Soil Born CSA Newsletter: The Digest

July 23, 2014

Every Week
Bell Peppers
Red Slicing Tomatoes
Fingerling Potatoes
Honeydew Melon

Every other week
Summer Squash
Red Slicing Tomatoes
Rainbow Chard
Fingerling Potato
Delicious 51 Cantaloupe



The earth belongs to the living in usufruct.  - Thomas Jefferson


digest 2014 07 23 peach tree

Peach trees loaded with fruit


Farm News
By  Antonio Garza



The term usufruct is a combination two of the three land rights contained in Roman Law - Use (Usus) and Profit (Fructus or literally the fruit). To have usufruct is the right to enjoy the use and advantages of another's property short of the destruction or waste of its substance.

I have been thinking a lot about land tenure and use over the last several weeks. Partly it has been an intellectual exercise. I had the opportunity to attend a talk featuring Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder a few weeks back. Many of you will know me for an unabashed Berry devotee, but Gary Snyder is new to me. Snyder's writing (along with a great Schumacher lecture by Winona LaDuke) have reintroduced me to the Native American concept of land use - which under our concepts based in Roman Law restrict all uses to the partial land right of usufruct. The land was held in common, but was apportioned for individual or familial use. You did not trap, hunt, or gather over the entire land range - only the portion to which you had the use right. Nor did you sell it if you could not (or did not want to) use it anymore—the land was reapportioned.


Raised as I was in an area very concerned with property and individual rights (Texas) the myth of the "tragedy of the commons" has had a large influence on my ideas on land tenure. Simplified the term connotes that the communal holding of land or resources leads to the destruction of the resource; therefore, all land is best privately owned. However, the reality of widespread soil erosion, fertility loss, and groundwater depletion of American farmland calls this into question.

Not only is the land reduced by this system, but access to that land is becoming increasingly difficult. According to the USDA agricultural land values nearly doubled between 2002 and 2012. Irrigated cropland reached a value of $12,000 per acre (up from $6,100 in 2002), and this occurred during the Great Recession. That trajectory has only increased since then. I recently spoke to a farmer who had been offered over $30,000 an acre for producing almond orchards. All that for a crop that has had an average per acre profit that has ranged from $2,300 in 2005 to $475 in 2009. Excepting apocalyptic food price scenarios such a price reflects agricultural land as a financial instrument not as source of food or livelihood.

For there to be a sustainable future for small and beginning farmers the final land right under Roman law may need to be removed from the land—abusus. That is the right to abuse through consumption, destruction, or sale. A land right that to read Thomas Jefferson, or to hear wise elders speak we may not justly posses.

How exactly this looks can range widely. As a start many land trusts have been established that preserve land simply as open space. Alternatively, Jeff and Annie Main are placing Good Humus in a land trust that removes the development rights and requires that whoever acquires the usufruct farm as a primary means of income. Or, it can look like what Soil Born is doing - farming public land through a long-term lease. All of these approaches provide a bridge to a future that can continue to sustain us all by relinquishing  a “right” and instead recognizing an obligation to the land and the future need of its continued abundance.  





Featured Fruit: Red Slicing Tomato

digest 2014 07 23 tomato

Big Beef and Polbig (the little one)


We stepping right into tomato season, and all of you have some lovely red slicing tomatoes of either Big Beef or Polbig (apparently size does matter in the naming of tomato varieties). Polbig is a medium sized determinate (the plant grows to a certain height and the fruit comes in a concentrated set).


Big Beef is a large beefsteak tomato that is indeterminate (the plant grows and the fruit keeps coming to a certain extent all season). I say to a certain extent because the first fruits are the best - large, and unblemished by the diseases that will come later. Because the first set is the best we plant successions of tomatoes (four this year) to ensure that we have great tomatoes from now until September (sometimes even October).


The heirlooms that I am sure everyone is looking forward to are trickling in - but their different ripening schedules have not provided us with the quantity to serve the CSA yet, but rest assured they are coming soon.



Featured Recipe

Please click on the link to see our recipe:

Parsley & Onion Salad



Dates and Notes

Community Evening at the Farm with Toby Hemenway

Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 05:30pm - 09:30pm

Join us at the American River Ranch for an evening of intergenerational camaraderie, digging in the dirt, hands-on gardening activity for families, a guided farm tour, inspiring presentations, lively conversations and more!  Your donations at this event will benefit our education program.   


Family Volunteer Activity - 5:30-7pm
Farm Tour - 6pm
Special Presentation begins at 7pm

August 20: Edible City Initiative Presents —RETHINKING DROUGHT: A Permaculture Toolkit for Creating Water-Wise Landscapes and
Homes—and so much more!
With drought promising to be a regular visitor in our climate, Toby Hemenway will discuss how permaculture design offers tools that do more than just solve many of the challenges posed by drought. They can also offer a host of other benefits at the same time. This lecture will show you how to drought-proof your landscape and home while building habitat and biodiversity, boosting soil fertility, creating comfort for you and your family, and making your place more beautiful, all at the same time. Toby will introduce permaculture concepts but put them squarely in a practical context—dealing with drought—so that you can go home with workable solutions to implement yourself.

The event is free but seating for the presentation is limited! To save your seat or reserve a  $10 Green Special Vegetarian Plate:

Save the date!
Tomato Jubilee & Fun on the Farm (pre-register at
This Saturday, July 26




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