Category Archives: Field Trip
I attended Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s town hall meeting in Oroville, California on April 17, 2017. I have a long history with Mr. LaMalfa. I can’t quite remember the when it started, but I have been actively engaging with him via social media for years. However, ever since the local news station came out and interviewed me about that, his engagement with me has dwindled to nothing.
I also attended a rally held at Mr. LaMalfa’s office in Oroville on February 27th. The Congressman knew it was planned, instead of meeting with us, his office was locked, empty and dark. Mr. LaMalfa is not only my congressmen, he is my neighbor and fellow farmer (he farms rice). His slogan for his past campaign has been that he is “one of us”. All of these factors adds to my frustration of not having an audience with him.
I finally took matters into my own hands a year ago and named a boar after the congressman. The boar was a great listener. We solved many local issues together, and it was a great catharsis to be able to give him a belly rub after our discussions. Unfortunately, the boar lived up to his namesake and was unable to perform his job in a satisfactory manner. In the agriculture world, if you don’t do your job, you get culled, so Doug LaMalfa was made into sausage and replaced with a better model.
Mr. LaMalfa has been one of those congressmen that haven’t seemed to be eager to hold town halls in his more liberal urban areas. When this one was announced I was excited, finally my voice will be heard! Or so I thought.
The meeting started on a sour note, the emcee started by telling us, in a not pleasant tone “to quiet down”. That did not go over well. Mr. LaMalfa then tried to make a powerpoint presentation. I noticed he did the same thing when hosting a call in town hall meeting a few weeks back. He wasted a lot of our time re-hashing issues his constituents are well aware of and living everyday.
The crowd was not having it. People wanted to have their concerns and comments heard. It was pretty much downhill from there. Mr. LaMalfa took the stage and was openly condescending, mocking and dismissive. Sweet little old ladies started to lose their stuffing and yell at him. At one point he walked off the stage and lectured us about our behavior in church, as if having an audience with him was the same thing as a religious experience.
It was clear that Mr. LaMalfa was not there to listen. When he was called out on that fact, he blamed the crowd for not being nice. None of his behavior surprised me, his online persona is equally as unpleasant if his ego is not being stroked. The crowd felt the same way. There were many comments out of turn, very loud booing and general chaos. But here is the thing, crowds don’t act like that if the leadership is strong, kind and competent.
Social media and even the real media are now focusing on the behavior of the crowd at this town hall. That is a byproduct of not being listened to. People have been reaching out to Doug for YEARS only to be ignored. As Doug found out last night, it’s frustrating when your concerns are not listened to. Yelling and screaming does not diminish what a crap job Doug has done.
Protestors are not trying to gain your support by following the rules. They are trying to give you a window into feeling their experience. Their helplessness. Their fury. Remember that before you admonish them. Be thankful for the transparency. Remember your privilege. Remember how lucky you are compared to some. Think deeply about that. Then use your power for good, not judgement.
Manners do matter. But so does doing your job. If I don’t feed my hogs they get mighty pissed off at me. Rightfully so. I’m not doing my job. Apparently constituencies feel the same way.
Mr. LaMalfa has been in office since 2010. This is more than enough time to make a significant improvement in his district. He simply has not done that. He does not listen to his constituency. He does not engage well. He is not “one of us”. Simply put, it is time for him to return to his farm to think about how he can improve.
Remember last year when I went to the South a whole bunch? And discovered how amazing it is down there? One of the many, many things I loved about The South was the food. I mean, it changed my life (cough, cough Traeger makes an amazing smoker). One thing I’d never had, but heard about, was Alabama White Sauce. My first experience with it was at Saw’s (GO THERE).
After my initial mouth joy, I kinda got pissed that I went this far in life without it. It’s just not a thing in California. Before I came home, I made sure to try it as many times as I could. I bought it by the bottle and brought it home too! I also asked for recipes. I got many. I know the purist claim real white sauce is only salt, pepper, mayo and vinegar. But while I was down there I found that everyone had their own variation. I tweaked it and kinda came up with a California version, I love this sauce and make it all the time.
Alabama White BBQ Sauce:
2 cups mayonnaise (I think Duke’s is the best)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon (at least, I use more) freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Put everything in a mason jar and shake to mix. I like to give it at least 12 hours in the fridge to “meld” before serving.
Learning how to smoke has been one of my favorite things from this year. I’ve made everything from smoked potato salad to bacon candy in my smoker. It adds a whole new flavor and texture to meat and vegetables. And again, I get kinda pissed I’ve lived this long without having a smoker in my life. Don’t make the same mistake I did friends. Go get yourself a smoker, and make some white sauce. You’re welcome.
Recently, our local blueberry farm opened their gates to the U-pick crowd. Well, being the foodie I am, I had to go. My friend and I loaded up and spent a scant hour picking a bucket of blueberries. I was then faced with the daunting task of making several pounds of blueberries into stuff before they went bad. I succeeded. I ate a whole bunch, then I pickled a whole bunch, then I made this wonderful jam, and the rest I froze for pancakes.
I think this is now my third favorite jam I make. Which is really saying something since I think I make close to 30 different kinds (
I don’t have a problem). I used Meyer Lemons because we have several trees here on the ranch, so they are free in addition to being delicious.
Blueberry Meyer Lemon Jam*
- 3 cups blueberries, mashed to make about 2 1/2 cups
- 3 1/2 cups sugar
- 1.5 tsps. Meyer Lemon zest, grated
- 1 Tbsp. Meyer Lemon juice
- A whisper of butter (to prevent foaming)
- 1 package (3 oz) liquid pectin
Add blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, butter and juice in a jam pot. Bring to a roiling boil, stirring to prevent sticking. Add pectin and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat. Add to sterilized jars and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
This jam would be breathtaking on a scone, cheesecake or even on toast. It’s light, crisp with a hint of tart. It’s lovely and I ended up making two batches because it’s going to make great gifts.
*based on Southern Living’s recipe
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It was then time. Time to see Captain Lovell, Mr. Naam and THE Woz. Interesting side note, earlier in the week I was on the same elevator as Steve Wozniak. He was super nice and I couldn’t make words come out of my mouth in an order that made sense. I’m sure I scared him a whisper. I did almost the same thing with Ramez Naam when I met him. He asked my name and instead of saying it, I told him I was a blogger. This is why you can’t take me anywhere.
Having seen the movie Apollo 13, I knew who Captain Jim Lovell was and was very much looking forward to hearing him speak. It was almost a surreal experience to have him tell you his story. “Always expect the unexpected” is a mantra I use here on the ranch and hearing him say that live gave me chills. Captain Lovell received a standing ovation after giving a charming, inspiring and funny speech ended with ‘we are all astronauts. We’re all flying through space with limited resources”.
“Ideas never get chipped, or dented, or worn down, or broken. Ideas only accelerate.” Ramez Naam was our next speaker. He is somewhat of a renaissance man, his ideas and points of view have intrigued me for sometime and it was a stunning opportunity to see speak. His talk started out serious, scary at times, “March 2016 was the warmest month on earth ever”. But contained so much information, given in such a hopeful and positive manner, my expectancy for our future skyrocketed. “You can innovate your way out of a problem” and “learn to learn” were quotes that stayed with me. Look him up if you get the chance, read his book, follow him on twitter.
To someone in my generation, who uses Apple products almost constantly, Steve Wozniak is a myth, a legend, an enigma. He helped change how I live my life or as my Dad says “put that phone down!”. He was honored with the Alltech Humanitarian Award because he is so much more than the ‘guy that started Apple’. He was a teacher, a student, Rocky Raccoon, a scientist, a dancer, well the list goes on. Listening to him and Dr. Lyons banter on stage was a highlight of my trip. Learning about all the different endeavors he has had his hands in was fascinating. The Woz knew his audience well threw out such gems as “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad”. Mr. Wozniak is a great speaker and tied this convention all together for me.
The final speaker was Prof Damien McLoughlin, again someone that was new to me. He spoke about a book called Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant. Professor McLoughlin asked the question, “do you dare to be different?” which is music to someone like me ear’s. He again reminded me Mary Shelman’s points, where the successful brands are the ones that break free of “rules”.
Dr. Aoife Lyons then brought out and presented awards to Alltech’s Young Scientist Finalists. The undergraduate winner is offered a fully funded PhD at an University of their choice and the graduate winner will be offered a two year fully funded post doctoral at Alltech in US or Ireland. Alonna Wright was the undergrad winner and Richard Lally was the graduate student winner. What better way for Alltech to show their support in the future of agriculture than give a gift like this?
Finally to cap it all off Padraic Moyles the Associate Director of Riverdance took the stage. He spoke about the history behind Riverdance and told us, we do the same thing every night in order to do better, none of us have perfected what we do. Which after you’ve seen it, I find hard to believe, they are breathtaking. He also said that after 5,500 performances they still treat everyone like opening night. Then they put on an epic show that made me cry a little. I know I must have had a really let’s say,
jaw on the floor interesting, look on my face because at one point he looked down at me and laughed. But this show was an awe-inspiring show.
Usually after three days of conference, you hit your conference wall, and you want to go home, you’ve had enough. Not with Alltech. I was ready to go three more days. This is by far the most inspiring, engaging and positive conferences I’ve ever attended. I loved that Alltech exposed agriculturalists to ideas, experiences and cultures, outside our normal comfort zones. That is something I am critical of agriculture over, we tend to stay in our same molds. Dr. Pearse Lyons was a stellar master of ceremonies, he kept things entertaining while imparting wisdom.
I appreciated how Alltech went out of their way to include social media creators. They provided a stipend for me to attend. By giving me the opportunity to attend, I was able to share this new information with thousands of people that normally would never have access to it; they learned with me, they shared my excitement and passion in real time. It helps producers like myself reach “beyond the industry choir” as we say.
To sum up my ONE experience agriculture needs to start pushing the envelope and searching for ways to innovate and change our industry. This is something we should be placing more emphasis on. Alltech is doing a great job of being a leader in that aspect. The other key issue I took away is we need to be ONE. If we want our future to be bright there needs to be an ONE degree of separation between us all. We need to work hard together for the greater good like Mr. Mulally and Coach Cal and Mr. Moyles advised, we need to plan for the unexpected innovatively, and differently, like Mr. Naam, The Woz and Prof. McLoughlin told us. Simply put, because we are ONE. One people, and one planet and we need to realize and remember that.
I had never been to an Alltech convention before this. I, of course, was familiar with them because of their products and I see booths and such at other conventions and events. But I had no idea what I was in for when I packed up my favorite cowboy boots and left the ranch on a red eye flight to Lexington, Kentucky. This two part blog will cover what I experienced during this convention.
I’ve been to hundreds of agriculture related events in my lifetime. I have never experienced a convention like ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference. Ever. It is a stand alone conference. It was a cross between a Broadway show, a graduate class, a college agriculture party, a field day, and a team building retreat. Over 3,000 people from 71 countries were in attendance. If you are involved in agriculture or food, or even if you have an interest in agriculture, this is an event you need to attend next year.
Part of what made this conference so unique was the fact it was deeply entertaining. It included keynote speakers that were not from agriculture, which brought a whole new perspective and vibe. The Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, welcomed us the first day. Alan Mulally of Ford, received the Alltech Medal of Excellence Award and gave us some excellent leadership advice, “working together always works”.
John Calipari, the Head Coach of the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Team, spoke next. I’m going to make a confession here, and I don’t want you to judge me too harshly. Before this event I had no clue who “Coach Cal” was, however now I’m ordering his book. I loved his outlook on life, “when you make life about other people, it becomes easy”. Listening to him speak about how he was able to practice what he preaches and make life better for his players and community made me ponder how I could do the same.
This morning plenary left me excited and inspired, deeply stimulated and ready to learn and affect change! Perfectly primed for the in-depth and new knowledge industry experts shared with us in special sessions.
Selecting the special sessions I wanted to attend was the worst part of the conference. I had a hard time choosing because many were both interesting and relevant to me. I ended up seeing part of Global Beef Opportunities, The Business of Agriculture and Opportunities in the Pig Industry. I would have loved to have attended Craft Brewing and Distilling because that’s something I’d like to start doing. The Aquaculture session, especially after last summer’s experiences, and Emerging Markets and Trends and Innovative Agriscience because I love to be on the cutting edge of new ideas.
However, the sessions I did attend were perfect for me and what I need to know right now. I started in the Beef session sitting next to a real, live meat scientist. If I had questions about something I could simply lean over and ask her to clarify. It was glorious. I left the session feeling deeply validated about the methods we are using on our Ranch and eager to learn more about how nutrigenomics will continue to play a part.
I then transitioned into the The Business of Agriculture session where I was able to hear Mary Shelman’s session about food rules (there are no food rules!). We learned about brands like Ben and Jerry’s and Emerald, that broke the “food rules” and became very successful. She spoke about how “food is a hot thing to talk about”. Food trends amongst our younger generations are changing, they are rejecting big ag and big food, they want a product that is good for the environment and communities and are willing to pay more. They trust their friends more than advertisements.
Dr. Johanna Fink-Gremmels took the stage. She covered soils, fungi, bacteria and how they play a part in health. She shared “gut health is the key to animal health and productivity” and “feed the soil and you will feed the world”. She stressed that we have a major responsibility to our partners, our environment and animals, for the benefit of the people.
Aidan Connolly, Chief Innovation Officer and Vice President, Corporate Accounts, Alltech then spoke on antibiotics. This is a hot topic that I see many people, both in agriculture and on the consumer side, talk about often. He said the “U.S. estimates 506 antibiotic prescriptions per 1000 people annually when only 353 were necessary”. That is some serious food for thought. He had a term and idea that I loved and I see working for me. Prosumer – the idea of connecting with our consumer and getting them to advocate for you and your brand, business and product. As Ms. Shelman pointed out earlier, our younger consumers want this.
Because I still have much to learn about hog production, especially commercial production, I was especially excited to attend the Opportunities in the Pig Industry Special Session. Russell Gilliam started the session with Disease Prevention and Eradication. He pointed out, “is it safe” is the number one priority to consumers. He then covered factors that contribute to poor animal health and how we can prevent them. Lance Barton of Belstra Mills then shared his ideas and experiences about engaging the 98% that are not involved with production agriculture. Jacob Dall and Dr. Mark Lyons then shared information about hog production from Denmark and China. Comparing pork production methods from the two counties was enlightening and I am going to be applying some of my new knowledge to my operation.
I finally had time to visit Alltech’s One Vision exhibit. Again, before this point, I have never experienced anything like this. It was interactive, innovative and inspired. It felt like an utopia of what our world could be. Allergy free peanuts, edible food packaging and lab grown meat were all ideas explored. So often we are bombarded with negativity and worst case scenarios. This was like a breath of fresh air, it was positive and hopeful and I walked out I was asking myself what was the ONE thing I could do in order to be apart of a solution. We need more exhibits and interactions like this.
The rest of this blog will be posted tomorrow. In the meantime please check out what these other women in agriculture thought…
You might have noticed I took a little break from blogging life for the past few months. It wasn’t planned, I just got so busy I haven’t had the drive or time to do much for The Beef Jar. I’ve written some freelance articles, participated in an AgChat conference and the coolest thing is I went to the South. Twice!
I haven’t traveled for a long time. In fact, the last time I took a vacation that was away from the ranch for more than two nights in a row was back in 2007. It was time to leave the ranch. The guy I was dating is from Alabama, so I was able to visit him. I went once in December and since I had such a good time, I went back in January!
It was a wonderful experience both times. I’ve always been fascinated by southern food and culture so needless to say, I was in heaven. I got ushered around the Southeast by a local, eating amazing food and having the time of my life. I got to see several southern places, including Nashville, Lynchburg, Atlanta, Birmingham, Asheville and Washington County, Tennessee.
My ex-boyfriend’s family has a plantation in Coosa County, Alabama. That was home base during my time down there. It was an amazing farm with totally different agriculture from what I was used to. I got to spend several days on their farm learning about local agriculture, history and again, food.
Until this point in my life, my knowledge of southern things comes from Paula Deen, Jill Conner Browne, Alton Brown, and other various southern authors. Oh and Reese Witherspoon movies. I imagined magnolia trees, dripping with Spanish moss, acres and acres of cotton, tobacco and sweet potatoes and BBQ everywhere. I’m sure it’s like when people think of California and think we are just beaches and movie stars. The South was so much more varied and different than what I expected (I mean, except for the BBQ part, and that was super cool)!
I was amazed at all the pine trees in Alabama. For some reason I had no clue Alabama had so many pine trees! I was expecting it to be far more open farmland and magnolias. I did see a cotton field and lots of cow/calf operations. However, one thing I noticed that really bummed me out was it seemed like there was a lot of abandoned farms. It kinda made me want to buy one and move to the South.
Since I did get to see several different areas of the southeast, that means I also got to see some of the Smoky Mountains. They were beautiful. I’ve seen enough photos and movies about them that I knew what to expect, and they did not disappoint. I want to go back and take pictures and poke around – I might even consider camping there. Maybe.
One of the happiest moments of my life happened in Nashville. I was in a boot store on the strip. The smell of new leather and BBQ was in the air. I had a slight Pabst beer buzz. I had just seen an amazing country band. I was eating chocolate because, of course, there was an old fashioned candy store next to the band and bar. I actually had to stop and ask if that was real life. The Country Music Hall of Fame was also a major highlight! So many neat costumes, cars and instruments!
I think my favorite though were the rolling green hills of Tennessee. The farms were all gorgeous, stuff of dreams. I had serious agriculture envy the whole time I was there. I was seriously looking up the farms and ranches I saw for sale, because I really could live there and happy raise pigs and cows.
I was also shocked at the water. The rivers and lakes seemed to be everywhere and they were huge! Coming from drought stricken Nor Cal, it was almost overwhelming!
The cemeteries were a trip to me. They were everywhere. And the were old. It was a good reminder just how “new” California is. Many families had their “own” graveyard on their family farms. My goal when we were in Washington County was to find my family graveyard. I was so close, but that is for another post.
Birmingham was awesome. It was there where I had real BBQ for the first time. I got to go to Good People and Avondale Brewing. Just getting to walk down the streets and see some of the amazing old homes was enough to make me really happy.
I almost had a come-apart in Atlanta when I finally saw a real alligator and an albino one at that! One of my major goals while in the South was to see an alligator. I’d been to Florida in September, and was sorely disappointed I didn’t get to see one then. The alligator I did see was at the Atlanta aquarium. It was amazing, really. It breathtaking. I missed the Coke experience by a few minutes (it closed), but I’d like to see that at some point.
Asheville. I understand why the second Sierra Nevada is there. It has a Chico vibe to it. I made the treck to the second Sierra Nevada, like all Chico natives should. It was a glorious building and the food was fabulous. We went out on the town after Sierra Nevada and again I had a ball! It was freezing and snowed while I was there, but the amazing music and people made the cold bearable. I’d love to go back to Asheville and spend a few days, it deserves it.
Let’s talk about the food now. Southern food is better. There I said it. I can simply never go back to how I was before. I actually ate skin from fried chicken and loved it. Sweet tea is nectar from the gods, and BBQ is mana.
I actually tried to experience as much regional food as I could. Blue Bell Ice Cream? Check. Duke’s mayonnaise? Check. Boiled peanuts? So good. White Lily Flour? Took 10 pounds home. 30 pound Country Ham? It was in my carry-on. Okra, I love it now. Fried pickles? I have a recipe. White BBQ sauce? White yum. (if you send me Duke’s or Lily White, I’ll send you jam, jelly, pickles or California olive oil).
I’ve experienced SAW’S, Dreamland BBQ and Jim and Nick’s. BBQ is not a joke down there. It changed me. Southern’s do magic with a grill and some smoke. Magic, I tell you. If you haven’t experienced real southern BBQ go ahead and just book yourself a flight and go find some. Do it. I’ve been working very hard on recreating many of the dishes I had while in the South, I’m getting good, but it’s just not the same.
Waffle House. Oh my Lawd, I did not know. I mean, I’d heard some great things from Anthony Bourdain. But Waffle House is something you must experience to understand completely. Drunk college kids in California do not know how amazing Waffle House is and what they are missing. I was urged to try and have a drunk Waffle House experience, I did, in Birmingham, and was again one of the more glorious experiences of my life. Drunk southerner’s, amazing waffles and smothered hash browns – it should be a reality show.
Cracker Barrel – food, candy, clothes, games, all the things. Cracker Barrel is like the mecca of the South. Go there, rock in a rocking chair, eat some chicken and dumplings, and pay your respects.
Southerner’s are nice. They are friendly. Pleasantries are exchanged at every opportunity. They buy you a lot of drinks when they hear you are from California. They have manners. Door’s are held open, ‘bless you’ said after a sneezes, polite chat is made.
I loved it. I always embarrassed my friends and family because I will randomly start conversations with people. In the South, it felt like you were rude if you didn’t. I’m pretty sure I belong there.
I never really harbored the idea of ever living anywhere but on the Ranch, here in California (this is God’s country after all) but after seeing the southeast, I daydream about owning a little farm in Tennessee. Or Georgia, or anywhere. Seriously, The South is America’s travel secret.
I just renewed my passport and was starting to plan another trip back to Europe. But I’ve decided I’d rather spend my money and time in the South. Learn more my own history and culture.
So I’ve started planning my trip back this winter. A couple of my girlfriends are looking into going back in December or January. I’m in my early stages of planning but I’m thinking maybe about flying into Nashville, doing a bourbon tour, going up to Bristol, Asheville and leaving out of Atlanta. However, I know I have lots of Southern friends, so I am open to suggestions. Is there something I need to experience? Tell me! Give me advice!
But in the meantime if you an agricultural organization and you need a speaker, panelist or moderator, let me know. I’ll waive my fee, just pay for my flight and a bed and point me to the nearest BBQ joint when we are done.