Only in the Bay Area does summer start with cold fog and drizzle. Luckily the weather has been perfect since May and most of the crops on our farm in Sonoma have taken advantage. The tomato plants are already 2 ½ feet tall, and the summer squash is starting to produce a lot of fruit. As the farm grows, we continue to diversify the operation to improve the quality of the land and offer a more complete learning experience for our staff and community members who are involved.
As an extension of our Food Waste Challenge, and furthering our goal of learning what goes into making the food we sell, we’re raising pigs on our farm for the first time!
Every morning, our produce staff collects a 50 gallon bag of veggie scraps from the Market. We also have a slop bucket to collect dairy products and bread at expiration–all ingredients for the perfect pig slop. Every time anyone drives up to Sonoma, they bring a few buckets of these scraps that would otherwise go into the compost. We’re excited to limit the amount of waste at the store and in turn raise beautiful and healthy animals. The pigs are tended to on a daily basis, and love when Farmer Riley sprays them down with the hose and assists them in building their mud baths. Since this is our first time raising pigs, we’re not quite sure when they’ll hit that perfect weight to harvest them, but our eight little piggies are growing fast–feeding the pigs is the new favorite activity at the farm!
Garlic is a crop that takes a lot of help from Bi-Rite staff to harvest and process, but is worth it so we can have something growing in the fields in the middle of the winter when most crops struggle. It’s usually planted in late Fall and not harvested until 8-9 months later. In order to plant a garlic crop, all of the bulbs have to be broken into individual cloves and planted 4-6 inches into the ground. The crop usually needs weeding at least a couple times throughout the season. When it comes time to harvest, we carefully dig up each bulb and hang them in large bunches to dry out. When the moisture’s almost gone, the greens and roots are cut off, and the dirty outer layer peeled off each head.
This year I decided to grow our biggest crop of garlic yet, yielding plenty to share with our guests! We planted the garlic cloves in mid-October and harvested them the 2nd week of June. Unfortunately, the soil that we planted the garlic in was lacking in nutrients and didn’t produce large heads of garlic, but these lil suckers have large, easy-to-peel cloves, and are extra flavorful! This was a learning experience for Riley and I, and continues to shine the light on the importance of crop rotation and adding amendments to the soil, whether through cover crops or compost. We’re cleaning up the garlic right now and it should be in the produce department by July 1st.
One thing we’ve learned is that pigs don’t like eating garlic (or onions, or citrus)…simpler flavors for these guys!