A Conversation With Emma Torbert From Cloverleaf Farm

We were fortunate to have the chance to speak with Emma Torbert from Cloverleaf Farm to hear about the unique structure they have and the sustainable practices that they use. Emma got her masters in Horticulture from UCD and worked for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis for seven years. Cloverleaf is an 8-acre organic orchard and farm outside of Davis, California on the Collins Farm that specializes in peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs, berries, and vegetables. The Cloverleaf follows regenerative principles including no-till, rotational grazing, and cover-cropping. The farm is co-owned by Emma Torbert, Katie Fyhrie, Kaitlin Oki, Yurytzy Sanchez, Neil Singh, Tess Kremer, and Kyle Chambers; who all manage the farm together in a cooperative and consensus-based fashion. You can find The Cloverleaf Farm’s produce at the Sacramento Farmers Market on Sundays and at various grocery stores in Davis, Sacramento, and the Bay Area. 

Cloverleaf seems to break the mold of what a traditional farm functions like. Traditionally farms are passed down generationally within families, but all of your farmers come from diverse backgrounds, how did that model get started at Cloverleaf?

“We started out a group of four women and then the farm passed through a number of different partners. As different people were leaving we were realizing that for the sake of future transitions and the longevity of the farm operation a worker-owned cooperative farm would be best, although we are currently still structured as a partnership. There are currently seven partners right now.”

“We’ve been working with the California Center for Co-op Development for the last four years trying to figure out a way that everybody can own equal equity in the farm. 2014 was the first time that we started profit sharing and equity sharing. The equity sharing is not yet equal but that is what we are working with the CCCD on.”

“One of our core principles in our vision statement is working as a team. An important thing in thinking about farm management for us is recognizing everybody’s different skills and working together without an established hierarchical structure. We rotate who gets to be the crew leader every couple of weeks, so they are essentially the boss for those two weeks, which means everyone gets a chance to step into a leadership role.”

How do you limit your greenhouse emissions?

“In terms of limiting our carbon footprint, we do a number of things. In terms of the transportation of our food, we try to deliver as locally as possible. We purposefully choose markets that are closer and do not take our products further than the bay area. We are always making the decision to try to sell closer to home.”

“As for what happens in the field, all of our vegetables get grown no-till. Our orchards and all of our annual crops are no-till, which means that we don’t use a tractor very often at all. In doing that we use less fossil fuel. We’ve also put solar panels around the farm, and can’t wait until we can add more.” 

“Something else that really contributes to greenhouse gas emissions is water use. We use moisture sensors so that we use as little water as possible. We tread that fine line of watering as little as possible without stunting the growth of the trees in our orchards.”

What are your pest management practices?

“We are an organic farm so we don’t spray any pesticides while the fruit is on the trees. We do use pheromone sprays, which disrupt the mating cycles of a lot of stone fruit pests. We put out raptor perches and owl boxes. The main pests that we have trouble with are ground squirrels and gophers.”

How do you try to limit your food waste?

We’ve been trying lots of different things for many years and I feel like this year it’s all coming together, we have very little food waste coming from our farm right now. Our compost pile is pretty tiny right now considering the size of our farm.

“We have an Ugly Fruit club, which allows people to buy our third-grade fruit at a discounted price. We also create a lot of value-added products like jams and dried fruit, which allows us to still sell our less aesthetic fruit instead of wasting it.”

“Something else that we do is donate to the food bank, especially this year when we’re worried about our community being food insecure.”

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Why Glass Jars Make Going Plastic-Free Easy

(7/12/20: Unfortunately the Davis Food Co-op is not allowing outside containers such as jars right now because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This page will be updated once the situation has changed and outside containers are allowed in our store once more.)

There is a truth about going plastic-free that none can deny, which is that it takes a certain level of preparation. If you want to avoid reaching for plastic bags, cutlery, or straws out of convenience then you need to have brought your own sustainable version along with you or be willing to go without. And going without isn’t always an option. 

But what one quickly realizes is that toting around their own sustainable silverware, to-go ware, and a stash of reusable bags takes up a fair bit of space. This is why it is important to find ways to optimize your strategy for going plastic-free to make it feel as easy for you as possible. That’s where glass jars come in.

Many people find when going zero-waste that glass jars are the swiss army knives of storage whether it’s for dry goods in your pantry or taking your lunch on the go. If you take your coffee and lunch in a couple of jars you can rinse them out and hit the bulk section of the grocery store.

Perfect for taking coffee or lunch on the go

Of course, there are many amazing options for this purpose out there already. From stainless steel tiffins to stasher bags to candy-colored Klean Kanteens, we are certainly living in an age where eco-friendly to-go ware is abundant. So why choose to use a glass container? Because it is extremely cheap and can suit just about any purpose you can think of.

As was stated above a good rinse is all that is necessary to transition your jar from your lunch container to your coffee cup to your shopping vessel. This means that you have less specialized items that you need to buy to go plastic-free and you end up carrying around less stuff.

If you haven’t made a rainbow salad in a jar, pasta salad in a jar, overnight oats, or chia seed pudding before we couldn’t recommend it more. The end result is fewer dishes to wash and a photo-worthy meal.

Great for grocery shopping

A mason jar is typically the perfect companion to shopping in the Bulk section of the grocery store. While the Co-op is not currently allowing outside containers in the store yet, now is the perfect time to be comping up with new strategies for sustainability once the current crisis is over. Once we have made sure that the health of our community has been protected we need to make sure to safeguard the health of our planet as well. And shopping in the Bulk department isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for your wallet. By skipping the packaging you also avoid price markups and can buy the exact quantity of an item that you need without any going to waste.

When shopping in Bulk you’ll want to bring as many jars with you as you can carry. At the Davis Food Co-op, the Bulk section is full of amazing options for grains, beans, nuts, and even candy. You’re sure to find something you didn’t expect that you’ll want to try!

All you need to do to use your jars in Bulk is to write the tare weight, which can be determined with a scale located in Bulk, and the product PLU. There is masking tape for this purpose available in the Bulk Department. They’ll know what to do with all of the numbers at the checkout.

If you’re a pro at bringing your jar and know what your staple items are you can always put the tare and PLU on your jars with a label maker or write them on the lid with a sharpie to streamline the process.

Clear Kitchen Organization

If you use your mason jar to stock up on your favorite treats or staple pantry items at the store, unloading your items is a breeze. No need to open boxes and tear through layer after layer of plastic packaging, all you do once you get home is put your items away in your cupboards. But even if weren’t able to shop in bulk on your last trip to the store your glass jars can still come in handy in your pantry.

Decanting your grocery items into glass jars not only removes the visual clutter of all the packaging but also allows you to better visually assess what you have stocked. Most importantly though, decanting helps you extend the shelf-life of the products you have purchased.

Does this mean I need to go out and buy a bunch of mason jars?

Not at all! There are so many products that are packaging in glass jars you are likely to already be buying that it is likely unnecessary that you’d need to go out of your way to buy jars themselves. From tomato sauce to yogurt or even ice cream, there are many products that are sold in glass jars that would be convenient for you to wash and reuse. If you decide that you’re committed to the #jarlife then by all means buy some for yourself, just don’t forget that you can still find them in great condition secondhand! We also sell many different varieties of glass jars here at the Co-op to suit whatever needs you might have.

We hope that you found these tips helpful, and if you already are aware of the wonder of glass jars then please share this article with someone who needs some inspiration to reduce their plastic use! Share your jar meals and hacks with us on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #dfcplasticfree.

Written by Rachel Heleva, Marketing Specialist

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