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Food is cropping up all over!

Farm Fuel staff have been working with farmers in their orchards, strawberry fields, and rows of tomatoes witnessing the veracity of ASD and mustard seed meal soil treatments. Whether it's the extra green growth caused by a good jolt of pre-plant nitrogen fertilizer or a disease-free send-off for new strawberry plants due to ASD application, our products and services are proving themselves useful and will lead to increased yields.

Dave Benner of El Vista Orchards has been living on this beautiful farm all his life. Working with his brother and son, he now manages 500 acres in Adams County, Pennsylvania. He took us on a farm tour in May so we could see the rows where he applied mustard seed meal for new apple and peach orchards. Planting every variety you can imagine -- but mostly what the market is demanding now (and hopefully in three years when the apples are ready) -- Dave is enthusiastic about trying this OMRI-listed mustard seed meal even though he farms conventionally.
And on the left coast you'll find Bill Piexoto, who has been growing apples for direct market sales in Corralitos, California since 1980. Periodically, of course, trees get old and need to be replaced, but there can be problems. "I just stopped replanting trees until I heard about mustard seed meal," he tells us.

Piexoto is part of a long-term trial with Farm Fuel.  Fernando and Anna measured the trunks of trees with a caliper just above the first pruning node. These trees were planted in late 2013 using different amounts of mustard seed meal to compare results.  As far as qualitative data goes, Piexoto is convinced that mustard seed meal makes vigorous, healthy plants, no matter the variety or the rate applied. He showed us examples of trees that had mustard seed meal applied vs.ones that didn't, and he said that mustard seed meal trees had more buds, more fruit, and less bare spots on the tree.
Even so, 2014 and 2015 were very strange years due to drought and lack of chill hours, so some of the trees had anomalous blossoms on June 1 when we took the measurements, and you can see in this photo the odd tall branch with no leaves culminating in a leafy top, the result of drought.
Soil Carbon Lessons Learned - Report on April 9 Soil Carbon and Water Course
by Fernando Garcia

On a misty April morning (let’s face it – it was raining), a small, yet determined band of humans emerged from the Eucalyptus forest for a very special gathering.

Led by Peter Donovan, head of the Soil Carbon Coalition and Kelly Mulville, farm manager at Paicines Ranch, the attendees were drawn by a shared curiosity on soil health, ever growing climate change-induced anxiety, and most importantly, the prospect of a delicious locally-sourced lunch.

Co-sponsored by Farm Fuel, CASFS -- UCSC Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, CalCAN -- California Climate Action Network, Slow Food California, and the Resource Conservation Districts (RCD's) of Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties, the event was attended by everyone from 20-year-old Cabrillo College students to octogenarian filmmakers. Farm managers, teachers, and agency and nonprofit representatives made up the rest. There is hope that lessons from the class will be widely disseminated.

Peter Donovan

Peter delivered a powerful message on how humans have attempted to bend and resist the laws of nature and how such resistance has dramatically depleted the Earth’s soil carbon content. He then spoke of the sheer capacity of the human mind, and the potential such a collective force could have on mitigating the destructive effects of unsustainable practices if we start to integrate nature’s laws into our agriculture and industries. 

Kelly then spoke of how he and his team are putting this philosophy to work through the innovative integration of sheep on his experimental vineyard. This is a system which mimics the passing of a herd, in which the grape vines benefit from short term grazing and weeding by the sheep, while also receiving a healthy dose of natural fertilizer from the generous critters after their meal.

One participant, Coleen Douglas, remembers the afternoon’s group participation session:
“I learned that the main local benefits of soil carbon are water and productivity.  Soils accept and hold more water as a result of carbon, because they create and maintain aggregate structure, which maintains porosity. Peter taught us the water infiltration test for soils using a simple ring of pipe, and we practiced in various parts of the landscape.  Water infiltration responds rapidly to changes in soil management, giving us valuable feedback,” she says.

At the end of the day, there was much knowledge to digest and reflect on but there was one take away message from Peter Donovan that truly resonated with me: One must continuously strive to improve the range and quality of one’s ignorance.

Check out the Soil Carbon Coalition website for inspirational projects from around the nation, and keep an eye on Paicines Ranch for educational programs in the near future.

And a big thank you to our food donors: Morris Grassfed Beef, Fogline Farms, Route 1 Farms, Lakeside Organics, Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, P and K Farms for succulent strawberries, NewNatives for microgreens, Companion Bakeshop for Local Loaves (wheat grown by Dale Coke in San Juan Bautista), and the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley for gluten-free bread.
Staff Highlights
Taylor Hoover, our Most Recently Graduated Staff Member! At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo he focused on Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences. This major provides a thorough overview of Environmental Horticulture Science, Fruit and Crop Science, and Plant Protection.
When not hiking around May Lake in the beautiful high Sierras (pictured) Lucy Toyama has been working on developing research trials to expand and enhance the product offerings of Farm Fuel. She is also polishing her crown as Queen of Regulatory Responsiveness.
Fernando Garcia works as a research assistant setting up research trials and collecting data on the performance of current and potential products. He also helps in the biodiesel making process, writes the occasional article, shoots photos and produces short films.
And returning from a stint as a W-WOOFer on Maui, Anna Brown rejoins our staff just in time for NorCal ASD season.
Apple saplings planted into soil treated with Pescadero Gold Mustard Meal Pellets in Adams County, Pennsylvania
Dave was thrilled that the rains had stopped so he could get into his fields again. (We thought the lingering clouds made a gorgeous reflection in one of his ponds.)
SWEEP Grant Deadline is August 5, 2016. Up to $200,000 per farm available for water conservation efforts. Check out the helpful CDFA website for a technical assistance class schedule and links to forms.
Jannet Schraer of Whiskey Hill Farm pointing out her June turmeric and other companion plants in the Freedom greenhouse. Farm partner David Blume says "Mustard seed meal is an essential part of our program." They bought 2 tons of meal in February when the last of their 2015 turmeric crop came out of the ground.
Ta Da! The Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD) summary is ready for reading. The detailed 2016 ASD issue brief, created by one of Farm Fuel's partners, the Pesticide Action Network North America, is based on a 3-year grant from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
In June, Stefanie visited Good Stead Farm in Hope Michigan, a CSA-based organic operation. To work in high tunnels without going to the expense and hassle of moving them, mustard seed meal is sometimes an excellent input when rotation is not an option.
Ann Coyle, of Ada, Michigan, is trying mustard seed meal for the first time in her raised beds. "Last year when we first moved in, the garden didn't do too well, so we're trying something new," she tells us.
Mycelium feed on each mustard seed meal pellet as the soil gets ready to receive and nurture new plants.
Biodiesel Dispatch
by Margaret Farrow

Farm Fuel was founded by farmers in 2007 interested in growing their own fuel.

Inspired by the wild mustard growing alongside the highway, they hoped to turn an overlooked local resource into “liquid gold."

Fast forward to the present, Farm Fuel produces between 50 – 100 gallons of high quality mustard-seed-oil biodiesel every week for use in our off-road diesel farm equipment. That's enough fuel savings to put a new roof on the hen house and then some!

Why do we love our biodiesel? Lots of reasons!

For starters, we save money on fuel and it's better for the environment. Biodiesel is a biodegradable,  renewable fuel which – depending on how it's produced – contributes significantly less to global climate change than petroleum fuels.

What we know about biodiesel and it's impact on climate change has shifted since it became commercially available over a decade ago. Initially biodiesel's enthusiastic reception by the public was based on it's impressive lower greenhouse gas (GHG) tailpipe emissions; it was often touted as a carbon neutral fuel due to the carbon absorbed from the atmosphere by the oil crops during their growth phase.

However we now know for biodiesel to be considered a truly low-carbon fuel we must carefully consider it's cradle-to-grave analysis and effects on food markets.

For biodiesel to be considered low carbon intensive, the oil used to produce it must not divert oil resources used for food production.  When soil is diverted away from food production it encourages deforestation by farmers as they seek to turn more acreage into oil producing land.

The oil used to produce Farm Fuel's biodiesel is now a byproduct of the mustard meal seed pressing process that is our commercial focus. Our mustard meal helps farmers grow more food with less harmful chemicals.

We are very excited for the possibility of sourcing mustard seed grown by California farmers as a cover crop or on fallowed land for weed suppression purposes.

Please contact Farm Fuel if you want to become one of our mustard seed growers!

Lastly,  I want to give a quick “shout out” to Springboard Biodiesel, the manufacturer of the biodiesel processor we use. Their BioPro 190 simplifies the fuel making process and we get good results every time.

And More
Staff Highlights
Kurt Jacobson, our energetic farm advisor, has run his own farm and worked for a variety of large growers in the Central Coast area of California since the 1980's. (He knows all the players and how they operate.) And he's not afraid to listen and tell you what's up.
Margaret Farrow, makes the Biodiesel operation more efficient and improves safety in the Warehouse. She spent six years helping set up the BioFuel Oasis in Berkeley and recently completed a 6-month apprenticeship at the UCSC Farm.
Kid Sizes!
Yes we have kid sizes! Get your hoodies and hats today on our website
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