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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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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Labor Series: Pt 6 ~ Anyone Believe in the Market Anymore? Immigration Reform & Bracero Program Redux

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Written by guest writer Dave Runsten, Policy Director of Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF).

What is happening with immigration reform, an issue vital to farmers across the country? In fact, nothing of consequence has happened since the Senate passed its immigration bill in June 2013. Some piecemeal legislation has passed House committees, but no floor vote has been allowed on any immigration bill, and it is unlikely that any will be taken this year.

The Obama Administration has deported over 2 million undocumented immigrants and, without immigration reform, farmers will continue to face an ever-shrinking labor force.

One of the great ironies of the immigration debate is the conflicting voices of people who profess to believe in free markets, yet demand more government intervention when it comes to policing immigrants. Another irony is the tech industry with their H-1B visas.  But, the worst examples are the farm labor guest worker programs — both the House Judiciary Committee’s program as well as the one included in the Senate immigration package.

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Get the Most Out of Online Tools for Marketing Your Farm

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The following article appeared on the Good Egg Marketing website in 2013. Good Egg Marketing is a Massachusetts-based business that specializes in promoting good food and good causes. Good Egg clients are based nationally and include farms, food enterprises, small businesses, nonprofits, and consultants. Founder and “Top Egg” Myrna Greenfield works with associates in graphic design, web development, video production, and social media to create effective, affordable marketing campaigns.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the different social media networks? Wondering how to choose the best ones? You’re not alone.

Unfortunately, no single network or application will enable you to reach all of your customers. You need to employ at least a few different approaches to be effective. Although it may seem repetitive to post similar messages on your website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, very few of your customers—if any—will see them all. In addition, you can use one channel—for example, an email newsletter—to drive traffic to your other channels, such as an article on your website or a Facebook special. While the content you post in each place can be targeted to take advantage of that channel (for example, an infographic works great on a visual medium like Facebook or your website, but might not work as well in an email message), you should try to have a consistent look, feel and language in everything you produce.

Ask your customers how they search for information online, which social networks they use regularly, and how they’d like you to communicate with them. Choose the top two or three and build your relationship with your customers on those channels. To make sure that new customers, journalists, and suppliers can find you, don’t neglect the “old” standbys, like your website or online directories.

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The Farmers Guild Expands to the Sierra Region!

Tim Van Wagner & Leo Chapman

Tim Van Wagner & Leo Chapman

Next Thursday evening, Nevada County will carry on a long legacy of agricultural community-building with the launch of a brand new Farmers Guild!

Over a century ago, Grange Halls emerged all over California to serve the growing farming community. Three of these halls still stand in Nevada County today. The county has changed a lot since the Gold Rush, but the miners of the past and the new tech workers who call the Sierra foothills home today have one thing in common: they all must eat.  And, in order to eat, you still need farmers.

Robbie & Deena, Sweet Roots Farm

Robbie & Deena, Sweet Roots Farm

Welcome Living Lands Agrarian Network (LLAN). Founded by Leo Chapman in Nevada City a few years ago, this organization formed to provide mentorship for a new generation of farmers. Their distinctive model is a combination of cooperative sustainable agriculture education, resource sharing, community partnerships and celebration around the food they grow.

From this movement arose a popular series of Soup Nights, aimed at bringing together their whole community (consumers and producers) in the name of local food, both grown and shared.

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