The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) hosted its sixth Safe Fruits and Veggies Farm Tour for registered dietitians, health and nutrition writers and influencers on August 21, 22 and 23 featuring crops on the Monterey Peninsula of California. Tour participants visited leafy greens, vegetable and berry farms as well as cooling and processing facilities in this area often referred to as the “Salad Bowl of the World.”
“We strive to provide an experience that shares the care and commitment of farmers and farm workers to bring safe and healthy foods to consumers,” says Kate Tynan, AFF Board Chair and Senior Vice President of the Northwest Horticultural Council. “We also explore and discuss the challenges we face to grow these crops and how farmers adjust, adapt, problem-solve and continue to move forward.”
“The tours expand on AFF’s continuous efforts to provide science-based information to media and consumers about farming and produce safety,” Thorne adds. “These influencer tours also re-invigorate us as we see farming through the eyes of our guests who always come away impassioned and impressed,” says Teresa Thorne, AFF Executive Director.
The guests 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.
On the first day, AFF guests toured farms in the Salinas Valley as well as the Taylor Farms processing facility. In addition to seeing spinach harvesting, the guests learned about the importance of beneficial insects in organic and conventional production from the Taylor Farms/Earthbound Farms agronomy teams. This was followed by a demonstration of how these beneficial insects are distributed throughout a broccoli field using a Parabug drone.
Further highlighting how technology is advancing improved and more efficient farming practices, another live demonstration featured an autonomous weeder operating in a leafy greens field.
The day concluded with a tour and dinner at the iconic Earthbound Farm Stand in Carmel Valley.
On day two, the tour moved to the Watsonville area to see strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry farms. At Rocha Brothers Farms, AFF guests observed and participated in harvesting strawberries into clam shell containers to experience firsthand the skills of farm workers. To the delight or chagrin of the tour guests, strawberry farmer and former farm worker, Lupe Rocha, graded each guest on their pack reinforcing the vital work of harvesting crews to bring high quality produce to consumers.
After lunch at the fourth-generation farm and local favorite, Gizdich Ranch, guests toured California Giant Berry Farms cooler.
The 2023 sponsors who made the AFF tour possible included 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.
To help advance the AFF’s mission of providing credible, science-based information, Dr. Trevor Suslow, Extension Research Specialist Emeritus, UC Davis, and Dr. Carl Winter, Extension Food Toxicologist Emeritus, UC Davis, also joined the tour so guests had access to their food safety, regulatory and toxicology knowledge throughout the experience.
“We have seen the benefits of engagement and sharing of AFF’s fact-based information by these influencers over the last few years,” Tynan says. “Their efforts in mainstream and social media have helped the AFF’s Safe Fruits and Veggies campaign to consistently reach more consumers with accurate information about produce safety so they can make the right shopping choices for themselves and their families when buying fruits and vegetables.”
In addition to the real-time social media posts during the tour, the influencers will be providing more in-depth content about their experiences and what they learned in the coming weeks. The AFF will share and distribute this new content to industry, media and nutrition communicators. To see many of the real-time social media posts by guests during the tour, visit @safeproduce.
Since the first tour in 2017, the AFF has provided 50 influencers with a unique on-farm experience. This has allowed the AFF to build a strong network of nutrition communicators which has enhanced the organization’s efforts to communicate fact-based information to consumers as well as counter misinformation about the safety of produce.
“Our sincere thanks to all of our guests, sponsors, Drs. Suslow and Winter, the farmers and facility managers for making this tour such a special event,” Thorne says. “These tours are always so educational and insightful for everyone involved. There is no better way to show the passion and commitment of farmers and farming companies than by visiting their farms and operations and meeting them in person.”
The Alliance for Food and Farming is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 which represents organic and conventional farmers and farms of all sizes. Alliance contributors are limited to farmers of fruits and vegetables, companies that sell, market or ship fruits and vegetables or organizations that represent produce farmers. Our mission is to deliver credible information about the safety of fruits and vegetables.