Let's Talk About our Food System

Let's Talk About our Food System

As summer turned to fall, our lettuce seed was tucked into soil in a plastic tray under a greenhouse. The tiny seeds germinated. For 35 days, they grew until their roots were confined by the limited soil in the transplant tray. They graduated from the greenhouse and were tucked into a neatly prepared field where the little plants had room to grow. Water rained down on them from sprinklers, and as they grew, the colors of the red leaf, green leaf and Green Romaine lettuces covered the dark soil with a rainbow of color in the field.

As their day came to be harvested, consumers heard that E.coli was in the Romaine supply. The demand for my little gems of Green Romaine lettuce slumped, but not the other lettuce that shared the exact same life as the Green Romaine. Individuals with legitimate concerns called our customer service team to ask about the Romaine – and why wouldn’t you call to ask? That is the whole point of Farm Fresh To You − to give you a direct connection to the land that feeds you. And why would you knowingly add any risk to your family by eating something that may cause harm?

The reality is that something is going on, but pinning the blame broadly on Green Romaine is irresponsible. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not identified what food likely caused this foodborne illness. No public agency has contacted any Romaine lettuce grower, shipper or processor and requested that they either stop shipping or recall product already in the marketplace. Yet Consumer Reports mass warns consumers to not eat any Romaine lettuce. This warning lacked a basic understanding that lettuce is a highly perishable product with limited shelf life, vast growing regions, and different growing, processing and handling practices. If I were Romaine lettuce, I would get a discrimination case set up…

Food safety is of paramount importance to our farm, and we have no reason to believe that any of our lettuce is anything but safe and healthy to eat. While I cannot tell you exactly what is going on, I can tell you that there is not a general problem with all Green Romaine lettuce – there is however a general problem with our food system, and food safety scares like this one emphasize the importance of our local food system and why it is so important to know where your food comes and who grew it so that you can trust that it is safe for you and your family.

I have three young children, ages 8, 5 and 2, and we will be eating the Green Romaine lettuce that our farm grew. You will notice that we have elected to not include Green Romaine lettuce in any of the main line boxes. It pains me a little to bend to the forces of national news, but the truth is that peace of mind is also something that we have an obligation to provide to our customers. Eventually, this Green Romaine scare will blow over, and we may learn that there was some Green Romaine that had a legitimate problem. We may learn it was actually the Caesar Salad dressing used on Green Romaine. We may find out it had nothing to do with Green Romaine at all. I can’t tell you the outcome, but I can tell you that all of our Green Romaine, as well as the Green Leaf and Red Leaf Lettuce, are safe and healthy to eat. I know this because I grew them and will be feeding them to my kids all winter.

Our Farm Ecosystem

There is a project down by the creek that gets a certain focus each November. The project is the invaluable space that is defined by the area that butts up to the edge of our fields and extends to and along the border of Cache Creek. It is here that we are slowly, but surely making progress in turning a pile of noxious, invasive weeds into a unique farm ecosystem.Our Farm Ecosystem
Farmers are good at growing things (that is the whole idea behind farming), but I have learned that to be good at growing something, you generally have to have completely messed it up a handful of times. This is the secret sauce to farming. Farming well cannot be taught in a book because no two farms are the same nor are any two crops the same. This is the reason farmers don’t make promises on crops they have never grown nor will they make a guarantee on a field they have never farmed.
Our Farm Ecosystem

As a kid, confined to the original 20 acres I grew up on, I hounded my mom to put a wildlife pond in the north east corner of the farm. She listened, but never let me do it. In hindsight had she even said yes, I would have had no idea how to make it happen. Now the farm has grown to include some neighboring property, including an area by the creek that screams to be developed back into the wildlife habitat it had always been. With my childhood passion in mind, I started teaching myself to be good at growing back native habitat one “crop” at a time.

Our Farm Ecosystem

It took me three years to figure out how to grow an acorn into an oak tree that would survive the first hot summer and not be eaten by the deer (the trick: drip irrigation and six-foot-tall horse fence bent into an 18-inch pipe shape to protect the little oak trees from the deer). It took me two seasons to be able to identify the difference between creeping wild rye, a California native grass, and weeds (the trick: a powdery white-greyish color on the strands of grass and the pattern on the edges of rhizome-style root growth). It took me five years to select my lineup of native plants that do well here and I have a chance of getting established.

Our Farm Ecosystem

This is on the list for November. I have a pile of native plants in pots to plant. There is a huge stack of grass seed ready to be sown. There are plans and supplies in the shop to build a development of barn owl boxes. I love this stuff.

Make sure to find us on Instagram (@farmfreshtoyou) and @farmerthaddeus

Farm-to-Fork Seasonal Dinner, San Francisco


Join us at Scoma’s beautiful restaurant near San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf. Mingle with farmer Thaddeus Barsotti and chef Efren Sandoval and enjoy a specially crafted four-course dinner that features produce from our farm.

THURSDAY – October 26th
Scoma’s Restaurant, San Francisco
Hosted by Farm Fresh To You & Capay Organic

Together, Capay Organic, Farm Fresh To You and Scoma’s restaurant welcome you to sit down to a fall-inspired, seasonal dinner. Throughout the event, you’ll hear from chef Efren and our farmer Thaddeus about the inspiration behind making this meal, their passion for sustainable and organic practices and the use of local ingredients.

4-Course dinner with wine benefits the Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit for Sustainable Agriculture. and the SF-Marin Food Bank.

Click here to learn more and reserve your seat.


Late Summer Harvest

The summer is such a busy season! There is literally activity everywhere. The harvest of summer crops is still in full swing. Heirloom tomatoes are so tall, and reaching for the sky, it makes it a little more difficult to navigate when searching for the perfectly ripe tomato.
The crews are in good spirits over the win-win piece-rate harvest arraignment we have come to. This arrangement guards their hourly wage as well as incentivizes them to increase output. The result being, harvesters earn fifteen plus dollars per hour and our farm’s harvest cost-per-unit has decreased. Everyone is happy.

oak tree

Many of the melon fields are still in their prime, but the first melon fields we began harvesting have been cleaned up and tilled into the soil for the next crop. The last of the melons are about the size of softballs and are growing quickly – not as quickly as they were now that the nights are cooler – but they are still coming along nicely.

Next to the melons are some of the winter squash fields. Even though they are all a light green color, we can still tell their variety by their shape and size. The butternut brown, kabocha blue, delicata rainbow and sugar pie orange are colors that have not yet arrived. The previously brightly colored green leaves have deepened with the intense summer into a darker green. Here and there you’ll find some orange flowers, but for the most part, all signs point to the final stages of the winter squash. In a month or so the first fields we planted will be ready to harvest. Winter squash: the sign that fall is almost here.

The orchards are moving along nicely too. Each week we see more and more figs. All of our apricots and peaches have come and gone. Next to the green, leafy fig orchard are our satsuma mandarins that are sizing quite nicely. I was wandering around the farm and I noticed out of the corner of my eye a baseball sized mandarin orange. The harvest of these guys will be early October at best, but something tells me this season will show up earlier than it ever has before.

10th Annual Capay Tomato

Capay Organic Blog

One of our biggest events of the year! We’re looking forward to our 10th annual celebration of all things tomato! Join us on Saturday, July 22nd, from 3:00 p.m to 11:00 p.m.

Come and taste our heirloom and cherry tomatoes, fresh from our fields — and vote for your favorite! There will be live music from 3 bands and dancing, delicious local food and wine, a tractor-tram tour of the farm, camping in the orchards and plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy.

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– Organic Heirloom & Cherry Tomato Tastings
– Tractor Trailer Rides
– Harvest Activity – Heirloom Tomatoes!
– Live Music and Dancing
– Best Guest Picnic Contest
– Self-Guided Farm Walking Tour
– Kids’ Activities and Arts & Crafts
– Sprinkler Fun
– 4-H Petting Zoo
– Make Your Own Herb Salts to Take Home
– Local Honey & Olive Oil Tasting
– And more…
Additional Event Activities Available for Purchase*
– Delicious Local Food

California Love Food Truck – New American street food
Tacos 911 – Farm Fresh Tacos & Burritos from
Culinerdy Cruzer – Handmade burgers and fries
Township Valley Farms – Homemade pestos
Luciano’s Scoop – Artisan Gelatos and Iced Coffee Drinks
Pachamama – Iced coffee

– Local Beer & Wine
– Non-Alcoholic Beverages
– Market Stand with Fresh Produce from the Farm
– Face Painting
– Camping on the Farm

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Camping in the Fruit Orchards

Sleep under the stars and among the fruit trees. Reserve a camp site in our orchards.

$35 Advance Campsite Reservations (admission not included)

$40 Day-of-Event Campsite – Available First-Come / First-Serve Basis*

– Each site is 15′ wide and extends the length of the orchard row.

– One car allowed per site, parked at site.

– Stay until 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 23rd

– Restrooms and sinks available.

– Sorry, no pets allowed!!

Pack a picnic for the Best Guest Picnic Contest. Bring your family, friends, appetite and your dancing shoes! We hope to see you at the farm for our special event benefiting the Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit for Sustainable Agriculture.

For more tickets and more information: http://capaytomato2017.eventbrite.com/

Spring Priorities

It’s grow time in Capay!

A post shared by Thaddeus Barsotti (@farmerthaddeus) on

The rain has been a blessing, but there comes a time that every farmer, including this one, is done with the rain and ready to start farming. There has been about a ten-day break in the storms rolling over the farm and that has been just enough time to being to get the tractors out the equipment yard and into the field.

The timing of this window could not be more critical. Only a day ago were the fields dry enough to begin working, and tomorrow another three to four-day storm is supposed to show up. So, we have two days to get some farming done and that is what is going on. Everyone on the farm who is able to safely and correctly operating tractors is driving one, yet there are still tractors in the yard that we all wish could be put to work.

Here are our priorities. Tomatoes are due from the green house in ten days. Their field has grown a fair amount of weeds over the winter so we cultivated that whole field. If we had the time to inject the drip tape in now we would, but we figure we will have a chance to do that in the next ten days. Our first set of spring vegetable transplants (lettuce, kales, chards) are in the greenhouse and ready to go, so we have three tractors in this field; the first is taking the old beds of last fall’s vegetables and incorporating them into clean new beds; the second tractor has a transplanter with a small crew on it who are tucking the plants from the greenhouse into their new home, and the third tractor has a trailer filled with sprinkler pipe that is getting put down to irrigate the little plants (the rain just isn’t that reliable this time of year).

In the distance beyond this bustle, other tractors are mowing fields of cover crops that were planted in open fields and between the tree lines of our citrus, fig and apricot orchards. Another tractor is disking in said cover crops, trying to get prepared ground ahead of its demand.

That is just what we are doing, meanwhile, nature is working its millions of little miracles all over the place. Trees have flowers. Plants are growing. Birds and bees are bustling, and the local flock of wild turkeys is becoming more pompous than ever.