Thursday, March 24, 2016

Local Tourist: Strawberry Farm Shenanigans


 


Fruit is one of the few things that I've always been a fan of. As a picky eater growing up, I always knew that I could turn to fruit as my option if they were serving things that I wasn't a fan of. Strawberries have always been one of my favorites. I have memories of being a little girl, riding in the back seat of my dad's car and him pulling off into some dusty side stand to pick the best and juiciest strawberries from the baskets presented. There were always samples to be had and my fingers were for sure red and mouth sticky by the time we got back in the car. I loved it. 




To this day I can't help but wonder what the berries are looking like at every stand we pass and being in southern California a 12 month growing season, California strawberries aren't hard to find but can be hard to pass up. My dad is one of those people that can't pass them up and lucky for me if he sees some when he's on his way to my house he'll waste no time scooping them up. Fresh berries are my love language



Last summer our family drove up to San Francisco and we passed through the heart of California farming and many a strawberry field and had so many questions about what went on there.  





 So when I was invited to visit one of the many farms up in Oxnard, CA I was down for the ride. I say "up" because from where I live, it's a nice scenic ride up several freeways.  It was a magnificent California day and I was thrilled to be out of the house and excited for the days adventure. 







We were taken to a local farm owned by the ridiculously guapo Juan Hernandez and he led us on a tour of his land and shared his story about how he came to not only work, but own that farm. 




Did you know that there about 400 family farmers, many like, Mr. Hernandez, are on multi-generational farms and that strawberry farming has given Latinos more ownership opportunities than any other major crop. Crazy right? 



These family strawberry farms help sustain their communities by creating over 70,000 jobs, investing in scholarships for children of field workers and investing 97 cents of every farm dollar back into their communities which is kind of impressive considering what a huge industry strawberry farming is. 







He was wonderfully patient answering all our questions about sustainable farming, water conservation (strawberries require less water less water per acre than an acre of homes in L.A.)  and whether or not pesticides/insecticides were used (they invest millions in non-chemical farming methods which is more than any other commodity group in the world. )











AND he stood totally still while we all zoomed in to get that key photo with both our DSLR and camera phones as well as live video. Cuz that's how we do.



And then, and then, they told us it was okay to pick them. Say what? I can walk over to this GINORMOUS juicy red berry and just plop it off the vine and eat it? Don't mind if I do! 
And I did. At least 12 servings worth. BTW, a serving size is about 8 medium strawberries and has more vitamin C than an orange as well as myriad of other nutrients. So all those times I've stuffed my face with strawberries I was really just doing myself a favor. Good to know. 






750 berries later ( I kid, but not really) we headed over to Hertzog Winery for a lavish strawberry themed lunch where we talked more about the different ways to use the fruit and how strawberries get kind of a bad rap because they're sweet. 




I mentioned how some mom's (myself included) have been shamed for "too sweet/sugary" lunches that contain strawberries and another "sweet" not realizing that although they're naturally sweet, they're low in sugar (only 7 g and 45 calories per cup)! Our resident dietitian hipped me to that fact that I will now use at will. Take that, lunch lady haters! Ha! 




I had no idea that strawberries were grown the way they are and how hard the farmers work towards sustainability and truly being farm to table.



 The growers up in Oxnard take great pride that their crops service strawberry lovers the world over and to see how some of them started from the bottom and now they're here? 
That's my kind of success story.


not quite ready
I seriously had the best time and could have stayed out there for hours. I have mad respect for those that work in the field and those that manage the farms.  Juan was telling us how they handle extreme temps and let's just say it involves being out in the elements in the freezing cold. I'm cool. Thankfully these farmers aren't above getting down and dirty for their crop. 


Another cool thing about CA Strawberries? Their packaging is plastered with photos of actual farmers, growers and their families. Truly making strawberry farming a community effort. 



Our hosts were kind enough to send us home with a flat of berries each! A flat is eight clamshells FULL of my favorite fruit. They doubly blessed me with TWO FLATS. Because I love they spoke my love language and understood how happy they make me. Holy cannoli y'all. That's sixteen ; 1-6; shells of strawberries. My car smelled AMAZING the whole way home and my mind was whirling with all the yummy ways we could make use of all these succulent berries. 

Baby Ninja made quick work of one clamshell as soon as I got home!


Baby Ninja made quick work of one shell as soon as I hit the door and I realized that while I wanted to hoard them, I couldn't in good conscience so I paid it forward and shared them with a few families. Everyone agreed they were/ are the best berries we've ever eaten. I'm just happy I was smart enough to freeze some. Because margaritas y'all. Summer is coming.



What's your favorite way to eat strawberries?




To find out more about CA Strawberries visit www.californiastrawberries.com and to find out more about the farmers you might be buying from check out their blog Heart of Farmers - they've even got recipes to try! 



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