Full Belly Farm owner talks about challenges

Judith Redmond is no stranger to the Capay Valley agricultural industry.

She is a founding member of Full Belly Farm, a 400-acre certified organic company that has been in business in Guinda since the 1980s. Other members include Andrew Brait, Amon Muller, Jenna Muller, Paul Muller, Rye Muller and Dru Rivers.

Growing up in Santa Barbara, Redmond was not the agricultural expert she is today. Her love of the outdoors and interest in environmental issues peaked during her time at UC Davis and launched her into a socially responsible career that she still enjoys decades later.

“I’m so glad things turned out the way they did,” she previously told the Democrat. “I think these issues of safe drinking water, pesticide contamination, climate change, and people’s health and nutrition are really relevant to being a good farmer.

However, Redmond and other industry players couldn’t anticipate the coronavirus pandemic and the long-term effects it would have on business. While California lifted many of its COVID-19 restrictions in June, signifying some return to normalcy, there are still challenges ahead.

“Like many other local food businesses, Full Belly had to make a lot of adjustments during the shutdown as we were a vital business but also committed to protecting our employees as best we could,” Redmond recalled. Yolo County issued its first pandemic-related shelter-in-place order on March 18, 2020.

“There were a lot of uncertainties, but as it emerged that social distancing and masking were important parts of protecting against COVID, we worked very hard to explain these practices to our employees and implement them in a way. aggressive, ”she said. “Travel in our fields, workstation configurations and farmers’ market practices must all have changed very quickly. “

Judith Redmond, left, checks in with her staff at the Full Belly Farm packing shed. SARAH DOWLING – DAILY DEMOCRAC

Even though Full Belly’s staff faced a lot of uncertainties, “we never missed a delivery day,” Redmond said. They were also able to keep two of their three markets open throughout the closure.

“Demand for our kitchen products, cereals and CSA boxes has skyrocketed as restaurant sales disappeared,” she added. “Our CSA has doubled in size in six weeks and we have a waiting list to date.”

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, a service that delivers boxes of produce to households in the Bay Area and Sacramento on a weekly basis. CSA programs in Capay Valley have thrived during COVID and if Full Belly’s waitlist is any indication, they will continue to do so for the near future.

As for CSA offerings, Full Belly grows 80 types of crops year round, including almonds, corn, tomatoes, figs, and winter squash. Flowers are also present at the Guinda farm.

While CSA represents a silver lining, Full Belly still had to face the realities of a pandemic, namely the health and safety of its employees.

“We have had several cases of COVID on the farm and have worked hard to isolate those involved and quarantine anyone who has worked closely with them,” Redmond recalled.

Once a COVID-19 vaccine was available, health officials in Yolo County organized several vaccination events for farm workers, to help combat the problem.

As a precaution, all public events, tours, dinners and catering at Full Belly were put on hold at the start of the pandemic. However, Redmond said they were starting to plan for some signature events, such as pizza nights and farm dinners.

While the coronavirus pandemic was an unprecedented challenge for farmers, familiar struggles such as those related to the environment remain.

“We are very concerned about the drought,” Redmond said. “The Indian Valley reservoir discharge into Cache Creek lasted only six weeks this summer. As a result, farmers accustomed to depending on Cache Creek water will now need to irrigate with groundwater.”

“This could put additional pressure on the underground aquifer,” she added. “Heat events like the one we are currently experiencing make drought worse because plants need extra water. “

Redmond plans to meet these challenges, using her years of experience in the Capay Valley to guide her.

For more information, visit fullbellyfarm.com.

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