Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dairy Visits with International Visitors

April has marked the end of the arduous but fulfilling task of organizing an International Visitor Leadership Program from beginning to end. In January, I moved to Sacramento to intern at the Northern Californian World Trade Center assisting with the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). IVLPs are short-term professional exchange programs for international leaders organized by the Department of State and facilitated by local nonprofits.  

In February, I saw a program proposal for dairy producers from the Palestinian territories. I successfully created a bid in the Sacramento region, which is essentially a collection of potential local site visits,  for the program.  Once Sacramento had been selected as a city stop, my internship advisor and I contacted various dairies and dairy research facilities. Following-up with all of our initial inquiries was a good lesson in patience and perseverance. We ended up contacting around 20 different sites. 

With all of our preparation, the finally arrived this week. Their professions ranged from a dairy researchers to a quality control manager to a dairy owner to a dairy by-product producer. 

As a part of the program we visited two dairies of different sizes. Our first stop was at Long Dream Farm in Lincoln, CA. I arrived earlier than the group (Both of us got lost), to which Krista, one of the owners, responded by giving me a tour of the emu flock. Long Dream Farm currently has an egg production and overnight stay options for those wanting a quite country getaway. They are also building a milking facility where they can milk their Scottish Highland and Dutch Belt cows. As Andrew, Krista's husband, guided us through the pristine cement space, one can only imagine how busy they will be once they open their dairy. The family hopes to sell creamy cheeses like camembert to folks in Sacramento using a mixture of the 12% fat milk from the Scottish Highland and the 4% fat milk from the Dutch Belt cows. 

At New Hope Dairy in Galt, CA, Arlin Van Grongingen and Arlan Van Leeuwen showed the group around their large dairy farm and milking facility. New Hope Dairy houses over 1,000 heifers and has one of the region's first bio-digesters. A bio-digester takes the gas produced by the cows' waste and transforms it into electricity. 

During our visit, Arlan shared the importance of having a transparent large family farm. Basically, the public can learn about the entire food system, especially from where their dairy products come. As we passed the parking lot, several of our group members asked if the parked Corvette was one of the owners'. Arlan laughed and said it was one of their employee's cars. He said that New Hope Dairy valued paying living wages for their employees. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sacramento's Slow Food Snails Visit Capay Valley Farms

Early in the morning about 20 of us lined up outside of the Sacramento Co-op to get on the air-conditioned bus that would take us to Capay Valley. Sacramento Slow Food and the Sacramento Co-op organized a farm tour featuring Pasture 42, Full Belly Farm and Good Humus Produce.

Our first stop was family farm, Pasture 42. Owners Susan and Ken greeted us with samples of freshly made ice cream, yogurt, and flavored olive oils. On their farm, they have employees, interns and WWOOF volunteers that help them with the daily chores. Pasture 42 specializes in sustainable farm practices, which incorporates routinely rotating crops and livestock. For example, their pigs help till the soil during the wet season before planting in the spring, where the pigs will subsequently be moved to another area. Their chickens are transported around the property in mobile coops and then are surrounded by fencing as they feed. Eggs and broilers hens were available for purchase in addition to dairy products, different cuts of meats, infused olive oils, and handmade soaps. The closest farmers' market to Sacramento they visit is the Saturday market in Davis.

Our next stop was for lunch at locally famed Full Belly Farms. Full Belly Farms is a multi-generational organic farm in Capay Valley which specializes in vegetable and flower production as well as catering. We were welcomed by Amom Muller at the event hall, where he had prepared a homey meal for our group. It included flavored roasted potatoes, braised artichokes, homemade sausage, a green salad, lentil salad, and sweet fruit muffins for dessert. You can find Fully Belly products at different farmers' markets in the Bay area or join their CSA to have their products delivered in and around Sacramento.

We left lunch with our bellies full and wobbled our way to our final stop at Good Humus Produce. Our tour was led by owner Jeff Main through the orchards of fruits and fields of vegetables. Good Humus farm uses natural vegetation barriers such as trees and bushes to divide the land, soften winds, and provide habitation for wild animals. According to Jeff, the animals don't threaten the farming practices, but encourage a healthy ecosystem for the plants to thrive. Good Humus' products are distributed to the Sacramento Natural Food Coop and the Davis Farmers' Market. You can also sign up for their CSA box, which is delivered on Tuesdays in Sacramento.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Slow Food Event: Two Rivers Cider Tasting & Tour

This month the Sacramento Slow Food chapter had an event at a local legend, Two Rivers Cider feature catering from Veg Cafe. The night started with the history of the Two Rivers Cider Company, which was started in 1996 by Vincent Sterne. Vincent explained the cider making process, which he begins with gathering local produce from Apple Hill near Sacramento and other Northern Californian towns. He likes to think of cider makers as the modern day Johnny Appleseed, as their need for apples increases the demand for apple trees to be planted.

Pomegranate cider 
Honeysuckle cider
Once introductions had been made, Vincent opened his taps of his seasonal ciders. Featured here were my two favorite ciders. The pomegranate has an amazing ruby color with sparkling flavors that tingle on your tongue. The honeysuckle cider was sweet and and aromatic. The pomegranate cider was luscious and refreshing.

The tasting was complemented by catering from Thai Basil's new vegetarian restaurant, Veg. A crowd favorite was the marinated tofu cubes that had a spicy kick. Another pleaser were savory samosas that tasted like Thanksgiving dinner packed a flakey pastry. Overall, the pairing of spicy flavorful with the light flavors of cider was a perfect combination for a warm spring night.