Paul Underhill is a partner in Terra Firma Farm, where he manages crop production on 220 acres in the southern Sacramento Valley. Terra Firma Farm raises certified organic vegetables year-round, as well as fruit and nuts, which they sell through a 1200-member CSA in Sacramento, Davis, and San Francisco, as well as through retailers, wholesalers, and restaurant accounts.
Paul gives us a look into operating at scale, including the logistics of a thousand-member CSA. We also get a peek at the equipment he’s found useful at this scale, including a relatively inexpensive GPS system, multiple-bed equipment, and low-tech harvest tools.
Terra Firma Farm has been around since the 1980s, and Paul tells us about the many changes to California’s food and agriculture scene, and the impact those have had on Terra Firma’s employment practices, equipment-acquisition opportunities, CSA program, and food safety practices. Paul also shares the story of how he became a partner at Terra Firma Farm, and how they make their partnership work.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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Quotes from the Show
I think we still have 1,200 paid subscribers, but we’re only delivering 900 boxes per week.
It’s hard to avoid produce in California. You walk down the street, there’s a farmer’s market. You walk into a store, and there’s a giant display of beautiful produce. You go into a restaurant and everything’s local. Californians are super spoiled about produce.
People have really high standards here and it makes doing a CSA harder.
Just because you can grow something here doesn’t mean you should.
Farming in the winter here is more like farming in the summer [in Pennsylvania].
One of the reasons that we do is to try to do as much cover cropping as possible.
For as big as 150 acres sounds, the reality of our farm is that, because we farm all year ‘round, we do numerous successions on a not-huge scale.
Terra Firma Farm uses Farmigo to manage their CSA.
Paul uses pallet-sized MacroBins extensively in the farm’s harvest operations.
Terra Firma Farm uses an inexpensive GPS system from Lefebure for bed layout .
One of Paul’s favorite tools is his Holland 1275 plastic mulch transplanter.