Markets

Just a quick update on the market situation:

We were accepted to the Sonora market after three years of applying! Unfortunately we feel we have to be as responsible with water as possible, and that means cutting production to the bare minimum. And, you guessed it… we can only realistically do one market on Saturdays (there’s only two of us, after all!).

As many of you know the Groveland market has suffered some hiccups from the retirement of many vendors — but we hear it’s still hanging in there. We hope we can make it for at least part of the season, but for now we are concentrating our efforts on Sonora.

It really pains us to have to do this, because we have so many wonderful customers in Groveland and Greeley Hill. But fret not! You can always email or call us to place an order for pick up on the farm. We harvest only on Thursdays and Fridays, so you can pick up your order on Friday after 4pm or on Sundays any time.

What’s New for 2015

Every day this past winter we’ve looked at the weather forecast, hoping for rain. We’ve marveled at 75-degree temperatures in February, and watched our peach trees bloom six weeks early. At this time of year the soil in our main field is normally quite wet, and we’ve never had to irrigate much before April.

The last rain a few weeks ago was very welcome, but the thirsty land needed it so badly that the soil was dry again within a couple of days. But it did help the stunted Larkspurs and Buttercups, which are again prolific.

In response to the worsening drought we’ll be cutting our production and concentrating on less thirsty crops. We won’t be selling to restaurants so this is primarily where the reductions will come from. Last year we had great success with increased use of natural mulches and we aim to have no bare soil at all. This is tricky — certain mulches can cool the soil enough to slow down crops or even rob valuable nitrogen from the soil. Many farms use copious amounts of plastic “mulch” which completely covers the soil to both conserve water and heat the soil, but we refuse to go that route even if it means we aren’t producing as much or as early. We understand of course why farms use it, but the volume of plastic used is huge and it’s very difficult to recycle. Almost all of it ends up in landfills!

We are planning our usual very diverse mix of crops, from super tasty green beans to our Italian Heirloom zucchini. We won’t be growing corn — it’s wonderful to have a great heirloom variety, but it requires too much water. We got a great start on our tomatoes and peppers this spring, so we should have them much earlier! And we’ll have a good mix of cherry and regular tomatoes (mainly heirloom varieties again) and about several kinds of peppers, including Poblano and our very popular Anaheims.

On the market front, there are some significant changes planned for this year. We have volunteered to manage the Groveland Farmer’s Market — after many years of service Bonnie and Richard Sanford have finally semi- sorta- retired. To help fill their very big shoes we’ll be offering some fruit and other items from some of our favorite farms. Last year we got some grapes, plums, and peaches and they were a big hit. We promise whatever we bring from other farms will be purchased direct from growers we know personally and of course we will only ever have organically-grown produce.

Remember, the Groveland Farmer’s Market starts May 23 and will run every Saturday from 8am to 1pm. We hope to see you there!

We’ll continue to have a booth on Wednesdays from 12-3pm at the Mountain People Organics (aka the Farmory) in Columbia. This is a great market with lots of activity, so if you’re up that way it’s absolutely worth the trip!

We have applied again for the Sonora Farmer’s Market but probably won’t know what’s happening on that front until some time in May.

And finally, we are working out a plan for phone and internet ordering. We have a number of regular customers who can’t make it to the market but don’t mind driving to the farm. Stay tuned for more information on this, but in the mean time please always feel free to email or call if you want to order direct. We won’t have that much until about the first or second week in May, but we promise it will all be awesome!

See you soon!

Groveland Farmer’s Market Starts May 24

Just a reminder that the Groveland Farmer’s Market begins May 24. This year the market will be Saturdays only but with slightly extended hours — from 8am to 2pm. As always we encourage our customers to come early as we tend to sell out of certain items.

Our spring planting was fraught with setbacks and so we won’t have quite the selection we expected, but we’ll have eggs, turnips, spinach, arugula, fresh herbs, and strawberries as well as a few other items.

Fortunately we’ve been planting up a storm and have a huge number of things in the ground much earlier than last year. So we’ll have everything from beans to zucchini quite a bit earlier and of course in much greater quantities. We also have quite a number of new items — like eggplant, which we are really excited about!

We really look forward to seeing you all again!

To our Friends in Sonora

Last year many of you enjoyed the produce we offered at the Groveland Farmer’s Market and asked us if we could sell it at the “Certified” Farmer’s Market in Sonora. While it wasn’t feasible to do so last year because of the size of our production we did apply to be a vendor at the Sonora Market this year.

We regret that our vendor application was denied. We were told variously that all spaces were taken and/or that our offerings would duplicate what was being sold by other vendors. While we share your frustration that the market continues to admit out-of-county vendors from the central valley while denying small local farms a place, we hope that you will still patronize the Sonora Market and favor truly local farms such as Blue Oak Farm. We suggest that when you are at the market you ask where each vendor farms — the truth is that the California “Certified Farmer’s Market” program is no assurance of anything and it makes sense to, as we like to say, “know your farmer”. If you have concerns about the “local-ness” of the produce or the quality or diversity of the offerings at the market you might express this to Sheala Wilkinson, the Special Programs Coordinator for the county, at 209-532-7725

If you are able to come down to Groveland our farm is open Thursdays 3-6pm and we are also at the Groveland Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 8am to 2pm starting May 24.

Sorry! We tried!

What is Local?

You walk into the supermarket hundreds of miles from the nearest peach orchard and see what looks like a handwritten chalkboard sign proclaiming the unripe peaches to be “locally grown”. How can this be?

Many large food retailers, such as Walmart, define local as being from the same state. If you live in northern California and buy food produced in southern California that could mean over 700 miles by air, much more by road. Other stores use a maximum distance, such as 50 miles for Raley’s. Whole Foods dodges the question by saying they often use state lines or regions of their own definition but generally leave it up to the individual store.

You wouldn’t say that your “local plumber” or “local dentist” is someone in a town 300 miles away that you’ve never visited, so why say that about food?

For us at Hopping Rabbit Farm, local produce means that it comes from a farm you can comfortably visit from the place you live. For us, local also suggests belonging to your community and that you are able to know the producer personally.

Because we believe in truly local food production, we will never sell our produce through distributors who might take our produce far away and sell it to someone who has no knowledge of the farm or who we are.

So why is locally produced food important anyway?

Impact on your health: Fresher produce isn’t just tastier, it is better for you. The USDA acknowledges that for most types of fruits and vegetables essential vitamins and nutrients are lost from produce very rapidly after harvest. The produce we sell at the Groveland Farmer’s Market or at the farm is generally picked the same morning we sell it. That means it’s just plain better for you.

Impact on your taste buds: Everyone knows that a peach you buy at Walmart just isn’t ripe. Produce, and fruit especially, that has to be shipped long distances is picked unripe so it can withstand the rigors of shipping. This goes for tomatoes, green peppers and even things like squash. Of course most produce tends to lose flavor when stored for long periods. We notice the difference and so do our customers!

Impact on the environment: It should go without saying that the farther your food is shipped the greater the environmental cost. So even if you are buying organically grown produce, it’s carbon footprint could be huge. In addition to the environmental cost of transportation, the cost of shipping puts pressure on producers to grow food as cheaply as possible, meaning even “organically grown” produce may be done so unsustainably using whatever methods extract the most income without regard for the future of the soil or environment.

Impact on producer income: Consumer expectations mean vegetables can only be sold for a certain amount of money. When you ship a green pepper 2000 miles from Mexico to sell it for the same price as something grown one mile away so much more of your costs are put into transportation, handling, and refrigeration that you have very little left over to pay the producer. Of course, if that pepper is sitting in a warehouse or on a truck for two weeks, you couldn’t charge very much for it, could you? So this may be cost-effective for the huge producer, but it naturally hurts the people who are doing the actual work. This also tends to deflate prices which means local small growers who may have higher costs don’t get paid as much either!

Impact on your community: When you buy something produced where you live, that money stays in the community. In our case, we support local businesses as much as we can and favor buying supplies from local stores. This means if you buy produce from us you are supporting the local economy and helping to create and maintain jobs here — both directly and indirectly.

Impact on jobs: To keep prices artificially low in selling produce that has to be shipped so far, big producers need to keep wages low. If the produce is grown in this county that almost always means hiring illegal immigrants who are grossly mistreated and poorly paid, and who usually send a large percentage of their earnings out of the country. We understand fully why someone might want to live and work in this country for economic reasons, but the impact of illegal immigration on our economy cannot be denied. And no matter who is employed to produce crops, higher shipping costs mean lower wages.

Know your farmer, know your food… support your community!

Closing for the Winter, November 2

After a series of setbacks from the Rim Fire, Government Shutdown, and evil ground squirrels, we have decided to close down for the winter starting November 1. We plan to start up again sometime in April. We still have plenty of Butternut and Delicata squash as well as pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and a few other items, and will be open one last weekend on Thursday, October 31, and Saturday, November 2 outside Mountain Sage in Groveland.

This hasn’t been an easy decision. We felt a responsibility to the community to provide fresh produce as long as possible, and we knew from the previous winter that certain things do rather well here. Of course, we also needed the money to fund our start up next year.

So we feel we must explain what happened: We were trying to plant our fall crops just before and during the period of the Rim Fire. Busy with fire preparations, certain crops didn’t get planted or weren’t given the attention they required. We re-planted several things that failed, but then lost a number of crops to an infestation of ground squirrels. This was really the last straw, as by this time it was to late to re-plant things like beets or cabbage, and we would have ended up with a long gap with virtually nothing to sell.

But in many ways, closing up shop for the winter is a blessing. We are in desperate need of some time off! Of course, this means still working to prepare for the next season, but it will be far less hectic.

We want to thank all of our customers for your amazing support in our first season! There is no way we could have predicted the reception we received by the community, which has been universally supportive and kind.

Next year we plan to increase production, both in quantity and variety, and to have produce available for much longer in the season. We remain committed, however, to quality and freshness and of course to truly local farming.

We’ll continue to post occasional updates to our blog throughout the winter and look forward to seeing you all again in the spring!

We’ll be closed Sept 26-28

We wanted to let everyone know that the farm will not be open on Thursday September 26 and that we will not be selling at the Groveland Farmer’s Market on the 27th or 28th.

We will be participating in the week-long Yosemite Facelift, a volunteer cleanup event put on by the Yosemite Climbing Association. We are also sponsoring a group dinner on the 28th at the Yellow Pine Campground.

The Yosemite Facelift is a fantastic opportunity to help give back to and care for one of the most beautiful places on earth. You don’t need to signup in advance or camp out to participate — just show up at the Visitor’s Center in Yosemite Valley any day from Wednesday Sept 25 to Sunday Sept 29 after 8am to pick up materials and get instructions. Every evening there is a raffle and climbing-related entertainment, but you don’t have to be a rock climber to enjoy it!

For more information and a full program, visit the Yosemite Climbing Association Website.

Although the Groveland Farmer’s Market will likely be winding down at the end of September we’ll still be there every Saturday morning. Our Thursday hours will continue as usual on October 3.

Returning to normal

The lines on the south west edge of the Rim Fire near Pilot Ridge have been holding for a couple of days, giving us a chance to feel like everything will be ok. The direct danger to us was only ever a slight possibility, but the unpredictability of the fire and the fact that it was spreading south and west against prevailing winds has kept everybody in Greeley Hill on edge.

We have devoted most of the time since the fire began to additional fire preparations around the house. This being our first fire season we really weren’t clued in to all that needed to be done. We did all the basics fairly early on, and were told by Cal Fire that at least the main house was “in good shape”. But have a looming fire just miles away forced us to look much more closely at all the things that would make a difference if a fire were to  come sweeping up the valley or if one were close enough to drop burning embers near the house.

As a result we’ve hauled away yards and yards of dry grass and leaves, re-enforced our fire break, cut back trees and made doubly sure to clean up any flammable materials away.

We are tremendously thankful that our property has not been directly impacted by the fire and feel so much more worry for our friends who had been evacuated or had their properties damaged. Seeing the help and support that was extended to those affected reminds us what a great community this is and how glad we are we decided to call it home.

 

But the fire has taken it’s toll. As with everybody in the area, we’ve lost a huge amount of business during peak season. We’ve been unable to work outside for extended periods because of the smoke, and the fire prep has taken valuable time away from planting crops and managing our fields.

 

I post all this because I hope that you will understand if we aren’t able to come through with some of the produce we have promised. The second harvest of corn, for example, has largely been eaten by raccoons that we haven’t had the time to deal with. Our entire lettuce crop is a bust, although we will replant.

It’s only today, knowing that the hard work of our amazing fire crews is meeting with much success, that I feel we can begin returning to normal and devoting our efforts to providing for our community.

We thank you for your patience, understanding, and support!

We are open on Thursday, August 22

We know that many of you are very concerned about the Rim Fire, as are we. The weekend Farmer’s Market has been cancelled, but we will be open on Thursday from 3-6pm as usual. We will have some wonderful melons and green peppers in addition to our usual offerings.