Picking Oranges on the Lakritz Farm

The Lakritz Family has been picking oranges for a very long time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Growing up in a small town in California’s Central Valley, we lived among the crops. Although we weren’t farmers, we did have our own fruit trees growing in the backyard.

The family purchased the house shortly after I was born and we owned it for about 50 years. Most of that time we enjoyed the annual citrus harvest from one orange tree, one grapefruit tree, and a tangerine tree.


As my Dad grew older and my own family grew, we started bringing our children to town each Winter to help pick the fruit. It became an annual ritual that included a BBQ to celebrate the bountiful harvest. Amazingly, in a good year each tree would yield as many as 700 pieces of fruit!

This is a picture of the fruit we picked in the 2000 harvest, which was a down year.


Today, the Lakritz Farm has five trees including a plum, apple, and orange tree. This year we added a lemon and fig tree. Over the past 15 years we’ve been successful in getting a small harvest each year out of the orange tree.Orange_Tree

Typically we have to wait until late March or early April to pick the fruit because it doesn’t get ripe until then. We aren’t sure whether this is due to the Northern California climate or global warming, but we do the best we can and enjoy what we get.

I decided this year to harvest the fruit earlier than usual. The oranges seemed pretty ripe and full of water as it’s been a wet Winter so far. I chose to pick the fruit earlier this year to encourage blossoms now. The idea is to generate blossoms earlier so the fruit will ripen earlier next year. We won’t know if it works until then but I’m hoping for the best.

Orange_HarvestMeanwhile we did get a decent amount of fruit. I’m guessing it’s about 150 pieces. Although the oranges are small, we’ll give them a week or two off the tree to ripen and get sweet. Then we’ll see how they are sliced or squeeze for juice.


Stay tuned for more fruit fun on the Lakritz Farm.

Happy Urban Farming to you all!


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Follow the Lakritz Farm on Instagram

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Recent photos from the Lakritz Farm

About a year ago we decided to begin using Instagram to publish images from the Lakritz Farm. We use Instagram as a simple way to share news form the Farm.

Follow us to see more frequent updates on the farm!


Posted in Conservation, Crops, Farming Education, Food, Fruit, Organic, Sustainability, Urban Farming, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Water Supply System

When we first got started with the Lakritz Family Farm it was clear that growing food on our property would be highly dependent upon access to water. While living in Northern California tends to mean lots of rain (here in Marin we average over 50 inches per year), we were in the middle of a serious drought when we decided to build the farm.


Rainwater harvesting system on the Lakritz Farm

Being aware of our water supply meant that we needed to develop systems to ensure we would have enough water for whatever we planted.

The first step we took to help supply water for the farm was to install a small rainwater capturing system. This diverter pulls rain from the downspout into a barrel. With two 33 gallon barrels we managed to capture over 750 gallons of water last winter. The water was mostly used in the warm days of January and April and May after the spring rains.

Another step we took was hand watering the plants. This labor intensive method of water conservation was successful in reducing water usage and growing food. There are many other ways we can help ensure water supply to our homes and food supply.

Here’s a wonderful TedX Marin talk that explores large scale infrastructure methods of water conservation, reuse, and more. Author, Professor and Director of the Institute for Environmental Science and Engineering at UC Berkeley explores The Water Emergency:   A no-holds-barred look at California’s water issue and a provoking challenge to address the drought:  http://ow.ly/U38Zf


Posted in Conservation, Crops, Drought, Farming Education, Farming Resources, Food, Lakritz Family Farm, Rainwater Harvesting, Sustainability, Urban Farming, Water | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bugs for Chickens

Thanks to the people at the Marin Master Gardeners I found out my farm is infested with grubbs!


Bugs for Chickens

These pesky and strange looking soil mongrels hang out about 4-6 inches below the the top of the soil and reek havoc on the roots of your plants.

I learned earlier in the summer that when you find certain critters in your fields you need to look for them at a certain time of the year to prevent the next generation from returning. One idea was to turn the soil in the spring just before planting.


Cleared bed of grubbs

So I went ahead and turned the soil now as I’m preparing the beds for the winter. That’s when I found all these guys! Turns out the Marin Master Gardener had a good suggestion. They recommend placing the bugs out on an open space for birds to come and get them. I did that last weekend and gave a bunch to the crows. When I told my neighbor about the bugs she said her chickens would love to eat them. “They are full of fat!” she said.

Now when I dig up a new area on the farm I look for the bugs and collect them for Helen’s chickens. Now, Helen brings me eggs! How’s that for sustainable farming?

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Urban Farming Promoters Look to Transform Food Production

Urban farming is still in it’s infancy but there are plenty of  efforts to bring food production into our cities and closer to the populations we are trying to feed.

These newfangled farming methods combine urban buildings, new technology, hydroponics, and big data to build scalable vegetable and fruit production to our cities.

In Boston, Caleb Harper is the Director of the City FARM, which is part of the Open Agriculture Initiative located in the MIT Media Lab. Harper wants to address the needs of a growing world population and the dwindling sources of land and water. Also, he points to the need to bring farming closer to the consumer. But he doesn’t necessarily see his ideas replacing current large scale farming methods.

Lula Farms in Montreal

Lufa Farms Rooftop Greenhouse

In Montreal, Mohamed Hage is taking a commercial tack on this idea. His Lufa Farms is another large scale effort underway to bring farming to the urban environment. Beginning in 2011, Lula Farms built the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse. This 32,000 square foot polyculture facility now delivers 70 metric tons of food to the local population. Lula built a second facility in 2013. This 43,000 square foot facility delivers 120 metric tons of food per year.

The Lufa Farm system is designed to be sustainable in terms of water use, energy use, and pest controls. They also deploy technology in their delivery system which utilizes marketing and e-commerce tools to allow customers to select what goes in their $30 basket of food that can be delivered to more than 150 local pick up sites — even on the day the food was harvested.

These urban agricultural advancements are not planning to replace the large scale farming that delivers the vast majority of our food. However, it does expand our capabilities to deliver fresh food locally. Perhaps more importantly, these efforts may lead to similar advancements to our current framing system to improve our environment and food production.

Posted in Farming Education, Farming Resources, Industrial Farming, Sustainability, Urban Farming | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Today’s Harvest

Picked a few fresh items for dinner today. The eggplant was not that successful this year but it tastes good. Tomato and basil always go together and the peppers went well in the salad.


Today’s harvest

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October Tomatoes, Hornworms, and Sunflower Harvest


Tomato plot cleared for the winter.

This week we cleared a small area of the farm on the side of the house for winter.

This 20 square foot plot was where we first started successfully growing food on the farm. We pretty much only plant tomatoes there because it’s so warm. This year we had a couple of heirloom plants but it also got overgrown with volunteer cherry and yellow pear tomatoes.


October tomato harvest


Sunflower harvest 2015

The October tomatoes are amazing and fresh. We’ve had a small trace of rain over the past few weeks but it’s otherwise been very warm and perfect for tomatoes. The soil in this area seems to hold up nicely despite the fact that our neighbor has a very large apple tree on the other side of the fence. We grow some roses and mint there too.

This year next to that area we also planted sunflowers which were started by Tony Mekisich, the garden teacher at my daughter’s school and planted by Mia. We also harvested the sunflowers which were very prolific. I tasted them too and it’s amazing how good and fresh they are just picked!

Tomato hornworm

Tomato hornworm

One thing we also found this week was two very large tomato hornworms. It’s amazing how large these little guys get when they have so much food to eat. Thankfully they didn’t take too much of our harvest.

I read up on this pest a bit and it seems like we should be able to prevent them in the future with a few simple organic methods. The best method I found was to till the soil in the spring before planting to disturb the pupa.

I also a found some products that claim to have naturally occurring bacteria that may also help. One had “Spinosad” in it’s ingredients and the other had “Bacillus Thuricide.” I’ll be looking into this a little more closely for next year.

Happy fall harvest everyone!

Posted in Crops, Farming Education, Food, Fruit, Hornworm, Lakritz Family Farm, Organic, Pests, Plants, Vegetables, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 1 Comment