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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    The Hakurei turnips in the CSA shares are incredible. They are sweet and delicious eaten raw and the greens are great in stir fries.

    The Hakurei turnips in the CSA shares are incredible. They are sweet and delicious eaten raw and the greens are great in stir fries.

    Posted on Monday, April 21st 2014

    The week has flown by and this farmer is wishing she had four sets of arms instead of one. New weeds are popping up by the hour it seems, and our maturing spring crops are dancing along just as fast. The list of beds needing my attention is long, and every time one gets ticked off, it’s only temporary and two new tasks quickly take its place in the queue. This week it was carrot thinning galore, a tedious yet necessary task that is also a bit counterintuitive as you pick through and discard hundreds of young runts to make way for the stars of the bed. Luckily for us, I dragged my feet so long on this task that the CSA made out with a healthy amount of baby carrots perfectly sized for snacking, dipping or pickling.

    Thinning in the garden is just as important as weeding. Weeding is essentially controlling the desired plant’s access to sunlight, airflow, water and soil nutrients by minimizing competition. Thinning is no different. For example, when direct seeding crops such as carrots, turnips, chard, beets and radishes, you start by sowing seeds heavily in order to ensure an unbroken and consistent block of plants, taking into consideration that seeds rarely germinate at 100% and also figuring you’ll lose a small percentage to slugs and birds. Once a week passes and you’re patting yourself on the back because your carrots have germinated successfully, it’s onto the next step – making sure that you get a healthy, productive crop of large roots at the end of it all. 

    In the past, I would weed them but never wanted to pull out any of the precious seedlings, so what oftentimes resulted was a fair amount of nice carrots, loads of smaller ones, and definite signs of stress both from the carrots I harvested as well as the soil. In fact, sacrificing some plants for the sake of healthy spacing in a bed is what ensures the highest yield. Not only is water being used more efficiently, but by giving your crop the proper room to grow, those carrots are allowed plenty of access to soil nutrients that will help them combat inevitable pressures from insects, disease and weather, and still nourish YOU at the end of it all.

    This rule applies to everything – even transplants such as tomatoes or kale. Fruit tree owners may be familiar with this rule as well; though a lot of times thinning is done to prevent broken tree limbs or smaller fruit at harvest time. The plants may look healthy for awhile even when they’re mashed together (see the attached photos of our carrots before and after thinning) – but eventually that vigor will wear out, and by the time you notice it may be too late to change their course. This has always been a hard pill for me to swallow due to the fact that thinning feels like wasting, but I’m turning a new leaf. A lot of times, thinned seedlings still make it to our plates via micro greens or mini root bundles like this week. And anyway, those discarded thread-sized carrots wilting in the pathways will eventually be turned into the soil to nourish us in other ways down the road.

    Next Friday (April 25th) is our last harvest for the winter/spring season, so if you plan on renewing your membership for the new season that begins on May 9th, please let us know if you have not already.

    Happy Easter!

    -Shawn

    Posted on Thursday, April 17th 2014

    Hey here is what the weeks CSA share was composed of. If you are interested in joining us this spring or fall please email manofarmers@gmail.com. #manofarm #ojai #csa #communitysuppprtedagriculture

    Hey here is what the weeks CSA share was composed of. If you are interested in joining us this spring or fall please email manofarmers@gmail.com. #manofarm #ojai #csa #communitysuppprtedagriculture

    Posted on Sunday, April 13th 2014

    ​US corn exports to China drop 85 percent after ban on GMO strains – industry report — RT USA

    China’s rejection of shipments of US corn containing traces of unapproved genetically modified maize has caused a significant drop in exports. According to a new report, US traders have lost $427 million in sales.

    China has been blocking shipments of American corn from its market since November. This was caused by the presence of the MIR162 genetically modified corn strain in the shipments. It was developed by the company Syngenta and has not been approved by the Chinese government since an application was submitted in March 2010.

    Posted on Sunday, April 13th 2014

    Let the fava harvest begin. Finally, after being sown in early November and trellised and trained lovingly by Jan, the tall stalks are loaded with beans and ready to undergo their first big pick of the season. I have chosen to pick the pods at full size despite learning this year that they can be eaten smaller - pod and all. I tried this in the field one day and even though it tastes good, I’ll admit that it might take me awhile to come around on this one. The furry casing that houses the beans seems more like an article of clothing or a suitcase than a food to me personally. However if you prefer them in this premature stage, speak up and I can start providing the CSA with both sizes.
For those of you new to the springtime indicator that is the fava bean, don’t be alarmed. They do require a fair amount of time to prepare, as there are not one but two steps in the “shelling” process. The Huffington Post has a great video about processing the beans here, along with a number of nice recipe links. My personal favorite way to enjoy favas is by shelling and eating them raw whenever I walk past the patch – point being that they’ve got a great taste that can stand completely on their own. The easiest way to enjoy them cooked but with minimal processing is by throwing the whole pod on the grill until they darken, shelling out the individual beans once they’re cool enough to handle and popping their innards right into your mouth like you would edamame – thanks again to Jan for that nifty tip.
 In addition to the favas, a couple new items will start showing up in harvests over the next couple weeks such as radishes, Japanese turnips and hopefully our first couple handfuls of basil. We will also be getting a new flush of lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and beets soon.
I have included watermelon radish thinnings in this week’s harvest both in the form of bunches of small roots as well as (optional) bunches of radish greens. We will eventually be getting into larger sizes, but the bed needed to be thinned out in order to size up and I just figured I may as well not waste perfectly good baby roots and edible leaves. These radishes are packing spice, but their leaves are still young enough to be enjoyed as you would arugula, mustard or turnip greens. See the radish green soup recipe below in this newsletter or on our web page.
After this pick, there are only two harvests left in the CSA’s Winter/Spring season. We will be taking a one-week spring break of sorts, so there will be no pick up on Friday, May 2nd. The CSA will commence its Spring/Summer season on Friday, May 9th. Please begin thinking about whether you’d like to continue on with Mano Farm CSA and let us know via email of your plans before April 25th.
Happy eats –
Shawn

    Let the fava harvest begin. Finally, after being sown in early November and trellised and trained lovingly by Jan, the tall stalks are loaded with beans and ready to undergo their first big pick of the season. I have chosen to pick the pods at full size despite learning this year that they can be eaten smaller - pod and all. I tried this in the field one day and even though it tastes good, I’ll admit that it might take me awhile to come around on this one. The furry casing that houses the beans seems more like an article of clothing or a suitcase than a food to me personally. However if you prefer them in this premature stage, speak up and I can start providing the CSA with both sizes.

    For those of you new to the springtime indicator that is the fava bean, don’t be alarmed. They do require a fair amount of time to prepare, as there are not one but two steps in the “shelling” process. The Huffington Post has a great video about processing the beans here, along with a number of nice recipe links. My personal favorite way to enjoy favas is by shelling and eating them raw whenever I walk past the patch – point being that they’ve got a great taste that can stand completely on their own. The easiest way to enjoy them cooked but with minimal processing is by throwing the whole pod on the grill until they darken, shelling out the individual beans once they’re cool enough to handle and popping their innards right into your mouth like you would edamame – thanks again to Jan for that nifty tip.

     In addition to the favas, a couple new items will start showing up in harvests over the next couple weeks such as radishes, Japanese turnips and hopefully our first couple handfuls of basil. We will also be getting a new flush of lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and beets soon.

    I have included watermelon radish thinnings in this week’s harvest both in the form of bunches of small roots as well as (optional) bunches of radish greens. We will eventually be getting into larger sizes, but the bed needed to be thinned out in order to size up and I just figured I may as well not waste perfectly good baby roots and edible leaves. These radishes are packing spice, but their leaves are still young enough to be enjoyed as you would arugula, mustard or turnip greens. See the radish green soup recipe below in this newsletter or on our web page.

    After this pick, there are only two harvests left in the CSA’s Winter/Spring season. We will be taking a one-week spring break of sorts, so there will be no pick up on Friday, May 2nd. The CSA will commence its Spring/Summer season on Friday, May 9th. Please begin thinking about whether you’d like to continue on with Mano Farm CSA and let us know via email of your plans before April 25th.

    Happy eats –

    Shawn

    Posted on Friday, April 11th 2014

    Think twice before hurling those radish greens out to the chickens. Radishes are closely related to mustard greens, arugula and turnips and when young enough, their greens can be used interchangeably with any of those mentioned. The fuzziness of their leaves disappears once cooked, making them especially great in soups such as this one from Vegan Visitor. 

    Think twice before hurling those radish greens out to the chickens. Radishes are closely related to mustard greens, arugula and turnips and when young enough, their greens can be used interchangeably with any of those mentioned. The fuzziness of their leaves disappears once cooked, making them especially great in soups such as this one from Vegan Visitor. 

    Posted on Thursday, April 10th 2014

    Can Organic Farmers Weather California’s Epic Drought? - Modern Farmer

    When it comes to organic produce, consumers may also see less availability and higher prices, although it’s too soon yet in the season to know what the full impacts may be.… And drilling more and deeper wells is another facet of California’s water crisis. “These are just temporary solutions as the water table falls and falls and we don’t replenish it”…

    Posted on Tuesday, April 1st 2014

    In the five years that I’ve been learning to farm, it’s no doubt that I’ve operated in close relationship with insects. And when I say insects, I mean all forms of garden creepy-crawlies – spiders, snails, slugs, centipedes, symphylans, no-see-ums and worms all included. On the first day of my farming apprenticeship, I was tasked with hand-clearing a section where the weeds were growing taller than me. The soil had been moistened to make the task easier, and I remember attacking the roots of the weeds with a mini-machete. With every handful of grass that I pulled up, at least a dozen insects and worms would scatter, and I remember growing worried about slicing worms in half. Meanwhile, the blood-sucking no-see-ums were feasting on my “new blood”, biting my knuckles, elbows and ears.

    I remember inquiring about various insects and their qualities (good or bad?) to Peter. Obviously ladybugs and bees were good, snails and slugs were toast, and those white wormy things I found on the beet root flaunting fuschia innards were problematic, but what about this reddish stink-bug looking thing? I let it crawl onto his hand and he grasped it, took a close look, and left me with this bit of farmer wisdom – “When in doubt, squish it out.” I don’t have to tell you what happened next.

    I would say that I’ve taken closer notice of bugs in the garden over the years because of all the time I spend working – by the society’s standards – “alone”, but in fact I’m always surrounded by birds, lizards, bees and beetles - my coworkers. We carry on a silent dialogue and occasionally compete in a series of staring or push-up contests. Yes, it goes without saying that I unconsciously kill hundreds of bugs every day just by walking through the garden or using my rototiller to work a patch of soil. But whenever our paths cross under more peaceful circumstances, such as while I’m weeding the carrots or inspecting the fava beans, I tune into them and I watch them work. If a patch of broccoli is flowering and needs to be turned in, I’ll wait until early morning or late afternoon once the bees are no longer nectar feasting to mow the plants down. While soaking the lettuce or artichokes on harvest days, I am almost ashamed to admit that I take the time to fish out and flick away every ladybug I find – regardless of the fact that they are quite adept swimmers. 

    The term “weed” is relative, as the only thing making a weed a weed is if it doesn’t fit into our desired landscape. Same goes for the word “pests”. It’s no doubt that I mostly favor the beneficial insects and squish the aphids, slugs and snails without remorse. Cutworms and tomato hornworms I prefer to watch the chickens devour. I am still responsible for the food I am growing and I must make some of the rules.

    When all is said and done, however, I would never recommend complete annihilation of any particular bug population. I’d say that the motto I try to live by in the garden is diversity. Too much of any one thing is never good – whether it’s the predator-less bagrada bug or acres and acres of the same crop. Nature has the tendency to balance things out, so when people ask me what to do about their aphid problem, I often recommend doing nothing. The ladybugs usually come to investigate the situation before long.

    I like to grow as large of a variety of plants as possible so as to attract a diverse array of insects, spiders, toads, lizards, you name it. Everything fits together in one way or another.

    If you are looking for particularly sexy plants to attract your neighborhood beneficial insects, here are just a couple of my favorites:

    1. Fennel or anise – let it bolt to attract ladybugs and bees galore. Then harvest the pollen or the seeds for a tasty garnish! Anise also attracts the larvae of the beautiful swallowtail butterfly.

    2. Fava beans – I had a religious experience around dusk one night at the fava bean patch while watching the hummingbird moths dance around the flowers. The flowers also attract honeybees, bumblebees and hummingbirds and have a lovely scent to boot.

    3. Echinacea – this perennial medicinal herb attracts monarch butterflies, honeybees and bumblebees when it blooms in late summer. Its root also has healing properties.

    4. Comfrey – not only do its beautiful purple flowers attract loads of honeybees and hummingbirds, but these perennials provide their own mulch, nourishing the topsoil every winter and providing worm food and habitat for countless ground dwellers.

     

    Happy springtime,

    Shawn

    Posted on Thursday, March 27th 2014