This is a guest entry from the Alliance for Food and Farming.
As I reflect on the Alliance for Food and Farming’s (AFF) 2023 Safe Fruits and Veggies Farm Tour, I’m asking myself who comes away more inspired – our guests or us?
While we proudly show our farms, fields and facilities to these influencers to enhance their understanding of our farming practices and the care and commitment to grow safe and nutritious foods, we hope that our guests leave inspired to share what they have learned with their audiences and consumers.
However, each year as we see the excitement and enthusiasm of our guests, we takeaway a renewed energy to continue communicating the hard work of farmers, farming companies and farm workers who strive each day to provide healthy and safe fruits and vegetables to consumers.
Some memories from last week’s tour:
- Seeing baby spinach harvested along with in-depth information from the Taylor Farms teams about the rigorous food safety practices and efforts taken daily and their commitment to continually evolve and advance through science.
- The Taylor Farms/Earthbound Farms agronomist whose fascination with insects was contagious. Our guests reacted with both fascination and a bit of horror as she enthusiastically explained how beneficial insects ultimately kill and control pests on conventional and organic farms.
- Seeing the beneficial insects up close as well as watching a Parabug drone distribute beneficials over a farm.
- Watching the autonomous weeder operating in a leafy greens field. And it even has a name – Orio! (So it isn’t just me that thinks these autonomous machines have human-like characteristics.)
- A vibrant, transparent and thoughtful discussion with the guests, sponsors and Taylor/Earthbound teams about produce safety, sustainability, climate change, organic and conventional production similarities, current and future farming challenges, product development innovations and the importance of providing consumers with choices in the produce aisle to positively impact produce consumption.
- A truly magical dinner at the Earthbound Farm Stand – it’s hard to describe so please see the social posts of our guests at @safeproduce to view photos and videos of this wonderful experience.
- Observing our guests carefully listen to harvesting instructions and then jump in to pick a clam shell full of strawberries.
- And then their packs were graded. Each guest presented their clam shell to strawberry farmer and former farm worker, Lupe Rocha. The banter, delight and huge smiles as our guests’ work was critiqued by Lupe was priceless. What better way to clearly illustrate the skills and importance of farm workers to deliver quality produce to consumers.
- Watching out guests “eat and learn” during their tour of Navarro Farms blackberry, raspberry and blueberry farms. Lots of sweet berries were consumed right off the vine and, yes, “raspberry fingers” happened.
- At the fourth generation farm Gizdich Ranch, hearing matriarch, Nita Gizdich, share her family’s story. A recurring theme, “I never wanted to marry a farmer, but here I am.”
- Cooling off in the California Giant Berry Farms cooling facility and learning how important is it to maintain the cold chain in order for consumers to receive quality berries nationwide.
The 2023 guests included Mascha Davis, Maya Feller, Amy Gorin, Rachel Hartley, Malina Malkani, Andrea Mathis, Marisa Moore, Kylie Sakaida and Lauren Twigge. They are contributors to the Today Show, Good Morning America, New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, Shape, Parents, Martha Stewart, Eating Well, Food Network, Self, Prevention, People and CNN, among others. In addition to their significant reach in mainstream media, they have millions of combined followers on social media.
The AFF sincerely thanks our sponsors who made the tour possible: California Giant Berry Farms, the California Strawberry Commission, Earthbound Farms, the Grower Shipper Association of Central California, the International Fresh Produce Association, Taylor Farms and Western Growers Association.
We also extend our thanks to Dr. Trevor Suslow, Extension Research Specialist Emeritus, UC Davis, and Dr. Carl Winter, Extension Food Toxicologist Emeritus, UC Davis, who shared their food safety, regulatory and toxicology knowledge throughout the experience.
To learn more about the tour and see videos and photos, visit @safeproduce.