This is a sponsored post in partnership with California Farm Water Coalition.
As parents, we’re always trying to teach Max to appreciate things in life; we teach him about saving and spending money, how to do household chores, and how to have an appreciation for the arts and the outdoors. We spend all this time trying to set a good example for him, so that he grows up to be a contributing member of society.
I like to think I’m always learning too, and that I also have an appreciation for the things I have, from the perfect travel coffee mug, to my Toyota 4Runner, but there are also so many things that I take for granted.
I was always a picky eater when I was growing up, and only as an adult have I really developed an appreciation for vegetables. I was a strictly raw carrots and frozen peas eater as a kid, but now I love a big, fresh salad, or yummy roasted veggies.
But even as I was learning to love broccoli and brussels sprouts, I never did really, truly appreciate what it takes for those foods to get from the field into my home.
I was lucky to spend the day recently with some blogger friends, as guests of the California Farm Water Coalition, where they took us on a tour of several of California’s hardest working produce farms, and we got an inside look at what it takes to bring these things to you.
13 Facts about produce
- Seedings need to be placed in the right direction or they won’t grow. Plant Tape is an incredible technology that can reduce the manpower needed to plant seedlings, allowing a team of just two or three do the work that used to take an entire crew of people. Seedlings are attached to a biodegradable tape, which then allows the machine to place the seedlings right side up for successful planting.
- Tanimura and Antle’s Artisan Salad Mix is actually grown side by side, and then harvest, wash and package for retail all happens in a matter of moments. The company has invested significant resources to figure out how to do this, which allows them to deliver the freshest possible product to your grocery shelves.
- Cauliflower should be bright white. It can get a yellowish tinge to it if it’s exposed to too much sun, so they’ll actually tie the leaves of the plant around the growing part, so that you can get that crisp white cauliflower in the store.
- Snap peas eaten while standing in the field where they were grown are very different from snap peas eaten in your boring kitchen. SO GOOD.
- Kale is harvested from the bottom up, so they’ll take the bottom leaves and then come back after more has grown and take the newly matured leaves from the bottom. The result is a crazy looking miniature forest of kale trees!
- Strawberry pickers are paid by the flat. You’ll see the workers literally running from row to row, because the faster they work, the more money they can make. Also, next time you’re at the store and see flats, take a look a that UPC code sticker; it allows the farm to track who picked which flat of berries!
- The strawberry field, run by Andrew & Williamson, has actually created an incredible culture for their workers; they offer breastfeeding support for nursing moms, and will bring a doctor to the property so that workers don’t have to take a whole day off just for a doctor’s appointment. By taking great care of their people, they’re able to maintain great production levels and happy, healthy employees.
- The strawberry growing season is controlled by plastic. Yes, plastic! By using different colors of plastic at the base of the plants, the grower can control how quickly the berries ripen, allowing them to keep a steady supply of ripe berries instead of all of them coming in at once. You can see the white plastic in the photo below.
- Taylor Farms grows and packages many of the other brands of packaged produce that you see; they provide for other places as well, including Starbucks, McDonald’s and Walmart.
- Have you ever wondered what 300 lbs of broccoli slaw looks like? Wonder no more!
- There’s a “season” for veggie party trays. From Thanksgiving to Super Bowl Sunday, production and consumption of these ubiquitous trays skyrockets.
- Taylor Farms uses every bit of their produce; if it’s “waste” that won’t be packaged for retail, it’s used for farm animal feed and compost.
- I could eat an entire bag of the Taylor Farms Farmhouse Bacon Chopped Salad if you let me.
We had an amazing time getting to meet some of the people behind the products; Andrew & Williamson’s Farm Director of Operations, Jackie Vazquez, one of a VERY limited number of women who do what she does. We had lunch at Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas, where we met with Dennis Donohue, Lead of the WG Center for Innovation & Technology, Brian Curtis of Concentric Power, Kate Hitchcock of American Farms, and Nathan Dorn of Food Origins. It’s really incredible getting to hear from the folks who are really trying to leverage technology trends to improve the food supply for the whole world.
What’s your favorite vegetable? Have you ever visited a commercial farm where it’s grown?