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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Evan Wiig of The Farmers Guild & Jennifer Taylor of the Farm Academy

The festival is co-hosted with the Ecological Farming Association (EFA), a group of organic farming advocates who have been leaders in expanding CA organic farming for the last 30 years.  The festival proceeds go to many CA organizations supporting farmers, such as EFA’s Eco-Farm Conference, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), the Center for Land Based Learning (CLBL) and the Yolo County Land Trust.

In the afternoon, FarmsReach, the Farmers Guild, and the Farm Academy of the Center for Land Based Learning (CLBL) co-hosted a workshop called “The Future Will be Farmed!”  Evan Wiig of the Farmers Guild talked about the importance of farmer-to-farmer information-sharing and the two new Farmer Guild meet-ups beginning this month in Mendocino County and Sonoma Valley.  Jennifer Taylor, of CLBL, then talked about the Farm Academy and their dynamic, practical hands-on curriculum that mentors new farmers towards running their own operation.

When the days many workshops for farmers, gardeners, eaters and kids finally wound down, the cool air swept in, and the crowds gravitated to the music and food tents.  Not only were there places to buy gourmet pizza and Prather Ranch burgers, there were also beautifully displayed farmers market booths to buy fruits and vegetables from the farm.  If you were like me and missed your local Saturday farmers market back home, you had a chance to fill up on Fully Belly produce!

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Overall, the day was an overly stimulating, wonderful celebration of the end of summer.  I was impressed by the scale of the event, all the little clever signs leading people here and there, and all of the thoughtful planning that went into such a huge affair.  Most of all, I was impressed by the openness that Full Belly Farm offers the community.

For a working farm as large as this one to open its doors and allow us visitors to feel like we had free reign of the place, was quite special.  It was an exhausting day that ended with great music, wild dancing and a cozy sleeping bag under the stars.  A great retreat from the city!

The festival is held every year on the first weekend in October.  Come to next year’s Hoes Down for the day or stay the night camping in the orchard.  It’s worth a visit.  Thank you to Judith, Andrew, Drew and Paul and all of the volunteers for a fabulous weekend!

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