Full Belly Farm
To put it simply: The farmer is the one that feeds you. We want you to know where and how your food is being grown. It just tastes better that way, doesn't it?
|About the Farm
Farm Partners: Dru Rivers, Andrew Brait, Judith Redmond, Amon Muller, Jenna Muller and Paul Muller
Location: Guinda, CA
Full Belly Farm is a prominent and much loved certified organic 250-acre farm located in the Capay Valley. Known for popularizing heirloom varieties and supplying some of our area’s best restaurants, it grows over 80 kinds of flowers, vegetables, grains, nuts and fruit year-round. The farm adopts a whole system approach in which every action must be made with purpose, thought, and consideration of the impact it will have on the long-term sustainability of the farm.
Certified Organic by CCOF
Certifications set a minimum standard for good farming practices and food production, including land stewardship and conservation, chemical use, ecological diversity, labor practices, and food safety. We aim to go above and beyond these standards.
Full Belly Farm focuses on providing a healthy safe work environment for all who work and all who support the work of the farm. We focus on creating a farm system design that can offer year round employment for the majority of our crew. Many of our workers here have been employed here for over 20 years and we often provide jobs for families (and youth aged 16 and above). Full Belly recognizes farm work as dignified and skilled, requiring fair pay above minimum wage and health benefits for that commitment to the farm. We provide bonuses, shared by all workers on the farm, when we're financially capable. We are proud that our crew can eat the food that is produced on the farm by taking produce home in the evenings.
Labor is a complex issue, and we've found that Organic Certification doesn't address it very well. Grain farming is done primarily by a few skilled workers operating machines, requiring far less labor than other crops.
Wheat | Hard Amber Durum
Class (hard red, etc.) is primarily applicable to wheat. Designated by color, hardness and growing season (e.g., Hard Red Spring Wheat), there are a range of quality characteristics within classes, giving customers some indication of how to use a given flour. We like to challenge common assumptions about how to use each grain!
Durum Iraq | A landrace from Iraq that was popularized in California by Monica Spiller, founder of The Whole Grain Connection. We are enamored of the golden color and mild sweet character it lends to pastas and breads.
|Saved seed. Originally sourced from Fritz Durst and Bob Klein.
Seed source and supply is a complicated, and somewhat political, issue. We are actively engaged in developing a steady source of publicly available seed in farmer quantities. The source of a seed can signal the intent of breeding, as some modern breeds were developed for high yield and to withstand modern chemical fertilizers.
|1500/acre | Even though the yield was low because of the lodging, the wheat berries were plump and had good color.
Yield is important before and after planting - from selecting seed for a particular field to the ultimate price of the grain. The yield of a particular variety does have to work for the farmer economically, wherein low yielding grains - primarily heirlooms - can signal a higher priced product.
As a dry good, grains maintain freshness for several years in their whole kernel form. We harvest yearly, and store in a chemical-free environment. If the grains were held for several years in a fumigated environment, you'd really want to know about it.
Tehama soils consist of deep, well-drained loam soils, formed in alluvium from sedimentary rock sources. Slopes range from 0 to 5 percent. Elevation ranges from 10 to 300 feet. Annual temperature is 62F, annual rainfall is 16-20 inches.
Silty clay loam that extends to a depth of more than 60 inches. Capay soils are very fertile, and often used for irrigated row crops, field crops, dry-farmed grain, and wildlife habitat.
Clay content ranges from 40-55%; neutral to moderately alkaline. Land Capability is 2e (irrigated) and 4e (non irrigated), meaning that soil must be well-managed to prevent erosion and runoff. Moderate water storage. Natural fertility is high.
Land quality, categorized by the USDA, is the jumping off point - it helps farmers determine what can be grown and how best to manage the soil. Characteristics, like depth, slope, uniformity, and organic matter, impact the soil's ability to retain nutrients and water. Most of our grains are grown on Class 1 or 2 soils.
This field's tillage history has been minimal and the sequence of rainfall this year created a few weed issues that required extra cleaning. Both purple vetch and star thistle needed extra attention to be cleaned out thoroughly.
For fertilizer, we used 10 tons of green waste compost per acre.
There were no pest problems. The crop did lodge, meaning that it laid over in May and wasn’t able to straighten up. It dried laying down so that harvest was more difficult for all of these varieties.
Organic matter, soil carbon accumulation and active microbial communities are primary indicators of soil quality. Regenerative soil management practices, such as conservation tillage, cover cropping, crop rotations, etc., can enhance the soil while simultaneously restoring the environment, generating resilience, and improving human health.
2013: Vetch planted to restore nutrients.
2014: Oat hay planted. Both the oat hay and the Wheat were dry farmed.
We're drawing attention to this particular soil management practice as an area ripe for experimentation. Here we learn how farmers may use no till or conservation tillage in combination with soil-enhancing rotations to increase biological activity and diversity.
Full Belly produces over 80 different crops that includes stone fruits, nuts, vegetable crops and grapes - this crop diversity facilitates year round production and harvest. We have integrated some 200 sheep into the farm system to forage and reduce crop waste by converting it into meat, wool and fertilizer. Biodiversity is integrated into all aspects of the farm design, making it a creative and interesting environment to work and live.
Organic Certification underscores a number of ways to increase biodiversity (or wildlife) on farms. Here we look at how farms are going beyond that standard to include avian, insect and pollinator ecology.
This is a dry-farmed field with out a history of irrigation. This grain was rain germinated with a December 2014 storm. It then had the driest January on record for California, and a very dry February. Late February and March rainfall made the crop.
A major goal of regenerative soil management is to help soil hold onto water longer, thereby needing less. The decision to irrigate depends on a number of factors, including land quality, rain, and wheat variety. Tall, lanky heirloom wheats, for example, do not hold up well when irrigated.
Unfumigated farm storage.
Storage is an overlooked aspect of grain farming, where the kernels may be held for years. Methods to keep bugs and mold at bay can involve fumigation. Organic grains are stores without the use of chemicals.
Bay State Milling | www.baystatemilling.com
There is so much unseen in a flour mill. Who they are and what they stand for is immensely important.
|Type of Mill
Our innovative mill is central to the high functionality of our flour. It’s an air-classifier mill that creates exceptionally fine, uniformly granulated 100% whole grain flour that works just as well for baked goods as it does for our pastas, and produces wonderfully creamy polentas.
Nothing is sifted out in the process of milling — whole kernels enter the mill, and 100% whole grain flour comes out. The mill agitates whole grain kernels at extremely high speeds so that the grains shatter against each other and the rotating grinder surfaces, until all the particles of the grain, whether they be from the germ, bran, or endosperm, are all the same size — this is why our flour’s texture is so special.
The surface texture created by our mill, called “damaged” or “activated” starch, allows it to absorb water extremely well. In the case of wheat, this high absorption of water benefits the baking properties and flavor of breads and pastries. Moreover, because the process requires very low heat, the grains’ proteins and other nutrients don’t break down in the process — they’re kept fresh and wholesome.
The milling method is the key determinant of flour's functionality, flavor, and nutrient density. The invention of the steel roller mill was a major turning point in history, enabling the mass production of refined white flour. High-speed mills can generate enough heat to destroy vital nutrients (like protein and vitamin E) and create rancidity. Air-classifier mills have more control over their drying and grinding elements.
Milling date can impact flavor and shelf-life. Our flour is, with rare exception, shelf-stable for over a year in cool, dry storage - and best refrigerated. That said, we can't deny that freshly milled flour has a wonderful, enhanced fragrance.
Extraction describes the amount of wheat that is retained after milling. Whole Wheat Flour, for example, is described as having 100% extraction, while white flours typically have extraction rates of between 67% and 78% (predominantly the bran and germ are sifted out). The FDA doesn't require food manufacturers to disclose the exact quantity of whole grain. When we say 100% Whole Grain, we mean the whole thing.
The protein content of wheat can vary from as low as 6% to as high as 20%. Protein in bread dough traps gases formed in the dough, allowing it to lighten and rise. The protein's elasticity, stability, tenacity, and plasticity are also extremely important in determining the flour’s baking characteristics.
This figure indicates the percentage of natural moisture, by weight, in relation to the overall weight of a given sample. Beyond a certain point—sometimes pegged at around 15%— content of the flour can compromise its storability.
Ash is the mineral content in the wheat (primarily from the bran), so high ash content produces darker hued flour that may ferments more quickly. Small kernels have a higher proportion of bran and therefore more crude fiber than large, plump kernels.
Iraqi Durum Lab Analyses from Full Belly Farm
Industry analyses are the standard tests that help determine the best and/or baking qualities of flour. Principal tests include protein, ash, moisture, farinograph, falling number, and alveogram.