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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Put a little gravel in your travel

Do you ever see something and instantly it reminds you of a memory? I get that way with gravel driveways. Sometimes home can feel a million miles away but when I see a gravel driveway it can mean so much to me. And whenever I hear that Rodney Atkins song and hear the verse "Put a little gravel in my travel" it brings back all kinds of feelings.




Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones or something but I've been kind of homesick lately. It's only been a few weeks since I was in Chico last visiting my parents and family, but there's just something about that gravel driveway. It is the first thing I see when I get passed the walnut orchard leading to my parents house. It is the first sign of home. Where I grew up, where I was raised, where I share so many memories of childhood.


My parents have lived in their house since they were married only a few years, so it is the only place I knew as home. Yes, my mom may have remodeled it three times over the course of 40 years. But those walls and the love within them have never changed. There is just something about home that makes you comfortable and loved.


I love my parents house so much my wedding reception was there. In the backyard over looking the walnut orchard and surrounded by giant trees and landscaping of love. The house means more to me than dwelling place, it means love and happiness and memories that will never fade.


Nowadays when I return home, of course things have changed, but the love has not. When I grew up that gravel driveway was lined with large walnut trees and the orchard was filled with almonds. Now it is a walnut orchard all the way around. Once you pass the wood fence surrounding the 2 acres the house sits on, there were giant redwood trees opposite the house serving as a guard and barrier of such. Those redwoods have mostly died off now and newer, smaller trees are scattered across the landscape. There is one lone redwood tree at the end of driveway left now. It is a symbol to me of the change and evolution of my childhood home. My sister and I may not live there anymore, and the house may have changed a little inside, but the roots and foundation of that home will never change.



What reminds you of home?


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Monday, May 8, 2017

What is Milk?

Milk. Most of us drink it or use it as an ingredient on a regular basis. Whether it is pouring milk onto your cereal, topping off your coffee with creamer, digging into a big bowl of ice cream or just enjoying a tall glass of milk. Milk is a daily part of most people's diet.
Some people however, can't enjoy milk in the traditional form. Many are lactose intolerant or have a form of milk allergy causing them to search for milk substitutes.
Lucky for them, there are many on the market now a days. Almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk or whatever you can imagine is now available for those who choose. And these aren't just available in milk form; but cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream are all available in some kind of dairy milk substitute. But lately, this term 'milk' has been under attack.





What is milk?

Merriam-Webster defines milk as a 1) fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young as well as 2) a food product produced from seeds or fruit that resembles and is used similarly to cow's milk. BOTH are acceptable in our dictionary.
The FDA however, describes milk as the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.
COWS...did you catch that? The FDA specifies cows. So, not only are they are saying seed or fruit milk isn't milk but are they are also saying goat or sheep milk isn't milk either?

Why does it matter?

Well, it matters to a number of dairy industry folks who are trying to make the FDA enforce their labeling requirements of milk. But why now? The FDA hasn't been enforcing this labeling law and thousands others, so why do they care now?


While 91% of Americans consume dairy milk, only 57% of consumers drink dairy milk by itself.
“In addition to half of Americans consuming non-dairy milk, research reveals that nearly all non-dairy milk drinkers also drink dairy milk, revealing that consumers are turning to non-dairy out of preference as opposed to necessity,” People like the taste of substitutes and they prefer it. Yet, they are still consuming dairy milk.
Personally, I buy cow milk. I used to buy almond milk for myself but once I had small children drinking milk, I switched back to cow milk. I didn't want the extra sweeteners and rich taste of almond milk for such young kids.


The problem that some see is that the USDA reported in 2011 that US milk sales were half of their 1980 levels. Some research reveals the global market for milk substitutes reached $5.8 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach $10.9 billion by 2019. But, really let's compare that number versus cow milk. Dairy milk global value is still $336 billion U.S. dollars in 2014 and was projected to grow by 6 percent until 2019.


Are we really worried about a less than 2% market of milk substitutes. Honestly, I think the dairy folks have bigger fish to fry and other problems they should be tackling. In a world where we should be promoting and protecting agriculture as a whole, I don't like the idea of one sector of the industry attacking another. Milk is milk. Whether it comes from a cow, sheep, goat, almond, cashew, rice, whatever it is, people are going to call it what they call it.


Instead of pegging one sector against another, why can't we come together to celebrate each other and the progress that agriculture has made. I think it is pretty incredible that non-lactose drinkers have so many options. No more are the days where people have to live without ice cream or yogurt because they can't have an ingredient. That is what our society is all about. We adapt, we change, we find alternatives. So, does it really matter what we call it? Let's enjoy the product and thank the farmer who put it on our table for us to enjoy.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny







Friday, April 28, 2017

Green Almonds

There are always those trends that seem to pop up and certain people just shake their heads in disbelief over the following or popularity of the trend. Much like those new 'dirty jeans' that everyone seems in uproar about from Nordstrom. Yep, for those that haven't heard, you can buy a pair of jeans with dirt and grease stains on them for $425 from Nordstrom.


People in the working class community just shake their heads in disbelief that something we try so hard to clean after a hard days work, is now a trend. Well, much like the dirty jeans, when I first heard of green almonds I was caught a little off guard. People are paying a premium for what? To the average consumer, I am sure they would look at the price tag and the appearance and ask just what they were paying for. But for the high end foodie, celebrity or royal it may be something they look forward to all year.


So what exactly is a green almond?

Well, it is just what you would think, a green almond. An almond still in the green stage of development during early spring. The hull is soft and green while the inside is like a gelatin. These green almonds are consumed whole. Yep- hull, developing shell and meat in all.  This stage is about a four week window starting early to mid April. There is a second phase that can be available for about a four week window after that. This is when the kernel or meat of the almond is starting to firm up more and the hull is also harder. You wouldn't consume the hull in this stage.

What is all the hype about?

Green almonds are considered a delicacy that originated in the Mediterranean. No surprise, since the almond is a Mediterranean fruit. But there, people have been consuming this delicacy for decades. It is definitely a niche market product in America where you will have to dine at a fancy upscale East Coast restaurant, with the celebs or extreme foodies to find.

Halibut and pickled green almonds- PC: California Almonds
I would say it is an acquired taste. One that some members of my family do enjoy. They say it tastes like a cucumber and has the same texture as a grape.


Green almonds are a niche and a rare product to find on your supermarket shelves. Most who purchase, order direct from a processor who knows what they are doing with this delicate fruit. One specific grower seems to have figured out the market for them to sell green almonds. They hand pick the almonds and very carefully clean and pack them the same day to ship out to the customer. You wouldn't want to machine harvest such a delicate fruit and you want to make sure the tree still has fruit on it for harvest in the fall. We aren't talking large volume here, so hand picking for orders could be done fairly reasonable.


So there you have it. Green almonds in a nutshell. Well, actually green almonds before the nutshell. If you see yourself in a high end restaurant or dining with the queen during the next few weeks, be on the look out for green almonds. Now, you will be informed and aware of what you might eat. For the rest of us we can wait three more months for the finished product!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Last Adventure as Three

The last couple week's I have been a little MIA, especially when it comes to regular social media updates on the farm or the family. Well, we decided to go on one last adventure as three. In a mere 9 weeks, our next little baby H is set to arrive. Our summer will be filled with the new baby and the adventures of raising two, all happening 1 MONTH before almond harvest will begin. That's right, about the time hull split is scheduled to occur and spray usually needs to be applied, I will most likely be welcoming a new baby into the family and taking my farmer husband away from the farm.
Luckily, our family farm has plenty of family around that will be helping out so hopefully my farmer husband can take a few days to help me get used to life as a mom of two.
But anyways, before that chaos starts and before I feel so uncomfortably pregnant, we wanted to take one last adventure as three. When thinking of places to go, relax and explore it seems like the beach is always the first thing to come to our minds. We live just under 2 hours from Pismo Beach area, which is very popular for getting away. It is also the area we went to college, so we are pretty familiar with where to go and what to see.
But I do have to admit, as much as I love the beach, I am more of a mountain girl. I grew up 2 hours from a family mountain cabin and exploring the lake, creeks and trails was always much more exciting to me.
After some contemplation with the husband, we decided mountains would be much more relaxing and change of scenery for us. When discussing where to go, we both made a weird realization. We live 3 hours from Yosemite National Park and neither of us had ever been there. As children, we both had gone on cross country car trips to see Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Four Corners, etc. but we had never been to Yosemite.
That was it. We were going to explore our own backyard vacation hotspot. After some research, I discovered a great vacation rental company, Redwoods in Yosemite, where you can rent a private cabin for your family. The cabins are fully equipped for your vacation needs as they double as private cabins that individuals own and use as well. It was perfect for us. I made our breakfast every morning, packed a picnic lunch for the day and we made it back for dinner every night. We did indulge one night with a dinner out at nearby Tenaya Lodge.  It was a great out of park, not as crowded option for good food.
Staying by the south entrance of the park was perfect for us. It was near the small town of Wawona that isn't as crowded or touristy as the other areas of the park. We were able to go explore and hike around our cabin, walk down to a near by elementary school for playtime, and still be close to a market for last minute food items I forgot.

Our little almond farmer playing in the park
On Thursday, it rained most of the day. But we were able to take in some sights and explore Big Trees Lodge area in between the rain. There is a Pioneer Village just up the road where you can take a self guided walking tour of old buildings and history of the pioneer days of Yosemite. Our little man enjoyed the old farm equipment and knocking on all the doors to see if anyone was home in the cute little cabins.
Rainy day tour of Pioneer Village
The day before we were only about a 45 minute drive from Yosemite Valley and the massive Yosemite Falls. Driving into the Yosemite Valley the sights are incredible. The valley is covered with quaint meadows, trails and the most beautiful waterfalls. This is also the most attractive places to stay in Yosemite so the two big lodges are here and multiple campgrounds, making traffic and parking kind of a nightmare. But we spent a good amount of time exploring the trails, scenic areas and waterfalls.
I was glad we didn't stay here though, too many people for me. I was happy to make the short drive back to our cabin at the end of the day and relax in quiet. It was the best time to go though, the record amount of rain and snow we have received made the falls overflowing with water.

Yosemite Falls

Lower Falls
On our last day we packed up our suitcases, said goodbye to our cabin and made the drive out of the park and towards Mariposa.  This town has loads of history in gold mining and was fun to explore. They have a quaint downtown filled with boutique shops, antiques, alpaca wool store, and olive oil tasting. A few miles up the road there was also a Mariposa Museum filled with old mining memorabilia and artifacts. This was a great little pit stop for us on our way to Chico for Easter.


I would say our last adventure as three was a success. My farmer husband got his history fix, with plenty to learn and read. My little almond farmer got to explore, play in the snow and run all over new places. And as for me. I got to relax with my two boys and enjoy the beauty we have in our own backyard before the chaos of motherhood is about to double!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Life

Life can change in a blink of an eye. What is constant today, may be different tomorrow. Who we cherish and love, could be gone in a flash. In a world so fast paced and ever evolving as ours, you would think we would all be okay with this. But no. We aren't. And when change occurs, it shocks us. It rocks our boat. It alters our plans. But that is one thing I have learned over the years. We have no control over our plans.


There is a greater being that knows and understands our future far more than we do. We may have a path and a plan for what tomorrow should be, but tomorrow may bring something else. Life can change in a blink of an eye. There is something greater pushing us, challenging us, forcing us to take the other path.



The path we think we want, may not be the one we end up taking. Not by choice, but a greater pull. Life is full of unexpected pulls, changes and challenges. Just when you think you have life under control and you are headed down your path, you will make a sharp curve and end up somewhere else. We can't control life. As much as we want and try, it just can't happen.


We want our friends and family to be safe, healthy and happy. But sometimes the unexpected events happen and they are lost, gone forever. That evil word, cancer, is more and more common in daily conversations today. Tragic unexpected, unexplained accidents happen everyday. Know matter how religious you may be, evil can still come into your life. God is constantly changing our paths.


It may not seem like he has any reason for the tragedy he puts in your live, but there is a lesson to be learned. Something he wanted you to take away from it. He has a funny way of showing love sometimes. But don't give up hope. Life can change in a blink of an eye. What you may look at as tragedy today, could be hope and a new future tomorrow.


Love. Love each other. Love your enemy. Tell them you love them. Show them you love them. Don't be afraid to try something new. To step out of your box and be different. Life can change in a blink of an eye.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The time I met the Peterson Farm Bros

From Kansas farm boys to overnight internet sensations, I would say the Peterson Farm Brothers are leading agriculture advocates. When I found out that our California Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference was going to host these three famous Kansas boys, I was pretty excited to say the least. They literally are reaching the world with their agriculture advocacy work and getting people all over to talk about farming, and they didn't even mean to.
It all started on their Kansas family farm in May of 2012 when the oldest brother, Greg, had an idea for a farming parody song of the popular "I am sexy and I know it". Over the course of the next month, the boys would film their video "I am farming and I grow it" and at the end of the June they posted it on their personnel social media pages and sent it to family and friends.


They had hoped that maybe someday that video would get 50,000 views. Someday. But they honestly just wanted to make a fun video for family and friends. Well within two weeks, that video had been viewed on YouTube 5 million times!  Yep, 5 million times in 2 weeks! They had appeared on national news and people all over the world were talking about the Peterson Farm Brothers.
video video
Now from farming, speaking at conferences, blogging, advocating and making videos these boys have their hands full. One still in college and the two oldest back on the farm, it isn't your usual farm family lifestyle. But they are so down to the earth and level headed individuals.


They were an inspiration to me. Not that I am going to start making music videos about almonds anytime soon, but their advocacy and outreach is an inspiration. They are just normal farm boys, similar to ones all around me. But they take advocacy and outreach to the next level. They draw people in with their witty and entertaining videos but then they keep you captivated by teaching you a little something about cows, pesticides and farming issues.


I felt blessed to have the opportunity to sit across the table from them at breakfast and listen to their story. They are still so level headed and honest people. They may have crazy speaking engagement schedules and film music videos on their farm, but they are just three Kansas boys from a farming family who want to highlight the positives of what farmers and ranchers do everyday.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny



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