Fresh Facts Week 33: Farm Tours and Water Thoughts Part 1

By April 12, 2015Fresh Facts, Newsletter

Volume 8, Week 33, April 5-11, 2015

Well, last week and this week are farm tour weeks. We’ve always timed these to jibe with a new flock of baby chicks in the past, but AB and Jess thought it might be fun to time it to Easter break. This worked out so well—the two days sold out in no time—that I said “Well, offer another couple!”

It’s really easy to say that when you’re the boss and don’t have to do any of the work; just show up and be Uncle Vern and drive the tractor for the hay ride.

This year, while folks missed the chicks—except this Friday’s group will probably luck out since they’re scheduled to show up Tuesday—they got to see the new kitchen, and sample a bunch of the new baked goods as well as other add-ons.

Here are a couple surprises most of the participants didn’t know. In the kitchen, the process to label your product “organic” looks like this:

(1) Come-up with a seasonal recipe you like. (2) Create a label that fulfills all the legalese. (3) Identify an organic supplier for each ingredient. (4) Send all of this information on the correct forms to your organic certifier, and wait 2-3 weeks for approval (if you did everything correctly).  (5) Order ingredients from the approved sources and go to work.

Bottom line, you must always be thinking a few months out if your goal is organically approved seasonal food; mind-blowing no?

The second surprise was the intensity of the hand labor at all levels. I think most Americans assume that all agricultural production is mechanized but that just isn’t the case with fresh produce. In fact, 70-80 percent of our production cost is labor and that number is rising. But it’s all just talk till you come visit and see for yourself the tedious nature of planting, weeding and harvesting tomatoes or thinning plums. “How come you pull off all this baby fruit Uncle Vern?” is a common question. Every single item in your box was planted, tended, harvested, bunched, weighed and packed by hand.

Amy Beth and Jessica do a great job organizing, and hosting these farm tours and especially if you have children or grand children, it’s a wonderful time learning where your food comes from. Keep an eye out for the next one in a couple months and do make plans to come.

Okay, I get asked all the time about this drought and the California water situation. First off, I’m bound to offend somebody if all I said was “water’s wet.” Second, I’m not sure I can cover it in the balance of this column.

First the facts: 50 percent of our state’s water goes to the environment (out to sea), 40 percent to Agriculture and 10 percent to non-ag commercial and community uses. Most of our state’s population is concentrated in a very narrow arid band along the coast. Our population has more than doubled in the last 50 years, but precious little has been done to address the water demands of this additional 20 million people.

Finally, we have functioned under a mindset that water is a finite resource; no new water projects can be built and ever increasing amounts must be diverted to the sea from 1950’s systems. We have an engineered drought orchestrated by the irresponsible, which is being exacerbated by a very real but manageable drought.

I addressed a room of such trust fund folk a year back and got quite an education. They saw the earth’s resources as finite. They had their place on the ocean and frankly didn’t want new neighbors. They could afford the private jets and limousines that brought them to Fresno, yet wanted to hear from Uncle Vern so here’s what they heard: The earth is 2/3 covered by ocean, and 80 percent of CA’s population lives w/in 50 miles of it. The Australians and the Israelis successfully desalinate it. Imagine inland solar farms providing power to such plants. Imagine a very green ecological California from south to north. Not either/or but both/and. You’ll just have to wait till next week for the unbelievable responses. Till then,

Author Uncle Vern

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