#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

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