Tag Archives: food

Cry Me A River

I spend my summers in Indian Valley, California. It’s a beautiful valley nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, located in Northern California. This valley is perfect for cattle and hay, since the growing season is too short for most food crops. It’s a great symbiotic relationship, we make hay, then turn the cattle out. The cattle poo, fertilizing the ground, then we make more hay for the cattle to eat. Rinse and repeat.

On the left used to be a ditch, we changed it to a buried pipe to conserve water. On the right is our laser leveled field.

On the left used to be a ditch, we changed it to a buried pipe to conserve water. On the right is our laser leveled field.

This is the one ranch where we have irrigation. Many of the ranches in this valley have water shares from the local river. We use the water to irrigate the hay and water our cattle. Over the years, we’ve gotten rather high tech when it comes to our water share. Since we only get a limited amount of water, we know we must be as efficient as we can with it. This has led us to bury our ditches in underground pipes so we can limit evaporation and waste. We have laser leveled our fields so we don’t waste water in holes or on poor grades. My point is, we understand what a precious and rare resource water has become, because our life depends on it.

California is in the middle of a major drought. This is terrifying for a number of reasons, but mainly because California produces more than half the nation’s fruit, nuts, and vegetables and we can’t grow these things without water. This drought is directly impacting people like me: farmers and ranchers. Let me remind you that 98% of farms and ranches are family owned.

My family has been working extra hard this summer. We’ve practically lived in our fields, watching our water. Because it is so precious and rare to us, we have to use it as wisely as we can, in order to survive, we simply must. Imagine my shock and awe, as I was sitting in a field, waiting for the exact instant the water was ready to be changed, I saw a local environmental group post on their social media page:

It’s hard to stomach the giant agribusinesses whine about lack of water when they have made the poor business decision to grow luxury orchard crops (pistachios, etc) in a dessert (sic). Cry me a river about your dust bowl.”

 

This is a pretty tough thing for agriculture to read when we are drying up.

This is a pretty tough thing for agriculture to read when we are drying up.

I started crying, right there in the field. I may not be in the central valley of California (where that vile comment was referring to), but I certainly understand the anxiety and fear this drought is causing. Our neighbor’s well had just dried up the that very morning, our water share is the lowest we have ever seen it, our fields are starting to brown and die. How could a group that claims to be “devoted to environmental education and information referral services, and advocacy” say that about the very people that work for a better environment everyday of our lives?

I couldn’t sleep that night, I was so upset over that comment. Giant agribusinesses? Luxury crops? Dessert (sic)? This is how many of the misconceptions and fallacies that plague agriculture start. By people that, I think, do have their heart in the right place, but don’t have enough understanding of a topic to fully communicate both sides. Beyond that fact, I was hurt that the writer chose to take such an inflammatory and hurtful tone – “Cry me a river about your dust bowl”. Ouch. That is a hurtful and horrible thing to say when farmers and ranchers are literally crying over the loss of our way of life.

I decided that I needed to join this group and I needed to say my peace about their comment. As someone that lives to advocate for my life, I would be a hypocrite to not take the 10 minutes to have a conversation. As soon as Dad could spare me, I jumped in my truck with my cowdogs, drove the hour and half to Chico.

 

A felfie. I was on my way to Butte Environmental Council's office. I haven't showered in two day, I had no make up on, the same pants I wore the day before (saving water!), I had both my dogs and our neighbors well just went dry. I wanted to show them the face of giant agribusiness crying them a river in my dust bowl.

A felfie. I was on my way to Butte Environmental Council’s office. I haven’t showered in two days, I had no make up on, the same pants I wore the day before (saving water!), I had both my dogs and our neighbors well just went dry. I wanted to show them the face of giant agribusiness crying them a river in my dust bowl.

Because of the heat, I was forced to take my cowdogs in the office with me. I can only imagine the sight and smell of me as I walked down the streets of downtown Chico with two dogs on a leash made of bailing twine. I arrived at their office, introduced myself, and proceeded to cry them a river. All the anxiety, emotion and fear I’d been feeling lately about our water situation boiled over. Their office was so nice and cool, such a change from the heat and dust I’d been working in. The women in the office seemed very nice, concerned, and thanked me for coming in and talking to them. They said they would speak to the people that had administrative access to their page. I urged them to remove the comment and maybe issue an apology because alienating your active environmentalists (farmers and ranchers), is not a good way to foster communication.

My dirty, smelly self, crying in BEC's office.

My dirty, smelly self, crying in BEC’s office.

I also paid my $20’s and became a member. As I said, I want my voice to matter, so I felt like paying my dues, would prove I am serious about working together for the greater good. I left their office feeling hopeful. Hopeful that their comment would be removed, perhaps an apology given and hopeful that a new partnership could blossom.

I walk the walk. I am serious about my love for our environment and agriculture and making those things better for everyone.

I walk the walk. I am serious about my love for our environment and agriculture and making those things better for everyone.

 

When I checked their page the next day, I was dismayed to find they had not removed the offending post. In fact, they edited it to reflect a spelling change. I realize that the women in that office do not have the same experience as I have with water or our environment.  Their income, their very way of life, all they have ever known isn’t on a cattle ranch that five generations before them worked so hard for. Their friends, family and peers aren’t facing uncertain futures like mine are. As a new member with these insights, perhaps I need to show and tell, so this council can start to fathom what we are facing.

My comments on the initial post and the day after I went in, paid for my membership and cried.

My comments on the initial post and the day after I went in, paid for my membership and cried.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to share more about how this drought is affecting agriculture. I’ve reached out to some other advocates in hopes that their stories can help put a face to what people think are “giant agribusinesses”.  They plan on sharing about their farms and ranchers and the “luxury” crops they produce. I sincerely hope that with this new information and ability to communicate with agriculture, the Butte Environmental Council will re-think how they talk about farmers and ranchers. Perhaps this would be an excellent time for everyone to start over again, and work together for the great good. All of our futures depend in it.

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Field Trip, food, Know a California Farmer, Media, photos, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

Croplife America 2014 National Policy Conference

About a month ago I got an email inviting me to take part in a National Policy Conference in Washington D.C. As a speaker. For CropLife America. I immediately disregarded it. You see, I tend not to leave the Ranch. In fact, the last time I successfully left the Ranch and the general Chico area for over a night was in 2007.

The reason for my lack of traveling has been anxiety. I suffered from chronic anxiety for several years, traveling was a guaranteed panic attack. But therapy has helped me overcome that obstacle, so it was no longer a valid excuse.

Another reason I don’t like to leave the Ranch is, we’re busy. Like 97% of other American farms and ranches, we are family owned. Leaving my Parents here, while I tra la la in the big city, doesn’t sound like a nice thing to do. But I shared the e-mail about attending the Conference with my Parents, and they said “go, you need to do this”. There goes another valid excuse not to leave.

The more I thought about attending, the more it sounded like a good idea. I love to talk about agriculture. I love policy. I think it is important for farmers and ranchers to tell our story to anyone that will listen. I need to practice what I preach on a grander scale. It’s time for me to move beyond speaking to high school classes and local government groups.

 

Look! It's me!

Look! It’s me! (and famous people!!! OMG)

I received another e-mail urging me to respond. I did. The e-mail turned into a phone call, the phone call turned into a decision. I am going to Washington D.C. to talk about Ag policy. I haven’t been to the East Coast since I was 15!

Look! It's 15 year old me!

Look! It’s 15 year old me!

I never imagined that I would ever do something like this. I feel like all my years dedicated to telling my story, talking about agriculture and urging others to do the same is being noticed. I’m excited. And determined to make my supporters (you, reading this) proud.

If you are in the greater DC area during this time, won’t you consider joining this conference? I would love to see some “familiar” faces in the crowd!

 

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, family, Field Trip, Know a California Farmer, Media, photos, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

Candied Ginger, Vanilla-Blueberry Jam

I reached the zenith of my canning with this recipe. Local blueberries were on sale at our market and I couldn’t help myself, I had to buy some! Blueberries are my favorite. I could eat them everyday and still love them. Silly pig agrees with me, she loves them too. It was only natural I made jam with them.

Glorious blueberries. For cheap.

Glorious blueberries. For cheap.

I searched the internets for a suitable blueberry jam recipe. But I wanted something special. Something unusual. And I couldn’t find what I was looking for. So I had to mash-up a couple of recipes to create something that sounded  amazing to me. Enter candied ginger, vanilla-blueberry jam. I found a great recipe for blueberry jam over at Food in Jars (I love them, so much). But I wanted something more. I had some candied ginger in my pantry and some old vanilla beans I needed to use up, so I decided to combine them all, and I’m glad I did.

Candied ginger and vanilla beans. Heaven.

Candied ginger and vanilla beans. Heaven.

About 6 cups of smashed blueberries (this is around 8-9 cups of whole berries, it kinda depends on the size of your berries)
6 cups sugar
1 cup candied ginger, chopped fine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 vanilla beans, the guts scraped out
two packets liquid pectin

Smash your blueberries.

Smashed berries with sugar. Brought to a boil.

Smashed berries with sugar. Brought to a boil.

Add to a large pot. Add sugar.  Bring to a boil and add cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla guts, lemon juice and ginger and let jam continue to cook (simmer) for about fifteen minutes. Add pectin and bring to a rolling boil for a full five minutes.

Full, roiling boil.

Full, roiling boil.

Remove from from heat and fill sterilized jars. Leave 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust lids. Wipe rims and apply lids that have been cleaned and placed in a warm water bath. Screw on the bands and lower into the water.

My jam, ready for it's water-bath.

My jam, ready for it’s water-bath.

Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Enjoy this yummyness on pankcakes, biscuits, toast  or, my favorite standby, over cream cheese with crackers!

The finished product. It's good. I'm not going to lie to you. It has a very complex flavor that I really enjoyed.

The finished product. It’s good. I’m not going to lie to you. It has a very complex flavor that I really enjoyed.

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, arts & crafts, food, Know a California Farmer, photos, Ranch life, Recipe, Uncategorized

Pickled Beets

This has been the summer of pickling for me. Know that Portlandia sketch?

The one where they pickle everything? Yeah, that is totally me right now. I blame beets. Beets started my whole summer obsession with pickling. You see, we have this neighbor, Pete.

Pete gave me beers and produce. This made me happy.

Pete gave me beers and produce. This made me happy.

Pete has a garden that puts mine to shame, I mean his garden makes me want to cry is it so awesome. And he is very generous with letting me come over and pillage his garden. Every time I go up to our summer ranch, he invites me over and lets me pick produce (like once a week, between my garden and his, I haven’t bought produce in months). Needless to say, I’m a pretty big Pete fan right now.

The first time Pete turned me loose in his garden was after a long day working on the ranch. I had lost both pant legs to eye patches for the cows, I hadn't had a shower, I wasn't wearing make-up and I had eye patch glue all over my hands. Garden time was much needed and very much appreciated!

The first time Pete turned me loose in his garden was after a long day working on the ranch. I had lost both pant legs to eye patches for the cows, I hadn’t had a shower, I wasn’t wearing make-up and I had eye patch glue all over my hands. Garden time was much needed and very much appreciated!

Want to know the really funny thing? I don’t like most of the things I am canning. Actually let me re-phrase that, I didn’t like most of the things.  I finally tried the beets and they were amazing, why didn’t anyone tell me pickled beets are good?

I’ve decided to share some of my pickling recipes. Not that I am making anything that is super rare, or you can’t already find on the internets….

The beets I picked.

The beets I picked.

I got this recipe out of the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. I modified it slightly after lurking a bunch of other recipes. I am very happy with the finished product.

Pickled Beets

(this makes about 6 pints of pickles beets)

3 quarts beets (like 12 big ones)

2 cups white sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1 Tablespoon whole allspice

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

3 1/2 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 cup reserved water from boiling the beets

This is what you do:

Wash the beets really well.

Silly helped! She tasted the greens to make sure they were good.

Silly helped! She tasted the greens to make sure they were good.

Place them in a large pot and boil until a fork is easily inserted (I cut them in half to shorten the cooking time).

Boiling beets.

Boiling beets.

Once your beets are cooked the skin should slip right off.

Beets remind me of breaking down a carcass. They are so messy and red!

Beets remind me of breaking down a carcass. They are so messy and red!

Slice or cube your beets. Combine all ingredients except the beets, in a large saucepan.

Your pickling mixture.

Your pickling mixture.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks.

Packing warm beets into hot jars.

Packing warm beets into hot jars.

Pack beets into hot jars (I put my sterilized jars in an 180 degree oven and use as needed), leaving 1/4 inch headspace.

Wine helps.

Wine helps.

Ladle hot liquid over the beets, making sure to leave the 1/4 inch headspace. Remove the air bubbles.

Remove the air bubbles and clean the top so you get a seal.

Remove the air bubbles and clean the top so you get a seal.

Adjust the two piece caps.

Hot, clean caps help with a good seal!

Hot, clean caps help with a good seal!

Process pints or quarts (I used pints) for 30 minutes in boiling water.

Make sure you have at least two inches of water covering you processing cans!

Make sure you have at least two inches of water covering you processing cans!

Process for 30 minutes!

Process for 30 minutes!

The older I get the more and more I am realizing how lucky I am/was, to be born into a family that valued canning and pickling. I have wonderful memories of both side of my family canning fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies in the summer. I know many people are intimidated to try and can because it is unfamiliar to them. But you guys, I promise, it’s not really that hard and when you hear that “pop” of the can sealing, it is so worth it! I urge you try it! If you have questions, ask me, I’d love to help!

Pickled beets by me. The fruits of my labor. YUM!

Pickled beets by me. The fruits of my labor. YUM!

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, arts & crafts, food, History, Humor, Know a California Farmer, photos, Ranch life, Recipe, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: The Survivor

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Fun Ag Facts: X

Fun ag fact of the day: livestock contribute only 3.1% of total greenhouse gas emissions (transportation is 26%).

fun ag fact of the day: a chef’s hat has 100 “toques” or pleats for each of the many ways to prepare eggs.

Fun ag fact of the day: Dairy cows produce the most milk of any mammal in the world.

fun ag fact of the day: Pork has three times as much thiamin as any other food.

fun ag fact of the day: Whole grain means that the entire grain is still present, which includes the bran, germ and endosperm

fun ag fact of the day: There are over 82,000 sheep operations in the US, a majority of them family owned and operated.

fun ag fact of the day: Georgia produces almost half of the peanuts produced in the U.S. each year.

Fun ag fact of the day: Asparagus is a member of the Lily family and is related to onions, leeks, and garlic.

fun ag fact of the day: beef cattle is the single largest segment of American agriculture.

fun ag fact of the day: Farrow is the term used when a pig gives birth.

fun ag fact of the day: 97% Of The Cranberries In The World Come From The United States and Canada.

fun ag fact of the day: Indiana is ranked the #2 grower of popcorn in the U.S, producing 192.5 million lbs a year on 77,000 acres.

fun ag fact of the day:  farmers within a 60-mile radius of Fresno account for 100% of all raisins produced in the United States.

fun ag fact of the day: USDA says the nation’s cattle herd numbered 97.8 million as of July 1 is the lowest inventory since it began the count in 1973.

Fun ag fact of the day: A zucchini has more potassium than a banana.

fun ag fact of the day: Most eggs are laid between the hours of 7 and 11 a.m.

fun ag fact of the day: California grows about 70% of all the asparagus grown in the US. More than 50,000 tons of asparagus are grown here every year.

fun ag fact of the day: Americans eat about 30 pounds of lettuce every year. That’s about five times more than what we ate in the early 1900s.

Fun ag fact of the day: California produces 95% of the U.S. olive crop!

fun ag fact of the day: Brazil is the world’s largest producer of oranges with more than 37% of the world’s total! The United States is the second largest producer followed by China and the EU-27.

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Recipe: Salsa Verde

I tweeted this picture to my farmer followers, most of them had never seen this before…

When I was in my late teens/early twenties I went to Mexico a lot. In typical Megan fashion I became somewhat obsessed with all things Mexican. At one point I convinced myself I was going to move down there and immerse myself in the culture until I became fluent in both Spanish and Mexican cooking. I never ended up moving there, but I did take a lot of cooking classes and learned a lot about the food.

One of my favorite things about Mexico is all the salsa. Most restaurants and taco stands have at least 3 different salsas at your table and they are breathtakingly good. It was very disappointing to come home and have salsa out of a jar. Even worse, is the almost complete lack a salsa verde.

Salsa verda is green salsa made from tomatillos. Tomatillos are those green tomoto-ey looking things in that part of the produce section you never go to.

Tomatillos, still in their husks.

de-husked…

Since so many of my followers had never seen or heard of a tomatillo before I thought this would be a perfect blog post! And since my goal for my garden this year was to grow my own salsa (if the deer would have left my garden alone, I would have accomplished this goal), I get to show off some of my produce!

Husked and washed, fresh from my garden.

My recipe for salsa verde (this is to taste, please adjust according to your preference):

1 1/2 lbs of tomatillos (husked and washed)

1/2 white onion, chopped

1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves (about 1/2 -3/4 cup)

3 jalapenos (de-seed those suckers unless you like the HEAT)

Juice from 3 limes (I love limes – you could probably use less)

1 Tablespoon sugar

Pinch of salt

Slice and broil your tomatillos. About 5 minutes or until they are soft and have pretty black marks.

They should look like this. I use foil because I am lazy and I don’t like to clean up after myself.

I use a glove when handling peppers. Because I always forget I handled peppers and rub my eyes. Then I get sad/mad at myself when I’m in pain for the rest of the day.

Put everything in your cuisinart and blend till it’s smooth.

Get some chips and an ice cold corona and sit in a corner where you don’t have to share.

The good news is the deer don’t eat tomatillo plants. This made me very happy.  However when you plant tomatillos make sure you plant several plants because they are self-incompatible, that means they need two or more plants for proper pollination. I really enjoyed growing tomatillos this year and plan keeping the deer away from my limes and cilantro so my salsa next year will be completely ranch made (I think the salsa will compliment venison very nicely, don’ you?).

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Guest Post: Eat Retreat 2012

While I was at California State University, Chico, earning my degree, I had the pleasure of getting to know a lot of different people from various ag backgrounds. I managed to keep in touch with several friends from college, and it’s been pretty fun to watch them go out into the world. I met my friend Emily through our membership in Alpha Zeta (that is a smart kid club, FYI), she is the epitome of going out into the world and changing it. Unfortunately, while I cannot attend this event, hopefully some of you in internet land can have the pleasure (if you do please consider doing a guest post for me!)

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Eat Retreat is back on for its 2nd year! Food community leaders from around the country will come together for a weekend long burn-out-cure full of the kind food and lifestyle that we all want to share with the world.

Courtyard party Photo credit: James Collier

Last year, we stayed on a 12,000 acre mountain ranch in Mendocino County. This year, we are upping the stakes with a sustainable farm and ranch in the beautiful Los Altos Hills, just south of San Francisco. Picture 48 hours of cooking collaboration, showing off your skills in food demonstrations, and most importantly sitting back with a good snack and new friends.
On the farm, we’ll learn about sustainable farming and ranching in California, and be able to create meals out of the farm’s produce.

Pig breakdown Photo credit: James Collier

In our first year, Eat Retreaters included brewers, coffee roasters, jammers, food photographers, chefs, food health advocates, writers, journalists, farmers market organizers and more! Since that glorious weekend, Retreaters have collaborated together for new food and cooking projects, and simply made new friends to lean on for creative inspiration.

Food lesson 1 Photo credit: James Collier

My favorite story of collaboration involves Bruce Cole, the fantastic editor of Edible San Francisco and Anna Larson, founder of Siren CSA. Anna came to Eat Retreat with a background in seafood working for a wholesale and distribution company. After our weekend ended, he started encouraging her to begin a seafood CSA. With her seafood background, and his entrepreneurial know-how, along with the talent of 2 food photographers, and a web designer, all from Eat Retreat, she created the Bay Area’s first seafood CSA, Siren CSA. Five people, who had never met before Eat Retreat, all came together from their various backgrounds to help start a new business bringing better food to everyone!

Applications are open now until August 24th. Below is some other critical information.

Location: Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills
Date: October 26-28

Let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for reading!

Emily Morgan can be reached at emorgan707@gmail.com.

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Giveaway: Black Truffle Finishing Salt

Salt. Such a basic ingredient. Most of the time we don’t even notice it. This will change that. This black truffle finishing salt blew my mind.

Brown Ranch Filet with a generous sprinkling of black truffle finishing salt.

Finishing salt is added to the food after cooking. It’s enhanced flavor compliments whatever food it is served on. This particular salt compliments red meat like nothing I’ve ever tasted. This little grass finished  filet was breathtaking.

Perfect meal. I was in food coma for hours after. Also if you’ve never grilled a nectarine you haven’t lived!

All you have to do in leave me a comment below and I will use random.org to select a winner Monday, August 6. Good luck!

This could be yours!

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Recipe: Black Truffle Infused Finishing Salt

A couple months ago my friend Dr. Arp, perked my interest when he tweeted about “the best steak ever”. You see Dr. Arp is a meat scientist, so when he talks about good beef, I tend to listen. What made this steak so special was the finishing salt Dr. Arp used to season it with. Truffle finishing salt.

The finished product. Black truffle finishing salt.

Now I’ve watched my fair share of The Food Network. I know truffles are a delicacy and supposed to be super good, but in my head it’s still a fungus and the same people that think fungus is a delicacy think calf nuts are too, something I never cared for. Since Dr. Arp had such rave reviews for this product, I figured I’d put my big girl panties on and try it.

Black truffles.

Of course this stuff is super expensive on the internet, so I decided to make it. I found the black truffles in Sacramento at one of those fancy grocery stores, where people’s cars in the parking lot cost more than my house. I used kosher salt, and my food processor and before I knew it I had truffle salt.

This little thing is intimidating!

As I mentioned before I am not a fan of mushrooms/truffles/fungus, but I’m trying to expand my food horizons. I was hesitant to try this stuff or touch the truffles (I’m being honest here), but as I ground the truffles up with the salt, the aroma was amazing. Imagine savory roast beef in a puddle of au jus, that is kinda what it smelled like, or in other words, heaven. I’m going to give this stuff a few days to infuse and fully develop its flavor and then I’m going to grill some of my special 30th birthday cow filets and use the salt to season them with. If I deem my finishing salt a success, I smell a giveaway!!!! Stay tuned!

It smelled so good!!!!!

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Filed under Ag, arts & crafts, Beef, food, Giveaway, photos, Ranch life, Recipe, Uncategorized