Have you ever been on a farm tour? I find it fascinating to see first hand how farmers produce the food that we eat. I often stop at farms and farm stands when I’m travelling. This time, I spent my entire trip touring a variety of farms in California’s San Joaquin Valley with the California Farm Water Coalition. This is in the central part of the state east of San Francisco and south of Sacramento.
The California climate combined with the hard work of farmers brings about good results. California is responsible for 2/3 of the fruit and nuts that are grown in the US, 1/3 of US vegetables and about 1/5 of US milk. That is a whole lot of agriculture for one state!
Family farms still make up a large portion of California’s farms. It was fun and informative to talk with farmers about their work. These farmers were passionate about the fruits of their labor and about taking care of the land for future generations. They work hard to maximize production while using resources responsibly.
This is the time of year when tree nuts are ready for harvest. I toured a walnut farm and an almond farm and saw trees that were loaded with nuts. A machine comes through and shakes the trees. The nuts fall to the ground and are then ‘vacuumed’ up. This is a whole lot easier than manually picking them one by one.
Dairy farms are abundant. I visited Fiscalini Farms where they raise cows and make delicious handcrafted farmstead cheese using traditional methods. I also toured Hilmar Cheese, which produces large quantities of cheese for national, private label and store brands. It was great to learn how cheese is made and to see the care that goes into cheese production at both of these businesses.
Sweet potatoes are another popular crop. Growing them is still a labor intensive process, but special equipment has been developed to make the job easier.
Whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural area, it’s great to understand that food doesn’t just magically appear in grocery stores. There are a whole lot of hard working people involved every step of the way. As populations increase and cities expand, managing resources can be a complicated balancing act. Thoughtful regulations and smart farming practices are needed to make good use of the resources while providing us with the food that we need here in California and across the country.
When I visit farms and meet farmers, it gives me a greater sense of appreciation for the food that I eat!