What’s Growing in R&D Land?


On a farm very close to conventional raspberries and strawberries with some lettuce rotations thrown in, Farm Fuel Inc researchers have been conducting container trials to determine the best product blends for Farm Fuel Inc. Of course, it wouldn’t be a container trial, if it didn’t have something growing in the containers. The strawberries in this photo came from our first crop. (And I can say from personal experience, these are sweet and yummy!)

Our neighbors, Viridis, the aquaponics people, who grow without soil, and therefore can’t make use of any of our products, are producing amazing tomatoes in fish and water fed containers. Check out the yield! (And I can say from personal experience, these are tasty morsels.)Greenhouse.Tomatoes

Loving Summer’s Bounty



Charentais and Yellow Honeydew

That’s one way to greet your favorite food – give it a hug. French.Charantais.MelonThis works better with melons than a lot of other fruits like, well, raspberries.

Last week when I was delivering an order of cover crop seed to one of our favorite farmers – Anthony Perry – he loaded me up with his specialty melons. Never tasted anything sweeter!

The honeydew is bright yellow on the outside with extensive netting, and the other has a mottled green, orange and light yellow skin with random markings kind of like the earth from outer space or a calico cat.

melons 002 My grandson, the melon lover, was beside himself with joy. He did share a bit with the rest of us, but completely conceded his ear of corn on the cob, also from Perry’s Farmstand in Fremont. The rest of us were grateful, knowing that someday he will “get it” about summer and sweet corn.021



Aug 19 ASD Event Invitation

Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD) Update  — Spanish translation below

Últimas Noticias Sobre la Desinfestación Anaeróbica de Suelos (ASD)


Farm Fuel Inc. was awarded a three-year grant from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation in 2013 to promote the implementation of ASD (Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation) among strawberry and caneberry growers throughout the state. You are invited to an update session in Watsonville to find out what has been accomplished during the first year. A Southern California meeting will be held this coming November near Camarillo.

ASD was developed in the Netherlands and Japan as a biological alternative to methyl bromide fumigation. ASD has been used in research trials locally for more than 10 years, and has been available commercially since 2011. Recent data show that the ASD technique produces comparable marketable fruit yield when compared to a fumigant. Many growers have expressed interest in learning about ASD. This workshop is designed to bring us up to date on practical applications and research findings. Please join us. Questions?  Contact Ellen@farmfuelinc.com or call the Farm Fuel Office: 831-763-3950

Time and Place

Tuesday, August 19, 8:15 – 11:30 am (Coffee and refreshments provided)

Auditorium at Santa Cruz County Cooperative Extension, 1432 Freedom Blvd, Watsonville, CA 95076

831-763-8040 ~ Spanish Translation Provided


8:15 Sign in, Coffee and Refreshments

8:30 – 8:45 Welcome and Overview – Jonathan Winslow, Farm Service Manager, Farm Fuel Inc.

8:45 – 9:15 Challenges Facing Strawberry and Caneberry Growers Post-Methyl Bromide – Mark Bolda, Farm Advisor, UCCE Santa Cruz County, Strawberries and Caneberries

9:15 – 9:45 Educational Research Update on ASD – Carol Shennan, Professor, Dept of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

9:45 – 10:15  Key Practices for Successful Implementation of ASD – Joji Muramoto, Associate Researcher, Dept of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

10:15 – 10:45 Commercial Consultation and Monitoring Services and Product Supply for ASD, Lessons Learned in Year One –  Jonathan Winslow

10:45 – 11:15 ASD on the Ground and in the Fields –  Manuel Mercado, Grower

11:15 – 11:30 Questions and Answers

El Departamento de Reglamentación de Pesticidas (DPR, por sus siglas en inglés) le otorgó a Farm Fuel Inc. una  beca por 3 años para promover el uso de Desinfestación Anaeróbica de Suelos (ASD, por sus siglas en inglés) entre los productores de fresas y moras de todo el estado. Les invitamos a una sesión para presentarles los resultados de este primer año. Se tiene planeada una reunión similar para el sur de California el próximo noviembre, cerca de Camarillo.

La Desinfestación Anaeróbica de Suelos (ASD) se desarrolló en los Países Bajos y Japón, como una alternativa biológica a la fumigación con bromuro de metilo (methyl bromide). La ASD se ha usado localmente en pruebas de investigación por más de 10 años, y ha estado disponible comercialmente desde 2011. Datos recientes muestran que la técnica de ASD produce rendimientos de la fruta comercializable que se pueden comparar con los que da un fumigante.  Muchos productores han expresado su interés en aprender sobre la ASD. Este taller está diseñado para informarnos de los más recientes datos sobre sus aplicaciones prácticas, así como de los resultados de investigación. Les agradecemos de antemano su participación. Si tiene preguntas, favor de contactar a Ellen@farmfuelinc.com , o llame a las oficinas de Farm Fuel Inc.: 831-763-3950

Lugar y Hora

Martes 19 de agosto, 8:15 – 11:30 am (se proveerán café y refrescos)

Auditorio de Santa Cruz County Cooperative Extension, 1432 Freedom Blvd, Watsonville, CA 95076

831-763-8040 ~ Habrá traducción a español.


8:15 Inscripción, café y refrescos

8:30 – 8:45 Bienvenida e introducción al tema – Jonathan Winslow, Gerente de Servicios Agrícolas,

Farm Fuel Inc.

8:45 – 9:15 Retos que enfrentan los productores de Fresas y Moras sin el bromuro de metilo -  Mark Bolda, Director de Extensión Universitaria y Asesor en Agricultura de Fresas y Moras de la Universidad de California en el Condado de Santa Cruz

9:15 – 9:45 Avances de investigación educativa sobre la ASD – Carol Shennan, Profesora, Depto. de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad de California, Santa Cruz

9:45 – 10:15  Prácticas clave para una implementación exitosa de la ASD – Joji Muramoto, Investigador Asociado, Depto. de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad de California, Santa Cruz

10:15 – 10:45 Servicios Comerciales de Consultoría y Monitoreo, y disponibilidad de productos para la ASD, lecciones aprendidas en el primer año – Jonathan Winslow

10:45 – 11:15 La ASD con los pies en la tierra y los campos – Manuel Mercado, Agricultor

11:15 – 11:30 Questions and Answers


Soil is Relevant to Food is Relevant to Soil

Is this conference relevant to you?

Is this conference relevant to you?


Why would someone writing a soil blog go to the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle this Sept 19-21? Well, I can think of several reasons:

1)      Good food tends to come from good soil. I’d like to research what components in soil lead to tastier food – celery that’s sweet and crisp, for example. Is that a fluke of nature? Good luck with weather patterns? Or something in the soil?  Let’s find out!

2)      The Eat Local campaigns springing up all over the U.S. (and the world) might lead eaters to tell their local adopted farmers what they’d like them to grow. They are probably already asking “Is it organic?” The soil amendments we sell at Farm Fuel are approved for use in organic systems. Ta da!

3)      It’s happening in Seattle, and we are expanding our market from California to Oregon and Washington. Therefore, a trip to the Northwest is a no-brainer.

Todd Coleman, featured speaker

Todd Coleman, featured speaker

4)      One of our main products is derived from mustard seeds. Mustard is a food favorite in most cultures. We grow mustard for the seed, but also as a cover crop to enrich the soil. I want to explore the many ways to make and market gourmet mustard. Who better to ask than a room full of food bloggers?

5)      It’s hard to hold your head up in the marketing field because visions of soda advertising giants manipulating the public into drinking what they shouldn’t – i.e., too much sugar – come to mind. Those of us who promote healthful eating need to become as influential as corporate ad execs. How can we help each other? (This is something I expect to learn at this conference.)

6)      The themes of the conference are food, writing and tech. I need help with tech, I love writing (it’s part of my job), and I eat almost every day! Voila!

Results for Mustard Meal Soil Amendment at High Ground Organics Farm

carrots.beetsAccording to Steve Pedersen of High Ground Organics, his carrots and beets have never been better. He credits Pescadero Gold Mustard Meal Fertilizer with creating the right environment underground for these root crops to thrive. Judging by the flavor, he’s right! I bought these gorgeous bunches at the Redman House Farmstand last Thursday afternoon. We made a carrot cake for a cakewalk, and added some extra orange color to a shepherd’s pie, as well as slicing the carrots for dipping — they have a special crunch and sweet flavor. The beets we just cooked, sliced and ate cold on salad and at every other opportunity over the weekend. Wow!!

Time is Short — Farm Fuel Campaign

For a completely up-to-date description of the fine work at Farm Fuel, please visit our Indiegogo campaign site, and join us!



(Click the Pic)

A Growing Industry


Oil derrick dwarfed by mustard plant
Photo by Jonathan Winslow

What is Possible?

Can we grow our own fuel without taking fields out of food production?

Are you getting the feeling that more good ideas from the green economy are moving off the drawing board and into commerce??

That’s true at Farm Fuel ~ a company started by organic farmers with a good idea ~ using mustard seed oil for biofuel.

In the process, we’re starting to impact the way people farm and garden.  Pescadero Gold Mustard Meal Fertilizer ~ sold by all the better suppliers.


New Harris General Store — The Place Aquila Calls Home



Say good-bye to Garberville as you travel towards New Harris on a country road

For a completely unique shopping experience, I recommend finding your way to the New Harris General Store east of Garberville in Humboldt County. Owner Rob Gellman stocks a little bit of everything from candy bars to plumbing fixtures to 1-ton pallets of compost and miles of irrigation hose.

Gellman took over the store with his life partner Kim Phelps, fan of best Canadian online casinos, sometime around 1998. A fixer-upper, to say the least, the store was nevertheless highly anticipated by the locals because it’s relatively convenient –  the next closest store is 15 miles away on a winding road. After many years of remodeling, the store is a popular stop for everything from clothing to fertilizer to Kim’s Organically Wild herbal tonics.

Coffee is ready by 8 am, and there is a selection for breakfast of fruit, instant oatmeal and packaged pastries on the shelf. A steady stream of customers drops by to stock up and chat. On summer Friday afternoons the store sponsors a community exchange including barbeque, homemade Mexican fare, arts and crafts, and music. All the neighbors gather around.

Gellman told me he believes in peaceful co-existence.

“It’s important to set a tone,” he says. “People know to stash their cans in the recycling and clean up after themselves. At our events we represent the kind of community we want to live in.”

For newcomers like me, it’s a breath of fresh air. I saw people of all ages mingling in a friendly atmosphere. Nobody was imbibing too much or getting rowdy. The music, DJ’d by Kim, was a mix of 70’s hippie classics, country western ballads, and the latest sounds from artists like Phil Phillips. “We want everyone to know they belong here,” she said with a welcoming smile.

My mission was to deliver a load of 25-lb bags of mustard meal fertilizer – about 350 lbs, and as much as would fit in my Prius – to the store. If it wasn’t for Aquila Phelps-Gellman, Farm Fuel probably wouldn’t have a customer in New Harris, but Rob is her dad, and he was interested in promoting mustard meal fertilizer. Some of his friends are very methodical in the way they test the effectiveness of certain fertilizers, and he wanted them to give it a try.

Aquila came to work at Farm Fuel Inc. in Watsonville as a Cabrillo College student. At first she was an intern, but her work ethic is so strong, she was soon offered a regular part-time position. She delivered the other 350 lbs to her dad’s store the same weekend I was there.

When the family first tried mustard meal, Kim reported immediate results on her peaches.


Deliveries and pick-ups happen in the middle of the road in the middle of the forest – with a forklift anything is possible

“I put Pescadero Gold around my peach tree when it had really bad leaf curl this spring. Within a week all the leaf curl fell off and new growth was everywhere, with no leaf curl to be found! Love this stuff!” she told us.

You might notice that the New Harris General Store is one of the few on our list of retail outlets without a link to the web page. That’s because it doesn’t have a web page. Neither does Rob communicate via email. You just have to show up to embrace the full experience of this true community gem.

The good news is, this spring the order has grown to almost a ton of 50-lb bags. “People are asking for it,” Rob tells me.

Ida Gold Cover Crop Works to Suppress Weeds

No.Weeds!Thanks.Ida.Gold 002 (2)As you can see, this raised bed is surrounded by weeds. So why are there no weeds in the soil? Because this bed had a cover crop of IdaGold weed suppressent mustard, and even though it rained like crazy, and everything else in the yard was growing like, well, weeds, this soil remained weed free for three weeks!

The weed suppression happens when you incorporate the plants into the soil. My mustard got a little tall and woody before I incorporated it, so I would recommend turning it into the soil just when it starts to flower before the stalks get too hard.


Just to refresh your memories, here’s the before picture:


Now we’ve planted flower seeds, and we’ll see what happens — will Ida Gold’s natural herbicidal tendencies allow new flower seeds to grow? Stay Tuned Mustard Fans!



Expert Panel Rocks the Dilemma


Miguel Ramos talks about his strawberry farming practices.

A panel of experts on California’s strawberry industry addressed a hardy crowd at Pie Ranch March 29. Given the downpour on Highway 1 that day, it was amazing we gathered these brave souls at all, but the pie was bountiful and the subject matter compelling.

The point of the panel was to show the complexities and risks involved in strawberry farming, a huge part of the Santa Cruz County economy. Because methyl bromide has been so effective for so long, and alternatives are still proving themselves, the state has been giving farmers extensions to use it. In 2015 extensions end.

Farm Fuel Inc was awarded a $250,000 grant from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to introduce the use of non-toxic ASD (Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation) to conventional growers in 2013. While yield results are not yet in, many farmers are reporting a positive experience.

Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension for Santa Cruz County, Margaret Reeves, Research Scientist from Pesticide Action Network, and moderator Ken Kimes of New Natives and Farm Fuel were joined by two experienced strawberry growers, Rod Koda and Miguel Ramos, both from the Watsonville area.


From left to right: Miguel Ramos, Rod Koda, Mark Bolda, Margaret Reeves, and Ken Kimes

Rod described how his farm has been in his family for three generations, and it takes ongoing attention to detail to get a great yield. He uses both conventional and organic farming techniques on different fields on his farm, and he detailed the processes for both markets, explaining that the demand for high quality berries is set by buyers.

Miguel, who farms conventionally, addressed the end of methyl bromide, and the challenges he will face when he has to use other methods to prepare his soil. The strawberry industry has been very lucrative operating with the same types of chemical fumigants for about 65 years he said.  He’s open to new techniques, but wants consistent reliable information from researchers, advisors, and businesses like Farm Fuel before he commits to a new method.

Mark Bolda, who advises most of the area’s growers in both English and Spanish, named several new pathogens attacking strawberries in California. He asked which of the new tools being developed, including but not limited to — ASD, steam, mustard meal, and new synthetic chemicals — will be adopted by farmers who are accustomed to doing things a certain way.

The drought and fewer available farm workers were also mentioned as challenges to successful farming.

Margaret Reeves, representing citizens concerned about chemical use in agriculture, expressed delight at the new non-toxic methods being explored. Because the deadline is looming, solutions have to be found, and companies like Farm Fuel are leading the way, she said. Pesticide Action Network has been fighting the use of methyl bromide for more than 20 years.