203. Why We Farm Stories of California Farmers | Elvira Di’Brigit | Capay Valley, CA

I’m super excited to introduce my guest today who I think I have a lot in common with as she is also a Farmer’s wife and writer! I think we both have a passion for biographies! She’s written a book about some farms in California so I hope some listeners will learn about some farms in their own neighborhoods!

Why We Farm by Elvira Di'Brigit Capay Valley CA

Why We Farm: Farmers’ Stories of Growing Our Food and Sustaining Their Business 

Why We Farm: Farmers’ Stories of Growing Our Food and Sustaining Their Business is a book for people who want to know the whole truth about life as a modern day farmer. Each chapter features a different model of farming. Farmers share the stories behind their work and their lives on the farm; the business side of production, the personal challenges they face, and words of advice for the would-be-farmer. The book asks hard questions and gives a reverent yet realistic picture of a thriving local food system.

Elvira Di’Brigit is the farmer’s wife and cat-herder at The Gettleshtetl Gardens, where they grow organic olives, walnuts, and much more. She has been a resident of the Capay Valley for over 15 years. Becoming familiar with the valley’s landscapes and people is what inspired her to write Why We Farm.

The Farmers

  •  (Leapfrog Farm)
  • Learn how one farmer makes a living from a one-acre crop. (Cache Creek LavenderCache Creek Lavender) (Full Belly Farm)
  • Read about people who chose to start farming in their retirement. (Capay Valley Vineyards and Grumpy Goats Farm Olive Oil)
  • See how livestock ranchers are adopting ecologically beneficial methods. (Skyelark Ranch, Riverdog Farm, and Pasture 42)

I’m super excited to introduce my guest today who I think I have a lot in common with as she is also a Farmer’s wife and writer! I think we both have a passion for biographies! She’s written a book about some farms in California so I hope some listeners will learn about some farms in their own neighborhoods!

Why We Farm

Why We Farm is a book for people who want to know the whole truth about life as a modern day farmer. Each chapter features a different model of farming. Farmers share the stories behind their work and their lives on the farm; the business side of production, the personal challenges they face, and words of advice for the would-be-farmer. The book asks hard questions and gives a reverent yet realistic picture of a thriving local food system.

Elvira Di’Brigit is the farmer’s wife and cat-herder at The Gettleshtetl Gardens, where they grow organic olives, walnuts, and much more. She has been a resident of the Capay Valley for over 15 years. Becoming familiar with the valley’s landscapes and people is what inspired her to write Why We Farm.

Why We Farm by Elvira Di'Brigit Capay Valley CA

Why We Farm: Farmers’ Stories of Growing Our Food and Sustaining Their Business

Tell us a little about yourself.

I like seeing your bio on your website, my husband does a lot of the farming and I come out and help sometimes. I used to go to Montana every summer. My grandparents lived in Coures d’Alene

outside of Troy, MT

I was lucky to spend the summers there.

Spending the summers in the garden

  • learning about homesteading
  • animals
  • big vegetable garden

more about myself

I grew up in the Bay Area in California

when I had children really started looking around for a place to live

a little healthier environment

that’s how I got into the organic 

Healthy Salad

Capay Valley

good questions

a lot of people who live near by have not even heard of CApay Valley it’s a little secret

west of davis, sacramento

about an hour

California has a big central valley that takes up most of the state

from the first foothills to the west

napa valley

one more set of hills

3 children 2 are all grown out of house

a little older

yep

secrued this route to getting to the Capay Valley we found about it

knowing about Wilbur Hot springs

wilderness retreat space

10 miles north of the Capay Valley

exploring looking for land

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

no, I think it was really with my grandparents actually moved from Brooklyn NY to Idaho

drove out west with them saw them buy their place

so excited to till up the backyard

till up their garden

helping with harvesting weeding

really my f

drove from Brooklyn

they had a fascination with the west

they had driven their daughters a couple of times in the 50s and 60s and they loved it all their friends were moving to florida

my grandmother

How did you learn how to garden organically?

Yeah, I don’t think my grandparents were strictly organic limit their use of pesticides

organic wasn’t such a big thing in those years

It was really

I was always pretty health conscious as a teenager

exploring being a vegetarian

when I had my children

didn’t want anything that could be a pollutant

years to come

that journey

that I started looking around for good food

Like I said it was really hard to find back then in Berkely which is a really progressive area there might have been a few options

here when I moved

nugget market in Woodland

and asking them where is your organic produce section

it was just out of that search

where can I go that I can find good healthy food

we were looking

do we want to be dependent on a city system of water where we don’t have control

reliable source for watering the garden

we’re really lucky in the upper Capay valley to have  few different sources of water

good ground water

ditch across the upper

just under 3 acres
small compared

we were lucky to buy this property before the big bubble

before the recession

fluctuating land prices…

I moved to the Capay Valley with my children looking for a healthier lifestyle

I am a teacher I was homeschooling my children because it’s a far drive to the public school

getting to know those families

kept having these questions and curiosities

The Farmers

these people are working so hard is it really worth it?

and I saw over the years, the first 10 years that I knew them, wide variety

years they were doing really well, years it was a struggle

passion for what they were doing

really important thing for other people to know

well he declined

Organic Farmer

so my husband was an organic farmer in Massachusetts for a few years out of college built up his own business there left to move to California

never been able to get that out of his system

homestead here operating that like a farm

has a full time job

mostly a homestead

12 years ago

  • planted an acre of olives
  • wlatnut trees planted before we got here

do sell commercially mostly to friends and family

have’t had to do big marketing

mostly just try to can and dry food

whenever someone comes to visit we make a

we’ve done a little bit of planting wheat a few rows

you can get a lot of wheat out of a few rows

the tricky part is threshing and winnowing

spoiled the first time we did it

our friend tim had borrowed or bought an auction

mini combine

used at UCDavis for expeiemitnetal growing

great clean wheat with

never came back here again

real struggles like last year

harvested let it sit outing a container

wheat

oils not gonna be any

I told a little bit about my farm

then I can

tried to get a wide diversity

business models the farmers were using

big focus of the book

techniques

farming

Annie Henner is a great woman, she has a great story.

She grew up nearby in Woodland

her parents were good friends with the farmers in this valley

spend a lot of time at her best friends house which happened to be a farm

whole time never interested in farming

hanging out drawing with her friend and just being a kid

went to school to be an artist

she is an artist

has accomplished many things with her artist

took on some jobs as a college student in gardens and farms

  • loved being outside
  • working with her hands
  • grow this food

interactions with the people when she’s selling the food that’s what keeps her going

couple of years after college her parents moved to Capay Valley

leased some of their farmland

just her by herself

money saved up from work she had done over the summers

started out with a few crops going to farmer’s

Learn how one farmer makes a living from a one-acre crop.

Cache Creek Lavender

Charlie is the main farmer there

interesting business model

right across the street with a similar sized property

3 acres

  • 1 acre in lavendar
  • makes all kinds of products
  • started out just selling the driver lavender
  • realized how much of a demand there was for any kind of lavender
  • 20 or more products
  • some of that lavender he buys as essential oil
  • doesn’t produce all of his own lavender

fresh, dried lavendar

  • all these other products
  • that he makes
  • does some mail order
  • primarily goes to some
  • that brings up an interesting question what’s the range for local food

a lot of stores will say 100-150 miles

something for our culture

Capay Valley is about an hour to get to the Bay Bridge to go to markets in the Bay area

some farmer’s drive to the south of Bay

Why We Farm by Elvira Di'Brigit

Palo Alto Market

definietly worth it for them economically to go to these markets

environmental questions

how

Diffeent people had different techniques and strategies

what surprised me the most when I worked on this project/book

risks of farming

inherent risks acts of god

farming will have up and down years

what surprised me

a lot of the risks are

also

fluctuating markets

new trends for what people want to eat

their need to be innovative

different strategies people used

Blue Heron Farm

walnuts as kind of back up in case Citrus had a bad year

can have frost

summer tomato and squash products

that was one of their strategies

farmers were thinking of other strategies

what we’re gonna be

new market trends

new vegetable that everyone would be real excited about

CSA is a really something that really got the organic farmers here started

still a healthy

still ordering their produce

in a box once a week, subscribing to that farm

competing markets

want a meal in a box not just a box of veggies

a subscription where they get a whole meal packaged

how to work with those markets

all different ways to stay relevant

they’re all motivated fro a few different reasons

feleling like they’re doing such an important job in the world

producing

Treeny Riverdog talked about how going to the Saturday market for more then 20 years now, seeing babies that were raised on her food some probably working at her market on satrudyas recognizing how important it is

  • enjoying outside
  • being closer to nature

another reason is

also

They grow mostly vegetables have had different specialties over the eyars.

Indigo

At one point they grew indigo for a fashion designer who wanted to

flower

herb with a flower

did grow a plot of that on special request to help this person with her project

how they got into having hogs on their farm by accident

big part of their business selling sausage and pork.

They sell to

they have CSA

direct to people

a lot of the wholesale stores in the area and sell to restaurant

Vera

Biodynamic

owner is plant breeder

organic and colored cotton for many years now

that was interesting while she’s struggling to keep it financially stable farm

she sells some cotton

made into fabric

she also has wheat and sheep which she can

get wool and meat from so she has other income streams

also selling these seeds so she can market these

harmful dyes

green and tan

darker brown

she just prefers to go with the natural colors

Full Belly Farm

has quite a reputation around here in California and some national attention

just a really successful organic farm

owners

are advocates for organic

proactive being part of

restart

commnity

statewide political scene

changes in agriculture

policy making

letting people know what an organic farmer needs to survive

they’ve always been open to people coming to learning

interns there

school groups come and visit the farm

even though they don’t have like a consistent

professional training

learning from them n various ways

weekend day of meetings there

for farmer’s non farmers

workshops and mini-conferences

There’s Blue Heron

was talking about having to go in and out of debt

putting in a new well, a few farmer’s have had to do

during the drought years

that was coming up more

advice was

planning ahead

also

willing to take those risks

again

  • knowing your market
  • having to put in some investment
  • not being afraid

Better success then others,

quality of it

some has a lot of boron and salts

people who have spent a lot of money on a well and the water quality

Cache Creek

some people have water rights up there if their land is up against

irrigate and pay for a pump

few of us there’s an old irrigation ditch

dug to divert that creek water to be on the other side of the valley

big concern of agriculture

water

other parts of CA where people were hit a lot worse

farmer’s had different sources

change some of the ways that they farm

water intensive crops

really bad drought years

not plant much sweet corn at all

consumers have to do without out…

Well it seems like the Ca drought has ended

a cyclical thing

we’re on to rain water

last year

plants are looking really good

more corn being grown

other areas

drought and hardships

wonder weather

farmer’s are here might not be growing as much corn

recoup some losses…

in the hills

don’t usually come down into the valley

sometimes in the past

summer days

whole sky

native american community

designated burning at different times of year

Why We Farm Gettleshtetl Gardens at the Farmer's Market

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

When I go to the store

I hardly ever look in the produce

cheese locally

something

I buy

this year has been really nice

all the plants have been looking beautiful

right amount of rain

a lot of cucumbers

some in a greenhouse

early start

out in our garden

lot of plums

peaches

i haven’t really got into pickling so much

fermented

want to learn how to do that

fresh pickles in the fridge

Why We Farm NutHarvest

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

IDK what we have in the garden for next year

protect our grapes

tried putting paper bags around

small clusters

I was surprised they did grow in those clusters

animals

coming g…

not even totally sure

raccoons

turkeys

have been coming around

we’re gonna have to do some more experimenting

used to

2 long rows of grapes

40 quarts of juice

last couple of years

barely

table grapes

wine grapes

some varieties that like the cold

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

cukes

OliveHarvest Service2

Before we get to the root of things lets thank our sponsors

Simply Josephine

Shop Simply Josephine for a 15% discount today!

simply josepine (1)

audible logo

audible.com

Let’s get to the root of things…

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.

I try to come out an help with

I like to do planting

weeding is probably not my favorite

when it;s really hot

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

harvesting

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

Maybe putting shade on the peppers I was surprised

some kind of shade cloth from the landscaping store

I would like to plan the planting so they are in the shade of taller

don’t have to worry

hoop house style

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

I personally really like my little hand tools, hand trowels and spades an things

one interesting story for my husband is this big hoe

he got in guatamala got the metal part and put it in his suitcase back in the day

had to build the handle for it out of wood

that hoe is one of his favorite….

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

Cukes

put them in a smoothie with

avacado

mint

stevia

coconut milk if I have it

kale or spinach

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog?

Ask todd…

I know he loves the Scott Nearing and Ellen books

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

Well one thing I would say is start small. Start where you re with means that you have. Don’t have to buy land first, lease land

grow how your business grows

own experience olives

good luck selling that through friends and family

emailing

harvested and have fresh oil

did hear podcast with

Floret Flowers

Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Seasonal Blooms 

it was about telling your story too.

people want to buy from people they know

making that connection with customer

true they have a lot of energy

people who started farming after retirement

doing really well

it is possible for sure

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

In keeping with the theme of my book, Why We Farm planning to donate some of the proceeds of this book, with a land trust

especially

closer to city

urban farming ideas

outskirts of cities

too expensive for new farmers to start

one thing I would like to see change

it’s been a real learning journey

steep learning curve

glad to have learned

theres so many valuable stories to tell

so lucky in this day and age

print on demand so much more affordable

That was a big part of it

my own curiosity

stories shared

closet writer

writing my own journals

creative writing projects

took me about 2 years

at the beginning

really

just even going to interview people

challenge

transcribe

I did

after the first interview

I need to be able to go back and listen to these again

get some real quotes

took my iPad with voice recorder

it went ok for me

Idk, didn’t have to many problems

worried about it

back it up as an mp3

didn’t take too much room

drop box make sure

maybe

haven’t decided yet

did tell my son I wouldn’t write another book till he got out of High School

FAmilySelfie

How do we connect with you?

Our farm website Gettleshtetl

EndOfDayOct2017.jpg

best way to get it to my website

Why We Farm by Elvira Di'Brigit Capay Valley CA

WHYWEFARMCAPAY.com

when you go there there are couple of different ways you can buy it,

create space store

amazon

share that with

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.

Leave a Comment