dr. Seuss books, winter squash also yield a treat when you open them, a warm-colored flesh and a mellow flavor–sometimes mild and nutty, sometimes sweet.

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cupcake the ponyThanks to all of you who came out to see us on Saturday at our Harvest Fair and Pumpkin Patch! It was great to see so many CSA members there. (We’ll have some pictures to post next week.)

This time of year the farm is in transition. Those of you who were here Saturday saw that we have many fields coming out of food crops and ready to plant into the winter cover crops.

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pumpkin patch 2013 3Our 5th Annual Harvest Fair and Pumpkin Patch is this Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. We go all out for this event and we’ll have something for everybody–animals, rides, crafts, facepainting, gourmet food, apple cider pressing, apple tasting, great music, demonstration bee hive, bagpipes, farm tours, and more! Here’s the rundown.

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easement areaSteve and I have been named as finalists for the 2013 Leopold Conservation Award. (We were finalists in 2012 as well–see Leopold Conservation Award). The $10,000 award is given to one California farmer each year by the Sand County Foundation, California Farm Bureau Federation and a group called Sustainable Conservation, to recognize “extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation by private landowners.”

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pumpkin patch 2013 3We’re experiencing lovely days here on the farm as fall approaches, sunny and beautiful. The pumpkins are coloring up nicely and we’re getting excited for our Fall Pumpkin Patch and Harvest Festival coming ujack o lantern pumpkinsp on October 5th. (Please plan to join us!)

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peppers-CornodiToroBlame it on Christopher Columbus. The whole pepper-chili thing. Pimienta is Spanish for pepper, and pepper was one the reasons Spain financed Columbus’ trip in the first place. He didn’t find pepper, but he did find a cheap fiery substitute. In an effort to link chilies to pepper he called them pimentos, which in turn was translated to peppers. In all likelihood, Columbus brought some back to Spain on his first return.

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winter squash in fieldThe winter squash have pretty much sized up as much as they are going to. We’ve cut the water off and over the coming weeks we will let the plants dry up completely and the squashes themselves to cure. I’ve heard people say that sugars and nutrients flow from the drying vines into the squashes during this period, and whether this is true or not, the squash do seem to have better flavor and keep better when fully cured in this way.  

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Goats in lettuce 4Our 40-acre home farm is divided into two parts. Approximately half of the farm is in an agricultural easement and must be used only for organic farming purposes in perpetuity. The other half, a mix of oak woodlands and hilly grassland that reaches down and into the waters of Harkins Slough, is in a conservation easement. It is forever safe from development and cannot be farmed either.

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When we bought our new property in North Monterey County a few years ago, we already had the perfect tractor for working the sandy slopes with—our 1953 D4 Caterpillar Crawler. Crawlers, which have tank-like treads instead of rubber tires, are commonly used in our area for the purpose of primary tillage (disking, chiseling and ripping). They have much more tractive power for their size than wheel tractors do, and because they have such a large “footprint”, they cause less soil compaction.  Where wheel tractors commonly get bogged down and experience what is called “power-hop” on sandy ground, our wide track D4 virtually skates over it.

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greenhouseAugust1One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that this profession really rewards those who are able to think and plan well in advance. Strawberries are a good example of this. To help control soilborne diseases, we grow our strawberries on a five year rotation, meaning that they won’t be planted in the same place again for five seasons. 

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strawberry pickersWe’re opening up our strawberry patch for u-pick for the next three weekends. The berry patch is behind our farmstand this year, so we can give you a wide range of hours and days to come do your picking. Here’s how it works:

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We’re entering summer veggie heaven now at the farm, so this is just a little note about the possible items in your mystery this week. You will get either summer squash, tomatoes, or Padron peppers this week.

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YWS scuba divingThis summer we have been involved on two levels with the Monterey Bay Aquarium programs in science and conservation. Our youngest daughter went to their Young Women in Science camp, and had a blast kayaking, boogie boarding, and scuba diving, as well as meeting women scientists, monitoring sand crabs, and making toys for the aquarium’s otters.

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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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