Vendor: Dru Rivers and Paul Mueller
Location: Guinda, CA
Products: Large selection of organic vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, nuts, wool, wheat berries, and flour
PAFM Vendor since 1984
Dru Rivers and Paul Mueller of Full Belly Farm began coming to the Palo Alto Farmers’ Market in 1984. When they first started, “all we had was corn,” says Dru. “We’d pick it at 4 am, by the light of the headlights on our trucks, and then we’d bring straight it down” to the Market. “The next year, we added melons…”
Today, Full Belly grows and brings to PAFM a full range of organic fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, and eggs from their farm near Guinda, in northwest Yolo County. Come to their stand, and while you’re looking over the heirloom tomatoes, peaches, eggplant, asparagus, rainbow chard, or walnuts, you’ll talk to Dru, Paul, or maybe their loyal interns, like Jan and Suzie. Over the years, they’ve had a mix of interns at the stand, as well as their own kids, Hallie and Amon. “At one point, all four of our kids were here and I was nursing and selling at the same time – I can’t believe I did that!” says Dru.
Dru, who grew up in Vermont with parents who “always had a large garden,” always knew she wanted to farm. She studied plant science and entomology at UC Davis, worked on the student farm there, and then worked at Davis running one of their research farms. She and Paul met in 1982 at a farming conference and bought the place in Guinda in 1984, the year they joined PAFM. Paul comes from a family of local farmers. His family owned the last dairy farm in San Jose and they currently farm 3,000 acres in Woodland (near Full Belly) with row crops – grains, alfalfa, canning tomatoes. Paul is the first in his family to farm organically.
What keeps people coming back to their stand week after week, year after year? Partly, it’s the relationships. “We’ve gotten to know people really well,” says Dru. “I feel like Palo Alto is my second home – I’ve been here almost every Saturday for many years.” But, of course, people also come back because the produce is good. “We pick everything the day before, so it’s really fresh,” says Dru. “And we spend a lot of time choosing varieties…we choose a variety 90% by taste and 10% because it’s pretty. We make a really pretty display, and we’ve gotten a lot better at growing pretty produce.” Naturally, they have loyal customers who seek sustainably grown food. “Being organic has really helped a lot,” says Dru.
What keeps them farming? “We love what we do!” says Dru. “It’s really fun. I think of other things I might be doing, and this always seems pretty good.” Also, “farmers are eternally optimistic. We just keep thinking, ‘Next year is going to be SO great!’”
PAFM is Full Belly’s “favorite market,” not only because of all the familiar faces. “Our interns love coming to this market,” says Dru, “because of the tone of the market. People are friendly and sincere.” That translates into a good time and good sales. PAFM “is our best market,” says Dru. “Also, we talk about the market as this amazing volunteer model, giving back to the Senior Center” and the community. “At other markets, all the money goes to pay salaries and staff.
Recipes: “I love fruit salsas, made with peaches or nectarines and peppers and onions,” says Dru. “And melon smoothies!”