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In May of this year, a group of five Certified Organic fruit and vegetable farmers, whose combined careers represent 147 years’ experience in biological agriculture, approached the nation’s largest USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certifier, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), for help in defending our Certified Organic label’s value in a volatile marketplace.
This appeal was prompted by the nation’s iconic retailer of Certified Organic produce, Whole Foods Market (WFM), recent rollout of their proprietary fruit, vegetable and flower “Responsibly Grown” rating system in its 400 stores. The stated purpose of this initiative, examining and rating Conventional and Certified Organic WFM produce suppliers on parameters of soil health, pesticide use, food safety, labor practices, greenhouse gases, water conservation, waste reduction and [Read more…]
Our three grown, college-educated children pursue careers other than cultivating the soil they’ve watched their parents tend for thirty-some seasons on several farms. The intimate, personal-farmer relationship we have enjoyed with thousands of local families through T&D Willey Farms‘ CSA program over the last dozen years is, without doubt, the most gratifying experience of our farming career. It is also the most exhausting. Desiring to perpetuate and further elaborate the local farm-to-family network our CSA initiated, we have begun collaboration with a new, visionary, community-based organization Read the rest of the story
I suffer a weakness for accumulating the written word, and to read it all during this waning lifetime is my ambition. My library’s most treasured volume is the large-format, visually stunning 1979 cartographic masterpiece The California Water Atlas, commissioned by Governor Brown’s previous administration during the 1976-1977 drought to enhance knowledge of our state’s hydraulic complexity. A brilliant mind behind that epic publication’s execution popped out of the woodwork last week. Project Director and Editor William L. Kahrl’s May 1st CSUF presentation to Friends of the Madden Library was provocatively titled: “Death in the Almond Orchard”. In an authoritative air, white- bearded Sebastian Cabot look-alike Kahrl lectured on principal differences between California’s then and now, and the adequacy of a water system whose infrastructure remains essentially unchanged. The Golden State’s nearly doubled [Read more…]
A few weeks back, I signed a refund of deposit check for one of our original CSA members from November 2002. “We want to take a break” was the reason for discontinuing service after 12 years. I whispered under my breath, “me too.” Those of you who read this column know my family suffered 3 deaths in 20 days last October, their average age was 67, the same as Mr. Willey’s. In January, one of our sons, by way of condemning capitalism, told us “In this country, we work too hard to make money.” The last time I only worked five days a week was in 1986; since then our three children have each earned college degrees and I’m beginning to learn a new perspective on work. We will still be farming Certified Organic vegetables up here on the southwest corner of Avenue 14 and Road 20, but we’re taking a break from administering the weekly boxes. – denesse
No air of anticipation, only resignation, imbued some 200 farmers attending Madera Irrigation District’s 2015 “Grower Meeting” last week as general manager Tommy Greci announced zero water will flow to our thirsty crops for a second consecutive year. Newly elected MID director and long-time Madera farmer Dave Loquaci delivered the day’s knockout punch: “The water use we are historically accustomed to in Madera Co. will never return, nothing will again be the same as it was before”. Australia National Water Commission member Jane Doolan, presenting recently to a Public Policy Institute of California audience, suggested a similar realization keyed revolutionary public policy response to her nation’s dozen-year Millennium Drought that commenced in 1997. [Read more…]
It is always a pleasure to show off the farm to CSA members who attend our spring tours. Invariably, these tours are punctuated with a heightened anticipation for all of summer’s bounty yet to come, coupled with the risk and uncertainty we face as producers of food. You, as eaters, are no less dependent on the generosity of our soil and climate than are we. Some of you have asked why we host tours for our members. We love to share with you, not only what you find in the box each week but, the awesome wonder a productive gardenscape can bestow on your soul. Beyond that, we feel a responsibility to raise your food by a fully transparent process in a welcoming environment. – denesse
Journalists of every stripe, in search of drought stories, have crawled this valley over several years in numbers reminiscent of Egypt’s Biblical locust plague. Farming friends and I have been dogged by the major TV network trio, New York Times reporters, plus
German, French and Norwegian film crews. If all voyeurs had brought an acre-foot of water each as tribute, we might have broken this epic dry spell. California’s inscrutable plumbing works, arguably the world’s most sophisticated, combining snow pack, river systems, reservoirs, canals and groundwater basins under myriad jurisdictions is difficult enough for local experts to get heads around. Senior and junior water rights, riparian vs. appropriative, pre and post-1914 entitlements, are a bewildering muddle for unlucky journalists sent here for a few days. [Read more…]
Now that the season has warmed a bit, we’re very excited to show off our early plantings on this Saturday’s farm tour. Basil, potatoes, melons and tomatoes are growing vigorously, and we are picking the first summer squash! If you wish to cast an eye on your “foodscape”, be sure to make a farm tour reservation today, 559-674-2642 or farmdesk@Tdwilleyfarms.com. Map and directions are on the website….from anywhere, select “Fresh & Local” then click on the “Farm Tour” link. – denesse
A most rewarding experience of my forty-year farming career has been associations with Thomas Jefferson’s “cultivators of the earth”, whom he esteemed as our country’s “most independent, most virtuous, most valuable citizens”. Amongst those, none are more precious than the handful of old-timers by whom I was mentored and befriended. I gaze on a photograph, occupying a prominent place in our home, of John and Hazel Sordi with Denesse and me at our 25th wedding anniversary celebration. That same year, 2005, our inseparable Sordi farming neighbors celebrated their 75th! John’s immigrant parents worked off New World passages, advanced by late-19th-century cattle barons Miller & Lux, by performing two years employment on ranches hereabouts, as did many fellow Italian expatriates. [Read more…]
The first tomatoes have outgrown their protective row covers. Juan Jose and crew began to stake and tie them last week, all the while keeping abreast of continuous squash and melon seedings. We started picking a few seedless cucumbers, you’ll soon see these in your weekly boxes. Our first zucchini and yellow crookneck carries the promise of a productive season. January seedings of beets and kale have enjoyed the cooler weather, but any premature heat may send them bolting. Our neighbor Tom Bursey came to spread compost for a couple of days last week. Mr. Willey is doing great work with biological fertility and every living plant on the farm is enjoying it. Tractor drivers, Antonio, Clemente and Isaac, have kept busy turning ground over from one season’s bounty to another, a transformation that is nothing short of remarkable. We are looking forward to showing off the farm to CSA members on May 2nd. – denesse