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Sue’s Class Photo

Sue is back (as of Sunday)! I conned her into writing a report on her trip, so the majority of today’s blog will be from her. I’m just uploading it and adding the photos she’s sending me. Sounds like she had a great time learning the in’s and out’s of the business. She met some great people, a couple of them live on the same street as my parents – that’s just amazing! There were 30 some people signed up for the class, but not everyone was able to attend. In addition to attending classes, they did go on some field trips and enjoyed a BBQ mixer on one of the farms.  Here’s her report:

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I attended a week long training sponsored by National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and ATTRA called ‘Armed to Farm’, Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training.  They gave me a scholarship and I was able to attend by paying transportation to and from Davis, California.  It was a God send.  I could not have been able to afford the training otherwise.

Thea Rittenhouse an NCAT instructor garden

This is Thea Rittenhouse – an instructor & farmer – on the display case advert.

And OH, what training it was!  I am inundated with references, points of contacts and educational material.  It was very neat to be training with other veterans with similar goals in mind.  We spent the morning listening to INTERESTING lectures pertinent to starting a farming business. The topics ranged from creating soil to finances, business planning, marketing and food safety.  In the afternoons we visited farms and orchards and a ranch that use sustainable farming techniques.  It was all very eye-opening and empowering.

The farm visits were especially eye-opening. Sometimes it is easy to see just the end product and not a a great sense for the work that goes into it. These visits clearly changed that view.  The first day we went to visit

soil testing Sequoia Farms

Sue & Class testing soils

Sequoia Farms a walnut orchard.  This farm is using cover crops to vitalize their orchard soils and to help with water retention.  We compared soils in an established orchard and a newly planted orchard and the older one that had been treated with beautiful (I might add) cover crops had really wonderful soil.  It smelled good, looked good, had lots of roots and plenty of visible insects (worms)  not to mention the ones we couldn’t see.  This theme of cover crops and building soil was reiterated in all of the farms that we visited.  This farm was a family farm that also hired help and was quite large with thousands of trees.

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Yolo Land and Cattle Ranch

On Tuesday we visited the ‘Say Hay Farm.’  This farm was on leased land (the topic of the day) and was largely a vegetable farm. However, they also used pastured chickens in huge mobile coops the size of tractor trailers.  They had fruit and some nuts as well.  Chris Hay, runs this farm and has a long term lease with the owners.  He has put in a large barn where he processes the ‘greens and vegetables’ on one end and the eggs on the other end.  He has three white-boards in a row with ‘departments’ delineated, such as eggs, vegetables, maintenance, etc., and tasks and personnel responsible clearly assigned.  A very organized affair.  And kind of overwhelming.  I left there thinking that I was not going to do any ‘market’ gardening…..

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Laden Almond Trees

Wednesday we visited two farms. The first was Capay Hills Orchard run by Brian Paddock and his family. They raise mostly organic almonds and some value added products. We largely viewed his very orderly and gorgeous orchards that he and his family planted over the years. He had a very nice hedgerow planted to encourage beneficial insects. We went from there to Cloverleaf Farms run by Emma Torbert.  She leases land from her land lord along with several other farmers.  Her farm included diversified vegetables, brambles and peaches, nectarines, figs, and olives.  Their hedge row was three rows deep including trees, bushes and brambles.  We also looked at her soil which was very nice.  She had about 30 chickens in two small portable coops.

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Olive Press System

Thursday we visited Mike Madison at Yolo Press. He raises organic olives, cut flowers and succession vegetables.  He also leased some land to a chef who grew Korean vegetables for the restaurant that she worked at.  I really liked this farm.  He does it all himself.  He does have a few chickens but they are for personal use.  His olive orchard is harvested over several months by himself alone.

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He also raises flowers of all kinds and sells most of his products to several Farmers markets. His wife makes jams and jellies from trees on his land, as well as olive oil products from the lower grade olives. He has his own press, which he paid for over several years by pressing olives for other olive growers in the area. He no longer does that now, since the press is paid for. The last visit we made was to the Yolo Land and Cattle Ranch. He did cow and calf sales. It sounds very difficult to be a rancher and alternative sources of income are important. They have leased their farm as a wedding venue and have hosted other group festival events to help balance the budget.


All in all I learned a ton, with the greatest lesson being that I need to develop my soils. Oh, and do a better business plan, and perhaps look into financing, and definitely try some different marketing ideas…. Lots to think about, lots to do, but also lots of hope! When we get into implementing any of these ideas, we’ll certainly let you know. Until then, as always~for other olive growers in the area. He no longer does that now, since the press is paid for.  The last visit we made was to the Yolo Land and Cattle Ranch (see two photos on different paragraphs above).  He did cow and calf sales.  It sounds very difficult to be a rancher and alternative sources of income are important. They have leased their farm out as a wedding venue and held other group festival events to help balance the budget.

Thanks for reading.


Today’s Weather: Nice and warm, wind came up quite a bit in the afternoon. All in all, not too bad. Right now, at 7:40 p.m., it is 75°. Tomorrow’s high is predicted to be 84° and the low tonight is going to be around 55°.

Egg Report: Saturday we had zero goose, zero duck, 32 chicken eggs. Sunday we had zero goose, zero duck, 39 chicken eggs. Today zero goose, zero duck, 33 chicken eggs.