January 18, 2021

My Day on the Farm

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My Day on the Farm spent with California Grown, touring their fields, learning about agriculture, crops, and so much more! Join me in my recant of a wonderful day with California Grown and check out the delicious recipes I made with their products!

CA Grown Agritour: San Joaquin Valley Tucker Produce: Jason Tucker, sweet potato farmer Mininger Foods: Brad Ralls, sweet potato processing Fiscalini Farmestead: Laura Genasci, Brian Fiscalini, Alex Borgo, cheesemakers Photo credit: Alycia Moreno for CA Grown

My Day on the Farm

So, let's start at the beginning of My Day on the Farm. I met KC, from the G-Free Foodie, back in June of 2020. We've chatted and kept in touch and have worked together on several projects. So, when KC contacted me about doing a virtual tour of California Grown's farms in the San Joaquin Valley, I was elated! I've never done a farm tour before and in the midst of the pandemic, any escape from the four walls of my apartment was welcomed with open arms. I think that my exact response was "Absolutely!!" Even though it was a virtual event, I could not have been more excited to join an amazing group of foodies, bloggers, chefs, agriculturalists etc., to get together and learn and California Grown's facilities.

white wine herb roasted chicken
White Wine Herb Roasted Chicken made with California Wines

Goodies Galores!

So, as a perk of the tour, I received SO many goodies. I mean, a ton of goodies. So much that I made three recipes using up all of the yummy food I received. I received a variety of delicious cheeses from Fiscalini Farmstead, a bottle of Zinfandel, Sparkling Wine, and Chardonnay from California Wine, carious types of sweet potatoes including purple and white sweet potatoes, raisins, prunes, pomegranates, and even a beautiful cookbook on cooking with wine! In addition, I was also sent some super high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oils - which as a person who loves to cook, it's the ultimate treat!! I can't forget, I also got a really cool apron and some awesome California Grown swag (the stickers are currently on my Mac as we speak :)) - including a pair of some adorable avocado socks!

picture of the recipe
miso prune blondies with chocolate drizzle made with California PrunesA

I'm a little biased because California is my favorite state in the USA

Now, I will say I'm a little biased because California is my favorite state in the USA. I visited for the time back in May 2019 and have been trying to go back ever since. All of the sun and palm trees and beautiful beaches. They literally had me swooning every time I walked out of my hotel. So watching the tour truly transported me back to that time. I sat in my apartment with my delicious California wine, artisan cheese, with my avocado socks on. I was ready to begin My Day at the Farm!

My day at the farm
Prune Starbread made with California Prunes

what i learned from my day on the farm

My day on the farm began around 12pm EST. It started with a warm welcome from California Grown's executive director! Then we went into a tour of the fields where the sweet potatoes were grown - which was such a fascinating process!

After that, we headed went into the kitchen to learn about the nutritional benefits of orange sweet potatoes and purple sweet potatoes. Did you know that sweet potatoes are a superfood? Super high in fiber and antioxidants and free of fat and cholesterol! I had no idea of this! Also, the next time that you're at the grocery store and you see a huge sweet potato in the bunch - note that sweet potatoes are nothing but roots! The bigger the sweet potato, the higher the water content because larger sweet potatoes are nothing but swollen roots. I was mind blown!

pork chops in cast iron skillet
Honey Soy Garlic Pork Chops made with California Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Another thing that I didn't know is that sweet potatoes, unlike potatoes, can be eaten raw. They also contain more potassium than bananas and more beta carotene than carrots. A superfood indeed!

After our lesson on sweet potatoes, we moved into facts about California's agriculture. Did you know that California is the SOLE producer of almonds, artichokes, dates, raisins, grapes, kiwifruit, olives (ripe), clingstone peaches, pomegranates, sweet rice, clover seed, and walnuts in the entire USA? Given this, it's not hard to fathom that California is the leading agriculture state in the USA.

My day at the farm
CA Grown San Joaquin Valley Agritour: California Olive Oil production with Rolland Rosenthal, The Mill at Kings River + Rosenthal Olive Ranch Photo credit: James Collier for CA Grown

Cheese louise!

Next on the agenda was dairy - specifically cheese! Delicious, yummy cheese. Where do I even begin? Growing up, I HATED cheese. Actually, I didn't even eat cheese until maybe a few years ago. So when I tell you that the cheese that I received from Fiscalini Farmstead was DELICIOUS?! I'm telling you this as a person who used to hate cheese but now cannot get enough of their cheeses. In fact, I have a recipe for a creamy tomato pasta that has two cups of their San Joaquin Gold Parmesan cheese.. and my husband and I literally sat on the couch grating more cheese on top because it's just that good.

You're probably wondering, what does it taste like? In a word - heaven. It's buttery, creamy, nutty, earthy, delicious - I mean all of the adjectives. The list goes on! But one really cool thing that I learned about dairy that's produced in California, is that 99% of their dairy farms are family owned. This hit close to home for me because my Father and Grandfather started their own wholesale ice cream distribution business that my sister is in line to take over. I will forever and always have a soft spot for family-owned establishments!

my day at the farm
CA Grown San Joaquin Valley Agritour: California Olive Oil production with Rolland Rosenthal, The Mill at Kings River + Rosenthal Olive Ranch Photo credit: James Collier for CA Grown

next up, olives and wine!

The last stop of my Day on the farm was learning about olives and wine. This may have been one of my favorite parts of the day. My favorite color is chartreuse and when I saw the fresh olive oil, it's actually bright bright - like highlighter color - greenish yellow. It's gorgeous! I could literally stare at it for hours. See below!

CA Grown San Joaquin Valley Agritour: California Olive Oil production with Rolland Rosenthal, The Mill at Kings River + Rosenthal Olive Ranch Photo credit: James Collier for CA Grown

The process of creating olive oil is so intricate and requires a ton of quality checks and testing. The olives are first ground into a paste and the oil that is extracted during this process yields olive oil! The olive oil then goes through round and rounds of stringent tests. For olive oil to be deemed "extra virgin" in California, it must meet precise chemical standards and pass a sensory/tasting panel test, called an organoleptic test. During this test, the oil is evaluated for flavor, smell, and even color!

it's wine time!

Last but certainly not least. WINE! By this point, I had sampled the Zinfandel and the Chardonnay from California Wines and was excited to get some wine facts! California produces over 80% of the nation's wine, and is the fourth-largest producer of wine in the world. Do you understand now why California is my favorite state?! Not only is it produced there but it's produced sustainably by practicing water and energy conservation and using alternative energy sources like solar energy! In doing this, California Wines reduce their carbon footprint while still producing exceptional wine for all of us to enjoy!

Shortly after, we all convened, virtually, for a happy hour with all of the delicious food and wine to recap the day! It was so lovely seeing everyone's faces and socializing with all of the delicious goodies provided from the tour.

My Day at the Farm will forever be a day that I fondly remember! I hope that next year, we'll be able to visit the farms in person! A special thank you to California Grown, KC, and all of the companies who came together and hosted this amazing event. I had such a blast!

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