Capay Organic to Farm Fresh to You: Keeping the Dream Alive
In 1976, with 20 acres of star thistle and a dream, Kathleen Barsotti and Martin Barnes began farming organically in the Capay Valley. The farm, CAPAY ORGANIC, got its start with a concern for the sometimes harmful methods of modern agriculture and a desire to grow produce the way nature intended it to be—organically.
Regardless of the genuine quality of the produce and the wholesome farming practices used to create it, the early days of marketing organic produce to the general public was difficult. Martin and Kathy quickly understood a direct connection with consumers was necessary to the economic sustainability of the farm. Martin and Kathy helped found the now renowned Davis Farmers Market and with the support of a few gourmet restaurants that understood the superior principals and quality of organic agriculture, they developed a market for their produce. On the farm, Martin and Kathy raised fruits, vegetables and their four sons Noah, Che, Thaddeus and Freeman.
Growing up, the brothers were instilled with a good understanding of the shortcomings of modern agriculture and the benefits of farming organically. From the early stages of their childhood, the brothers helped in the everyday operations of the farm—from field work to office tasks to interacting with customers at farmers markets. By the early 90s, CAPAY ORGANIC was an established small, organic family farm, supplying Bay Area stores, restaurants and farmers markets with quality, organic produce. The years of growing and selling high quality produce to dedicated customers had paid off.
In 1992, Kathy took the direct connection to customers to a new level by founding FARM FRESH TO YOU, a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. From the very beginning, FARM FRESH TO YOU delivered boxes directly to homes instead of using neighborhood drop-off points and partnered with other sustainable farms. Using her parents’ Buick as a delivery “van,” Kathy began her route. Customers responded to this innovative CSA by subscribing to the service, visiting the farm for tours, and cooking with and eating more organic, local produce. Kathy waged a courageous nine-year battle with breast cancer and died in 2000. Her sons had an important decision before them. Her oldest sons, Noah and Che were starting to get settled in their careers. Thaddeus was in college. Youngest son Freeman was still in high school. The brothers made the decision to continue the organic farm and carry on the legacy of their parents.
Today, FARM FRESH TO YOU connects more families to local, sustainable produce than Martin and Kathy ever imagined possible and the founding farm, CAPAY ORGANIC, continues to sell at local farmers markets and delivers wholesale produce to restaurants and retail stores. The brothers have made it their mission to transform agriculture in America by connecting local farms and communities in a method that is environmentally and economically sustainable.
With the help of their wives, their family of employees, and the budding third generation of their families, Noah, Thaddeus and Freeman are continuing the food revolution that began in 1976 with 20 acres of star thistle and a dream.
FARM FRESH TO YOU’S fresh, local produce comes from our certified organic farms in California and trusted organic farm partners. We work hard to ensure that your food is grown in the most environmentally sustainable way possible.
CAPAY VALLEY Farmed organically since 1976, the farm in Capay was the second farm in Yolo County to be officially certified organic. The initial 20-acre farm in Capay has grown to its current size of 450 acres. The Capay Valley’s unique micro-climate and soil type creates an ideal farming environment for Capay Organic’s nearly 60 types of fruits and vegetables. The varieties of each crop grown on the farm are carefully selected to ensure that the company’s produce is always the best tasting product on the market. The farm also prides itself on regularly introducing new crops to the marketplace, such as cherry tomatoes, sweet pea flowers, ambrosia melons and heirloom tomatoes (just a few of the crops pioneered at the farm).
The farm sells produce directly to restaurants, grocery stores, wholesalers and farmers markets. The farm also grows produce for the FARM FRESH TO YOU Community- Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes and partners with other organic farms such as Full Belly and Alba Organics to give customers the best local selection possible.
The farm is proud to go “beyond organic” under chief farmer Thaddeus Barsotti’s stewardship. Thaddeus limits farm fertilizer to renewable resources—cover crops and green waste compost. Thaddeus established sediments traps and native grass/plants hedgerows to prevent topsoil erosion. He is ever-conscious of increasing biodiversity and pollinators’ species. The farm is home to established riparian areas and wildlife ponds. Thaddeus’ pest management philosophy is to develop the farm ecosystem such that the plants can easily defend themselves. This means sometimes losing crops rather than using organic pesticides. The farm’s cultivating equipment and irrigation is designed to protect the land, reducing fossil fuels and increasing efficiency. Our farm in Capay is dedicated to growing organic produce with great taste and connecting people with the farm that grows their food.
IMPERIAL VALLEY In 2007, FARM FRESH TO YOU expanded its CSA model to Southern California and started farming in the Imperial Valley. FARM FRESH TO YOU delivers organic produce grown on this farm and on its Southern California partner farms such as Suzie’s Farm to San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties. In the Imperial Valley’s hot climate, spring and summer produce arrives a bit earlier than on our farm in Capay, but much of what is grown in Capay is also grown on the Imperial Valley farm. BARDSDALE FARM Acquired in 2011, the Bardsdale farm in Ventura County is 30 acres of avocado, navel oranges and Valencia oranges. About an hour from Los Angeles, the Bardsdale farm is the event site for our Southern California farm tours. We have big plans for this farm both for planting and for Southern California events.
Farm Fresh To You is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) local, organic, produce delivery service, connecting consumers directly to the farms that grow their food.
FARM FRESH TO YOU harvests a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables from its farms in Capay, 90 miles east of San Francisco, and in the Imperial Valley in Southern California. Partnering with other local farms as well to provide the best variety in the box, FARM FRESH TO YOU works to ensure the produce in their CSA boxes is grown in the most environmentally sustainable way possible. The company delivers its produce to homes and offices in the greater Sacramento region, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties. FARM FRESH TO YOU members select what type of produce box they would like to receive based on their household size and cooking habits. The produce in each box changes weekly and varies seasonally. Customers can customize each box with exactly what they would like.
• MIXED FRUITS & VEGETABLES Our most popular service for those who want a good mix of both fruits and veggies
• TRADITIONAL CSA Our “locavore” option that provides produce grown by our farm and direct neighboring partner farms
• NO COOKING A no-cook, quick-prep option for those who want to eat their fruits and veggies on the go
• FRUIT ONLY For the ultimate fruit lover who doesn’t want veggies
• VEGGIE ONLY For the avid chef and juicer
• SNACK PACK A variety of easy-to-eat fruit options for offices looking to offer healthy snacks
Customers can also select a delivery frequency— every week, every other week, or every three or four weeks. Add on options include: organic cage-free and pasture-raised eggs and organic trail mix plus a selection of farm products. Every delivery comes with 100% certified organic produce, a farm newsletter and recipes.
The full range of service options is available to view at www.farmfreshtoyou.com.
THE EXPERIENCE — Since the farm’s beginning; educating the people on sustainable farming practices has been a top priority. CAPAY ORGANIC offers the perfect setting for school groups of all ages to truly experience a farm. Students will enjoy learning about sustainable farming and what it takes to bring fruit and vegetables to the table.
Come to the farm and enjoy the following:
- FARM TALK — hear about the many steps it takes to run a farm from planning, plowing, watering, harvesting and packing.
- TRACTOR-TRAM RIDES — take a tractor-tram ride around the farm and get your hands dirty by participating in a harvest activity. Harvest a crop and take home something for dinner that night.
- PLANTING A CROP — Learn how to plant a seedling.
- RELEASE LADYBUGS — Release ladybugs into the fields so that plants can easily defend themselves.
- COMPOST ACTIVITY — Learn about the steps and breakdown process of making compost, which is a key ingredient to organic farming.
- FARM-FRESH SNACK — Enjoy a fresh, seasonal fruit or vegetable harvested right from our farm.
- COMMUNITY OUTREACH — Sustainable agriculture is not only about caring for the land but also about caring for the health and well-being of a community.
Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit For Sustainable Agriculture
The KATHLEEN BARSOTTI NON-PROFIT was created in memory of Kathleen Barsotti, a pioneer in the organic and sustainable agriculture movement and founder of Farm Fresh To You, a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) service, delivering farm-fresh, local, organic produce to homes and offices in California.
The non-profit was established to promote the method of agriculture Kathy supported that preserves the land for future generations, protects the people who work on the farm and contributes to the local economy.
In 2009, the KATHLEEN BARSOTTI NON-PROFIT began its activities by awarding a $500 scholarship to a young woman planning to study viticulture. That same year, the non-profit gave out 71 backpacks complete with age-appropriate school supplies to the children of farm workers in the Capay Valley.
Today, the non-profit awards an annual scholarship to students planning on pursuing a field related to sustainable agriculture and in 2015 donated 851 backpacks to farmworkers’ children.
Partnering With Regional Food Banks
FARM FRESH TO YOU and CAPAY ORGANIC have partnered with a number of food banks, selling produce at cost and donating produce.
Last year, the farm donated 100,000 lbs. of produce to the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services providing nearly 2,000 households with a four-day supply of organic fruits and vegetables.
In the first year of our Donate-A-Box program, Farm Fresh To You and its customers donated over 10,000 boxes of fresh produce to six food bank partners in California, including the SF-Marin Food Bank, Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, Yolo County Food Bank, Volunteers of America LA, Westside Food Bank (Los Angeles) and The Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank.
Providing Fresh Produce To Schools
In 2012, FARM FRESH TO YOU and CAPAY ORGANIC entered into a groundbreaking partnership with Yolo County in Northern California for its Harvest of the Month program for all elementary schools and Head Start pre-schools countywide.
The farm provides local, fresh, organic produce in partnership with other local farms to 36 school sites in the county in addition to nutrition education materials.
“Harvest of the Month will help to teach the next generation to value fresh produce and to connect with the farmers and land that grow their food,” said Thaddeus Barsotti, chief farmer and co-CEO. “Working with the county, schools and local farms to provide field trips to the farm and produce to school children is a model that every county should adopt.
WHAT IS CERTIFIED ORGANIC?
“Try this, it’s organic!” Farmers market customers would stop, sample the local produce this farm boy was peddling and ask: “What does organic mean?” A common response: “It’s grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.” In the 1980’s, the organic movement was just taking hold and its roots were with small family farms that were selling produce directly to the public.
Today, the phrase “Certified Organic” is legally defined by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) and certified by third-party organic certidier who are accredited by the NOP. Organic certification is strictly an amendment-based standard, meaning there exists a list of items that can be used on organic farms; every thing else is prohibited. In general, if you can find these items in nature, they are organic. If the items have been chemically altered from the form in which they were found in nature, they are likely prohibited materials.
Here are some examples of what is and what is not permitted when farming organically:
- Genetic Material (seed, transplants or trees): GMOs are not permitted nor are seeds treated with non-organic fungicides or pesticides. Heirloom and hybrid seeds are permitted in organic farming systems.
- Fertilizers (items used to feed crops and soil): organic examples include cover crops, green waste compost, processed chicken feathers, processed fish and seaweed products, gypsum and sulfur.
- Herbicides (items used to control weeds): There are not many effective organic herbicides, hand weeding and maintaining clean fields are the most effective methods. There are some plant oils, natural acids and flame burners that can also be used.
- Pesticides (items used to control pests): There are some effective soaps, predator y insects, plant-based extracts and bacteria used to organically control insect pests. Rodents, mammals or birds are often controlled with deterrent methods (fences, scare tactics), and they may be trapped if permit ted by the local fish and game regulations. The truth is that of ten on organic farms, the pests win and the crop is lost.
- Fungicides (items used to control fungi). Sulfur dust and copper are organic materials that are permit ted organic materials.
Crops are organic when they are grown on a piece of land without any non-organic material applied to the land for the past three years. Each year, a certified organic farm is inspected by a third-party certifier who walks fields, reviews receipts and inspects existing inventor y and other records to verify y that an organic farm is only using materials permitted by the National Organic Program’s standards.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE?
Sustainable agriculture is the management of a food system that will produce the same volume and quality of food with the same amount of resources in perpetuity.
It is tempting to only address the environmental part of sustainability, focusing on eliminating the use of fossil fuels, not transporting products, minimizing soil tillage, not adding any external fertilizers, using only heirloom seed varieties and watering crops just enough to keep them alive.
The reality is that farming systems that do this, unless backed by a deep-pocketed investor, will go out of business and their land will be picked up by other farming systems that have an economically sustainable system and perhaps do not even care about environmental sustainability.
The best and most sustainable farms and food systems are the ones that focus on the right blend of economic and environmental sustainability – these are the food systems that will nurture the unborn generations from whom we are borrowing these resources.
The following are the core components that define the realistic blend of sustainability in the food system we influence – please note that most of these items are not a required for organic certification.
Local Fertilizers: Cover crops are the most sustainable fertilizer period – they are the cornerstone of our fertilization program. After a healthy cover crop, the most local, organic fertilizers should be considered next, which depend entirely on a farm’s location.
Irrigation and Water Management: In order to maximize the use of fertilizers, land and equipment use, a plant must have as much water as it wants. This is most sustainably done by using irrigation systems that have excellent distribution uniformity y (drip, micro-sprinklers and hand move sprinklers) and these systems are operated on an irrigation schedule that matches plant-water-use requirements while taking into account factors like weather and development stage of the crop.
Year-round Employees: Farm employees are an essential and often overlooked component of a sustainable food system. These men and women are the backbone of the farming industry y that work extremely hard and earn surprisingly small wages. It is essential that this group of people have year-round work so they can sustain their families and their communities. By managing many different crops and focusing on creating year-round work, our farm is able to provide sustainable jobs to most of our farm team.
Crop Rotation: The most sustainable form of plant disease prevention is to rotate different types of crops through the same field. Soil that receives the same crops year-after-year breed the diseases that harm that crop, which build up to levels in soil that may permanently eliminate the soil’s ability to grow certain crops (without adding toxic chemicals that are not organic nor healthy for anything). Crop rotation also helps promote biodiversity on farms and maintains year-round employment for the farm team.
Biodiversity: Farms manage land and resources that used to be the home to an untold variety and amount of wildlife.