Sowing & Growing Unique Crops

Courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop

Although the Capay Valley is increasingly known for it’s amazing fruit and vegetable farms, there are other projects and crops worth noting! These three made it into several local newsletters recently, along with a little Capay Valley history.

Organic Indigo

From  Riverdog Farm

We are growing a ½ acre experimental crop of indigo plants for Rebecca Burgess, a textile artist interested in organic indigo for dying denim made from organic cotton. Her crew of fiberistas came to harvest the leaves of the indigo plant a couple times this summer. At the Hoes Down last weekend, Rebecca did an indigo dying workshop demonstrating how the blue color is extracted from the green leaves. Right now the plants in the field near the RDF office have a salmon colored flower. She is letting the plants go to seed at this time so she can collect the seeds for planting next year. To learn more about the local fiber project go to: http://www.fibershed.com/producers/directory/rebecca-burgess/.

Organic Grain Production, Past and Present

From Riverdog Farm

It’s getting close to grain planting time. We will be seeding barley and cowpeas. The grain plantings are a part of our animal feed and crop rotation program. They are seeded with a grain drill before the winter rains begin and grow throughout the cooler, wet season with no need for groundwater irrigation with  electrical or diesel pump costs. In the late 1800s, Capay Valley was primarily a sheep and grain-growing region so filling fields with grains feels like going back in time. According to Capay Valley, The Land and The People by Ada Merhoff, “The whole decade of the 1870s was underlined by ever increasing numbers of sheep in  the hills on both sides of the valley, as this land was bought, leased or homesteaded. Especially on the east side of the Cache Creek there was considerable hillside acreage secured by brush fences. Unsuitable for farming as the soil was poor or gravelly, often unreachable during periods of high water, this marginal land now became more valuable to use for sheep than for hogs as in previous years. At the southern end of the valley, prosperous farmers”¦worked their level land, then brought large flocks of sheep out of the hills to turn onto grain stubble and for bi-annual shearing. Not withstanding an unfavorable market for wool, there remained over 3,000 sheep owned by these new residents at the end of the 1870s.”

Olives!

From Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm

In addition to fruit and vegetable farms like Full Belly, there is also a productive community of olive growers in the Valley.

Last weekend was olive harvest for our friends at Capay Oaks Farm. The weather was beautiful, with gentle fall light and warm temperatures. Family, friends and a crew of Full Belly regulars showed up to help. Olive trees are alternate bearing and this is an up year, with record yields, so many olives that not all of them were harvested at Capay Oaks Farm over the busy two days.

The olives are stripped off of the branches of the trees, and then poured into plastic bins which are filled to the brim, and loaded onto a flatbed truck. The truck made it’s precious delivery on Sunday night and the olives were pressed on Monday morning.

The Capay Valley now has several award winning olive growers — Capay Oaks, Taber Ranch, Grumpy Goats and Live Oak Farm to name a few. In addition, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation grows 82-acres of olives and just opened a full service, state-of-the-art olive oil mill in the heart of the Valley. Several different varieties of olives are grown in the Valley, and the resulting premium oils each have their own flavor.

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The FruitGuys Magazine is your source for workplace culture, trends and healthy living. Previously known as The FruitGuys Almanac, the Magazine began in 2007. Editors and contributors include nationally known journalists and food writers. Submissions and suggestions can be sent to the editor.