Put your hoes down; Bay Area farm celebrates harvest and community

On Saturday, October 3, 2010, I attended Full Belly Farm’s annual Hoes Down festival at their beautiful farm in Capay Valley, CA. What a magical day. The sun was shining all over the polyculture farm, the pigs were eating muck, and delicious, responsibly-raised hamburgers were grilling. Children of all ages were everywhere: weaving baskets, running through the fields, exploring the hay maze structure. There was no end to the delectable food options; I walked around wishing I had five stomachs to fill instead of just one, small, generally vegetarian stomach. There were bike-powered smoothies, crunchy seaweed snacks, grilled oysters with garlic and butter, and fruit of all sorts.

This was a day of celebration, when local residents and not-so-local fans of the farm came together to celebrate the harvest. It also marks the seasonal transition into lower production that October brings on a farm like Full Belly. Many camp overnight at the farm and wake up in the morning to a hot or cold community breakfast and more workshops.

What I loved most about being at the farm for this event was how thoughtfully every aspect had been planned. There was little guilt or worry in attending. We used reusable dishes for the food. There was recycling, composting, and very little landfill (if any). Attendees short on cash got more at a solar powered ATM. There were plenty of opportunities to spend responsibly on locally produced products at various booths. Water containers were positioned all over the farm so we could fill our canteens on this seriously hot fall day. Old and young delighted in the horse-drawn carriage that ferried them from the parking lot to the festival. The organizers at Full Belly thought of everything. Participants chose from dozens of workshops throughout the day, where they learned skills ranging from herbal medicine to beekeeping to how to raise temperamental chickens. There were discussions on eating seasonally and on the leading role women are taking in the food movement.

For those of us who live in the city, this day was a special way to support the amazing people who grow our food. It was also an opportunity to celebrate the changing of the seasons, an occurrence that is easy to forget in sunny California. Thank you to all those at Full Belly Farms who put together this beautiful, inspiring day of dancing, music, food and fun. I’ll see you next year!

Photos by Janet Frishberg.


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