I am proud of my roots as a Californian. I lived all over the beautiful state that I deeply miss especially in March in the Northeast.
I was born and raised in the California Sacramento San Joaquin Valley. Did you know that more than half of the nations fruits, vegetables, and nuts are grown in California? I was surrounded by agriculture my whole life until I went away to college. My fondest memories involved eating fresh strawberries from roadside stands, riding horses with close friends, and spending lots of time in the hot summer sun.
Growing up, I never thought that the large, industrial equipment cultivating miles of acreage was odd. I never stopped to question the pungent, revolting odor that emanated from the chicken farm off the highway. I never considered the inhumane treatment and odor cows endured at feedlots where they were fattened up prior to butchering.
Everything that is wrong with food production in California became so much more apparent after each time I came home from college. Every time I stepped off the plane in Sacramento, CA I could smell and feel the manure on my cheeks. I must admit, I breathed in deep because of nostalgia.
It was not until I brought a New Yorker named Mark Sollohub to my home that I realized how offensive industrial agriculture is to the unacclimated senses. We drove up I-5 through the central valley past feed lots, dairy farms, and chicken houses; every time, he would ask me if I shipped my pants.
My fondest memory is when we drove by a town called Los Banos (translation, The Bathrooms, seriously) that had a dairy farm by the highway. Mark looked like he was going to cry when he could smell the odor with the windows rolled up. As he rolled the windows down he immediately began to flail in agony; he shouted, "I can't believe it can smell worse with the windows open!" I think he could feel the odor at that point of the trip.
During his introduction to NorCal he enjoyed Napa and Sonoma Wineries, but paused and questioned how the vast operations are supported. I did not know how to answer this question since I never contemplated the enormous burden industrial agriculture has on society, the land, the soil, or our water.
Through life and professional experiences, I have learned that industrial agriculture drains land of nutrients while polluting produce and waterways with pesticides. I grew up watching friends and family perform unthinkable manual labor that is offered to low paid migrant workers in los feeles (the fields).
Life lessons have brought me where I am today, fully committed to diversified, sustainable, local food. Although Mark and I come from opposite sides of the country, together we have grown our commitment to producing better food.
As a family, we believe that growing food wholesomely at a scale that nourishes land while caring for God's creatures is good for our bodies, souls and society. At our small farm today, we are modestly expanding while keeping these principles in mind - along with a goal of sharing good food with our community and inspiring others to produce something too.
If you feel slightly inspired to try growing something at your house, please try it out. Anyone who wants to grow food can do it, so give it a shot.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please come back for more laughs and updates on the 2018 season.