About Our Farm

Mano Farm is a certified organic seed and produce farm located in Ojai, California. We farm year-round, emphasizing the use of human labor and hand tools. We offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships to residents of the Ojai Valley and sell our seeds through our sister company, All Good Things Organic Seeds . We are also proponents of food justice, a movement that seeks to increase the availability of nutritious, healthy food to low-income individuals and families.

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    Greetings all,

    Summer arrives late for us down here in Southern Cali, and with the mild last couple months we’ve experienced, no one here was betting we’d get out of this thing without at least a couple weeks of scorchers. The harsh rays of sun have been burning a number of our purple bell peppers as is a common summer occurrence for this region, creating mushy, thin patches causing them to ripen unevenly and rot shortly after harvest. Our other smaller peppers have not been seeing many problems of this nature luckily, and a delicious alternative for the limited bell peppers are the Nardello sweet peppers. They are brilliantly red, long and skinny with a thinner flesh than bell peppers. They have the shape of hot peppers but are actually sweet, and are excellent for throwing on the grill whole or chopping up for a roast. I enjoy roasting them en masse with olive oiled eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, herbs and onions which I then blend with fresh basil into a chunky sauce. I keep it in my fridge and use it as you would a pesto or for a bruschetta topping. It also works well as a pizza sauce. See the recipe for this simple sauce below, or visit our website to find it.

    You may be wondering where all the tomatoes have been, as the supply has been decreasing for about a month or so now. I had planted a healthy stand of mixed heirlooms and sauce tomatoes in the south field earlier in the summer for a late season crop, but the deer have been moving in at night and trimming the tomato bushes into compact, unproductive ball-shaped hedges. They even came closer to camp and began knocking off all the maturing fruit from the mid-season stand of Costoluto Genovese tomatoes just as they were beginning to ripen. I responded by creating fabric tents out of Agribon row-covers which have so far saved the vines from further predation and are responsible for the small crop we harvested last week. Here’s hoping that we are able to get more before the cold weather returns.

    We are approaching the two month mark of attendance at the Ojai Farmer’s market, which also marks nearly two straight months of seven day work weeks for me. Luckily, I have been able to hire two part-time workers with the modest extra funds we’ve been generating from the market. Combined with the semi-regular volunteer pool, the extra work harvesting has been manageable at least for the time being. The potential for burnout has been hovering in the distance however, and I am very much looking forward to the arrival of winter and the extra time that it will provide for contemplation of our farm’s marketing strategy for 2015. I would be lying if I said that juggling both the farmer’s market and CSA has been easy, but I am confident that I can continue to uphold both for the remainder of this year at least.

    Our CSA is offering culinary hibiscus in shares today, and for those who are unfamiliar with it, it is the same hibiscus commonly used in herbal teas or Mexican jamaica. It has a tart taste similar to cranberries and is very high in vitamin C. In order to use it:

    1. Peel off the outer red calyces and set aside for use
    2. Discard the inner white seed pod
    3. Either dry the red petal-like calyces on your countertop before using in loose leaf tea blends, or use them fresh such as in a lemonade or as a sauce flavoring.

    The photographs above may help in the processing stage. A very simple way to use it is to throw some into homemade lemonade. We usually just leave the calyces floating in the juice; the acid from the citrus tenderizes them and they are quite delicious to chew on while you’re enjoying your lemonade. Quin even threw some fresh hibiscus into his zucchini bread recipe earlier this week, and it added gorgeous color and cranberry-like tartness to the loaf. Once cooked down a little, they take on a nice soft texture.

    That’s all from me for now – stay tuned for a message from Quin

    Sincerely,

    Shawn Fulbright

    Posted on Thursday, September 11th 2014

    Dearest farm supporters…

    Hi this is Quin writing. There are so many new Community Supported Agriculture members that I should probably reintroduce myself. Along with two other friends I helped start our farm and ran the CSA program through 2013 prior to Shawn taking the reins in the beginning of this year. We founded a seed company on the land called All Good Things Organic Seeds, and I’ve continued my involvement with our farm outside of the CSA. Alongside the produce we make available to our members and weekly at the Ojai Farmers’ Market, Shawn and i have collaboratively overseen the production and harvest of over about 20 discrete seed crops that will make their way into our seed catalog throughout the autumn.

    Many of us intuitively grasp the importance of seeds and seed saving, but even I have found it difficult to explain the depth and importance of our work with seeds in a concise manner. Yes, we are a small seed company that exists in contradiction to the larger trend of corporate consolidation and patenting of genetic resources. We steward the rare crops in addition to the more common ones, which is also important from a biodiversity standpoint. Organic farming is also helpful for the environment generally, for it reduces our reliance on unsustainable farming practices. But on personal level, it is the process of integration between our produce and seed crops that feels the most important about this work. When you get an onion from our produce tables, not only that onion, but the seed that grew that onion, came from this land. This is the same case with so many of the things we produce here. 

    No region has true sustainability without a vibrant seed ecosystem complimenting it. This is so basic, yet so rare in this day and age. John Navazio, a pioneer in the organic seed movement, and author of The Organic Seed Grower, has written:

    Even in the transition from traditional farming to what we now refer to as modern agriculture, farmers still grew most of the seed to meet their needs. This was true of farmers in industrialized societies as it was in true agrarian societies in the mid-20th century. For farmers, producing their own seed was clearly an integral part of their operation. It was a part of every farm… The seed was part of their farm and their farm was part of the seed. Each variety that was selected over time to meet the environmental conditions and the farmer’s needs became part of the whole system used on the farm. That’s the way it had always worked (7).

    According to Navazio, it is only very recently – the 1970s – that seed became widely treated as “just another external input like fertilizer and pesticides, on that all farms would need to purchase on a continued, seasonal basis” (10). He continues:

    Seed is a reflection of the farming system as it is grown, cultivated, selected, and fully incorporated into that system. Are the crop varieties and the crop genetic resources going to keep adapting to fit the needs of organic agriculture at the hands and through the innovation of farmers and regional seed companies that have a relationship with farmers? Or will we allow the power to go to a corporate elite that share our agricultural future based on shareholder profits? The road ahead for agriculture will be determined in large part by those who shape and ultimately control the seed (12).

    For the past month we’ve been running a Kickstarter campaign to support the work we do with seeds on the farm. We have embraced the Community Supported Agriculture model and extended it to seeds: our backers can receive credit in to whatever we offer in our seed catalog, amongst other unique rewards. The campaign is ending on midnight this Sunday, September 15th and as of this writing are still shy of our $15,000 goal. If you support our mission and vision for self-reliance, there’s no better time to make a contribution and decisively shape the future of seed in this region.

    With respect and gratitude to everyone,
    Quin Shakra, co-founder, Mano Farm

    Posted on Thursday, September 11th 2014

    Roasted Summer Sauce with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Sweet Nardellos

    This is my go-to technique for creating delicious, flavorful sauces with little effort or thought other than time spent. It’s quite the versatile concoction and can be used on pastas or pizza, as a soup base or a bruschetta topping. I usually make large batches of it and throw them into the freezer to enjoy in the winter or spring. I recommend roasting at a very low temperature if you have the time, as the flavor has more of a chance to develop.

    I use ingredients interchangeably; don’t let a shortage or differing amount of any particular ingredient stop you from making a variation on this. The amounts listed here serve merely as an example.

    Ingredients:

    •  1 large eggplant
    • 1-2 lbs of tomatoes
    • 8 Nardello Peppers or 3 bell peppers
    • 1 onion
    • 6-10 cloves of garlic
    • Fresh or dried thyme, oregano or marjoram, to taste
    • Small handful of fresh basil
    • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    1. Preheat your oven to 300F degrees.
    2. Coarsely chop all of your vegetables and combine in a large glass baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season with herbs, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
    3. Cover the dish with foil and place on a centered rack in the oven. Allow to roast for up to two hours, stirring the ingredients every 30 minutes. If the roast seems like it is getting too dried out, add more olive oil or a half cup of water
    4.  Remove from the oven whenever your senses are satisfied with the results – ideally once all of the vegetables are fragrant and soft and are beginning to break apart on their own.
    5. Allow to cool in baking dish for 30 minutes
    6. Using a food processor or blender, roughly process the ingredients in batches with fresh basil to a desired texture – I like to pulse mine just until the ingredients are combined but not completely pureed.  
    7. If you’d like to add more liquid to your sauce, add small amounts of tomato juice and/or water into the food processor and pulse until your desired consistency is reached.
    8. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to a week. You can also bag in Ziplocs and store in the freezer for up to one year. 

    Posted on Wednesday, September 10th 2014

    Hey Everyone,
It’s been awhile since I’ve written, simply due to the long busy days that we’ve all been putting in here at the farm. We’ve now been attending the Ojai Farmer’s Market for one month and have generally felt well received. We’ve been bringing small amounts of surplus vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers, not wanting to overharvest for fear of wasting unsold goods. Other side sales have seen a little boost as a result of the increased visibility as well as the need to begin new relationships with restaurants in an attempt to unload any perishable products that don’t sell well at the market. For example, our tomatoes are being featured at Ojai Beverage Company this weekend, and their chef has mentioned a desire to include more organic produce in the new restaurant menu that they’re working on.
We’ve been incorporating more volunteers and visiting interns into the farm’s day to day, and it feels great to have that extra support. Right now we are hosting Païvi from Finland, and she has been working tirelessly on the farm and is constantly surprising me with her ability to work fast while still paying close attention to detail. My husband Chris has also been tackling some of the burlier jobs around here, such as excavating old asparagus that is firmly rooted into chicken wire lined trenches, or ripping out old thorny trees and replacing them with better ones.
Quin’s Kickstarter Campaign for All Good Things Organic Seeds is launching today, and we will be having a film screening to celebrate the launch at the Porch Gallery in Ojai tonight at 7:30pm. We will be pouring local wines generously donated by Ojai Vineyard and Casa Barranca, so stop by and show your support if you are in the area. Check out the project’s description on Kickstarter.
Please mark your calendars with these important CSA dates:
Thursday, August 21: Last harvest of the spring/summer season (**NOT FRIDAY**) and deadline for confirming your spot in the next season. If I don’t hear from you by that date, I’ll send an email your way to check in. If you’re already subscribed for the full year, ignore this.
Friday, August 29: No harvest
Friday, September 5: First harvest of NEW fall season and deadline for fall subscription payments.
Please don’t hesitate to ask questions about any of these dates, or anything at all really.
Thank you!

Shawn Fulbright

    Hey Everyone,

    It’s been awhile since I’ve written, simply due to the long busy days that we’ve all been putting in here at the farm. We’ve now been attending the Ojai Farmer’s Market for one month and have generally felt well received. We’ve been bringing small amounts of surplus vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers, not wanting to overharvest for fear of wasting unsold goods. Other side sales have seen a little boost as a result of the increased visibility as well as the need to begin new relationships with restaurants in an attempt to unload any perishable products that don’t sell well at the market. For example, our tomatoes are being featured at Ojai Beverage Company this weekend, and their chef has mentioned a desire to include more organic produce in the new restaurant menu that they’re working on.

    We’ve been incorporating more volunteers and visiting interns into the farm’s day to day, and it feels great to have that extra support. Right now we are hosting Païvi from Finland, and she has been working tirelessly on the farm and is constantly surprising me with her ability to work fast while still paying close attention to detail. My husband Chris has also been tackling some of the burlier jobs around here, such as excavating old asparagus that is firmly rooted into chicken wire lined trenches, or ripping out old thorny trees and replacing them with better ones.

    Quin’s Kickstarter Campaign for All Good Things Organic Seeds is launching today, and we will be having a film screening to celebrate the launch at the Porch Gallery in Ojai tonight at 7:30pm. We will be pouring local wines generously donated by Ojai Vineyard and Casa Barranca, so stop by and show your support if you are in the area. Check out the project’s description on Kickstarter.

    Please mark your calendars with these important CSA dates:

    Thursday, August 21: Last harvest of the spring/summer season (**NOT FRIDAY**) and deadline for confirming your spot in the next season. If I don’t hear from you by that date, I’ll send an email your way to check in. If you’re already subscribed for the full year, ignore this.

    Friday, August 29: No harvest

    Friday, September 5: First harvest of NEW fall season and deadline for fall subscription payments.

    Please don’t hesitate to ask questions about any of these dates, or anything at all really.

    Thank you!

    Shawn Fulbright

    Posted on Friday, August 15th 2014

    Just a couple quick announcements this week –

    Next week’s CSA harvest will be moved to Thursday, August 7th.

    I will be heading to the Bay Area first thing Friday, so I will be harvesting a day early. Please pick up at the normal time – any time after noon – and if you are unable to make it on Thursday, your produce will still be out for you all day Friday.

    The last harvest of the summer season will occur on Thursday, August 21st.

    Again, harvest will be moved back a day due to yet another Bay Area commitment. I will remind everyone again when we get closer to this date.

    The farm is looking for all the green plastic strawberry baskets we can get our hands on. So if you have any, start stocking them up for us and or bring them with you when you pick up harvest every week and deposit them in the plastic crate next to where the flowers are sold.

    Stay tuned for more lettuce, eggplant and peppers of all shapes and sizes in coming weeks. Cucumbers and beans will also return soon.

    If anyone has any questions or comments regarding their CSA shares or harvest date changes, please don’t hesitate to bring them to my attention!

    Have a great weekend,

    Shawn Fulbright 

    Posted on Friday, August 1st 2014

    Vegetable Enchiladas

    Yield: 12-16 enchiladas

    Prep Time: 30 min

    Cook Time: 30 min

    Ingredients:

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
    • 1/4 cup All Purpose flour, gluten free flour or rice flour
    • 1/4 cup tomato paste
    • One (14.5-ounce) can vegetable broth
    • 3/4 cup water
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (or Jack-Cheddar blend), divided
    • One (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
    • One cup chopped greens, chard, spinach, beet tops, kale
    • 1/2 cup summer squash
    • 1 cup corn kernels (canned, frozen or fresh)
    • 1 cup onions, thinly sliced 
    • 12-16 6-inch corn tortillas 
    • optional toppings: sour cream, avocado/guacamole, chopped tomato, chopped green scallions

    Directions:

    1. Prepare the sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat, add two teaspoons cumin, flour and tomato paste. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened (5 to 7 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then set aside.

    2. Make the filling: In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of the cheese, beans, greens, corn, onions and remaining 1 teaspoon cumin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray one 10x14-inch pyrex pan with nonstick spray (or two 8x8-inch pans). Warm tortillas on a flat iron skillet or put in microwave for 20 seconds. Lay a tortilla on a flat work surface and pile about 1/3 cup of the filling down the middle. Roll the tortilla tightly around the filling and place it seam-side-down in the prepared pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling until you’ve used it all up.

    4. Drizzle the sauce on top, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of cheese. Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped green scallions and serve with desired toppings.

    This recipe was brought to you by Mano Farm’s official food blogger, Michelle Dohrn. Contact Michelle at quinopt@earthlink.net.

    Posted on Friday, August 1st 2014

    After 150 Years of Rolling Them, Tampa Is Close to No Cigars

    We’ll probably be harvesting our tobacco this week. This will be the fourth consecutive year we’ve grown the plants and harvested the leaves for curing. Found this article about one of Tampa’s last cigar factory, which still is heavily reliant on hand labor.

    Inside El Reloj, cigar workers, most of them women, sit behind 1930s-era machines and lay a long tobacco leaf on a metal plate, cutting it before it slides off to be rolled. In another room, women push pedals on machines from the 1910s that strip the stem from the leaf (the women are indelicately called strippers). The process has not changed since the 1930s when Mr. Newman’s grandfather bought his first set of machines; two decades later he moved his cigar factory to Ybor City from Cleveland.

    Posted on Sunday, July 27th 2014

    Top of the heat wave to you all,

    The many weeks of temperate, misty mornings followed by pleasant breezy afternoons have run out like good luck at Chumash, and our plants have been exhibiting the classic midday heat droop in these high temperatures. Despite starting the work day at 6:30am, within half an hour you find that everything on your body except for your fingernails is sweating profusely. The bed you’re weeding gets longer by the minute and seems to stretch out for miles causing you to stop checking how much further you have left out of fear. Once you finish you stand up slowly, scream out, run for the sprinkler and stick your face in it. Can that be right? Is it only 9am? 

    I can’t complain. So far this summer has been delightfully consistent which our plants and maturing seeds have probably enjoyed. In the last week, the farm has harvested seed from almost two hundred row feet of rainbow calendula, a second round of true comfrey, white sage and Czech bush tomatoes. We’ve also been doing continued harvests of Rubber Dandelion seed and “Bright Lights” Cosmo seed, a new variety for the farm that I began growing and saving this summer. When used as a natural dye, it yields a lovely golden color. 

    The incredible diversity of plants that we’re nurturing on this land has been brought to the forefront in these last couple weeks as we’ve been filing for the farm’s Certified Producer’s Certificate, which in its completed state consists of nine pages of items. Our agricultural inspector admitted to being overwhelmed by it. The funny thing is, I can already think of more plants we have growing here that we forgot to list. As a result, our farmer’s market stand over these past two weeks has been a reflection of this eclectic environment - a fragrant and colorful array of items in small amounts. 

    As some of you may already know, for the last several months Quin has been working on a Kickstarter campaign for the farm’s sister company, All Good Things Organic Seeds and plans to launch it during the first week of August. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a crowd funding platform whose mission is to bring creative projects to life, or in this case financially stabilize and expand small start-up businesses. The campaign will run for 30 days, and donors will receive seed credit in the online catalog at 15% above their contribution, among other things. See his full project description here. Some of the funds raised during this campaign will trickle down to nourish the farm bank account as well, as the seed company will be more capable of funding increased seed production efforts taking place on the land. 

    Over the next couple weeks prior to launch, we will be rallying supporters who are willing to spread the word about the campaign when it launches via social networking sites in order to maximize exposure. If you are interested in making a sizable contribution to the campaign, please contact Quin

    That’s all for now, thanks for listening. I hope everyone is eating lots of chilled Caprese salads by day and frolicking merrily by night. 

    With gratitude,

    Shawn Fulbright

    Posted on Friday, July 25th 2014

    Have a look at the project description for All Good Things’ upcoming Kickstarter Campaign:

    plantgoodseed:

    We are a three person certified organic seed company located in Ojai, California. We aim to demystify the process of farming and gardening by providing quality, certified organic, non-GMO seed varieties and straightforward growing information directly to our customers. A vast portion of our seed catalog is sourced directly from our acre and a half farm.

    Our mission is twofold: 1) propagating plant biodiversity and 2) improving existing open-pollinated vegetable varieties, including heirlooms. We are working farmers that grow vegetable, flower, and herb varieties that will maximize our growing potential each season, and we know that quality varieties begin with quality seed.

    Certified organic seeds are more than a label, they are also a process. Our desire to ensure quality seed varieties that produce food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizer inputs or genetic modification has kept us in touch with each stage of what it takes to bring quality seeds to market. We are involved in the growing, harvesting, seed cleaning, storage, design, packaging and shipping of our seeds.

    The small scale nature of this project brings a specific set of challenges, and we are reaching out through Kickstarter for support to help realize our company’s potential. Our work benefits all farmers and gardeners who choose to grow organically, embrace health, and enhance their own self-sufficiency.We’ve put together a small film in support of the project that can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/PlantGoodSeed

    By investing in us we will be investing in you. Contributions to our Kickstarter campaign will cover our home farm’s seed production costs, pay for our printing and envelope runs, and allow us to continuing sourcing new varieties from other certified organic seed growers, thereby supporting the organic seed movement generally. In turn, you will receive seed credit in our online catalog at 15% above your contribution. Our catalog presently features over 150 – and growing – certified organic, non-GMO vegetable, flower and herb varieties, including special collections, rare, heirloom, and farm original varieties; even a retail seed rack. Seed credit can be used in tandem with any future variety releases, discounts, specials, or coupons we offer and also covers shipping costs. We can also break up your balances into smaller denominations, which can then be distributed as gifts.

    We will also be offering other compelling rewards that are connected to the five year history of our farm. These will be announced when the project is officially launched.

    The Kickstarter campaign will launch during the first week of August and will run for 30 days. If you are interested in helping us prior to launch, please contact us at allgoodthings ( at ) plantgoodseed dot com. We are looking for a group of people who would be willing to share our campaign via social media on its launch day, and ideally get their friends to as well. Additionally, we are looking for folks could commit to financially backing the project.

    Thanks for your time and consideration!

    -Quin Shakra, co-founder

    Posted on Friday, July 25th 2014

    Reblogged from All Good Things Organic Seeds

    Fresh Raw Salsa

    This time of year tomatoes are aplenty, so this simple and quick recipe comes in quite handy. Fresh, homemade salsa tastes worlds better than any store-bought varieties. Fortunately for us, we have all of the ingredients on hand this season. This is a quick salsa recipe for when you just want some beautiful, fresh, raw food without much fuss.

    Ingredients:

    • 4 cups organic tomatoes, chopped small
    • 2-4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
    • 1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste
    • Juice of one lime or lemon
    • 1 cup minced fresh cilantro
    • 1 cup minced onion
    • 1-2  jalapeños or other chili pepper, minced

    Directions:

    Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and chill until ready to serve. If you have a hand mixer or blender you don’t have to mince the ingredients just throw them in as large chunks and let the blender do the chopping for you. 

    Posted on Friday, July 25th 2014