Seven Grandfathers Farm

 

Bell bean cover crop May 2012.jpg

Thirty years ago, Craig Thomas had toiled over a specific French drain for his raspberries, hoping to eliminate any standing water, and improve drainage. It wasn’t about the bees pollinating or the rabbits eating the canes in winter. Soil structure and organic nutrients were not the problem in this meticulously tended garden. Insects and pests simply didn’t have a fighting chance because the ground was teaming with beneficial microbes. But his clay soils harbored a common soil-born fungus that made organic raspberry farming a challenge.

craig-working-in-garden

While grappling with the raspberry problem, Craig decided to call El Dorado County Agriculture Department about the poor performance of the berries, and was surprised to hear back from Dick Bethel himself, then El Dorado’s county Farm Advisor. A personal visit was the next surprise, and if three is good luck, Dick diagnosed the difficulty quick as a wink. “You’ve got phytophthora”, he told Craig. “Pretty common around here, a systemic condition that makes some berries tough to grow in these soils”. What you’ve got to do is hunt for and try disease-resistant berry varieties. But that wasn’t all Bethel confided to Craig. “You have done a remarkable job with your place, here.” he went on. “This is what an organic farm should look like.”

blackberries

Craig set about to plant blackberries and almost by accident found a successful variety as part of a free trial variety sent by an Oregon nursery. This variety, “Triple Crown”, is a product of research and trials done in partnership between USDA and the University of Washington and offered to the public to grow and propagate without patent restrictions. The rest is history so they say, since now, each season, the small farm sells berries in stores in Placerville, Auburn and Grass Valley and to folks who come to the farm. On the 7.5 acres parcel, 2 acres are farmed organically with a variety of vegetables, 60 orchard trees including stone fruits, figs, apples, basil, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, onions, and garlic and then there are the lovely flower bouquets you often see at Placerville Co-op. “This year, we might direct some effort toward CSA subscriptions, or a larger farm stand,” Craig said. “Right now we are happy selling directly to locations such as the Placerville Co-op. Generally, what we pick and what a customer buys is enjoyed by their family within an 8-hour time period. It is very satisfying to be able to provide that degree of local organic produce to the community.”

Three years after moving to El Dorado County, Craig began farming in Kelsey, and by the mid-1980’s it was El Dorado County’s first certified organic farm. Craig was proud of finally achieving what had been his vision for some time. In late 1970’s Craig taught the first sustainable agriculture class at Chico State University, popular with the younger generation of Peace Corp and first-time farmers. Craig also earned an anthropology degree from Chico State with an emphasis on cultural ecology, a program that reinforced his own philosophies around the spiritual, social, economic and ecological relationship between people and Mother Earth. In the late 1970’s he decided to call El Dorado County home and organic farming a way of life.

bell-peppers

Seven Grandfathers Farm was named one day when Craig was in his field, enjoying a beautiful day full of sunshine and the ridge-top vista when he looked up and saw seven perfectly formed pure white thunderheads looking down on him. He thought of the Seven Grandfathers and the relationship with the land, a rich inheritance to be respected and passed on as caretakers, its quality fostered by his and his wife’s hands and enhanced by beneficial insects, tons of compost, cover crops, soil tests, an old Kubota tractor, a suite of well-cared-for hand tools and a labor of love

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Craig also has his hand in the Sierra Forest Legacy program, as its co-founder and Conservation Director. This is an independent coalition of 80 environmental non-profit organizations that work on Federal forest policy and how the national forests should be managed. This is what he calls his “day job”, a term often echoed in the farming community. His scientific background (and his wife Vivian’s, too, as a biologist), form his attitude about food safety regulations as well as the rigorous methods and practices they both use on their organic farm. “Regulations have a valid role in government to make sure our food supply is healthy and safe,” he said. Craig believes, based on USDA research, that many, many more people are turning to organic to insure their own family’s food quality and safety. “Organic farmers, like myself, demonstrate extensive procedures that are audited annually to validate compliance with the USDA, National Organic Program and quality. And people want that.”

These procedures include more than having your regulatory status in order and up to date. Paying apt attention to the health of the soil is a number one priority. “That soil organic matter and the right balance of nutrients makes for nutritious food,” Craig emphasized. This includes careful attention to crop rotation, soil testing, compost management, increasing organic matter in the soil, and whatever else a farmer can do to increase plant health and nutrition. Contrary in philosophy of big industrial farming, who mostly lean on unnatural, chemical sprays and fertilizers, it isn’t the yield or the weeds Craig is concerned about, it is making sure that soil is a happy city of microbes doing their job in his two acres of intensive farming. Certification comes via the California Certified Organic Farmer nonprofit organization (CCOF), committed to advancing organic agriculture through certification, education, advocacy and promotion.

 

The non-profit Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) supports organic integrity by developing clear information and guidance about materials, so that producers know which products are appropriate for organic operations. Only OMRI registered sprays or soil amendments are used at Seven Grandfathers Farm, “and more natural products are showing up for organic use that are targeted and quick to degrade due to intensified organic research,” Craig said. “For example, there is a spray that is used to paralyze the gut of the Coddling Moth larva, a common apple pest in the Sierra Nevada foothills and elsewhere, that is specific to the larva of this moth without harming other insects. This targeted natural product eliminates the need for widespread pesticide chemical use.”

Farming is not without its wildlife challenges. “It’s quite a sight,” Craig relates, “watching three grey foxes climb one of our cherry trees as they come ripe. But part of the relationship with the land is to foster a harmony with the critters that have lived here a lot longer than we have. So the deer, wild turkeys, tanagers, hawks, foxes, raccoons and my neighbor’s cat work out the agreement between maintaining habitat diversity, a reasonable level of “sharing” and a healthy level of organic food production for our community.”

Craig’s background includes a stint in the marketing and selling of fresh farm goods as well. In the later 80’s he started the Peoples Mountain Market in Garden Valley that runs June-October in Garden Valley Park, corner of Garden Valley Rd. and Marshall Rd. Local growers mix it up with musicians and crafters in a welcoming park environment. Craig started the outdoor market with a friend and managed it twice during its 30-plus year history.

Now, on the Board of Directors for Placerville Natural Foods Co-op, Craig hopes to help strengthen the relationship between local growers, and outlets like the Coop and the communities they serve. His article in the February 2017 newsletter spells out his heartfelt encouragement to buy/eat local.

Buying Local benefits include:

  • The desire for food of superior quality—freshness, flavor, ripeness, and extended shelf life;
  • Understanding food safety issues and learning about farming practices directly from the grower, including visiting the farm;
  • Support for small business in the local community;
  • Preserving farmland and open space while supporting sustainable economic activity;
  • Access to unique and heirloom varieties;
  • The ability to buy products that don’t survive long-distance shipping;
  • Depending on several factors such as the farming system, the possibility of a lower carbon footprint and CO2 emissions from production through consumption.
  • Natural food stores and local farmer’s markets have the highest level of consumer trustworthiness (USDA 2014)

“Good food does not come in a store shelf box.”  by Unanimous

 

A Story That Needs To Be Told

pickingintreestorage-center

The year was 1947. The place is Pasadena, California. The people gathered around the bridge table are regulars. The topic is a regular complaint about the lousy weather, and the city congestion. It was, as L. G. “Frank” Beals put it at the time, “making him sick.” Frank was is one of the gang with a regular itch for country life and hopeful for a resolution to his “citified” complaints.tractorloadorchardbest

Somehow the talkin’ got round to a piece of property in Placerville that was just not to be left alone. A couple of brothers in Placervile that were related to a woman at the table ended up helping Frank locate the place. Before you knew it, Frank had transported his wife Louise out from a comfortable suburban Southern California environment, with its green lawns, white picket fences, and all the comforts of home into an 85-acre pear ranch complete with no hot water, a wood stove, an outhouse, and chickens running in and out. In addition, the property had been blessed with what seemed a ton of ash from the old Maidu Indian burial ground it once was.

black-fryer-plumsEight years later, Frank bought a separate property on Green Valley Road with a 10,000-square foot chicken coop. “Dad loved chickens,” Greg Beals says of his dad, Frank. “I was 13 years old at the time, and I remember crying and begging dad not to sell the propery in order to get the chicken farm. But he had to.”

Greg Beals and son Mikegreg-in-storagemikecloseup

“It was really my Grandpa Francis who taught me the love of farming and a lot of other things like being respectful and such, most of which I never fully realized until I was much older,”    Greg relates. “He and I had so much fun in that barn milking cows, squirting each other so much we’d be covered with milk and laughing till our sides hurt.” Greg went on to emphasize, “If it weren’t for my Grandpa, I might hate farming, pretty much like my dad did. But with Grandpa, it was a whole different story. He loved farming, and he made it fun. It was interesting and educational. I lived in the barn with Mel, dad’s best friend and a farm hand. I learned grafting, how to butcher, crop rotation and so much more. It became my passion as well.”

Further impetus to eventually get his own farm when his dad made him work his way through college. Greg learned to save and scrimp. He earned a college business degree from Sacramento State, the first in his family to do so. Greg worked for the State of California, Cal Trans and Dept. of Food and Agriculture, eventually becoming Assistant Chief of the State’s Fairs and Expositions division.

mke-atmarketfarmersmktpearsfarmersmktplums

The pear decline in 1963 did not alter the young man’s dream of farming the rest of his life and having his own orchard. In May of 1973, Greg and Linda Beals bought 53 acres on Highway 49 and planted 750 peach seedlings. Greg had his own orchard, but continued working full time, doing farmers markets on weekends, and even sometimes during the week. Everything seemed a major challenge because the ranch occupied every moment of his early mornings and evenings, hauling pipe and elbow greasing all the other chores of farm life. A butcher shop on the premises kept Linda busy helping to supply the custom meat cuts that were in demand.

He was grafting his own wood stock working on the orchard with his son Mike, enlarging his crop to include the 30 varieties of peaches, 30+ varieties of plums, 10 varieties of pluots, 20 varieties of nectarines and nectaplums, plums, pluots, pomegranates, Meyer lemons, figs, rhubarb and persimmons the farm produces today. Although farm work was his dream and fulfilled much of his life, it did not come without penalties. There was little time to spend with his wife and children, and he and Linda were divorced, forcing him to buy the ranch all over again.

Mike attended local and automotive trade schools, a natural for him since he had been fixing farm equipment most of his life. He met and married Denise in 1986 and they have two children, Brandon, 27, a Civil Engineering graduate of Chico State and Pacific Infrastructure employee, and Brooke, 22, who has one more semester at Chico State and her eye on a career in agricultural administration. Mike purchased Placerville Body and Auto Shop in 1992, and, like his father, attends to farming early mornings and evenings with farmers markets on weekends. Greg retired in 2000 and he and Mike have partnered up sharing work and expenses, and making sure that the farmers markets go on. Greg, Mike, Denise, Brooke, Brandon and additional members of the family help out.

tractor-family

farmersmktpeachesmikedenisebeals

Who picks all this glorious fruit? “Greg and I did it last year,” says Denise, “we had so much fun up in those trees, we just laughed all day. I don’t like to eat figs, but don’t get me wrong, I love picking. This year it’s Brooke’s turn.” It is truly a family affair, with 10 of the 53 acres devoted to orchard production. “We pick all week for the weekend,” Mike relates. “We have 8 farmers markets to attend to: Tuesday in Sacramento and Tahoe, Wednesday in Sacramento and Placerville, Saturday in Rancho Cordova and Placerville, and Sunday in El Dorado Hills and Sacramento.”

farmersmkthelperfarmersmktfigs

Future plans for Greg include retirement on his 59-acre Idaho property with nothing more to do than admire the elk congregating on his front yard on a daily basis. Besides phasing out of the automotive industry, Mike is hoping to not only add new varieties to meet market needs, but extend the growth season opportunities.

farmersmktmedley

So the Beals story wraps up. Yet another one of those interviews where the heir apparent is the passion for farming, passed on from one generation to another, sometimes skipping a parent or two, but getting picked up along the line as though genetic.  Look at this happy family, I thought. How fortunate to have inherited this gift so that all of us can receive the bounty of their passion and their fabulous fruits.

Visit more on facebook.com/bealsorchard

 

 

 

 

 

The Season is FIGS!

Figs:CheeseFigs3

Glorious Figs
The parable of the fig tree exists throughout the bible and in other spiritual and fictional works. In Matthew 24:32 it tells us “its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.” Many references of the fig and fig tree are translated over and over and symbolizing many things for many people.

“Figs have a short season in early summer and a main season from late summer until fall. The first crop of the season is called the breba crop, which comes in on the last season’s growth. Spring frost often eradicates the breba crop and the remaining previous season’s growth.

FarmersMktFigsSign      FigBasketClose

The majority of figs produced arise from the main crop, which are generally not subject to frosty conditions. The sweetest types of figs are Black Mission figs and Adriatic figs, which are commonly used in desserts and paired alongside cheese and fresh fruit. Kadota figs and Brown Turkey figs are not as sweet and are usually used in salads or in recipes that include sweeteners.”

Reference as it may, controversy often prevails over figs…. which tastes better, what to do with the first crop if there is one, and how best to use them. People seem to like them or not, not much in between. Black Mission and Brown Turkey figs seem to be the most common at most markets, but a wide range of figs—including striped Adriatic figs and pale green Kadota figs—is increasingly available fresh. While there are subtle differences in flavor and sweetness level, figs do more or less taste like figs, so there’s no reason to be wary of trying a new variety.

Many people are unaware of this culinary delicacy due to its rarety on the grocery aisle.  Black Mission and Brown Turkey figs seem to be the most common at most markets, but a wide range of figs—including striped Adriatic figs and pale green Kadota figs—is increasingly available fresh. While there are subtle differences in flavor and sweetness level, figs do more or less taste like figs, so there’s no reason to be wary of trying a new variety.

Figs are members of the Mulberry family and provide an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, copper, manganese, potassium and pantothenic acid. A low intake of potassium-rich foods, especially couple with a high intake of sodium-rich foods (such as processed or fast food), can lead to high blood pressure. Like other fiber-rich foods (apples, dates, pears and prunes), figs are helpful in a weight management program. Each fig has a calorie count of 47, outweighed by its other benefits, which extend to the fig leaf! High in antioxidants, choose fully ripened figs. Dark figs are high in phytonutrients.

Figs are delicate, perishable, hard to transport and available only part of the year: June-through September. Organic dried figs are available year-round, need to be relatively soft, free of mold and have a pleasant smell, and can be substituted in any recipe calling for figs, dates, raisins, and other dried fruits.

Ripe figs should be covered, layered with paper towels to keep them super dry, and used promptly to avoid mold.

USEFUL IDEAS FOR FRESH OR DRIED (Rehydrated) FIGS

Lay whole figs in a single layer on a baking sheet, then freeze in zipper bags up to a year.
Peeling is not necessary, and go well in any baked cake, muffin, cookie, jam chutneys.
Wash right before eating. Keep chilled in refrigerator.
Use as any fresh fruit, with breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Especially sweet due to sugar content – add to any dessert dish, or even meat sauces.
Add sugar, rum or brandy to mashed figs and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Add instant pizzazz to morning cereal with chopped figs and honey.
Skewer figs and alternate with chicken or pork on the grill.
Carmelize onions and mix with figs into any salad mix, pizza, or pasta.
Wrap with prosciutto for a classy hors d’oeuvre.
Spread halves with goat cheese or mascarpone and crown your primavera recipe.

For more super-easy yet utterly delicious ways to make tasty use of fresh figs, see 10 Quick Fig Recipes (these honey-fried figs  are a personal favorite, while these bacon-wrapped figs tend to disappear in an instant at a party).  See next blog article: Glorious Fig Recipes.

A WEEKEND MUST-HAVE-LET’S GO!

PvilleFarmersMktYOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKET PUTS YOU IN TOUCH WITH  YOUR  COMMUNITY AND WITH REAL FOOD

You’re likely to see your local farming family, like the Hoovers (Hooverville Orchards, Placerville, CA, or the Perez family)  all pitching in to get the farm fresh produce out and about.

This is where Real Honest to Goodness takes place:  Real Food without hormones, pesticides, wax, sprays and irradiation.  Certified Farmers Markets foster the community as well as the farmers who grew your nourishment, because WholeFarmilyatF.Mktwithout them there is no food.  Farmers markets and farms are vital to the community and its economic sustainability.  Local restaurants rely on farm fresh produce and are quick to explain “locally grown” to customers who today seek fresher and healthier menu choices.  Farmers know that good food does not come in a box.  We need to teach children that delicious fruit does not grow inside a grocery store.  You will often meet the whole family or at least part of it.  The other half may be at another market location that same day.Kevin andBenFarmersMkt2016

Farm families often work all week, picking, planting, planning, and constructing within their farmland.  Summer weekends are devoted to sharing their bounty, Mother Earth’s bounty, with you.  You have the opportunity to meet and talk to the people who grew your food.  This is your chance to bring your family and encourage them to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables…the very ones they can pick out themselves.

You will run into friends, neighbors and perhaps make new acquaintances.  This is an activity much more important than talking politics, or shopping for shoes.  You can taste before you buy, and even get a discount if the farmer is smart enough to have “ugly fruit” for a better price.  You can find out exactly how the food was grown, and satisfy your concerns about food safety or problems growing your own vegetables.  RedBeets                              Eggplant:Cucumbers

You will find more than fruits and vegetables.  It’s an adventure discovering local honey, for example, not any from far away lands that are laced with sweeteners and chemical preservatives.

“If it came from a plant, eat it;
if it was made in a plant, don’t. ” 

―  Michael Pollan

local honeyColoma

Mama Earth Farm

Ben and Mary Woods, Proprietors
6267 Candy Lane
Somerset, CA 95684

Who is Tending Mother Earth … If it isn’t the next generation?

CherryPickersw:redLips
Helpers Yarrow and Alder

“Nothing is more rewarding or more practical than taking care of what gives you life.”  On this premise, in 2008, Ben and Mary started farming on a small lot. They acquired a bunch of chicks, a bunch of compost they could add to, two boys, Yarrow and Alder, and began planting perennials, trees and plants. In 2012, they found “a very nice acre” to rent close by with good water, full sun and amazing soil. It sounds like a smooth transition from here to there, right? Not as simple as all that. How did all this happen? What inspired these two young people to tend Mother Earth as a lifestyle vs. so many other fields of pursuit and perhaps less strenuous?

Mary grew up in Placerville and the two met in school. Ben attended UC Santa Barbara  and Mary,  Sac State.  Here is where the weather changed.   Ben attended prestigious Schumacher College, which has an enviable reputation of cutting-edge learning, with a respect for all living systems and an ecological worldview. They walk their talk on a daily basis in terms of sustainability, keeping that lifestyle at the forefront of all student activities, including horticulture.

Ben went onto holistic science endeavors by working on farms throughout Europe, Hawaii and California. “I saw myself for the first time with people honestly caring… much the same way Mom raised me on healthy food and concern for the earth.

Permaculture as culture and philosophy inspired me to do what I do. My goal is to offer hands-on experience to those under 35, and to high school students, and teach them how fruitful a farm can be. At the same time, the government must answer to the needs of farmers, not impose more regulations.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sprouting Shed                                              SproutShed“Farming for us is a way of life,” the couple says. They sincerely believe that organic farming methods have the potential to bring health to our world, and nothing else seems so rewarding. Ben’s mom, Shirley, feels the same way, working with Ben and Mary to tend the enormous amount of produce the one-acre of land produces.    Working with the local Placerville Natural Foods Coop, the family also sells through their own CSA, Saturday farmer’s market and local restaurants and events.

Kale Harvest
Kale Harvest

Two goats on the property serve to eat down weeds and residue after a harvest. Tranquility doesn’t reign long. “It takes 10 hours to pick for a market, 10 hours for CSA and wholesale, not including the need for planting and rotating crops.   We harvest 100 bunches of kale and chard each week alone. A farm like this, only one acre, could easily feed the entire community if more people farmed,” Ben said.
PVILLE F.MKTLettuceHarvest

 

Whole Grain Breakfast

Whole Grains w:nuts:berries:grapes

Truly substantial!  Lunch may be forgotten ’til the dinner bell rings!

Ingredients

½ c Bob’s Red Mill Ancient Grain Medley

1 C bone broth or water

1 T EACH Cinnamon and Brown Sugar

pinch salt

½ c EACH strawberries, blueberries, grapes

¼ c mixed chopped nuts

Directions

Cook grains according to package instructions

in broth or water, adding spice and sugar towards end

Allow to cool slightly before plating.

Layer berries in bottom of serving dish.

Top with cereal, nuts and grapes to garnish.

Serve with nut milk or yogurt.

 

A Farmers Guild for El Dorado Co.

Keven Nowell from 24 Carrot Farm, Placerville, addresses local farmers interested in establishing a Farmers Guild — an agricultural community founded by farmers for farmers. www.farmersguild.org.

Currently a State-wide community based organization, there are currently 10 Guilds across northern California, connected through events, online social media and by sharing practical resources, farmer to farmer, guild to guild…….

One example of farmers working together in Placerville’s  guild is the desire to build a working logo and label that says El Dorado County Grown.  It was mutually agreed that “local” was key in the interests of consumers and restaurants alike, for example, and such a decal could be used by farmers, restaurants and other mutually supportive businesses.

From One Foodie to Another

 

gardengreensShrimpandBrownRicePastaTractorBest_FullMoonAnneRinWinterhillFull

“We love your recipes,” I’ve heard.  But I don’t know which ones, in particular, or why they would appeal to you.  What this blogger needs is info…….I’m a journalist at heart always on the lookout for who, what, when, where and why, so bear with me.  I’ve tried the survey monkey-business and learned it ends up in your spam.

I grew up in a chef’s home with whole food, developed my own skill set in that direction, eventually getting my N.D. majoring in Nutrition.  My businesses included catering, farmers market participation, food demos, and lots of life experience honing my crafts of healthy cooking and organic gardening.  Now is the time for me to give back, and do I ever have a warehouse full!

I’m presuming you’ve tuned in because you’re something of a foodie, so please help me with a homemade survey of my own, because I truly want to improve my blog (my ultimate book) and what I do.  If you take time to think about the questions, we might get more heart-felt answers, and that’s what I would really appreciate!

  1.  WHAT is it about food you love the most  (growing it, shopping, preparing it,
    sharing, eating, preserving, or your answers go below, please try for one or two choices at most).
  2. What information on other blog sites or the internet is it you love to read and use?  Specifics, if you can, please!
  3. What information on my blog appeals to you most and why?   Examples?
  4. What further would you like most to see (farmer stories, food history, food prep instruction, recipes (what, which), events and festivals, environment articles, food content articles)?    Please add your own suggestions…..and thank you for participating!

Full Moon Farm

SunGoldBest_FullMoon
Greg holds two of his customers’ favorite sweet tomatoes: Sun Gold.

FULL MOON FARM

Greg Henry, Stephanie Lewis
3580 Big Cut Rd.
Placerville, CA 95667
Visit Full Moon Farm on Facebook

A country road takes you up hills and curves to a 32-acre farm nestled in a forest setting that feels far and away from the city just a mile or so back there. Nearby, huge rock cliffs soar upward and serve as the name for road, “Big Cut.” Turns out it is an old gold mining piece, hydraulically troughed out, touching Coon Hollow* and the creek down the canyon.

Greg on his tractor ready for clearing, plowing, feeding the pigs, you name it.
Greg on his tractor ready for clearing, plowing, feeding the pigs, you name it.

We are met by the farm’s sentries Baisa and Bubby who loudly bark our arrival. Stephanie greets us and calls Greg off his morning chores and we begin our tour. An old stone chimney marks the site of the original residence, burned in a fire years back. Greg acquired the property in October 2013 and has been hard at work to clear the land and create a full working farm. Greg tells us he plans to rebuild the home one day, “funds and God providing.” Farm fresh greens line the beds in the 7 acres already cleared, tilled and planted. The two young farmers get ready for the first of the local farmers markets in town, opening the first Saturday in May each year for the season through November. Local restaurants in town also use up much of the farm’s bounty, happy to be able to offer real “farm to fork” fresh local provisions on their diners’ plates.

“There is a growing market share as the public is buying more organic food. I have found nothing but support….everyone is on your side despite the costs and hassles of organic farming,” Greg emphasized. He said that he thanked Jimmy Carter for resurrecting the farmers market idea and went on to explain that farmers markets have become an important part of our culture, as they were years ago.

Greg is a member of more than one farmers market, finding it a good resource for networking with the community and individual customers alike.
Greg is a member of more than one farmers market, finding it a good resource for networking with the community and individual customers alike.

“More young farmers are also coming forward because there are many opportunities and resources available and organizations ready to help with funding,”** Greg said. He himself obtained a grant from the Natural Resources Conservancy Services (NRCS) for his 3000 square-foot High Tunnel greenhouse now on the property. Plantings include green beans, tomatoes, cantaloupes, mixed greens and more in the 30’ wide, 100’ long shelter.

BigTunnel_FullMoon
Full Moon Farm’s new big greenhouse called a “Big Tunnel.”

Nearby lies a large, recently plowed plot Greg had planted with vetch, fava, bell bean and oats — “green manure” he calls it. “It adds biomass back into the soil, which should be at least 3-5% organic material. To test the nutrient value he sent livestock into the pasture of greens he had planted there. “They went for the oats,” Greg said, “and when I measured them on the refractometer, their sugar content (nutrient measure) was 16 brix! Animals naturally know what are the best building blocks for life.”

PlowedField_FullMoon
Tending Mother Earth also means making sure the soil is abundantly healthy and full of nutrition.

In the small greenhouse, Greg shows us how he warms the seedling trays so they think it is earlier in the year, solving germination issues he had last year. Below the shelf of trays, onions are planted next to cabbage seedlings, a demonstration of integrated pest management (IPM) because, “bugs hate the onion family,” he says, “and it’s just another way to do companion planting.” He holds up a couple of Sun Gold seedlings, a sweet tomato favorite at the farmers’ markets. In consideration of other local farmers who specialize in tomatoes, however, Greg says that he is not planning on a huge crop. “I’d rather sell produce to those restaurants that favor organic greens, for example, like Jack Russell, Farm Table and Tim’s Brown Bag.” He said that this little greenhouse helped him sell greens all winter to the local “Totem” coffee house.

Little Greenhouse_FullMoon

Warming those seedling trays in the small greenhouse.
Warming those seedling trays in the small greenhouse.

Stephanie mounts the tractor and prepares to feed the Red Wattle Heritage Texas pigs on the property with the spoiled apples given to them by Hooverville Orchards, another local farm. “They eat well,” the couple explains. “Organic kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps, leftovers from the farmers markets, and organic feed we have shipped from Oregon. It’s one of the few available organic, pesticide and chemical-free feed providers.”

HeritagePigs2_FullMoon
These unique American hogs are bred for pastured environments. The fleshy wattle attached to each side of the neck has no purpose. There are only three tiers of the breed left in America.
Piglets born 4_12.FullMoon
Piglets born middle of April 2016.

Obviously proud of the small herd, they tell of the piglets, which are often sold to other farms, and the custom “shares” of organic pork once it is butchered and sold through Archer’s Meats in Placerville.

“The pigs help clear the land of roots and vines, so we move them from time to time,” Stephanie explained. “Pigs are excellent land tenders compared to other livestock,” Greg explains. “They are designed to get nutrition from rooting out those old blackberries and poison oak, helping me to clear and turn the land at the same time. They favor the poison oak, eating it up like candy.”

BigDaddyGreg_FullMoon
The Big Daddy Boar. He eats poison oak like candy!

Black Mission and Conadria figs comprise the beginning of the orchard, and plantings of perennials, like berries and table grapes, round out the farm’s available produce.

“I’m working toward one-third fruit, one-third animals and one-third vegetables for diversification,” Greg stated. He went on to explain that in Humboldt College, where he studied Forestry, he learned of the Waldorf School and the concept of biodynamic farming. After college, he worked in eight different ranches throughout California and felt that this was “a calling, what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I learned it quicker and was more interested; it just made so much sense, and the whole world opened up from there.”

*******************

*Coon Hollow Mine (Excerpt from Doug Noble’s “Mines of El Dorado County” with permission.)

“The Coon Hollow Mine, which included the Excelsior Claim, was one of the largest drift and hydraulic mines in El Dorado County. It was located one mile south of Placerville at what is now appropriately known as Big Cut. From 1852 to 1861 the gravel was removed by drifting and between 1861 and 1871, by hydraulic means. Water for the water ‘cannons’ was brought by ditch and pipe from miles up the American River Canyon. Through the use of water pressure, ten million dollars in gold was removed from gravel that averaged about $1 per yard (yes, that is 10,000,000 cubic yards of material, or more, that was removed). The tailings from the operation, which were deposited in the canyons to the south, were later mined for silica and even later for aggregate to build bridges and roads.”

** Excerpt from GrowingProduce.com: “Along with consumer demand for organics, increasingly they are asking for local foods. Under Secretary Vilsack, USDA has provided more than $1 billion in investments to more than 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects since 2009. Industry data estimates that U.S. local food sales totaled at least $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008.”

“USDA has also established a number of resources to help organics producers find technical and financial resources to help them grow domestically and abroad. USDA has made market and pricing information for approximately 250 organic products available free of charge through USDA’s Market News. In 2015, USDA made more than $11.5 million available to assist organic operations with their certification costs.”

Read more at GrowingProduce.com.

Fausel Ranch

Couple_peachtree_Fausel

FAUSEL RANCH
4881 Hanks Exchange Rd.
Placerville, CA 95667

Proprietors: David and Deanna Fausel

The Fausel Ranch is listed in California’s Agricultural Heritage Club and received special recognition in 2010 with a plaque in their honor. The ranch’s first year of operation is listed as 1877, but the Fausels were busy long before then.

Best Emil Fausel

There are two family founders to be acknowledged who immigrated from Germany: Fred and Mari Giebenhain who built the brick house on Placerville’s Main Street circa 1860 and started a brewery there. And Kasper and Filomena Fausel of Germany and Switzerland who settled on Hanks Exchange Road in Placerville circa 1870.

Fred and Mari Giebenhain had five boys and two girls. Kasper and Filomena Fausel had five children. Kasper’s eldest son, Emil, married Giebenhain’s daughter, Mary in 1900. They lived in the downtown brick house until Mary’s death in 1959. She was 90 years old.

EmilBestWeddgPix_Fausel

Kasper was known for his rock masonry work, building cellars and buildings in El Dorado County. He is listed in the George Peabody book of History. Other attentions involved horses, wine, potatoes, grapes, cows and milk sold to Sacramento Crystal Creamery. The biggest venture was the brewery downtown, where “Mountain Steam Beer” became so well known it won 1902 World’s Fair recognition in St. Louis. It was said to cure everything from women’s ailments to sunburn. Prohibition in 1921 closed that venture, and the family took up farming on the then 40 acres on Hanks Exchange Rd.

The property included the Squaw Creek Dam that was built in 1861, but broke down a year later. The water from Cosumnes River that feeds the ditch run to Squaw Creek is still used by the County’s Irrigation District. Diamond & Caldor Railway also ran through a corner of the property.

Kaspar’s sons Emil, and Bill both worked the ranch and also worked the Victory Mine until his youngest son, Albert closed it. Albert continued working the ranch until 1975. Eggs, milk cows, pears, apples and vegetables from his large garden kept the family busy. Emil’s son, Frank Fausel, married Helen Rudkin in 1945 and had two sons, David and Dan, both of whom have been living and working in Placerville.

FamilyPix_Fausel

David and Deanna Fausel own and operate (with their son Albert) the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi – a veritable gold mine for residents, visitors and tourists in Placerville. “It has everything,” locals often say, “if you can’t find it there, they don’t make it.” Gold mining tools, equipment and supplies are well stocked. Employees of the store participated in the 1998 World Gold Panning Championship held in Coloma. 2016 is a busy gold mining year for the entire County as participants in the World Gold Panning Championship event descend on the area in April and in September taking prospecting to the next level.

HouseBest2_Fausel

BunkHouseRenovate_Fausel

BunkInside_Fausel

The Fausel family ranch on Hanks Exchange grew from the original family property to 93 acres, 15 of which is heavily planted with peach, nectarine, four varieties of cherry (some boasting 30+ years), plum, chestnut and pomegranate trees.

In addition to weather (especially rain at the wrong time or no chilling hours), gophers, voles and other wildlife, “it’s a constant vigil,” he explained. “In 30 years, I never had peach rot ‘til last year, an internal rot. Everything you do is preventive. If you see it, it’s too late. You can lose a whole crop that way. If a disease is present in the tree, it isn’t enough to spray, you spray it, and cut it down.”

“I just love farming,” David Fausel says. “I like to grow good food, work away from the hustle and bustle, investigate and try different varieties to grow, and try to beat Mother Nature’s dirty tricks.”

CherryBees_Fausel

CherryOrchard_Fausel

“I tried organic growing at one time,” he said. “But honestly, it’s way too much spraying, too often. Manufacturers are very up-to-date on ecology, organics and the like. There are specific sprays for specific pests, so you’re not inundating the entire orchard with chemicals.”

CherryBlossBestBlue_Fausel

Nectarine blossoms_Fausel

All spraying is done during dormant or early bloom and long gone by the time fruit arrives. He hand thins the fruit himself, emphasizes the need for heavy winter pruning and the need for frequent replanting/replacing trees. David emphasized that he is planning more orchard space and expects to keep the farm running indefinitely.

“It’s very much a family affair,” Deanna Fausel says. “It’s a joy to watch three generations picking peaches, there is plenty of hustle and bustle, and then helping with a late, big family dinner. I don’t think farm to fork is such a new idea. I remember grandma collecting eggs and taking them downtown to trade or sell.”

Today, David sells much of the fruit he raises at a roadstand at the end of their driveway, or at the hardware store. “And it all goes,” he says.