For over 30 years, Full Belly Farm has supported our local food system with healthful, certified organic produce and dried goods. Founded by Judith Redmond, Paul Muller, and Dru Rivers, and located in Northern California’s Capay Valley, Full Belly became certified organic in 1985, a certification very few farmers in the area had earned at the time. Since then, they’ve remained committed to growing healthy food, providing stable employment for their workers and caring for their land through sustainable practices.
It all starts with the soil at Full Belly and over the years, their crew has learned how to maintain and monitor the health of their land.
Before each planting, compost is applied to the land to add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Each field is watched closely; if an increase in weeds is noticed, or if the crops look less healthy than usual, the field is given a few years of rest. Crops are regularly rotated throughout the 400-acre farm, and all of the acreages is never in production at the same time. Alternating the crops grown on a particular piece of land can help prevent soil diseases, weed problems, and pests. Because each crop contributes to the soil in different ways, the rotation of crops also supports microbial biodiversity within the soil.
Deep-rooted grasses like oat and rye, as well as nitrogen-fixing vetch are used as cover crops on the farm to prevent nutrient loss and soil erosion between planting seasons. A herd of 200 sheep are rotated around the farm every four to six days to graze on the cover crops, reducing the need for tractors and improving soil health along the way.
Full Belly Farm grows a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers on their farm. In addition to their organic produce offerings, they also sell organic jams, sauces, nuts, oils and organic wool from their sheep herd.
This diversity in production plays an important role on the farm. Agriculture is a highly seasonal industry, and by diversifying their offerings, Full Belly has found creative new ways to keep their stable workforce of sixty employed year-round. For example, the Full Belly flower crew drys flowers in the spring and summer months which are turned into wreaths and sold throughout the winter. Diversity also acts as a form of crop insurance. This year, a late freeze damaged much of Full Belly’s stone fruit. Though certainly disappointing, the farm was able to shift their attention to their other summer crops, and the loss did not pose a terminal threat to the farm.
California’s Capay Valley has been greatly impacted by drought in recent years, and the Full Belly team is acutely aware of the need to identify solutions to climate change.
They’ve joined the California Farmer’s Climate Pledge and are working closely with the State of California to find more efficient irrigation systems. Full Belly is also taking steps to reduce energy use on the farm. They’ve just planted an almond orchard which will utilize an irrigation system powered by solar instead of traditional energy sources.
Throughout the summer months, we carry a large assortment of items from Full Belly, including brandy wine and cherokee purple heirloom tomatoes, galia and goddess melons, padron peppers, cucumbers, sunflowers, marigolds, and hot sauce.