Category Archives: Field Trip

Alabama White Sauce

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).

My very first Alabama White Sauce experience. It.was.glorious.

My very first Alabama White Sauce experience. It.was.glorious.

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.

My second White Sauce experience. It.was.glorious.

My second White Sauce experience. It.was.glorious.

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

This is it. So easy.

This is it. So easy.

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.

I'll smoke ribs and chickens at the same time. I'll save the chickens for the next day and make pulled chicken sandwiches with the white sauce.

I’ll smoke ribs and chickens at the same time. I’ll save the chickens for the next day and make pulled chicken sandwiches with the white sauce.

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.

 

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Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Jam

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.

This is what a blueberry farm in Northern California looks like.

This is what a blueberry farm in Northern California looks like.

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.

The spoils of my picking! Glorious!

The spoils of my picking! Glorious!

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
Blueberries, lemon zest and juice ready to be made into jammy goodness.

Blueberries, lemon zest and juice ready to be made into jammy goodness.

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.

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*based on Southern Living’s recipe

You also might wanna try:

Blueberry Jam with Mint

Blueberry Mojito Jam 

 

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ONE Alltech Ideas Conference: Part II

This is part two of my blog about Alltech’s Idea Conference. Please see the first installment here.

I got to meet fellow bloggers that I have been friends with for years, but never met IRL. These women are amazing and I am so honored to call them friends!

I got to meet fellow bloggers that I have been friends with for years, but never met IRL. These women are amazing and I am so honored to call them friends! This was our pre-conference felfie. Mom at the Meat CounterDairy Carrie, Tales of a Kanas Farm Mom, High Heels & Shotgun Shells, Dirt Road Charm, AgInfo.net, The Magic Farm House.

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”.

My favorite felfie from the week. @AMagicMama @ramez and myself! Mr. Naam was so kind and personable, thank you Sir!

My favorite felfie from the week. @AMagicMama @ramez and myself! Mr. Naam was so kind and personable, thank you Sir!

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.

Mr. Wozniak and Dr. Lyons, thank you for such a wonderful chat.

Mr. Wozniak and Dr. Lyons, thank you for such a wonderful chat.

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.

Prof McLoughlin was the sleeper speaker for me. I wasn't familiar with his work before this point, but now I'm a raving fan. Probably because he said "the best students in his classes are females" (it's funny because it's true!).

Prof McLoughlin was the sleeper speaker for me. I wasn’t familiar with his work before this point, but now I’m a raving fan. Probably because he said “the best students in his classes are females” (it’s funny because it’s true!).

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. Lyons giving Ms. Alonna Wright the Young Scientist Award. Ms. Wright congratulations! I know you are going to do amazing things.

Dr. Lyons giving Ms. Alonna Wright the Young Scientist Award. Ms. Wright congratulations! I know you are going to do amazing things.

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?

I have a crush on Riverdance.

I have a crush on Riverdance.

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. 

Riverdance.

Riverdance.

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.

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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.

Hey Alltech may I please come back and learn more about this please?

Hey Alltech may I please come back and learn more about this please?

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.

 

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ONE Alltech Ideas Conference: Part I

The first day. I was very excited to have an opportunity to attend this conference and I think everyone knew it.

The first day. I was very excited to have an opportunity to attend this conference and I think everyone knew it.

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.

Because I had a press pass I got a point of view most do not get. For a girl that doesn't get off the ranch much, it was quite the experience. Rupp Arena from the stage.

Because I had a press pass I got a point of view most do not get. For a girl that doesn’t get off the ranch much, it was quite the experience. Rupp Arena from the stage.

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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

Alltech made sure to showcase the best Lexington had to offer. Having dinner in the arena of The Kentucky Horse Park was probably an once in a lifetime experience for me.

Alltech made sure to showcase the best Lexington had to offer. Having dinner in the arena of The Kentucky Horse Park was probably an once in a lifetime experience for me.

 

The arena set up for our dinner. It was beautiful!

The arena set up for our dinner. It was beautiful!

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.

Something I repeat often. Local doesn't always mean safer.

Something I repeat often. Local doesn’t always mean safer.

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.

This is advice I have been trying to implement for my ranch.

This is advice I have been trying to implement for my ranch.

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.

Dr. Mark Lyons talks about pork production in China

Dr. Mark Lyons talks about pork production in China

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.

from Lance Barton

People’s reaction to a hog farm. From Lance Barton.

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.

Photos of the ONE exhibit does not do it justice. You need to experience it.

Photos of the ONE exhibit does not do it justice. You need to experience it.

The rest of this blog will be posted tomorrow. In the meantime please check out what these other women in agriculture thought…

Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom

Dirt Road Charm

Mom at the Meat Counter

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I Went to the South, Y’all!

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!

The menu from Saw's. I weep at the memory.

The menu from Saw’s. I weep at the memory.

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!

Coosa County, Alabama

Coosa County, Alabama

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.

Conecuh sausages are amazing! Try them!

Conecuh sausages are amazing! Try them!

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)!

 

The Places

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.

I went white tail buck deer hunting. It was so different from hunting here!

I went white tail buck deer hunting. It was so different from hunting here!

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! 

My Nashville boots.

My Nashville boots.

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.

I was amazed that they could park against traffic, still had cigarette machines, and awesome fire works!

I was amazed that they could park against traffic, still had cigarette machines, and awesome fire works!

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.

Oh Atlanta.

Oh Atlanta.

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.

Sierra Nevada, Asheville

Sierra Nevada, Asheville

 

The Food

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 miss the food.

I miss the food.

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 did my best to bring as much home as I could.

I did my best to bring as much home as I could.

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.

My first time at Waffle House. I was very, very, excited.

My first time at Waffle House. I was very, very, excited.

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.

I loved it there.

I loved it there.

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.

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The People

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.

The homes!!

The homes!!

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.

 

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Wordless Wednesday: Roots 

  

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Wordless Wednesday: White BBQ Sauce

  

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Wordless Wednesday: Florida 

  

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Monsanto: Evil Empire or Sustainable Ag Company?

In certain circles it’s still trendy to attack or insinuate Monsanto is this giant, faceless, company hell bent on world destruction and/or take-over (take your pick).  This stance always puzzles me. My personal experience with them has been the complete opposite. (Also for the record, Monsanto is not that giant, Whole Foods and Monsanto are pretty close in size)

For the third time in so many years, I have been able to tour their facility in Woodland, California. Each time has been different, and quite frankly, eye opening. I have walked away from these tours with a whole new appreciation for what the company does and what it stands for.

I got to take peppers home. This pleased me to no end.

I got to take peppers home. This pleased me to no end.

Most people are under the misconception that all Monsanto produces are GMO crops. But in actuality they breed over 20 (non GMO) crops. There is much misunderstanding and fear when it comes to our food supply these days. More often than not, it seems like companies will use fear and our ignorance to sell us a product. I can’t stand that. I appreciate Monsanto opening their doors to me, multiple times. Despite the negative press and online movements that urges me to boycott them and sign petitions against them, they have been continually transparent and welcoming to me.

Monsanto has made it a point to urge bloggers, journalists, farmers, and even average consumers to engage with them! In fact the company’s chief technology officer, Dr. Robert T. Fraley has invited celebrity activists like Susan Sarandon to St. Louis! Since I love to stand on my soapbox and preach about transparency, this is something I appreciate!

My tour group learning about tomatoes.

My tour group learning about tomatoes.

This trip was my favorite. A small group that included bloggers, teachers, and scientists were all invited to spend the day learning about and touring the Woodland Monsanto Farm. We spent about half the day out in the field speaking with their growers and seeing beautiful produce! The next part was learning about how to set up a food tasting and participating in a melon tasting.

Janice Person was our host. I’ve known Janice for years now. We met on twitter and eventually met in real life -she has even been out to the ranch!

I loved this trip because, I love interacting with the plant growers and breeders. These experts were literally outstanding in their fields, ready to share their knowledge with us and answer our questions. My inner gardener was deeply pleased and I’m going to highlight my favorite things for you below!

 

The Field

So much fame in this picture! Terry the Pepper man! I was a whisper star-stuck!

So much fame in this picture! Terry the Pepper man! I was a whisper star-stuck!

We started with peppers. Terry Berke was our pepper expert. He also is the man that breed the Nacho Jalapeno plant, which is currently in my garden and my favorite. I had a huge fan girl moment. Terry taught me that peppers need lots of Nitrogen, something I have been neglecting. He also mentioned that peppers use the Scoville Scale to measure their heat. Peppers are my current garden obsession, I’ve been growing, canning, pickling and fermenting them all summer. I loved the pepper portion of our tour and was sad to move on. Since I was gifted with so many peppers, I had to can some! So look forward to that recipe being posted soon!

Monsanto had super efficient drip watering systems. Again, this made me so very happy.

Monsanto had super efficient drip watering systems. Again, this made me so very happy.

We moved on to Bill Johnson, the squash breeder. Bill changed my squash growing game. I learned that “if you don’t harvest, you don’t get to harvest” squash, meaning if you let your squash plants grow into baseball bat sized squash, it is going to affect the rest of your harvest. This is why my zucchini plants are all screwed up now! I wasn’t home and didn’t harvest!

Bill in his squash - he taught me my new favorite word, puduncle!

Bill in his squash – he taught me my new favorite word, peduncle!

Squash farmers have a short window for everything (remember this is coming from a cattle rancher), the female flowers only bloom once for four hours! That’s such a small window to be fertilized! They must be harvested quickly too (as we learned above).

We got lovely infusion water bottles, which we all promptly put watermelon in!

We got lovely infusion water bottles, which we all promptly put watermelon in!

Watermelons were next. Samples were given, my favorite, by far, was called Summer Breeze. We spoke at length about watermelon pollination, how they breed seedless melons, and how to pick a good one (look for a yellow spot or “belly”).

I loved learning about watermelon breeding! It was soooo very different from cattle breeding!

I loved learning about watermelon breeding! It was soooo very different from cattle breeding!

The one common theme that was constantly mentioned by all of the plant breeders was how different regions (or countries) demand different varieties of produce (check out this watermelon infographic for an excellent overview). Monsanto works very, very hard fulfilling consumer demand. For example, what American’s look for in a jalapeno is not the same as what Mexican’s look for and they breed accordingly. This totally makes so much sense to me, as food is such a major part of cultures, and every culture has it’s own tastes and preferences.

Just look at those beautiful peduncles! (The peduncle is a stem that connects the fruit to the plant)

Just look at those beautiful peduncles! (The peduncle is a stem that connects the fruit to the plant)

Allan Krivanek and fresh market tomatoes were next on our tour. Fresh market tomatoes are the kind you buy in a store. Processing tomatoes (we also have a lot of those in my area), are used to make ketchup and sauce. It was fascinating to learn how and taste the differences in tomatoes!

My friend Shannon (she lived on the ranch during college!) and I got to take melons home too!

My friend Shannon (she lived on the ranch during college!) and I got to take melons home too!

The Tasting

After we spent time in the field we headed back inside for lunch and Dr. Chow-Ming Lee. We got to have lunch with all of the employees of this location. Yes, that’s right, they turned me loose on everyone. This is when I got to visit with some of the other guests. I met Maria from Fitness Reloaded, Danyelle from The Cubicle Chick and Sarah from The House that Ag Built . I love these opportunities because I get exposed to blogs and writers that normally would not be on my radar.

A proper melon tasting!

A proper melon tasting!

After our lunch we got to meet Dr. Lee. Let me tell you, if he ever decides he doesn’t want to be a sensory and tasting expert, he could easily be a comedian. I have never been so entertained  during a powerpoint in my life.

Dr. Lee administered a taste test for us. We got to sample different types of melon and compare our results with the rest of our group. I’m pretty sure I could do that for a living, it was super fun. After that we learned how to perform a proper taste test. This is relevant to me because I am a big fan of taste tests and do them often with my pork and beef. Now I can perform tastes tests with better accuracy!

 

The End

In addition to all the amazing produce I got to take home, Monsanto did provide paid travel for this tour. And the most badass watermelon knife you've ever seen!

In addition to all the amazing produce I got to take home, Monsanto did provide paid travel for this tour. And the most badass watermelon knife you’ve ever seen!

Our day was almost complete after our melon experience. We had one more questions and answer session before we went home. We did cover more topics, and hopefully I will write a blog post about those too. Every time I have been able to tour this facility I leave in shock and awe. I learn so much, I get so excited about the future of my industry! Monsanto gets a bad rap from its critics, and that is unfortunate. If they could put the hearsay and fallacies aside and take the time to explore and learn for themselves, I know their world would be far less terrifying, mine has been.

After interacting with the employees of Monsanto all day, talking to them about their families (some have single sons!!!), and seeing their passion about their jobs and the plants they are breeding, I wanted to apply for a job! I enjoyed my time there immensely, my garden will certainly benefit from it and so will my readers. Again, if you are on the fence about this company, let’s chat about it. I feel like there are so many “unfacts” out there, it can be hard to cut through all the bullshit sometimes, and that is why I work so hard and spend so much time doing fields trips like this.

*I received a travel stipend for this tour (it covered my gas from Indian Valley to Woodland and back). I also received a crapton of veggies. However, may I just note that this did not sway my opinion in any way, that would take pigs!

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Guestpost: Help Save the Wild Salmon

In June, I was able to attend part of UC Davis’ 1st Annual IFAL (Institute for Food and Agriculture Literacy) Symposium.  For me, it was the equivalent of walking into the Academy Awards or other famous award show. People that are celebrities in my world were everywhere!!! I was star stuck the whole time, I mean check out a sample of the speakers: Dr. Pamela Ronald, Dr. Kevin Folta, Yvette d’Entremont, Dr. Cami Ryan, Dr. Anastasia Bodnar, Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam.

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Watching these experts in their fields talk about our food and the technology that they are developing to better our food and fiber was a game changer for me. I mean, I’ve always been interested in the science and technology that surrounds agriculture, but to see and learn from professionals that are doing it was inspiring. When Dr. Folta got emotional talking about meeting starving people, and when Dr. Van Eenennaam reminded us we can’t save wild fish by eating them, I was inspired to use my media platforms in a way that will help the general public understand how important this work is. 

When I heard there is going to be an orchestrated attack on this technology that will benefit our lives, I wanted to help! Since I’m not a scientist, Dr.Anastasia Bodnar* was kind enough to write a guest post for The Beef Jar. Dr. Bodnar has been one of my biggest mentors for years. I finally met her “in real life” at UC Davis, it was glorious. Please friends, take some time to learn about this issue and the benefits this fish will offer us. I know we all want safe, sustainable food and this is one tool to help us get that. Please support it. Thank you.


On Thursday July 9, an anti-biotechnology group is orchestrating calls to Costco asking that they never carry fast-growing genetically engineered salmon. They’re trying to bully Costco into making a decision on selling GE salmon before it’s even on the market. See below for Costco’s contact information and a sample script.

GE fast-growing salmon can be an environmentally friendly way to meet increasing demand for seafood. These salmon are a healthy, safe source of protein and omega 3s, and will potentially be available at lower cost than non-GE salmon. There simply aren’t enough wild fish stocks to meet demand so we must farm fish. The way these GE salmon will be raised has a lot of advantages over farming fish in ocean pens – namely they won’t spread disease to native fish populations. They’ll also take less feed to get to the same size. If you want to learn more, check out my article Risk assessment and mitigation of AquAdvantage salmon (the article is a few years old but as far as I know, little if anything has changed) or visit the AquaBounty website.

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If you have a moment, you could contact Costco (especially if you’re a member) to let them know you support genetically engineered foods and specifically that you would choose this salmon if Costco had it available. While you’re on the phone, you could also express concern that so many Costco-brand foods are only available in organic, increasing costs with little or no benefit to the consumer.

Costco’s Customer Service phone number is 1-800-774-2678 (press “0” to speak with a representative).

Here is a sample script:

I have been a Costco member for __ years and I support biotechnology. I would like Costco to base their decision on fast-growing GMO salmon on the best science, not activist demands. Land-raised, fast-growing GMO salmon is an environmentally friendly way to make healthy, safe fish available for more people. Please consider selling GMO salmon when it becomes available.”

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*Dr. Anastasia Bodnar is Director of Policy for Biology Fortified, Inc., an independent non-profit devoted to providing science-based information about biotechnology and other topics in agriculture. Learn more about Anastasia at https://about.me/geneticmaize. Disclaimer: Anastasia’s words are her own and views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of her employer(s).

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