By Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm
This morning, the weather makes it feel more like winter than spring, even though it’s the end of March. It’s pouring down rain, it’s cold and there’s a howling wind on the loose. Cache Creek is raging. Wet fingers are numb in just a few minutes of bunching beets or digging carrots. No one relishes the idea of going out in the driving cold rain to pick vegetables, so we have limited the pick to those things that are necessary to fill CSA boxes and farmers market stands. For the last few days, most of the crew has been done and gone before lunch. That means fewer hours of work for them, which is just a different side of the hardship coin. At least we were able to guarantee them pay for four hours even though they were finishing a bit earlier than that.
The cold, overcast weather is slowing down production of the crops, all of which can respond in some years to longer days and gentle sun of early spring by growing like gangbusters. This year, everyone is wondering about the asparagus — a crop that we always look forward to at this time of year. Well, we’re still waiting. Only a few spears have shown themselves. Perhaps these are the scouts, telling their mother plants that it isn’t time yet. Maybe when you read this note a few days of warmth will have made the asparagus grow. It’s sure to happen soon. That’s how the spring can be. We all know that with just a few days of warmth the fields could dry out, the crops will start to grow, and there will be more work than we can handle. The energy around the farm will change in a snap. Because we want to keep our crew employed all year round, they know that they will have to be here in all kinds of weather.
One of the things that happens during the winter, when there is less work, is that the crew participates in a lot of educational events. Local farm organizations sponsor events that provide information about farm safety and heat stress, and this year local farms, including Full Belly, and several community organizations created a new program, called ¡Que Viva la Vida!
This pilot event was focussed on farm worker quality of life and was designed to promote social wellness within farm worker families. Almost 100 farm worker men from 13 participating farms in Yolo County were gathered for a whole day in February to think about questions like, what is a strong family, how can you help your child do well in school, how physically healthy is your family, how emotionally healthy is your family, and even a conversation about alcohol. In the afternoon there were workshops on home buying, immigration, domestic violence and where to go for social services. A raffle and rally were designed to make the entire day fun and relaxed.
The farm workers were paid for their day at ¡Que Viva la Vida! and there were no employers there. In addition to the local farms, the organizations that participated were a local human service organization called RISE, Esparto Family Practice (medical services), and Esparto Unified School District. The lunch was prepared from products grown and donated by the local farms, and featured an entertaining “cook-off.” Paul Muller of Full Belly Farm played a large part in pulling this wonderful event together saying, “Our goal is to help everyone be better husbands and better fathers!” Participants gave the event high marks, hoping that this would be the first in an annual series. We feel lucky in the Capay Valley to have such great citizen and organizational support for these kinds of events.