March 1: Slow Hand Farm’s Josh Volk
Slow Hand Farm’s Josh Volk thinks small when it comes to farming. The farmer-author’s 2017 book, Compact Farms, profiles 15 farms of five or fewer acres across the USA, on which people endeavor to earn livelihoods. Keen fabricator Josh published Build Your Own Farm Tools in 2023. Learn whether five-acre farming is a viable economic model or a romantic fool’s errand when “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey welcomes Josh Volk, Friday, 5:00PM, on KFCF 88.1FM.
February 2: Author Lisa Hamilton’s “The Hungry Season”
Chance encounter with a tiny patch of upland rice in a Fresno community garden launched author Lisa Hamilton on a seven-year odyssey tracing one woman’s diaspora from Laotian highlands to our San Joaquin Valley’s semiarid flatlands. Hamilton’s The Hungry Season is an extraordinarily personal examination of Hmong culture for which rice defines life, literally and spiritually. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and author Lisa Hamilton in conversation.
January 5: “Culture in Agriculture” with Delmar McComb of Blossom’s Farm
Down on the Farm’s 2024 “Culture in Agriculture” special welcomes Delmar McComb, professional operatic tenor and co-owner of Blossom’s Farm. Delmar and wife Carin cultivate some 100 medicinal herbs Biodynamically on their Central Coast “farmacy”. An accomplished horticulturist, McComb directed production at Watsonville’s Suncrest Nurseries Inc. before devoting full time to Blossom’s. Delmar performs leading roles in several Bay Area operas annually. Join host Tom Willey and Delmar McComb.
December 1: Physician-anthropologist Seth Holmes and Oaxacan historian Jorge Ramirez-Lopez
Physician-anthropologist Seth Holmes and Oaxacan historian Jorge Ramirez-Lopez are in town to celebrate 30 years of advocacy by the Centro Binacional Para El Desarrollo Indigena Oaxaqueno. The pair coauthored a new epilogue to the just-published 2nd edition of Holmes’ influential Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with Ramirez-Lopez and Holmes to learn of “el derecho a no migrar”.
November 3: Seoleseng Tshwenyane and Otsoseng Oagile’s efforts to develop Botswana’s food self-sufficiency
Botswana, Africa’s oldest democracy, is Texas-sized but sparsely populated, with most of its territory being Kalahari Desert. Recent genetic sleuthing reveals every human descends from a single female living in Botswana’s geography 200,000 years ago. Though diamond mining drives Botswana’s modern economy, its pastoral culture dates from the time of Christ. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and horticulturists Seoleseng Tshwenyane and Otsoseng Oagile discuss efforts to develop Botswana’s food self-sufficiency.
October 6: Entomologist Matthew Grieshop, Director of the Grimm Family Center for Organic Production and Research at Cal Poly
A five-million-dollar gift from owners of our nation’s largest organic vegetable farm established the Grimm Family Center for Organic Production and Research at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2021. The public-private partnership’s mission is to increase organic agricultural acreage in California through practical research and education. Entomologist Matthew Grieshop was appointed Center Director in 2022. Join Dr. Grieshop and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation.
September 1: Jon Holmquist discusses viticulture, agronomy, and pest management
Raised up in Modesto farm country, Jon Holmquist took a shine to entomology at San Diego State in the 1970s. Jon hung his own shingle throughout the ‘80s as an independent Pest Management Consultant, counted among an emergent cadre of professionals focused on agroecology and biological solutions vs toxics. For some three decades Holmquist distinguished himself in viticulture, agronomy, and pest management with two of the world’s largest wine companies. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Jon Holmquist in conversation.
August 4: Lilian Thaoxaochay, Hmong diaspora and challenges of adapting tropical agrarianism to semiarid landscape
Our Central Valley hosts the largest Hmong population in the United States, approaching 100,000. Fresno native Lilian Thaoxaochay, child of Hmong immigrant farmers, is a Small Farms Community Educator with UC Cooperative Extension. Lilian holds degrees in Asian American Studies, as well as Cultural and Medical anthropology from UC Santa Cruz and Stanford. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Lilian Thaoxaochay discussing the Hmong diaspora and challenges of adapting tropical agrarianism to a semiarid landscape.
July 7: Patrick Monreal, Oceanic and Terrestrial Life Systems
Landlubbers likely fail to appreciate that photosynthesizing organisms in Earth’s oceans supply half of the oxygen we breathe. Single-celled phytoplankton, a million of which can inhabit a teaspoon of sea water, draw as much carbon from our atmosphere as do all plants on land. What do oceanic and terrestrial life systems share and how are they interdependent? Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and aspiring Oceanographer-Astrobiologist Patrick Monreal in conversation.
June 2: Jennifer Deibert, DPRK Program Director for American Friends Service Committee
Most of us know more about the moon than North Korea. Reedley farmer Jennifer Deibert is an exception. As DPRK Program Director for American Friends Service Committee, Deibert’s delegations work with four North Korean cooperative farms and the Academy of Agricultural Sciences to raise productivity and implement sustainable agricultural practices, sowing peace through engagement. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Jennifer Deibert explore farm life in North Korea.
May 5: Soil Microbiome Research with Dr. Jennifer Pett-Ridge
Dr. Jennifer Pett-Ridge leads a team of 35 soil microbiologists, ecophysiologists, and biogeochemists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Her team is tasked with gaining deep insight into how carbon cycles through life systems in Earth’s marine and terrestrial environments. Such knowledge is vital to crafting an effective national response to climate change. Join Pett-Ridge and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in plain English conversation.
March-April: 2023 Park Farming Organics with Scott Park
Park Farming Organics might be the most well-known, least well-known organic farm in California. Scott and Brian Park’s 1,500 acres of rich black loam beside the Sacramento River grow tomatoes and grains that organic processors compete for. Scott’s straightforward organic soil management approach employs cover crops, compost, minimum tillage, then “getting out of nature’s way”. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and farmer Scott Park in conversation.
Feb 3: 2023 Culture in Agriculture highlights Wendell Berry with John Moses
Among the pantheon of living philosophers who nourish our modern organic movement, novelist-poet-essayist Wendell Berry presides atop Mount Olympus. “Down on the Farm’s” 2023 Culture in Agriculture celebration will delve into the Kentucky bard’s extensive cannon of agrarian literature. Join Fresno City College emeritus professor of English John Moses and host Tom Willey tomorrow at 5PM, on Free Speech Radio KFCF 88.1FM to rekindle Wendell Berry love or to discover an extraordinary author for the first time.
January 6: UC Merced Climatologist Dr. John Abatzoglou
UC Merced climatologist Dr. John Abatzoglou researches the impact of climate change on our American West. The water use efficiency of irrigators has often been exaggerated by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies here in the Central Valley. Dr. Abatzoglou demonstrates that, since 1980, a warming and drying atmosphere has caused all Western crops and forests to consume ever more water, and will continue doing so. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and climatologist John Abatzoglou in conversation.
December 2: Pete Goodell PhD, UC Integrated Pest Management Specialist
A focus on chemical-free pest management, once centered at UC’s famed Division of Biological Control, spawned a cadre of independent advisors on California’s farms, most of whom are now retired. Pete Goodell PhD, UC Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Specialist and former president of the Association of Applied Insect Ecologists, recently ended a 35-year career in the field. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Pete Goodell discuss the present state and future of pest management under a new generation of practitioners.
November 4: Easton farmer, Kenny Lucero
A featured reward of “self-independent” farmers is durable associations made with fellow cultivators. Just out of high school, Easton farmer Kenny Lucero soon mastered the rare art of growing Japanese eggplant. He also loved greenhouse work, making T&D Willey Farm’s annual vegetable transplants over three decades. Plant management skill ushered Kenny into his second career as a table grape grower. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with Kenny Lucero.
October 7: Clay Daulton, Madera’s Daulton Ranch
Madera’s Daulton Ranch, once encompassing 17,000 acres, hearkens to California’s Gold Rush era. On half that spread, neighbor Clay Daulton today grazes his own breeding stock, Yosemite’s mules and horses, and overwintering cattle from the Pacific Northwest. This significant agricultural enterprise has never relied on irrigation over its 170 years of operation, thriving on natural rainfall. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Clay Daulton engage in a resource management conversation focused on Madera’s past and present.
September 2: Agronomist Peter Aleman, Owner of Bio-Gro Inc.
“Biostimulant” joins the lexicon of crop fertility inputs as we begin to appreciate complex interplays between plants and soil microbes in delivering nutrition. How do biostimulants differ from familiar N-P-K fertilizers, do they work, or just more “snake oil” to pick a farmer’s pocket? Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with pioneering agronomist Peter Aleman, owner of Bio-Gro Inc., Mabton, WA.
August 5: Author Liz Carlisle, Environmental Scientist Aidee Guzman
Author Liz Carlisle revisits our “Down on the Farm” front porch to discuss her just-published Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming. Liz argues that climate change demands not just playing number games with soil carbon but reembracing ancestral relationships with the land. One connection to such tradition is environmental scientist Aidee Guzman, whose research on San Joaquin Valley immigrant farmers’ soils and cropping systems features in the book. They join host Tom Willey in conversation.
July 1: UC Davis hydrogeologist Graham Fogg
UC Davis hydrogeologist Graham Fogg’s ‘Paleo Valleys’, buried along the base of our Sierra Nevada’s western slope, are a potential godsend to groundwater recharge-obsessed Central Valley communities. These ancient, buried riverbeds, dating from the last ice age, are cobble and gravel-filled to depths of 100 feet, can extend for miles underground, and have been proven by Fogg’s team to guzzle flood water as much as 100 times faster than surrounding land. Join Graham and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey.