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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Our newest little bundle of joy has arrived!

Daddy's little Hazel nut is here! Our newest little bundle of joy has arrived. We couldn't be more excited to welcome our little girl. As our doctor described it, she came in like a bullet train.




It was definitely an exciting and fast labor but not at first. My due date was June 21st and being 4 days early with my son, I was expecting to go into an early labor. Well, that didn't happen. June 21st came and went and I was still pregnant. My doctor actually scheduled me to be induced on June 21st because of low blood pressure and the fact that my son's labor was only 6 hours. They say your labor gets faster and faster the more kids you have.




June 21st was the first day of summer and in Bakersfield there was no doubt it was summer. That week was 110 degrees plus and apparently that causes women to go into labor. Although I was scheduled to be induced, there was an increase in women coming into the hospital in natural labor. There was no room at the hospital for me to come to. So, June 21st came and went and I was still pregnant. June 22nd, the hospital called and said I was first on the list to be induced and they would call me as soon as a room opened up. It was another day of 110 degrees and no rooms ever became available for me.




On June 23rd at 2am I woke up to use the bathroom as I did multiple times throughout the night for the past several weeks. I climbed back into bed to try to go back to sleep. As I lay there for about 2 minutes I feel a sudden burst of water and jump out of bed to realize my water just broke. No more than 5 minutes later I was having contractions. By the time we make it to the hospital at 3am my contractions were 5 minutes apart and I was 7 cm dilated.




It was a fast and furious labor with no time for pain medicine. Hazel Frances arrived at 4:41am.


Photo credit: Stacey Leigh Photography






 
 





Big Brother loves her and tries to kiss and cuddle her constantly. We are working on being gentle and soft touches.





Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

3 Ingredient Fudge

As my pregnancy nears the end I've been craving sweets like crazy. I never really had a sweet tooth before I became pregnant. I used to just drink my dessert by having another glass of red wine. With both my pregnancies though, sweets have always been on my mind. I just want more and more of the bad things.


These last few weeks I have really been out of energy. I have not wanted to do much but lay down and pretend to rest. Let's be real, when you are at the end of pregnancy there is no such thing as sleeping. You just kind of lay there and pretend to sleep. So, when I was hit with a few days of energy I ran with it and did some last minute meal prep and baking to stock up on some things before baby arrives. I made a few freezer casseroles and of course did some baking.


If you follow me on social media you know last week I had a burst of energy and chopped up a TON of almonds for some baking experiments. I of course had to make a double batch of my favorite almond granola and then I wanted to try a new recipe that didn't seem to turn out. So, that baking fail left me seeking an easy and delicious sweet tooth recipe that was sure to please.


This 3 ingredient fudge is a winner! It is 3 ingredients, how could that not be a winner. You know I like easy and simple recipes so this is sure to be a staple in my baking recipes for the future. When one of the ingredients is also almonds, you know I have to share it. Of course, when I found the recipe it wasn't almonds and I had to tweak it a little to make it mine.  You can of course substitute almonds for walnuts, pistachios or even coconut would be yummy.


So, give it a try and let me know how you like it...it won't take long at all!





Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Start of Summer

As spring comes to an end and summer is fast approaching it seems that almond harvest will be here before we know it. But first, we must get acclimated to these 100 degree days and the fact that sun and heat are here to stay. Oh ya and before summer starts officially, I'd like this baby out of me!


Our family tree is growing and my official due date is the first day of summer. Deep down inside I was hoping summer wouldn't rear it's head until the baby decides to join us. The thought of being pregnant during the 110 degree days is making me dizzy. So, with two weeks left to go, let's hope it stays somewhat cool. For me and the trees.


Not just my due date is fast approaching, but hull split should also pick up around the same time as baby arriving. Hull split is the unofficial countdown to harvest. When the hulls begin to split, we know the almonds have roughly 4-5 weeks until they are ready for harvest.


Currently, the exterior green hull is done growing from a size perspective. Like my baby, we are just waiting for the almond to reach full maturity.  The exterior of the shell is still soft where it connects to the hull. The inside of the shell, where it protects the meat is starting to harden.


Peaches and almonds are like fruit cousins. Peaches are closer related to almonds than other stone fruit and almonds are closer related to peaches than other nuts. So, let's think of the almond development as you do a peach.


The almond hull is like the peach flesh. Before the peach is ripe, the flesh is done growing and is just protecting the fruit until it is ripe and ready to enjoy. The almond shell and meat is just like the peach pit. As the peach matures, the pit will grow and harden until its ripe and ready to enjoy. The almond shell and meat just need to harden and finish maturing. These last few weeks the almonds will finish developing their oil, sugars and protein content until the hull splits and the almond is ready to eat.




Once hull split comes, the next stage for the almonds will be drying out before we can harvest them. Drying the almonds releases excess moisture and helps the nuts ensure a long shelf life in your pantry or storage container.
As we countdown the weeks until harvest and watch these almonds develop, let's hope the days don't get too hot and this baby decides to come before the craziness starts on the farm!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

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



 


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