Author Archives: Eva Antczak

FarmsReach Newsletter ~ October 10, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 7.05.45 PMCheck out our latest newsletter!  Topics in this edition:

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Put Your Hoes Down ~ A Weekend Celebration!

IMG_8274Full Belly Farm knows how to have a good time!  This past weekend marked the 26th annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival, which brings together over 6,000 people of all ages from Northern CA and beyond.  Under the hot sun of the Capay Valley, it’s fun to find some shade and relax with a beer, or stroll around and take in the breathtaking views of fields, orchards and rolling hills.  Or, take advantage of their jam-packed program of live music, local food, workshops, creek bathing and camping. We did it all!

Full Belly Farm, founded in 1985, is a pristine 300+ acre operation and is considered one of the best examples of diversified organic farming in CA.  The farm grows an amazing variety of over 80 vegetable, fruit and nut crops, as well as poultry, sheep, pigs, goats, and several cows.  One of their main priorities is the long-term environmental stewardship of the land, and for this, the farm focuses on regenerative systems such as nitrogen-fixing cover crops that improve soil organic matter, and planting habitat area for beneficial insects and wildlife.  With almost 30 years of trial and error under their belt, Full Belly Farm has worked hard to nurture the land so that each year leaves it more fertile than the last.

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“Symphony of the Soil” – A Closer Look at the Soil Beneath Us

Written by Rebecca Gerendasy, Cooking Up a Story.

It may be fitting that a near two-hour film devoted to the subject of soil would begin from the perspective of outer space looking down upon the Earth.  For as we learn in the beginning of the movie, most of our planet was formed out of lifeless mineral rock through which a thin layer of soil first emerges.  Life springs forth, thus.

Deborah Koons Garcia

Deborah Koons Garcia

Deborah Koons Garcia’s exceptional new film, Symphony of the Soil, pays loving homage to the beauty and the wondrous mystery of soil, celebrating not just the incredible soil diversity filmed on four of the world’s continents, it also rejoices in the knowledge of leading scientists and farmers whose careers have been devoted to better understanding this profoundly essential living medium.

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Organic Checkoff Program? The Debate Continues!

OrganicFoodHealth_m_0904You may be familiar with well-known slogans such as “The Incredible Edible Egg,” “Got Milk?” or “Pork. The Other White Meat.” All of these are examples of advertising campaigns funded by commodity research and promotion programs, otherwise known as “checkoff programs”.

How they work

These programs are administered by the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and run by commodity producers to promote specific commodities (beef, pork, soybeans, eggs, milk, blueberries, avocados), through agricultural research and consumer marketing campaigns. The money to pay for these programs comes from mandatory fees (taxes) placed on commodity producers. For example, for every $100 value of pork sold, pork producers pay $0.40 towards the pork checkoff program. For the government, the purpose of these programs is to stimulate demand for the commodities that benefit from federal price supports. Once consumer demand increases, the government can reduce tax-funded payments to the farmers producing the commodities. In theory, this seems mutually beneficial for all involved in the program.

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Member Spotlight: The New Sonoma Valley Farmers Guild!

Every week, we’ll be spotlighting a FarmsReach Featured Farmer or community Member. Our Featured Farmers are brimming with great ideas and knowledge to share with the farming community, and our Members comprise a mix of farmers, ranchers, Extension Advisors, nonprofits, and more.

This week, Evan Wiig of the Farmers Guild and FarmsReach spoke with one of the founders of the newly established Sonoma Valley Farmers Guild! Set to kick-off on October 27th at 6 pm at the Sonoma Valley Grange Hall, its purpose is to help farmers forge new connections, share information and resources, and help support one another over the course of the seasons. If you’re a farmer or rancher, read on about their plans to create a space to gather, kick back, make some new friends, and support the farming community of the Sonoma Valley region!

“Free Money!” ~ Q&A with NRCS Soil Conservationist, Ben Garland

Every week, we’ll be spotlighting a FarmsReach Featured Farmer or community Member.  Our Featured Farmers are brimming with great ideas and knowledge to share with the farming community, and our Members comprise a mix of farmers, ranchers, Extension Advisors, nonprofits, and more.  

Last week’s North Coast Farmers Guild monthly meet-up was another great night of delicious food, fun conversations and valuable connections.  After dinner, we heard from two presenters, one of which was Ben Garland, Soil Conservationist (and funder) at the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

ben

The NRCS grants funds to farmers and ranchers for a wide variety of uses – all of which support healthy ecosystems and long-term sustainability.  Last year, the CA NRCS offices had $3.5 million to grant to organic or transitioning farmers, but only $3 million was used.

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Featured Farmer Spotlight: Evan Wiig of The Farmers Guild & FarmsReach ~ Bringing Farmers Together

In August, FarmsReach partnered with Evan Wiig and his Sebastopol-based Famers Guild to expand his fun and valuable Farmers Guild meet-ups to more regions across California.

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When we first launched the new FarmsReach platform in January 2013, our community had already ‘nominated’ 17 Featured Farmers — farmers they felt were any combination of excellent farmer, valuable mentor, sustainability role model, or simply a hard-working, go-getter next generation farmer.

This week, we are spotlighting our newest addition to the FarmsReach Featured Farmer posse: Evan Wiig. Sure, he is a farmer of a happy flock of chickens in Sonoma County, but we are featuring him because of his inspiring work bringing the farming community together. In less than a year, he has grown the North Coast Farmers Guild — a fun, casual meet-up of farmers and farm supporters — into an increasingly popular (and crowded!) monthly gathering in Sebastopol, where folks are driving up to 3 hours to just hang out and share information.

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Community Picks: Spiral Foods, Preserve Sonoma & Marin Organic ~ at the N. Coast Young Farmers Guild

Last night’s North Coast Young Farmers Guild was another great success!  The crowd keeps growing, the dishes featured the delicious summer bounty, and the speakers were great!  Held at the amazing GrowKitchen in Sebastopol, the party started at the farm across the street for tasty sangria and tomato-picking, and then moved back inside for dinner, chatting, and a fun and casual presentation by the night’s lineup.

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This month we heard from Spiral Foods, Preserve Sonoma and Marin Organic.  All three of these organizations support farmers and ranchers by helping them reach new markets, distribute surplus harvest, or create value-added products.  Here’s an overview about their great work!

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California Farmland Protection: Reality or Wishful Thinking?

Last week, in the beautiful Napa Valley, the American Farmland Trust and Napa County Farm Bureau hosted a statewide conference – the first of its kind – to address the question: Is farmland conservation a reality, or simply wishful thinking? The intention was to “highlight the successes, define the obstacles, and explore new directions for conserving California agricultural land.”

The 200-person event sold out weeks in advance, bringing together many long-time stakeholders who have worked for decades on farmland issues: advocates, land trusts, government agencies, Farm Bureau members, nonprofit organizations and farmers themselves.  It seemed nearly every agriculture county in the state was present to learn how we can address the frightening reality of losing 30,000 acres of the most fertile agricultural land each year.

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Chipotle CULTIVATE Festival in SF

The San Francisco Chipotle Cultivate Festival, held this past weekend in Golden Gate Park, brought together local bands, local artisan food purveyors, and all the Chipotle tacos and gorditas you could eat!  Geared towards people of all ages, this all-day, free festival did a great job of integrating food and farming education with an afternoon of relaxation, a few beers and some live music.

I applaud Chipotle for designing a festival with a clear message – to highlight their philosophy of healthy ingredients, local sourcing, animal welfare and overall farm sustainability.

Cultivate, event, FarmsReach, food, Golden Gate Park, San FranciscoDSCN1731The event featured six “Cultivate Experiences” to learn about such things as fresh ingredients and the processed meals of typical fast food restaurants, animal welfare issues and healthy meat, and the facts about CA avocados and the farmers who grow them.  I visited all the exhibits, got my program stamped and won a free meal at any Chipotle restaurant.  Not a bad way to win some free food!

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