Monthly Archives: June 2014

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El Pais ~ From Field to Table in 24 Hours (in Spanish)

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Report from the Food IT: Soil to Fork Conference at Stanford University, June 20, 2014.

by Rosa Jiménez Cano

“¿Por qué no hacer mostaza con vino tinto, con mi cabernet?”, proclama Barb Stuckey, autora de Taste un libro que invita a explorar nuevos sabores y quiere servir de inspiración para que los agricultores procesen su materia y lo vendan directamente en el mercado.

En el auditorio de la Universidad de Stanford, un centenar de productores, estudiantes con inquietud por dar con cómo será la comida del futuro e inversores con aire desaliñado atienden.

Stuckey, experta en crear nuevos productos, alerta de las tendencias a las que tendrán que adaptarse para mantenerse en el mercado. Instacart , Google Shopping Express y Amazon Fresh son tres servicios dedicados a enviar comida. La de Google no tiene productos frescos, pero sí empaquetados, a domicilio en menos de 24 horas. Se pide por la noche y la mañana siguiente está en casa. Otros optan por recibirlo a última hora de la tarde, antes de volver a casa y ya consumirlo ahí. “Es un nuevo intermediario, con el que antes no contábamos”, advierte, “pero que a la vez es una gran oportunidad”.

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Member Spotlight: Bryce Loewen of Blossom Bluff Orchards

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Sun-dried fruit at Blossom Bluff Orchards

This week we’re featuring Bryce Loewen, of Blossom Bluff Orchards, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Since 1931, his family has been producing a wide variety of high quality fruit. Today, they grow over 150 varieties of CCOF-certified tree fruit on just under 80 acres.

In addition to selling fresh fruit, an innovative part of their business plan is to dry fruit and sell it year-round. During the summer months, the leftover peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots are cut by hand, pitted, and then laid out on wooden raisin trays to dry naturally in the sun. During the cooler fall and winter months, they slice their persimmons and mandarins into thin disks and dry them in an industrial grade dehydrator. So tasty!

Read on as Bryce tells us about how he got into farming, what important pieces of advice he’s learned over the years, and where you can find his delicious fruit!

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FarmsReach Social Media Roundup

On the FarmsReach Facebook and Twitter pages, we post a mix of news, inspirational quotes, photos and more each day.

For those who shy away from the information overload of tracking each of these social sites, here is your monthly “best of” roundup of posts.

If you like, you can “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to access the information flow. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy our digest of best picks!


California drought: 19th-century laws give thousands of users free, unmonitored water, Contra Costa Times
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California’s drought-ravaged reservoirs are running so low that state water deliveries to metropolitan areas have all but stopped, and cutbacks are forcing growers to fallow fields.

Picturing Women Farmers, Modern Farmer
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Audra Mulkern writes and photographs “The Female Farmer Project” — a chronicle of in-depth stories about the rise of women working in agriculture across the country and around the world.

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Organic Life Film: Becoming a Farmer & Maintaining Your Sanity, Too!

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Written by guest blogger, Austin Blair, who is featured in the film The Organic Life.

As an individual farmer, you will face challenges in each farming situation, yet some elements of human nature (and perhaps more aptly, farmer nature) are inescapable. In my limited experience apprenticing on a non-profit teaching farm (Soil Born), running a small farm (now run by another farmer as Lunita Farm Design), and working for another farmer (Paul’s Produce), I have learned that balancing full days on the farm and a personal life is a constant dance.

My outlook was further informed by a supportive, non-farming partner, who certainly has an outside perspective on the issue. She has forced me to confront the conundrum of how to maintain a relationship and still be an effective farmer. (Spoiler alert: we’re married, so it can work!)

This has been my experience farming, and these are the things that have worked for us.

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Birth of a New Nonprofit Organization: the Farmers Guild!

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Last summer, with a shared vision, FarmsReach and the Farmers Guild joined forces to better connect the agricultural community in California. At that time, there was just one Farmers Guild in Sebastopol, which brought together anywhere from 20-50 farmers for a casual monthly potluck. FarmsReach had also recently launched its online platform to build stronger connections between both farmers and partner agricultural organizations.

Since then, both the Farmers Guild and FarmsReach have grown tremendously together.

With the help of FarmsReach’s funding and supportive online community, as well as the donated time and space by Guild member volunteers and Grange Halls, the Farmers Guild has expanded to six more regions, stretching from Mendocino to Nevada County to Santa Cruz – with more to come.

We first highlighted Evan Wiig, the founder of the first Farmers Guild and co-organizer of each of the new Guilds, back in September. Now it’s with great excitement that we announce the formation of the new Farmers Guild nonprofit organization in which he will serve as Executive Director.

Evan has been an infectious speaker and inspiring community organizer for the Farmers Guild and FarmsReach while we have worked together. Below I talked briefly with Evan about his plans for the Guilds going forward!

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Labor Series: Pt 8 ~ Best Practices in Farm Labor Management

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Lunchtime at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, Oregon

Our Labor & Worker Safety series continues today with tips to improve labor management on the farm. This feature is an abbreviated version of a 2006 study conducted by the California Institute for Rural Studies, written by Ron Strochlic and Kari Hamerschlag.

During the study, twelve farm owners and more than eighty farmworkers in California were interviewed to gain insight into the best labor management practices and the benefits that farmworkers value most.

Read on as we discuss the most outstanding practices identified in the study. It should come as no surprise that farmworkers value what most of us have come to expect or desire from our own places of work: a living wage, respectful treatment, safe conditions, health insurance, benefits, and the ability to advocate for improved conditions without fear of retribution.

We hope the following examples inspire you to think about your farm’s labor management practices and make improvements if needed!

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Labor Series: Pt 7 ~ Practical Steps to Hiring Employees

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Our Labor & Worker Safety series continues today with a step-by-step guide to hiring farm employees. Even though it’s up to the employer to decide whom they hire, it’s a critical management decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you hire the right person, they almost manage themselves; hire the wrong person, and all the money you invest in training and compensation will be wasted.

Read on as we discuss which skills are needed for the job, the design of a selection process, getting the most out of the various selection tools, and suggestions on how to bring the new employee aboard the farm business.

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Global Warming & CA’s Food Crisis ~ Adaptation Strategies for a Secure Future

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In 1895 a Swedish scientist discovered the greenhouse effect. At the time, the concept of trapping gasses in the atmosphere (creating global warming) was thought to be an ideal development for preventing the next Ice Age. Today, this perspective is very different. What we now call climate change is having far reaching negative effects on the planet’s agricultural resources. Temperature affects crop yield, soil moisture, pest population and disease prevalence, all of which hinder agricultural production.

In May, the Giannini Foundation hosted a one-day conference in Sacramento called “Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources.” I attended the conference and spent the day surrounded by scientists, policy makers, and educators, learning about the implications that climate change will have on California food production.

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