#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

California Agriculture Day

Agriculture is a vital part to our lives. Not just to the farmers who are growing our food, but for the consumers who enjoy the fruits of our labor. All too often, consumers go to the grocery store and expect what they want to be on the shelves. If it isn't, they get upset and ask the grocery clerk to check the back. Well, how often does the consumer connect the dots from the grocery store to the farmer. Not enough.


This week as we celebrate Agriculture, let's help consumers connect the dots. Today is California Agriculture Day and a great day to celebrate agriculture.


This week, I had the privilege of volunteering at our local Farm Day in the City sponsored by our local Farm Bureau. Over 4,000 children from 3rd and 4th grade from all over the county come to the fairgrounds over two days to learn about agriculture, food and farming. It is an event that our local Farm Bureau has been organizing for over 30 years. Similar events take place all over the state and nation and it is a great way to connect children to the food they eat. Kids get an opportunity to milk a cow, learn about irrigation, watch a cattle roping, ride on tractors and realize the importance agriculture plays in their everyday lives.


All too often we drink that glass of milk and never think about the cow, dairyman or trucker that brought it to the store before you bought it. Not to mention the farmer who grew the grain and processor who made it into food for the cow to eat. There are so many steps involved to get our food to the store, in our fridge and on the table that we lose track of how it got there and the people involved in doing just that.
Organizations like Ag in the Classroom are doing a great job at creating and distributing agriculture curriculum to those that need it. Through lesson plans, activity sheets, books, events, and grants they are able to reach a broader audience than your average farmer.

Today, is also Ag at the Capital Day where agriculture organizations gather at the California capital steps in Sacramento to showcase agriculture and farming to not only our state legislature but children and public wanting to learn about food and where it comes from.


These are great examples of ways farmers and agriculture organizations are trying to inform and educate children and the average consumer. Today and this week is really about education and the opportunity to showcase the abundance that California is able to produce with less and less.


California is the leading agriculture state in the nation, growing far more than any other state. We grow more than 400 different crops, a majority of which are specialty crops that are unique and not grown in very many other places.


California is the sole US producer, producing 99% or more, of almonds, artichokes, pistachios, prunes, raisins, pomegranates, cling peaches, sweet rice, walnuts, dates, figs, clover seed and kiwis. California also produces nearly half of fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States. I'd say that is a state worth celebrating!




Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny



 


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spring has sprung...for now

Almond bloom has come and gone. Those pretty white flower petals have fallen onto the orchard floor and now it looks like snow. It is the closest thing to snow that we will get in the valley and I am okay with that.




Now those flowers are turning into little nuts and soon will be fuzzy little nut jackets in the making. Flowers and bloom may be the sign of spring coming, but to me the formation of those nuts hopefully means a successful spring and harvest to come. Spring has sprung...for now!



It was a fast and furious bloom season with less than ideal weather. The bloom was slightly earlier than in regular years but mostly on track. The flowers had bloomed and the trees were turning green in a mere three weeks. Meaning those bees only had a short window to get in and get busy.


Bees will not be active and pollinating unless the weather is what they want. They are picky bees and want that warmer mid 50's or higher temperatures with no fog or rain. In our 3 week bloom window these days weren't super abundant. With two series of rainstorms during bloom it made for pollinating flowers to be rather difficult.


Now that bloom is over the flowers will be working on forming nuts. The trees are lush and green in color with leaves sprouting up. Now those bees are angry as they look for flowers that have come and gone. Beekeepers are working hard to move their bees to the next crop and onto their new adventures.







The orchards are gorgeous and a true sign that spring is here. We have been enjoying these 80 degree temperature days and it feels like spring. Well for now. Next week, it is projected to be back in the 60's with a chance of rain again.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Womens Day- A day to celebrate Farmer's Wife's

On this, International Women's Day I celebrate the fellow Farmer's Wife.


Today and everyday we work hard to tend to our family, land, animals, friends, neighbors and community. We don't get days off and often work a day job to come home, help with the farm and then ensure dinner is on the table and the kids are fed.


Today is for you. The hard working, ever caring, ever giving, backbone to agriculture.




Me and my boys!

My family. My sister and her family, my parents, myself and my farmer. My mom holds their family farm together

My Mother in Law and son, the farmer's wife who holds our farm together

My mother with her three grandchildren, my example of a Farmer's Wife growing up



And on the 9th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “Oh dear, the farmer is going to need help.” So God made a farmer’s wife.


God said, “I need somebody who will get up before dawn, make breakfast, work all day in the kitchen, bank, school or alongside her farmer and then come home to fix supper and wash up the dishes”. So God made a farmer’s wife.


God said “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with their newborn son. And watch him grow. Then pray each morning and teach her children to say, ‘please and thank you.’ I need somebody who can make a fried egg sandwich, stretch a pay check or thicken soup, who can clean her house with vinegar, baking soda and hot water. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish her forty-hour week on Friday, then, join her farmer in the field for another two days, six meals and five loads of laundry.” So God made a farmer’s wife.


God said, “I need somebody strong enough to plant trees and heave bales, to co-sign a load for a half a million with steady hands, yet gentle enough to tame show lambs and raise kids and calm the farmer when he’s upset over higher rent or lower corn, who will stop her work for an hour to talk on the phone to her neighbor who just found out her mother is sick. Somebody who could cook and clean and not cut corners. Somebody to wash, dry, iron, tidy, feed, rake, water, drive, check the homework and pack the lunch bags and remember the basketball schedule and replenish the refrigerator and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile ride to church. Somebody who’d sew a family together with the soft strong stiches of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh and then reply, with smiling eyes, when her daughter says she wants to spend her life “doing what mom does”. So God made a Farmer’s Wife …

This edition of So God made a Farmer's Wife is courtesy of Sierra Shea.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ask the Expert: Ben Laverty, CSTC

What precautions must farmers take for safety? What about heat safety living in California?  What safety training is required by the employer? I have been asked some great safety related questions that I knew the perfect expert to call on for help answering your questions!


Ask the Expert is a series of posts to answer your questions. I asked you what questions you had about farming and I went out to answer those questions. I am bringing in what I consider industry experts to answer these tough questions and to provide another view point. I am by no means an expert on these tough questions, so I found the experts for you!


Next up, is Ben Laverty IV. Ben serves on a farming board with me and I have gotten to know his family through their business. Ben is in the business of helping farmers help their employees. Ben together with his father, Ben III, and sister, Terra, run California Safety Training Corporation. CSTC helps farmers and other business owners protect their employees safety and comply with state and federal laws. Ready to dive in with Ben?


Almond Girl Jenny (AG):  Can you give us a brief introduction of your company and how it relates to agriculture? 
Ben Laverty IV (BL): Growing up we were farmers. My first memories are of living in the Belridge citrus orchards, then to Idaho farming potatoes with my mom’s family then back to Bakersfield and farming on the west side of Kern.  We left farming but stayed with agriculture and California Safety Training Corporation was born in 1985.  We still work with our first clients teaching agricultural safety including pesticide, tractor, harvest equipment, anything work related then after about 10 years in business we expanded into other industries.  While still more than half of our business is agriculture we now serve construction, manufacturing, mining/oil, transportation, government contractors et al… 


AG: How is your family involved in the business? 
BL: We have been a family business from the inception with all 4 of my siblings and now my 3 teenage daughters helping out. Today, my sister, father and I work together on a day to day basis to see that we help as many people and companies as possible to work safely and efficiently.
AG:  What precautions do farmers take for heat safety? 
BL: First, have a Heat Illness Plan in place and then make sure that it meets all areas in the law and ensure the plan is utilized and documented.  The 5 topics I reiterate to every farmer or business in my classes are 1. Water - 1 quart per person per hour 2.  Shade - keep it close 3. Symptoms - recognize early and save a life.  4.  First aid- cool the body temperature ASAP 5.  Emergency procedures-  how do we get emergency responders to the site? Everyone working in farming has to be able to bust these out on command...


AG: What are the biggest regulations and laws affecting farmers today? 
BL: It’s still all about heat illness prevention but we have seen an increase in citations and enforcement in many diverse areas.  We focus on compliance as a base and then work with companies to develop the best practices for them.



AG: How do you see these changing in the next 10 years? 
BL: The current trend will continue with an increase in regulation and stricter enforcement balanced with increased use of technology to reduce labor costs and exposure to hazards. 


AG:  How has equipment advanced over the past few decades to improve employee safety? 
BL: The improvement in equipment has been exponential and is mind blowing; from guarding of tractors to the mobile device revolution, 3D printing, drones, the use of mechanical/technological harvesting and cultivation practices will change the nature of farming.  It is so exciting to be alive at this point in the history of the world we have the opportunity to help the world be a better place.  Look at us two farm kids blogging :) Who woulda thunk it?

AG:  What safety training is required by the employer? 
BL:  We have several areas which require formal training by qualified trainers; pesticides/chemical and equipment are the main areas. But heat illness is interesting living in the San Joaquin Valley for most of my life sometimes I assume people understand the risks associated with heat.  Farmers must identify the risks associated with every task performed by employees and make sure the workers know how to perform the task correctly/safely.  Additionally remember “you get what you inspect” so if you haven’t observed and documented employees doing it the right way you have not done your due diligence

It was great working with Ben on this safety blog for you all. I hope you have a little more insight into how farmers ensure they operate in a safe manner.


And don't forget the other posts from the Ask the Expert series:
Mike Mulligan, Glory Bee
Matthew Haddon, Sierra Gold
John Wilkins, Valley Tool

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Thursday, February 16, 2017

National Almond Day

Today is National Almond Day! What a perfect time of year it is too. The bees are out and getting happier by the day. The blooms are starting to open so those little bees have something to pollinate and keep their tummies full. (Want to keep your tummy full too? Keep reading to the end)


National Almond Day is a day to enjoy the beauty of the almond, the almond bloom and the almond tree. Besides the fact that almonds are a healthy nut and offer great amounts of protein and vitamins they are also a beautiful nut.


This time of year isn't just for a great family photo or one of best times for local photographers to get some great shots, it is a time to enjoy the lifecycle of the almond. I take this time to showcase how the almond gets a starts. That little bee needs the nourishment and protein from that almond bloom to be able to jump start it's spring. Almonds are the first nutritional crop the bees will be pollinating after a long and cold winter. They look forward to almonds to give them that push of love and vitamins to make it through the year.


Not only do bees need almonds, but almonds need bees. Without bees almonds wouldn't be able to be pollinated. We need bees to cross pollinate the almonds and bring pollen from one almond variety to another. This ensures the almonds will develop into a delicious nut.






The buds and blooms are signs of the tree exiting dormancy and waking up after their long winter nap. The blooms are a sign of new life, new beginnings and a new crop. Bloom set is what many look at as a market predictor to try and guess the crop yield. So many look at bloom as a time to start planning for harvest in a mere 6 months.


There have been plenty of foggy mornings like this during our winter season this year. This keeps the temperature down and the bees asleep. We anticipate the warm afternoons where the bees can get out and bee active! Bees are picky and won't come out unless the temperatures are perfect and sunny. But too many sunny days will speed up bloom and make it happen to fast.


Farming is all about balance and finding the happy mediums. We don't always get the ideal weather, ideal growing conditions or ideal days. But that is what makes farmers the eternal optimist.




So today, let's celebrate almonds! Go eat a handful, feed a bee or just enjoy the beauty of bloom.


So how do I get my hands on these tasty treats to celebrate the National Almond Day?
I will select one lucky Almond Day winner and send you
  • 40 Mariani Nut 1oz snack packs
  • a Large "California Almonds" T-shirt
Enter to win and have a great National Almond Day!




Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ask the Expert: John Wilkins, Valley Tool

Technology is a hot topic that I get lots of questions about. The average consumer doesn't realize just how much technology and advances farmers use every day. This certainty isn't the day of cows and plows anymore.


Ask the Expert is a series of posts to answer your questions. I asked you what questions you had about technology and I went out to answer those questions. I am bringing in what I consider industry experts to answer these tough questions and to provide another view point. I am by no means an expert on these tough questions, so I found the experts for you!


Valley Tool and Manufacturing is a company I became familiar with when they acquired the Vrisimo orchard mowers. They are a popular orchard mower that my father used. I enlisted John Wilkins, who is a sales representative for the company, to help me answer your techie questions.


Almond Girl Jenny (AG): Can you give us a brief introduction of your company?
John Wilkins (JW): Valley Tool & Manufacturing is a manufacturing business focused on industrial agriculture machinery. The brands we manufacture include Vrisimo (flail mowers and shredders), Windmill Spraymaster, RockHound, and BrushHound.
The company was created after a few bad years of peach crops in 1968-69' when the Brenda family had to start over from scratch. The family sold the farm and opened up Valley Tool & Manufacturing in Hughson. The entire facility was only about 1,000 square feet. We began as a tool sharpening business for bay area machine shops and over the next decade began to do bid work for companies in the steel industry such as US Steel and Lockheed Martin.
As we grew, Fred Brenda developed Valley Tool into a full-fledged fabrication shop with a wide variety of capabilities. Then, in the 1980’s, we diversified again by purchasing the Vrisimo Ag mower brand and later Windmill Spraymaster. In the last few years, we’ve developed our newest brands, RockHound & BrushHound Attachments – equipment companies focused on contractor and forestry equipment.
We’re proud to still be a family-owned business and committed to developing Valley Tool as the next generation steps in. Currently, Fred serves as President and his son, Vaughn, is our Vice President.


AG: How have advances in technology changed equipment manufacturing?
JW: That’s a question that is really difficult to answer quickly!  Technology has impacted our company in almost every facet, not just in the type of end product we manufacture.  Yes, our mowers themselves have advanced as technology has, but we’ve seen technology impact us in how we manufacture, how we sell, how we market, even how we handle accounting.  Over the last 10+ years, we have developed a line of excavator and skid steer mounted mowers and shredders that with previously available technology would not have been viable.  Ultimately, it has allowed us to diversify in what we build, to become more efficient in how we build it, and to be more effective in how we reach people with it.


AG: How has technology changed what equipment farmers demand?
The biggest impact that I can point to with regards to technology has to be expectations.  As technology improves, expectations for higher reliability, improved features, and faster delivery windows also grow with it.  Truthfully, that’s great for us as manufacturers because it pushes us to continue to innovate and improve not just our products, but our manufacturing and business processes as well.  Technology is allowing us to make those necessary changes at a much quicker pace than ever before.

AG: What is the biggest change in farmer’s request from you in the past 10 years?
JW: One of the biggest changes we’ve seen over the last 10 years is the necessity for brush shredding and all of the complications that come along with it.  We’ve gone from being able to push and burn pruned material to trying to shred it so fine that it doesn’t cause problems for processors.  
Vrimiso mower photo courtesy of Valley Tool

AG: What new technology are you working on to help advance farmers for the next 10 years?
JW: Without getting into too much detail, our goal is to help farmers with three main things:  reduce downtime, improve public perception, and increase efficiency.  Mowers are relatively simple, but improvements in bearing technology, knife technology, drum balancing methodology, and other things are definitely on the table to help provide farmers with a “better mousetrap” as we continue to see a rise in commercial farming. 

Brush Hound photo courtesy of Valley Tool

Spraymaster photo courtesy of Valley Tool

AG: How has technology changed the way farmers look at doing business?
JW: One thing that has certainly seemed to change in how farmers do business with us is how informed people are before we even have a conversation.  Technology has certainly created expectations of faster response times, shorter lead times and reduced down times.  We have also seen that with the rise of social media, online news outlets, etc., some farmers seem to be much more conscious about the public perception of their practices when making a decision.



It was a pleasure to discuss technology and farming with John. I hope we have dug deep into your questions. Have more? Simply comment below, send me an email or look me up on social media to ask more!


Don't miss out on the Ask the Expert series
Mike Mulligan, Glory Bee
Matthew Haddon, Sierra Gold


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny