Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Reason I don't go out on Saturday Nights. . . .
Farm Markets are hard work, here is a fun little time lapse that shows my setup, don't forget I have to pack it all away, and unload it later, oh and sell stuff for 5 hours too!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why is a Farm in Sonoma County Called Quetzal Farm?

The Quetzal is a beautiful bird and the national Symbol of Guatemala. In the 1990's Guatemalan refugees were trying to get back to live in Guatemala from Mexico, unfortunately their government considered them guerrillas and the long civil war there had not yet ended.  At the time, I was thinking I would go to law school and become a human rights lawyer.   I ended up living in the first refugee resettlement as "accompaniment,"  someone who would stay in their community and let the outside world know if anything happened.   The refugees began to re-establish agriculture, which unfortunately meant the burning down of the rainforest to plant corn.  This began my education in sustainable agriculture and led to me planting my first garden in the jungles of the Ixcan region.  A career change was slowly taking place, next I planted a garden in South Texas where I did para-legal work on political asylum claims, then I was enrolling to study sustainable agriculture at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.  I never made it to law school, and 15 years later the name Quetzal Farm still helps me remember the idealism that started this crazy and wonderful farming adventure.

If you are interested in learning more about the current struggles in Guatemala is doing great work, support them if you can.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dried Chile Descriptions

Quetzal Farm
Dried Chiles

Ancho Generally mild with a raisiny flavor.  Ancho adds depth to lots of dishes and is the base for Mole Poblano.  Also available smoked.

Espelette A Basque chile  from Southern France, it is very hot and sweet with a bright fruity flavor.

Chipotle A classic Mexican chile that is a favorite in many dishes, including salsas and dips.  It is a red jalapeƱo that has been smoked in apple wood.

Cayenne ‘Joe’s Long’   A cayenne that is long and sweeter than traditional cayenne, not quite as hot either tends towards the milder side of hot.

New Mexico A lot of different varieties that are bred in all regions of New Mexico.  They generally are of mild to medium spice with  the classic “Red Chile” flavor common in New Mexican cuisine.  A favorite for enchilada sauce, it is believed to originate from the Guajillo chile from Mexico.

Sweet Varieties  (Gypsy, Carmen, Jimmy Nardello) There is no heat in these varieties, great for Romesco sauces or bringing down the heat level by mixing with hotter chiles.  

For recipes and more information visit

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Begins

Spring Labors are beginning to provide a bountiful harvest. . . .

We will now be at the Saturday Berkeley Farmer's Market Weekly

Though we have been out of the market the last few weeks, things have been very busy at the farm.  Our early crops have been needing lots of watering and weeding.  After weeks of soil preparation, seeding, and hand transplanting our canvas is just about full.  Now our job is to steward the plants so we can get a continuous harvest of our favorite foods.  We are happy to be returning to market and to see our favorite faces every weekend until December.

This Week's Offerings

Pimiento de Padron
New Mexico Chiles
Red Torpedo Onions
Genovese Basil
English Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber
Mixed Summer Squash
Lacinato Kale
Dried Chiles

Berkeley Civic Center Farmers Market
Saturdays 10am-3pm
Center Street Between Martin Luther King and Miliva Street.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Beginning of Bounty

Summer is coming early this year, especially in our protected hoop house.  As I prepare for our first regular season farmers market, I get to enjoy the earliest harvests that are too small to sell.  After years of frustrating trials and errors, our plantings are finally giving us results that we like to see.  Our basil is bursting out, we will have trouble keeping up with the harvest, a few English cucumbers are appearing, and some tasty cherry and yellow roma tomatoes are beginning to ripen on the vine.

Lunchtime is a big treat, I go into the hot greenhouse at noon and gather all I can carry, a  couple pieces of bread and a couple eggs or some turkey, and I end up with some delicious treats to enjoy.  As the bounty increases I will probably have less cooking time-- but for the month of June, I will enjoy these wonderful mini harvests.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Planting Preparation

Our pretty display at the farmer's market is the very end of a long process.  I have talked a little about the planning in previous posts, but this time of year (or later in our frequent rainy springs) is most exciting time of farming for me--soil preparation.

Cover Crop of Bell Beans, Vetch, and Oats.
We try to have a balanced agro-ecosystem, a challenge that requires us to build up the soil to withstand the disruption that is part of annual cropping systems.  We do bring in some inputs of organic matter and minerals, but our ultimate goal is to have the farm sustain itself, much of our efforts are to preserve the resources we have and build up organic matter the we grow on site.  Many of our crops are happy with open soil around them, they have less weed competition and the soil warms up more and reflects more ripening heat.  When we look at the time that our plants are growing, it is a relatively short season, the rest of the season the soil is resting, and I want vegetation to cover the soil and protect it from loss of nutrients to wind erosion or leaching.

All that means:  in spring I have thick vegetation to incorporate into the soil, and I then encourage it to break down and become a rich food source for crop plants.  This involves the farmer's favorite tool: the powerful tractor!  We do use an electric tractor in the summer season for weeding, but for our primary tillage we use two diesel tractors, using a mixture of fuel that contains 20% biodiesel.

Incorporating Cover Crop with Spading Machine
This is a fun time of year for the most part.  Going back and forth on my spot on the Santa Rosa Plain in Spring is beautiful:   green hillside vistas, sheep in their pastures, grapevines budding out.  I often see several species of birds follow the tractor looking for newly exposed treats and juvenile raptors learning to hunt.  When conditions are right the soil looks and smells wonderful, it is much like making a dough, when the temperature and micro-organisms create a perfect harmony.  The season is still all possibilities so optimism can run wild.  I must admit it is not all a joy--soil preparation involves many long hours in the sun, lots of noise dust and pollen, lots of bumps and back and neck twisting.  After a long shift of enjoying the sights and feeling of spring, one can be quite beat up and exhausted.

Rough Shaped Beds, almost ready for planting!

Happy Spring!  Enjoy some photos of our soil prep,  our blank canvas is being created so we can have a great harvest in 2013.  We will be at the Berkeley farmers market this Saturday, March 30, we will just be at a market or two in April before we take a break before our summer/fall season.

Final Shaping pass, ready to plant

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy Winter

Lazaro with the Harvest
Now that December is upon us I can get off the tractor/van/phone and post pictures and talk about the season past. . .and ahead to the future.  In the summer and fall I get to see a lot more of my customers at the market and elsewhere, now that the winter season is upon us these connections get a lot rarer.

Our season lasted until late November and then we were hit by a good frost then some amazing rains, no question about a change in seasons this year!  We have cleared our fields in a hurry and even walking them is a soupy challenge now.  Time to retreat into the greenhouses to grow our winter market crops and plants for next year, and do some needed maintenance and planning in the dry barn.

Coming Soon to Market. . .
I am very excited about the prospects for our winter farmer's markets, my extra hard work in planning and planting in August and September is showing results, our greenhouses are bursting with tasty stuff. We will be at the Berkeley Market on Saturday and many more Saturday's this winter with a happy selection of lettuces, arugula, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, kale, collard greens, snow peas. . .Salsas, Roast Tomatoes, Pasta Sauce, Bloody Mary Mix and dried chiles too!

Making Salsa
We had some great harvests this year, onions heaved the soil out of the beds and peppers of all kinds did really well in the mild summer, lasting deep into fall.  All of the crew did an excellent job this year, we were a smaller team with a lot more experience, we are leaving the farm in great shape for the coming season.  Spring rains delayed our harvest but folks were ready for us, both our wholesale customers and our market regulars bought everything we could  produce.  Our tomato crops suffered a bit but we learned a lot this season and had help from Robert Gilbertson, a  plant pathologist at UC Davis, we should have much better production in the coming years now that we understand more about the Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus that has been vexing us.  Excitement for the prospects of 2013 are buzzing around the farm, early this year and a great indicator of farming morale as we enter into the short days.