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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    Hey folks,

    As I’m writing this, I’m feeling the first truly cool fall breeze on my face while listening to dried corn kernels from our Glass Gem seed crop drop into a bucket as Quin shucks them from their cobs. We’ve gotten through the seed lots and now have moved onto processing the off-types (or lesser specimens) we set aside for subsistence rather than procreation. Some of the fruits of this labor have found their way into the CSA share this week, to be used as popcorn or ground into cornmeal. 

    The weather in October has historically never displeased me. The temperature drops into the 70s and the Pacific offers forth plenty of warm, glassy waves of all sizes ripe for harvesting.

    Since I’ve been farming, I’ve identified that this month brings multiple challenges as well as opportunities due to its transitory nature. It’s time to plant heavily for winter, but the peppers, eggplant and hibiscus bushes are still producing! It becomes necessary to get the old out and get it out quick, which has always been hard for me since there could still be fruit (albeit in decreasing amounts) for the taking. It’s especially hard this time around because our trusty walk-behind tractor is in the shop, making it impossible to flail down and incorporate those old corn stalks or winter squash vines. 

    Rest assured, plenty of that real estate in question has already been claimed by carrots, beets, chard, celery, lettuce and spinach. Sizing up in the greenhouse are mustard greens, lacinato kale, green onions and pac choi. We’ll also continue to draw from our storage crop back stock like the Riverside onions, Glass Gem corn and lower salmon river winter squash.

    If anyone has interest in purchasing wholesale hot chilis, eggplant or hibiscus for drying or saucing projects, please inquire with haste. As I’m sure you can tell from being a part of the CSA, these bushes are dripping with fruit. 

    To pop the dried corn that you received in today’s share, you have some options. If you don’t have a nifty popcorn maker, you can put 1/4 cup of kernels into a lunch bag, crease the top and pop them in the microwave until you hear three seconds between pops (about 3-5 minutes). Alternatively, you can coat the bottom of a pot with high-heat cooking oil, add 1/4 cup of kernels (or less - you want there to be a single layer of kernels on the bottom), cover with a lid, turn on the heat, agitate the pot with the lid on once you start to hear popping, and remove from heat when the popping stops. Season with your favorite toppings and enjoy while you watch the Giants win the World Series. 

    Commence rain dances. 

    With gratitude,

    Shawn Fulbright

    Posted on Friday, October 17th 2014

    CSA Lasagna with Beet Greens, Eggplant and Zucchini

    I’ve always thought that one of the drawbacks of making lasagna was the amount of steps involved, not to mention the amount of space needed as you’re constructing it. Pre-cook the pasta, lay out the noodles, saute the spinach and mix it into the ricotta before layering it all together - who needs all those extra steps?

    For this recipe you need only grab your favorite tomato sauce, saute your squash and eggplant and layer it all together with the pasta, raw beet greens and cheese. I found lasagna pasta at Trader Joe’s that doesn’t require a pre-boil, so all you need to do before baking is allow time for the constructed lasagna to sit, giving the dry pasta the chance to soak in some of the moisture from the sauce. You could easily construct this the day before or morning of and let it rest in the refrigerator so that all you need to do is stick it straight into the oven before dinner. Sure, it is still requires a fair amount of preparation, but hopefully you’ll have plenty of leftovers and cut a few corners in the process. 

    Ingredients:

    • 1 package of lasagna noodles, preferably a kind that doesn’t require pre-boiling
    • 2 large jars of tomato sauce, or at least 8 cups of prepared tomato sauce
    • 1 zucchini
    • 1 eggplant
    • 2 large handfuls of beet greens or spinach
    • 1 container of ricotta cheese
    • 1 ball of mozarella cheese
    • grated parmesan cheese to taste
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • olive oil for saute
    1. Saute your zucchini and eggplant either together or separately until tender. Season with salt and pepper. 
    2. Preheat oven to 375F
    3. In a large glass baking dish, layer tomato sauce, then pasta sheets, then more tomato sauce, vegetables, ricotta cheese, raw beet greens, salt and pepper. Then add another layer of pasta, then sauce, ricotta cheese and whatever else you have left from your ingredients. Finish it off with one last layer of pasta with sauce on top.
    4. Let rest for 30 minutes, or place in refrigerator if you plan on cooking much later. 
    5. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until it is bubbling. 
    6. Carefully pull the dish out of the oven and set on the counter top. Remove the foil and set it aside. Top with mozzarella (either thin slabs or grated) and parmesan cheese. I like to add it at this stage because then no precious cheese is lost when the tin foil is removed. 
    7. Place dish back in the oven uncovered, raise heat to 425F and wait for cheese to begin to bubble and brown slightly - should take about 10-15 minutes.
    8. Remove lasagna from the oven and let rest for 15-20 minutes before enjoying.

    Posted on Friday, October 17th 2014

    Hey Folks,

    I know it’s been radio silent over here but I can’t be doling out winter squash (aka those saran-wrapped orange chunks more threatening than bricks found in today’s CSA harvest) without providing you all with some moral support. This is a new variety for our farm called “Lower Salmon River Winter Squash” that we are growing for seed. Prior to preparing it for you, we cut them open and scoop out the seeds. This allows us to both provide for the CSA while also yielding a new product for the seed catalog. We are also trying to avoid overwhelming you all by giving everyone their own 20-pound brick to lug home and gawk at. 

    For those of you who are unfamiliar with winter squash, don’t be alarmed. The flavor of these babies falls somewhere in between butternut and acorn squash, and all you need to turn this into a delicious and hearty dish is a working oven, a sharp knife and some time. The easiest way to prepare winter squash is to first roast it in the oven on low heat with the skin on. After that, all you need to do is scoop it out of the skin and enjoy it directly or incorporate it into other dishes such as soups, raviolis, mashes or savory tarts. If you’ve got a real sharp knife and patience, you can skin it before you roast it but I find that to be very time consuming and frustrating especially with such thick skinned specimens as these. Here is an easy recipe for roasted winter squash:

    • Preheat oven to 300 F
    • If already seeded, chop winter squash into smaller wedges or chunks (skin on) and place into a large oven safe dish
    • Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and any herbs you prefer. I like to use thyme. 
    • Bake until tender, at least one hour but sometimes longer depending on the thickness of the chunks. 
    • Remove skin before eating

    I find that if you spread winter squash preparation out over a day or two and fit it into your schedule as it makes sense, it becomes much less of a waiting game and therefore more satisfying once ready to eat. For example, I’ll bring home my chunks after work, chop them and stick them in the oven for an hour or two, making sure to shut the oven off before I head to bed. The next morning, I pull them out of the oven and put them in the fridge. The following evening when I’m preparing dinner, they are ready and willing to incorporate into your meal. 

    Try pairing it with poblano chilis and onions (also found in today’s share) in a stir fry or if you’re feeling so fancy, a savory tart. Or throw some chopped carrots, leftover celery stalks, onions, chicken stock and parsley sprigs into the soup pot, cook them down, add the winter squash and puree with an immersion blender or food processor. Before serving, throw in some chopped beet greens to wilt down and you’ve got yourself a beautiful squash soup. 

    Have fun, go nuts, it’s fall!

    -Shawn

    Posted on Friday, September 26th 2014

    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