Full Belly Farm is number seven on CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) list, meaning they have been certified organic longer than almost any other farm in the area. An important part of organic farming is to care for the land and soil. Compost is a key part of this process and Full Belly spreads fifteen tons of compost per acre all across their 400 acre farm multiple times a year. Its a green compost with added chicken manure. The dogs love to roll around in it, so you know it’s good. This is why their yields are best tasting and the flowers are amazing as well.
Another part of taking care of the soil is planting cover crops. This is a great way to not only add nutrients to the soil, but it’s an important tool in combating climate change: the cover crops create a carbon bank. If the soil is left bare, nutrients and moisture are lost. Drew and her team plan the cover crops strategically so that each area of the farm is able to focus on the soil’s health year-round.
Once the cover crops have grown in, Full Belly’s 200+ sheep are let into the field where they feast and fertilize until the crops are all munched down to the ground. Then they are moved to the next field and start the process again, sometimes with a treat of damaged heirloom tomatoes that can’t be sent to markets. The sheep serve other purposes too- yarn is spun from their wool and at the end of the season their meat is sent to many high-end restaurants in the area.
Once the cover crops start growing back, it’s the chicken's turn. They can’t go into the field when the grass is fully grown, but early on they eat and forage and again add to the soil nutrition and fertility.
The fields over the 400 acres are carefully mapped out to give the soil time to rest after cover cropping and to make sure crops are rotated properly, which reduces pests and disease. For example, this field where peppers are growing now, they won’t plant peppers again for 5 years.
The heat and sun we get here in Yolo county are great for plants, but it also makes it tricky to grow vegetables like peppers without sunburn. Peppers are now grown under shade cloth to protect them. Plastic is also used under the plants but over the drip irrigation to help reduce evaporation and conserve water.
Full Belly Farm employes over 100 people year-round. This is incredibly important to them and they have added crops and value-added products just to avoid hiring seasonally! Also, did you know that at Full Belly Farm, everything is picked by hand? They don't use any equipment to harvest to ensure that the care and love are given to everything that the farm produces. They even have started only harvesting six days a week to ensure everyone gets a day to rest. The only time of year they pick seven days a week is asparagus season because asparagus can grow 4-6 inches in one day! After the season is over, the asparagus is allowed to grow tall and fern out to put energy and nutrients back into the soil.
The final field we visited was the Flower Field! Started by Dru and their farm manager, Jan, as a small field they now grow 12 acres of flowers and it is their number 3 crop behind tomatoes and melons. The field is cared for and harvested by a team of six women who love their work and are very covetous of their jobs. They picked over 50,000 bouquets this year!
Organic produce is definitely important, but people don’t often talk about organic flowers. Most cut flowers in stores are grown in South America in greenhouses with lots of pesticides, many of which are banned in the US. Because they grow more native flowers organically, the field is filled with happy pollinators, the women working the field are happy and healthy and we can all buy flowers that are clean and safe for our families and loved ones.
That you Full Belly Farm for everything you do for the community and the planet! We are lucky to have you as a partner in our community.