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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Almond Joy bites

Christmas is fast approaching and is only days away. Nothing says Christmas like the smell of cookies baking in the oven. You can never get enough Christmas cookies. So far, I have made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies, 3 batches of frosted sugar cookies, candy and almond rice krispies treats and then a giant batch of these delicious almond joy bites! 
Why so many cookies you ask? Well, growing up in a farming family the holidays weren't just a time for us to be with family, but also our extended work family. Whether it was sharing a turkey or ham with employees, a holiday work lunch, or handmade Christmas goodies the holidays were always a time for us to share our appreciation for our employees, too. They spend long hours tending to our farm and truly become part of our families.


I have carried on this tradition for the holiday season and make Christmas cookies for our hard working crews. I like to include almonds when I am baking for our employees so they can literally taste the fruit of their labor. This time I tried making a cookie version of one of my favorite candy bars, almond joy.


Almond Joy bites...I know! They are so easy and fast. But really, these are the easiest cookie I have ever made. They are so fast and only 4 ingredients! How is that possible you say? Well when you are using the most flavorful, delicious 4 ingredients you simply don't need anymore.

So, this Christmas do yourself a favor and add these yummy bites to your cookie list.
 

They will come out of the oven a little gooey still, so let them sit and cool on the sheet for a few minutes. I know you will be tempted to just eat them right out of the oven, but be patient and they will be even better!

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Giveaway #3

By this time you should all be in the Christmas spirit! Have you finished decorating yet? We just put our lights up on the house last night and finished the tree this morning so I think I am as ready as I am going to be. I even have most of the presents wrapped and under the tree.




I have more Christmas Giveaways to spread my Christmas cheer to you all! So the last two giveaways where over Facebook and Instagram...this time I am switching it up a little!


But first, what's in Giveaway #3
20- 1 oz. Mariani California Almond snack packs, Roasted and Sea Salt
"Stirring up Inspiration" Almond Cookbook
Grey California Almond T-shirt, size large
2 almond snack tins- each tin holding the perfect 1 oz. portion size






Each giveaway has had different rules and different qualifications to win! This time I want you to enter right here on the blog...


To enter:
  • Comment on this blog post
    •  Don't worry if it doesn't appear right away, I will moderate to make sure there is no inappropriate language
  • Be an active follower of Almond Girl Jenny, If you aren't currently just follow these easy directions below
    • Enter email in subscribe box on right side of screen
    • Follow email prompts to be an active follower and receive email updates from Almond Girl Jenny

I will pick a random winner on Sunday, December 18th and announce on the blog.


Good Luck and Merry Christmas!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny






Disclaimer: The items in this almond Christmas Giveaway were donated generously by Mariani Nut Company and the Almond Board of California.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas Giveaway #2

You all were so fast and quick to enter the first giveaway! I am glad so many of you were eager to play along. So this week, I am switching it up and having an Instagram Giveaway...
This is my chance to say "Thanks" and give back a little something to you and your families during this holiday season. The first giveaway was on Facebook and I thought it would be fun to highlight other aspects of social media. So this time you need to follow along on Instagram to be eligible.

So what's in Giveaway #2:
40- 1 oz. Mariani California Almond snack packs, Roasted and Sea Salt
1 pair work gloves
Grey California Almond Tshirt- size small
2 almond snack tins- each tin holding the perfect 1 oz portion size


Giveaway #2 Qualifications;
I will pick a random winner on Sunday, December 11th and announce on INSTAGRAM.


Good Luck and Merry Christmas!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny


Disclaimer: The items in this almond Christmas Giveaway were donated generously by Mariani Nut Company and the Almond Board of California.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Christmas Giveaway #1

The countdown to Christmas has begun! Thanksgiving has come and gone and advent has begun in our household. While it seems like it's already been the Christmas season if you have gone to any store in the past month, it is NOW officially the Christmas season.


Last year, I did a Christmas giveaway to my followers and readers and I am back at it again! I value each and every one of you and appreciate you all who read my blog and follow me on social media. Without you, I wouldn't be able to do what I love to do. To show my appreciation I will be having a series of giveaways for the next few weeks until Christmas.


This is my chance to say "Thanks" and give back a little something to you and your families during this holiday season.


So what's in Giveaway #1:
20- 1 oz. Mariani California Almond snack packs, Roasted and Sea Salt
1 pair work gloves
Grey California Almond Tshirt- size small
2 almond snack tins- each tin holding the perfect 1 oz portion size






Each giveaway will have different rules and different qualifications to win!


Let's start easy, simply like this post on Facebook and comment with your favorite holiday treat.


I will pick a random winner on Wednesday, December 7th and announce on Facebook.


Good Luck and Merry Christmas!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny


Disclaimer: The items in this almond Christmas Giveaway were donated generously by Mariani Nut Company and the Almond Board of California.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thankful

Thanksgiving was a few days ago now and our stomachs are probably still trying to recover from the turkey and pumpkin pie overload. But I wanted to stop and reflect. On thanksgiving it is amazing the overflowing amount of thankfulness. It seems everyone took to Facebook and all social media to list what they are thankful for. But what happened next?


Well some when shopping for Black Friday deals, some started Christmas decorating Saturday, some fought traffic on Sunday and then we all went back to work on Monday. Back to the same old grind, back to the same routine, back to our same old self.


What happened to all those thankful people? We are quick to forget what meant so much to us a few days ago. As we prepare our list of Holiday "wants", as we push people through department stores for that special something, as we load up on holiday gifts, lets stop to think.


So, today I wanted to remind you all today and everyday, to stop and be thankful. Being thankful doesn't stop with the day, the season, the company. Being thankful should continue with us through Christmas and into the next year. Being thankful should be a daily recognition.


Everyday, we all need to stop and take a deep breathe to enjoy the loved ones who surround us and be thankful for all the blessings we have. Today and everyday.

Blessings are sometimes hard to see in a world with so much hate but everyday is a day to be thankful.

I am thankful for this little guy and all the family who support me and love me in this crazy journey.

I am thankful for my faith, the opportunity to believe what I believe, and to know God has bigger plans beyond what I can conceive.

I am thankful for farmers who take pride in what they do, and wake up every morning to provide food for this great nation and world.

Everyday is a reminder to stop and count your blessings and be thankful for all, each and every day!



Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Monday, November 14, 2016

Why am I an agvocate?

Today marks a milestone in my life. It seems crazy to me, but I have been blogging for three years now. Most days I feel like I am a newbie and am still getting my feet wet in this whole thing. Some days, I feel like I have been doing this forever and struggle with what and how to say things. Blogging has taught me one thing though, I am an advocate for agriculture. An agvocate if you will.


Writing this blog is merely one aspect of being an agvocate. I blog, I am active on social media with agriculture discussions, I do agriculture interviews for magazines and newspapers, I serve on a number of boards and committees that represent agriculture. But why? Why am I an agvocate?








Lately, I have noticed more and more that not everyone understands why people agvocate. I don't simply do this because I woke up one morning and it sounded fun. Some days, it isn't fun at all. The days people question my agenda, my desire, my passion, those days make me mad. But something I have come to realize, it that not everyone gets it. Not everyone loves what they do. Some look at their job as a mere job. Some look for negative in others. Some are jealous.


I take pride in what I do. I grew up with a passion for agriculture, it was instilled in me by people who loved what they did. My parents and grandparents loved farming, it wasn't a job, it was an opportunity to enjoy your daily life. I always knew I wanted to love my life as they did.


Agriculture is loving the land, cherishing the land that allows you to prosper from it. I learned at a young age, that if you loved the land it would love you back. You treat the land well, and it will do well. Or we wouldn't be able to pass that land on. One day, if my children so desire, I want them to have the same opportunities I had. If they want to farm, I want there to be a farm for them.


California is in a tough place. California agriculture is struggling to survive. Farmers are a dying breed. Without families and individuals sharing what we do and how we do it, we will cease to exist. My great Grandfather settled in Chico, California from Italy. He came to California to be a farmer. He came to a new land with hopes and aspirations that he knew America could offer him. Today, farmers' hopes are to simply stay in business next year. If I don't share my story, who will?



Agvocating gives me a means to share my love and passion for agriculture. It is a chance to share my story. Share me. Be authentic. Be myself.


Not everyone will like it. Not everyone will appreciate it. But I don't do this for others. I don't share for you. I share for me, my future. If I don't share my story, someone else will. And then it won't be right. If I just sit back and let others talk, my message won't be told; their message will be.


California agriculture has to succeed. I have to succeed. My livelihood and my children's future depends on it. Agriculture and farming are not a job to me, they are my life. Farming is a way of life, a lifestyle. A lifestyle that teaches work ethic, responsibility, dedication, appreciation, and love. My dream is that some day my children will also learn those qualities the way I did. By being an agvocate I am planning for the future.





Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny







Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Inside Look: Weiss McNair, Nut harvesting equipment

I have found myself to be quite the tour junkie lately. Any chance I can get to see the inside look of how things are made or just learn different processes, I am so there! I had the opportunity to have an inside look into one of the leading nut harvesting equipment manufacturing facility's and I couldn't help but want to share it with all of you. This is not an endorsement or paid post, this is my honest opinion of a farmer tour I received.



Weiss McNair is a leader in nut harvesting equipment manufacturing. The company began in 1966 and they have grown to have quite the extensive portfolio of tractor-pulled and self-propelled harvesters, self-propelled sweepers, tractor mounted blowers, and tractor mounted sweepers. Their equipment is designed to be used in a variety of nut crops including almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, chestnuts and jojoba beans. Because everyone is looking for jojoba bean harvesting equipment, lol!
They are based out of Chico, Ca and while a majority of their equipment is sold in the nut growing regions of the United States, they also have equipment in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Spain, France, Italy, Israel, Portugal, South Africa and Turkey. I know what your thinking, that's it?




Now, I think that's pretty impressive for a small town manufacturer. To be honest, growing up this manufacturer was right in my backyard and I had no idea the extent of their business until I toured their facility myself. Who knew such precise and top notch equipment could be made in a small town?
My family has always done business with Weiss McNair and I guess it just never dawned on me that their equipment could be used to help farmers so far away as well as right here in California.


The tour was pretty cool and overwhelming with lots of large equipment and metal everywhere. I will do my best to explain the manufacturing side of how these useful machines are made, but boy was it impressive.





My tour began with the laser cutter. This massive monstrosity precisely cuts down the metal to be used to build their equipment. The operator simply tells the machine what size and dimensions of metal it needs and this cutter gets busy. This machine saves time and man power of the previous method of hand cutting the metal. I really can't describe how large this metal cutter is, but it was huge.
Laser Metal Cutter
 The finished product is precisely cut pieces of metal that can now be welded together to form a piece of equipment. Here Mr Terry Allread, Director of Manufacturing, shows one finished piece that will soon become a side door for a nut harvester.
Mr. Terry Allread showing a finished piece.
All of those precisely cut and welded pieces come together to form different nut harvesting equipment. Magic! It is crazy how metal, nuts, bolts and welds come together to form such diverse equipment.
Stack of blowers to be used for sweepers


 These blower blades were once sheets of metal waiting to be cut by the laser. Now, they are cut to size, and the holes were cut for bolts. The blades and the associated pieces of metal have all gone from a flat sheet of metal to a useful tool in the harvesting of almonds.



Sweeper engine and machine coming together
Now the frame of the sweeper has to be assembled, which includes a lot of welding!! This helps make the space for the engine to be mounted into the new machine. This is just the start of assembling the sweeper. There are A LOT of hydraulic and electronic components that come next.

Open cab sweeper
Completed low profile enclosed cab sweeper
Completed Tractor pulled V sweeper
Next, there are multiple options that a sweeper can be made into for finishing the machine. Growers preferences vary depending on use, locations, and crop. And this is just sweepers, the same process occurs with all other nut harvesting lines they manufacture.

California Special nut harvester

From the raw materials that they start with, to the finished product the manufacturing of these machines is precise and a very sophisticated process.  It's hard to describe in words just how massive and impressive this facility was. If you ever find yourself in Chico, I suggest you stop by and check it out for yourself. I sure do have a new appreciation for those sweepers sitting in our shop yard. And just maybe now you have had an inside look into one component of nut harvesting equipment.






Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Almond Snickers Rice Krispies

Let me just tell you right now, these are so good and quite addicting! But so so so worth every bite. It's the beginning of holiday sweet tooth season, so you will want to add these to your recipe list.


Like most people out there on social media, my Facebook feed is often times overrun with recipe videos of the most delicious looking, oh so bad for you yumminess. Well a few weeks ago I saw Snickers Rice Krispies come across and they looked pretty good, then about a week later I saw them again and saved the recipe. Well Facebook is evil and when you save a video, it likes to remind you again and again of your saved video. After Facebook made me look at this video over and over again, I knew they had me hooked and I had to try it. I should just call this post, Facebook made me do it!


I will blame Facebook, but I did also think instantly of my almond farmer husband when I saw this recipe. He LOVES snickers. Like I find a few snickers wrappers a week in his truck. I bought Halloween candy and he automatically takes all the snickers out of the bowl for himself. I knew he would love this recipe, so I knew I had to make it for him.








The original videos I watched for this recipe had peanuts, which is what snickers uses after all. Peanuts though! Peanuts are a forbidden ingredient in my house. I do not buy them, I do not own them, I do not eat them. Nothing against peanut farmers, but I have a pretty good supply of almonds and walnuts. So why would I buy and eat a competitor nut? Well actually peanuts are a legume, not a nut, but you get my point. When I see peanuts on a recipe, I pretty much know I can substitute almonds and it will turn out like 100 times better. And guess what, they are still AMAZING!!!




The recipe is pretty easy and doesn't involve cooking really so it is a good one to try when looking for an easy dessert to bring to a party. In fact, I plan on bringing these to an end of harvest lunch we are hosting at the farm this weekend. That is if my husband doesn't eat them all before then. The only thing I had to cook was the melting the butter and marshmallows on the stove. Easy peasy!



The hardest thing about this recipe, those caramel squares. I seriously unwrapped over 50 caramel squares. That was so annoying! I understand if they don't wrap them individually they would all stick together in the package, but someone please come up with a different way to sell caramel.



The steps are pretty easy, make rice krispies, cut up almonds, melt caramel, melt chocolate, eat and enjoy! I did of course try a little something special on this batch and sprinkle a few extra almonds on top, this is an optional step for those almond lovers. I hope you all try this recipe and enjoy it as much as we did. The only problem will be trying to keep my husband away from them so I can bring them to the party this weekend!





Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny



Thursday, October 20, 2016

Farm Tour: Mariani Nut Company

I can't lie, I was super excited when I found out I had the opportunity to tour Mariani Nut Company as part of the Farm Tank Summit. Yes, the summit was a good opportunity, and I got to tour a cool organic farm Full Belly Farm, but Mariani Nut is pretty impressive.
Mariani Nut is a family farm in Winters, Ca. They grow almonds and walnuts as well as process their own nuts and a handful of other grower's nuts. They have been in the business since the early 70's, when almonds were being introduced in a larger scope to farmers throughout California. They are a family business that is integrated and innovative in what they do. They have deep roots in farming and keeping the business family operated is important to them. What a better tour guide than a family member too, Matt Mariani the son of the starters, showed us around.









The afternoon started with a picnic lunch in an almond orchard. How else would you enjoy lunch while meeting a farmer? I loved this, and I loved that he was so welcoming to our group being in his orchard. Let me remind you, I attended this farm tour in September, during almond harvest. There were almonds on the ground in windrows, waiting to be picked up, and they stopped everything so we could have lunch in an orchard. I don't know how many people appreciated this, but being a farmer I appreciated it immensely.




Glimpse into our picnic lunch in an almond orchard




Matt shared the history of his family while we ate lunch. His family members are Croatian immigrants from Santa Clara and settled in Winters in the 70's to start farming. They knew then how fertile and valuable the land was and invested in it for the future. Today, Mariani Nut is one of the largest, family owned almond and walnut processors in California. Matt leads sales and marketing for the company now.










They may still be a family run business, but their reach is beyond that. They employ 200 people at the processing plant just up the road. Because of their size, they are able to operate year round and keep all but 5% of the employees on an annual basis. They operate a huller, sheller and processor in one. I have toured a huller and sheller before as well as a processor but never all at one facility. They are unique that once product arrives fresh from the field, it stays there for all processing until it is ready for the consumer. I wish I could have taken you all inside with me. It was a sight to see for sure. Due to the nature of the business and competition I couldn't take pictures and I can't share with you their trade secrets from behind the processing wall.






Outside look of their processing facility
Shell pile outside the processing plant
 


The huller and sheller runs for 4-5 months during the peak harvest season. They will then store the shelled almonds and process throughout the year as demand comes in. With 75% of their crop staying in America and the balance going overseas, they have much more control over when they process their crop. To give you some perspective that massive pile of shells wasn’t even half of what it would be at the end of harvest season when they are done shelling the almonds. 




They market their product in natural, whole, sliced, diced, slivered, chopped and blanched. They even have a seasoned line of all kinds of yummy flavors. Mariani is an example of a diversified and integrated company who really does do it all. From farming, hulling, shelling, processing, marketing and selling a Mariani family member has their hands in creating a quality, healthy and delicious product ready to enjoy!




Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Farm Tour: Full Belly Farm

So now that I have shared with you all my main takeaways from Farm Tank Summit day one let's explore day two. Day two of the Farm Tank Summit was tours. There were five different options to pick from; conservation, youth engagement, urban farms, hubs, and farmer for a day. I have always been one to jump at the opportunity to explore how others farm, so I picked farmer for a day. It intrigues me to see what other people farm and why, what works for them and what doesn't.




First stop for our farm tours was Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley west of Sacramento. One of the owners, Judith Redmond was our tour guide for the day. Full Belly is a certified organic farm, growing nearly 80 different crops. Their farm is roughly 350 acres and employs 60 year round employees including 6 yearly interns. They take pride in the fact that they have multiple generations of family members in their work force and happy to have their farm laborers pass on the tradition of working with them. They are a true example of love and care for our workers, they aren't just employees but extensions of their family.


Being a 30 plus year old farm, they have seen challenges and hurdles to farming. Labor is definitely one of those. Sixty percent of their farm expenses is labor. But with the recent California minimum wage increase and agriculture overtime laws that passed this year, Judith also knows labor costs will continue to hurt them. "Our expenses will go up but we won't necessarily be able to charge more for our produce. We need people to appreciate local food" Judith is completely right. Without consumer appreciation for the food they eat, they won't be willing to pay more for food just because it's local. When consumers are tied to their food, their community, their soil; maybe they will pay more and understand why it cost more.


Full Belly Farm walnut orchard
Judith wasn't shy to say "we know we aren't efficient, we are diversified but not specialized in what we do". Growing such an array of crops gives their CSA and Farmers Market customers options every week, but it doesn't mean they are experts on farming those crops. They are farming for the foodie, not the masses. They are farming for the millennial that wants a tie to their food, their community, that connection to their roots. And with over 50% of the sales going to CSA and Farmers Markets, it works for them. They have found their niche and are capitalizing on what works for them.
Full Belly succeeds by opening up and being transparent. They open their farm up for farm tours, monthly summer farm dinners, weddings, wreath making classes and an annual Hoes Down festival. They are truly showcasing the life on the farm and inviting others in to see the glorious and not so glorious times too.


One thing I really loved was their internship program. They ask their interns to dedicate a minimum of a year to live and work on their farm. By living on the farm, they are truly immersed in the farming lifestyle. From getting up at 3am to attend a Farmers Market 3 hours away, weeding the fields, or tending to the farm animals they get it all.


Full Belly Farm chickens

Full Belly Farm traveling chicken coop
Those farm animals, let me tell you about them. When we were getting our tour, the chickens were enjoying the shade and ambiance of the apple orchard. Their free range chickens have a traveling chicken coop that followed them from field to field for them to lay their eggs and escape any predators. They also have cows, sheep and goats. I spotted one of the cows in an old almond orchard as we pulled up. They use an old orchard that doesn't produce nuts anymore as permanent pasture for their cows. What lucky animals!


Full Belly Farm cow grazing on an old almond orchard
It was a unique experience at Full Belly Farm, one I am glad I had the opportunity to tour. It was like no other farm I had seen before. Who would have thought, tucked away in this little valley between Sacramento and San Francisco was a farm like no other? Where time stands still, where you can stop and enjoy the scenery around you, where they grow for the few who appreciate their hard work, where people come together to celebrate the bounty at hand.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Farm Tank Summit

As a young millennial, as I am often called, I like to put myself in situations where I am surrounded by non like-minded people. My generation is seeking a sense of community and tie to the roots, locally and globally. We want to know we have a greater purpose and understand the world around us.


It was because of this sense of community that I attended the recent Food Tank's Farm Tank Summit. Food Tank describes their vision as building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters. As a farmer I consider myself a supplier of safe, healthy and nourishing food. I wanted to take a closer look and see what it was all about. Farm Tank was a partnership with Food Tank and Visit Sacramento, the Farm to Table Capital, so I envisioned farmers and foodies alike coming together.
Farm Tank was structured whereas the first day was filled with panels and keynote speakers while the second day was agriculture centered tours, which I will cover on a later post.


Day One:

The morning started with check-in where I was greeted with a name tag and canvas bag filled with all kinds of goodies; coupons, clif bar, tin of California Almonds, kale chips, water bottle and sponsor flyers. I sat down at a table with strangers who were quick to introduce themselves and engage in conversation. My table was filled with another farmer, a medical professional, restaurant owner and a food distributor. I felt welcomed and excited for the diverse conversation that was to enfold.


The opening speakers touched on their agendas and why they were here today. But the overall message was for all of us to come together and discuss challenges in our food system while building a community of food activists. There were several key messages I took away from the day.

Communication is key.

The Food Transparency panel kicked off the day. It was very evident after listening to all the panelist that farmers' communication is key and currently not being done effectively.


"We need to eat organic because they don't use pesticides"  Eric Holt-Gimenez of Food First stated in his keynote.  If there are people in food roles and organizations that believe this, farmer's aren't communicating well enough. As a farmer, I know organic farms use pesticides and sometimes more pesticides than conventional. Good, bad or indifferent we should know the facts.


So many farmers and ranchers are doing good things, I often feel they get overlooked because of the few who aren't. Many farmers in the Central Valley offer healthcare, benefits, financial assistance for going to school, medical offices on site, daycare or even housing. But a lot of these farms are labeled bad because they are corporations or larger companies. What seems overlooked is they are often times able to offer more because they have more means to do so.


Marcia Ishii-Eiteman with PANNA made the closing comment that corporate agriculture was distracting our conversation and forcing us to talk about things they want to. But their contributions are often overlooked because of who they are.


We can't lump all farms together and say all corporate is bad, or all organic don't use pesticides. Each farm will do things differently. That is why no two farms are created equal. This is why communication is key. We need to learn from each other and be open to listening.

"If farmers aren't taking care of the land, they aren't going to be able to stay in business."

John Purcel of Monsanto said this great quote during the Food Technology panel.  John isn't a bad guy just because he works for Monsanto, but that didn't stop the audience from booing him as he was introduced. The great thing about large corporations like Monsanto is that they work with small and large growers. He knows and sees all kinds of growers and the one thing that brings us all together is our love for the land. If we don't have a love of the land, we won't be able to stay in business or pass the farm to the next generation.


And when our land produces an excess or we have waste on our farm, we need to find a way to utilize it as well. This is exactly what Nick Papadopoulos of Crop Mobster is doing. He is not only taking care of his land but other people's land as well. Crop Mobster gleans and takes donation to distribute to food banks or other outlets who can use them and reduces food waste. He operates an alert systems where you can submit a need and people sign up and share to come together to connect sourcing. 


Nick also touched on how consumers have turned to convenient food and the need for having things fast. He said we need to get back to the appreciation of inconvenience. Food and farming shouldn't be looked at as convenient, we should make decisions off appreciation. We, as consumers, need to appreciate our meals as a farmer appreciates the land. Every bite we put in our mouth comes from care and love of the land. There is certainly not an easy, fast or convenient means of producing food and there shouldn't be in our means of acquiring our meals.

Should seasonality dictate our food choices?

Farm Fresh To You Co-Owner, Thaddeus Barsotti certainly thinks so. And during the Infrastructure panel, he discussed getting consumers to buy based off seasonality. He has had great success doing so in his business model and I commend him for doing so. But as I outlined last week in my post, I don't think that would work for the rural mountains of Montana.
It was also mentioned, by Keith Knopf of Raley's, the need to leverage retailers to not supply food until it's ready. When you go to the store in January and want grapes, you have to be aware that those aren't local or fresh and traveled on a boat from Chile or Peru to make it on your supermarket shelf. If there is demand for grapes in January, the retailer will fill that demand with where product is coming from. Keith also discussed on education of food to his customers. Do consumers even connect the dots that grapes in January aren't local? Farmers, distributors and retailers all need to work together to ensure we are communicating these messages.

Size can be deceiving

General Mills, the largest processing tomato company The Morning Star Company, Clif Bar, Driscoll's, Organic Valley, California Almonds, Blue Apron and Bayer. These are some big names in agriculture and food and they filled the Food Business panel. But don't let their names dictate your impression of them.


Jon Bansen is small dairyman from Oregon who belongs to Organic Valley Cooperative. Organic Valley is a well known and recognizable name, but there are over 100 processors across the US to ensure their 1,837 growers' milk products stay within their local communities. When you are buying Organic Valley, you're buying local.


Almonds are in deed grown in California, we employ California workers, pay California taxes and contribute to California businesses but we also export almonds and not only feed the world but help to employ worldwide workforce of those connected to almonds in other countries. Richard Waycot, CEO of Almond Board of California, also pointed out how there are over 6,800 almond growers in California and 75% of those farm less than 100 acres. Hullers, shellers and processors are also mainly family owned. Yes, there are a lot of almonds grown in California but it's families who are doing so.


It is all about growing things in the right locale and that might not always be local. - Matt Wadiak, Founder of Blue Apron  He knew we are growing things here in California because it's the best place to grow them. Now this man gets it! After listening to him I am signing up for this service, because he understands farming. California is unique and special. No, I am not just talking about the people in our state, but the climate, soil and farming capabilities within it. Don't let our size foul you, we are specialty farmers who farm massive amounts of food that know one else can do like us.

Farmers are doing more with less, even with higher regulations and taxes

Passmore Ranch is a fish farm who is taking fish poop rich nutrient water and now growing vegetables with it. Michael Passmore is the owner and farmer and like many of us, he is frustrated by the government burden in California. He has expanded his original farm that once only produced fish to now using that high nutrient, fish poop water to grow vegetables. As he pays his employees more though, the extra isn't getting passed down to them. "The taxes that comes from their paycheck is irritating, I'd love to say let's pay our guys more money and they will make more money but it doesn't work like that."  Many farmers like Michael wish we could pass more money to our hard working employees but with increased regulations and taxes, a pay raise doesn't always mean more money in their pocket.


It's cattle ranchers like Darrel Sweet of Sweet Ranchers who also feels the burden of higher regulations and encroachment of urban sprawl as he raises cattle on mountain grasses east of Livermore, California. Ranchers produce the same amount of beef today as they did in the 70's with millions fewer cows. Ranchers and farmers alike are having to do more with less. We are being sustainable because we have to be in order to stay in business.




There are so many messages out there and so many people talking, it is hard to know what to believe. But by being engaged, having a seat at the table and connecting to others with non-like minds, farmers are telling our stories. I found it important to attend Farm Tank to have the opportunity to meet people I wouldn't otherwise and share what it's like to be a 4th generation California Farmer. By starting the conversation and opening up to others, you will have the chance to make a difference. I may have not changed anyone's views on almonds by attending this summit, I may have not educated them on challenges farmers face but I started the dialogue. Communication is key, and now a few more people know who to ask if they have questions.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny














Monday, September 26, 2016

No two farms are created equal

Every farm is unique and different. Every farm has a purpose. Every farm is needed. We are all necessary. No one farm can produce enough. No one farm is better than another. No two farms are created equal.


Organic, conventional, sustainable, small, large, factory, family owned, cooperative, every farm is necessary. There is an ever increasing demand for local, organic, family farmed food. And that is great for dwellers who happen to live within miles of where produce is grown. I am lucky to live in California, where I have access to fresh and local food all times of the year. But to someone living in the rural Montana mountains, what are they suppose to eat in January? Beef and mushy potatoes?



We need larger scale farms to be able to produce food to feed areas in the country and world that don't have access to fresh, local food all year round. If I lived in Montana I would certainly get tired of eating steak and potatoes after 4 months and crave a big garden salad, or a crispy apple or mound of berries. And thanks to farmers in other parts of the country, they have access to these things.


Farmers Markets are a great way to access local and fresh food. In California, we are lucky to have year round access to these markets. Now, lets travel to Texas. In Austin, they have thriving farmers markets for four summer months. The remaining 8 months of the year they have to shop at super markets to have fresh produce. The farmers across the country are growing fresh produce in those 8 months, so that Austin families can still have access to fresh food.


Community Supported Agriculture is a great subscription program where farmers fill a box of fresh produce and consumers can either pick it up or have it delivered to their home or business. These boxes are great for people who live within 120 miles of these farms. But I don't think these farm boxes would look very fresh by the time they made the trek to Alaska in February.


All of these programs are great and necessary to meet the needs and demands for the people around them that thrive with these small farms. But for the consumers across rural America, or in bustling cities it doesn't quite work.  


What about the New York businessman who works 10 plus hours a day and picks up dinner on the way home, while riding the subway to their 500 square foot apartment. Most of these apartments don't even have room for full refrigerators and some of these city slickers are just fine not having to cook meals either. They prefer the fast and convenient, prepackaged meals they can pick up. Or if they are like Carrie from Sex and the City, they store shoes in their ovens because they care more about storage then preparing food.


Now these are all just examples of programs, farms, and consumers I have ran across in my life. But by no means are these everyone's situations and opinions. Just like no two consumers situations are the same, no two farms are the same.


What an organic farm is able to yield is not going to match a conventional farm. A small family farm may not have the same logistical resources to be able to ship their produce across the country as a larger scale farm would have. But with different soil, climate, water, fertilizer, temperatures, or seeds these farms are all able to grow different crops. None of which are better than the other.


In a world where we constantly are pegging one thing against the other, we are blessed to have options. Why must we pick one? Every farm has a demand. They wouldn't be in business otherwise. We need to support each farmers right to choose what works best for their farm. We shouldn't boycott a farm because he's not organic. We shouldn't protest a farmer because he ships his produce to another country. We need to support everyone.


As consumers should we really be telling the farmer how to better farm? Farmers are farming so you don't have to. I farm so you can be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or whatever make you happy. When I am sick I go to the doctor, I don't try to diagnose myself and write my own prescription for medicine I need. When you get hungry you go to the store and expect what you are craving to be there. Because of farmers across the world, it will be.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny







Thursday, September 15, 2016

How long is an almond orchard productive?

A question I get asked a lot, especially during harvest is "How long do trees live?" This questions is usually asked because people want to know how long an almond orchard is productive before we have to remove it. This harvest I have watched two different cycles of life on our farm. Our oldest orchard is seeing it's last harvest this year, at 28 years old. The production and profitability of an orchard definitely declines with age.  It's reached a point that it just isn't producing enough crop to justify keeping it around for another year. At the same time, we have another orchard that is being harvested for the first time at just under 3 years old. I guess it is true, with every chapter that closes another one begins.









Our 28 year old orchard is the last orchard on our farm that is flood irrigated. About 7 years ago, my family started transitioning our farm over to drip irrigation to help conserve water and better manage our decreasing water deliveries. At the time we started this conversion it just didn't make sense to invest into the irrigation system of an old orchard when we were going to rip it our shortly. Now, it is time for our 28 year old orchard to update and rebuild, or pass the torch. We will plant a new almond orchard next year and update the irrigation system to drip.





Row with missing trees due to wind storms
At 28 years old, this orchard also has gaps and stretches in the field with no trees. In a standard orchard after a rain or windstorm we take out the fallen trees and in the spring we replant where any trees are missing. Well with age, it got to a point that it didn't make sense to replant where the missing trees were if we were going to replant the whole orchard soon.


The main factor in an almond trees lifespan is of course productivity. Depending on soil type, water stress, environment, or disease pressure an almond orchard generally lives for 25-30 years before it is removed. An almond tree hits a plateau for yield around 15 years and after that it starts to slowly decline. So the short answer is an individual tree may be productive for a long time, however for a farm the economics of the whole orchard have to be taken into account.


This was the case a few years ago as well. Now our youngest orchard is having it's first harvest this year. In March of 2014 our farm planted this young orchard after we ripped out an older almond orchard. Now, in it's third growing year we are harvesting. 2014 and 2015 were all about growing, training and pruning the tree itself. We focused on maintaining a healthy and happy tree. Now in it's third year of life, it made it's first harvest.

3 year tree after it's first harvest
Harvester picking up first almond harvest
It is a great life cycle lesson on our farm right now. We love to watch the young orchards be developed and become productive. At the same time, it is sad to see another orchard reach the end of it's life. After 28 years, it has seen a lot of growth. But I guess the same can be said about our family. That orchard has seen our family grow over the last 28 years. If those trees could talk they could share the memories of our family and how we have grown, expanded and welcomed new life.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Almond Coleslaw

It is hot and let's be honest, no one wants to cook or turn on the oven when it is hot outside. It is the season for grilling and staying cool, outside of the kitchen. With Labor Day weekend coming up, I am sure everyone has some bbq or swim party to attend.  While everyone loves a good hamburger or steak, those backyard bbq's need a good side dish.

Potlucks are the best, where everyone brings a side dish, know one has to worry about preparing a whole meal. But you never want to prepare the side dish at someone else's house. A make ahead dish where you just show up and plop your side in the fridge is the easiest way to do it.

I love this almond coleslaw because it is fast and easy. Few ingredients and ones that you can even buy all prepared and ready to throw in the bowl! One bowl means less dishes, which means more time for enjoying your company and relaxing.


Everyone has their own additions and modifications to everything, just like me.  But I do have to admit that almonds really do go perfect with this recipe. There is just something about coleslaw that is screaming out for almonds to be added to it. I also love that it is a simple recipe with 5 main ingredients. I am not a lover of mayo either, so I am always searching for mayo free recipes when it come to summer salads. Anything where I can substitute out mayo is a winner in my book. You will still need just a little, but trust me, you can't even taste it!

So this Labor Day weekend, kick back, relax, and have a backyard bbq where you don't have to cook!

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why AB1066 is bad for California agriculture.

The agriculture industry feeds you, clothes you and helps stimulate the economy. But our elected officials are in the midst of threatening the agriculture livelihood of California. Agriculture is a $2.4 trillion industry providing over 1.3 billion jobs. But that could soon be changing, and not for the good. California politicians already approved a minimum wage increase that will raise our wages $1/ hr every year until it is $15/hour by 2022.  This wage increase coupled with the proposed Assembly Bill 1066 will kill the California agriculture industry.


AB1066 is proposing to change our agriculture overtime laws. Although some would like to tell you we don't have such in place, we do. Agriculture employees currently get time and half after 10 hours of work. AB1066 wants to change that to 8 hours. So by 2022, after 8 hours of work we will be paying our farm laborers $22.50/ hour. That is an additional $15/ day per employee if we continue to work a 10 hour day. This number doesn't even reflect the additional taxes the employer will be paying on the employee. For a mid size farm who has 10 employees that's an additional $150/ day or $900/ week for a 6 day workweek.

My family is a small family farm in the heart of agriculture's Central Valley, an additional $900/ week is a lot of money. Now let's say we do this for 60 days during our busy harvest season, now that's $9,000! If we have to pay overtime after 8 hours and attempt to continue running our business as we did before $15/hr and before an overtime law change, it would cost us an additional $9,000 for 60 days.

Now let's do some more math. Instead of offering that extra 2 hours of overtime to our employees so they continue to work the same hours, let's hire an extra person and have them work 8 hours as well. 8 hours/day at $15/ hour is $120/ day. We could bring on that new person for 75 days and it would cost us the same $9,000. So by cutting the hours of 10 people we can just hire a new person and not pay overtime.

Those original 10 employees would not be happy that their hours and subsequent wages will be cut. We will not be able to keep our farms running as we once did. But financially, as a business decision it makes more sense. At the end of the day, farms are a business and we must make the best business decision to keep operating.

But if our farm isn't able to keep running as it once did, those original employees will not be able to keep their lives the way they once did either. Those farm laborers will have to get another job, find side work or obtain financial assistance from state or federal programs. Sometimes our politicians don't understand how their decisions will have unintended consequences on others.

Watch this video it also explains it quite well!


AB1066 proponents say this bill will help farm workers make more money and even the playing field with other jobs. No, it won't. AB1066 will force agriculture employers to cut hours of our current employees and hire additional workers during the peak seasons. That is the whole reason the agriculture overtime is the way it is now. And we aren't alone. Firefighters, Programmers, Actors, Ski Resort employees and even some state employees are all the same as agriculture is now. We have peak seasons and slow times of year. Why are we just wanting to change agriculture? I want to Keep California working. Do you?

Please, take a few minutes and send a note to your Assemblymember and urge them to vote NO on AB1066.  The California Assembly is scheduled to discuss and vote on this matter Monday, August 29th.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Plum Cobbler Bars

My father has one of the greatest fruit orchards. Hands down. When he planted his walnut orchard years ago, we left a row the length of their 2 acre homestead to plant assorted fruit trees. He has all kinds of fruit trees on this strip of trees; nectarines, peaches, apples, pears, figs, and of course plums. With about 4 of each fruit tree you can imagine the loads of fresh fruit he gets in the summer. Of course the family dog is sure to harvest from the low hanging branches. It seems like every time I am home for the summer I get boxes of fruit fruit. The last time I was home, I was handed a box of plums as I was leaving.

When looking for recipes to incorporate fresh plums into, there really aren't that many. I did find a few but if you follow my recipe posts, you  know simplicity is how I bake or cook. I needed something easy and with less ingredients the better.

I came across a breakfast bar recipe and of course had to put my spin on it! I brought these out to the farm one day and didn't know what to call them. I just told the guys they are a plum bar thingy. My father in law was actually the one who said, they kind of taste like cobbler in a bar form. So here you have it, plum cobbler bars.

I loved that they bake in a giant pan and then you can cut them into bars. I used parchment paper to line my baking dish with. This made it super easy to just lift out of the pan once they were cool enough for cutting. You do really want to wait to cut these until they cool. The first time I made them, I didn't wait long enough and they were super messy. Live and learn. Second time was much easier.

Be patient and cut once cool. Then put them in the fridge and enjoy them fresh from the fridge cool. They are so good, and really are a bar you can have for breakfast, snack or dessert! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Thursday, August 11, 2016

How is an almond harvested?

Harvest is in full force on the farm. We started shaking about two weeks ago and now we are sweeping and picking up almonds. After we shake almonds, we leave them on the orchard floor for 7-10 days to dry. Almonds have a pretty high moisture level on the tree and it takes a while for mother nature to dry them out. When they are dry enough we start sweeping.

A sweeper is a self propelled machine that is low to the ground, has brushes out in front and a blower to the side. The sweeper blows the nuts from the tree line to the orchard row and the brushes then sweep the almonds into what is called a windrow. The windrows make it possible for the harvester to come through and pick up the nuts.
Side of the sweeper as it brushes almonds into windrows

The harvester gets pulled by a tractor through the orchard and carries a reservoir cart. The harvester picks up the almonds from the windrow and does an initial cleaning of dirt, leaves, rocks and other debris.  The harvester then dumps the almonds into the reservoir cart. This is one steady motion through the field. The tractor continues to drive up and down the orchard rows and picks up the almonds as it drives.

Tractor pulling the harvester
Harvester and reservoir cart
 Once the reservoir cart is full of almonds a shuttle cart comes up behind it.  You will notice the reservoir cart and the shuttle cart are made by the same manufacturer. These two pieces of equipment typically are the same manufacturer so the machine clearances line up correctly. The reservoir cart has to dump the almonds into the shuttle cart and you don't want to loose any almonds from the equipment not lining up properly. The augers inside the shuttle cart and reservoir cart help to distribute the almonds across the carts to maximize the storage capacity of the trailers. The shuttle cart then drives to the elevator to unload. The shuttle cart ensures the harvester doesn't have to slow down to pick up almonds. While the shuttle cart is unloading almonds at the elevator the harvester continues to pick up almonds. It is a fast and efficient process.

So when the shuttle cart gets filled up it drives to the elevator and pours the almonds into the elevator trough. The trough belts then carry the almonds up the elevator and into the semi trailers. There is a desticker attachment that is part of the elevator as well. The attachment will remove the large sticks and branches that may have got picked up with the almonds. Once the trailers are full of almonds they head off to the huller and sheller for further processing and into a store near you!

 Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny