Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finally Good News: Survey shows California farmers profit from agritourism!

Tanaka Farms, pick-your-own produce tours, IrvineI am so happy to share a bit of good news for California's farmers. According to a survey conducted by UC Davis' Small Farm Center (a great organization) "California farmers and ranchers hosted more than 2.4 million agricultural tourists in 2008, according to early results from California’s first statewide economic survey of agritourism operators."

Check out the preliminary survey results for more detailed info.

What exactly is agritourism? Here's a definition that I included in a story I did on the topic for California Tour and Travel, back in 2004

Agri-tourism takes many forms and includes such diverse activities as farm tours, bed and breakfast farm stays, Christmas tree farms, corn mazes, agricultural/historical museums, petting farms, farm markets, food festivals, pick-your-own produce farms, roadside produce stands, nurseries, greenhouses, and wineries. Many farms also enhance the visitor’s experience with home-cooked meals, pies and desserts, gift shops, picnic areas, hayrides, train rides, and even cooking and gardening classes.

According to the survey, "Most agritourism operators who responded to the survey reported their agritourism businesses generated some profit. A majority said they are planning to expand or diversify their agritourism offerings over the next five years. In addition, 22 percent of agritourism operators reported more than $100,000 in agritourism receipts for 2008."

The survey also showed that most visitors are local, another great trend!
“We are excited to find that agritourism really seems to work for a lot of small farms,” said Penny Leff, statewide agritourism coordinator for the UC Small Farm Program. “Our results also show that agritourism is primarily local. More than 85 percent of reported visitors were from California.”

Let's help keep the trend going and make sure we visit a local farm and help support California’s small farmers!

Underwood Family Farm, Moorpark, they have pick-your-own-produce, birthday party areas, and a great farm stand

Monday, July 20, 2009

California Agriculture Is In Crisis

I haven't posted for a bit and I kept thinking, I know I usually post about LA centric or City centric things and realized that I should also be posting more about the dire condition of California agriculture.

Some of you may ask but why? I live in LA, how is this relevant to me? Because California produces over one-half of the fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States and has been the #1 agricultural producing state for at least the past 60 years. It brings in over $10 billion a year to the state's economy and now that's in jeopardy.

Like the rest of the U.S. economy, California's agricultural industry is facing tough economic times. There are towns in the Central Valley, Mendota for example, that has a 40% unemployment rate. That is mind-boggling to me, that here in California this is happening.

But, unlike other sectors of our economy, agriculture is also facing pressure due to the state's drought and the increasing restrictions on water as a result of other issues including protection of wildlife from the already sparse water resources it relies on. And, illogical and overzealous new food safety regulations that are in response to the food recalls of the past few years (instead of addressing the real issues in our food system).

In the past week alone, I have tweeted about and posted on my facebook page at least a-half a dozen stories on the troubles facing California farmers, and it's so heartbreaking.

I have been writing about our farmers and farms for the past decade and I made a conscious decision from the beginning to always try to focus on the positive, to show those outside of ag. (i.e. we city dwellers and consumers) what's in it for us. Be it pick-your-own-produce farms, farm stands, farmer's markets, or hayrides, I have encouraged people to go out and visit farms, and to buy from our farmers, because that's how we can support and save them. And, I still encourage everyone to do that.

But now, I feel that this alone isn't as effective considering the huge challenges our farmers are facing. We need to be more than consumers, we need to advocate for them, and to educate ourselves to become informed voters and urge those at the local, state, and federal levels of government to think about what would happen if we didn't have our farms. And, we all need to think about what would happen if we didn't have our farms. I shudder to think about that myself.

For example, to get you in the right mood, this is a photo of an orchard along the Fresno County Blossom Trail back in spring 2002. The Blossom Trail with it's vibrant colors each spring, is a great family activity and something that could be threatened if farmers keep having to clear their fields and leave them fallow.

Here's some links to some of the stories from the past week or two that I am talking about. Please read them and think about our farmers next time you bite into the sweet and juicy stone fruit of summer!Here's Simonian Farms, part of the farm family mentioned in this first story about packing houses closing, so sad, they have been farming in Fresno since the early 1900s. "Economic woes cause stone-fruit packers to close"

"Fresno County left in the dust",0,7402229.story

"Despair flows as fields go dry and unemployment rise",0,3172131.story

"Crops, ponds destroyed in quest for food safety"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fallen Fruit Fresh 'n Easy Exhibit, at Another Year in LA Gallery

LA Farm Girl's Photos From "Fresh 'n Easy Exhibit"
This piece shows hand-made canvas cotton and burlap bags and painted with the phrase, "dispshit liberals always looking for a handout." Beneath the bags are shelves that feature a "Public Fruit Exchange," so when you visit you are free to take what you want and also to bring fruit to share.

This piece is an awesome pine table inscribed with the phrase, "to all 'haters' this basically shows that we can all live off the land."

These photos come from the great little gallery and the exhibit I stopped into on Friday. It's by the wonderful people from Fallen Fruit,, and its being held at a small gallery that's housed in what was once the Capitol Records pressing plant in the Glassell Park area of LA, called "Another Year in LA,"

Now for those of you unfamiliar with Fallen Fruit, they are (according to their site) "an activist art project which started as a mapping of all the public fruit in our neighborhood. We ask all of you to contribute your maps so they expand to cover the United States and then the world. We encourage everyone to harvest, plant and sample public fruit, which is what we call all fruit on or overhanging public spaces such as sidewalks, streets or parking lots."

As part of their art project, they have a quirky and very small, yet very important show going on at "Another Year in LA," highlighting their work that combines public art social practice with the production of images, photographs, and installations like this one.

They took objects from their first five years of work and are using them to tell not only their story, but the responses to that story that were left by anonymous viewers of a PBS video of Fallen Fruit on You Tube. Some of these responses are not only hilarious, but sad and include one of my favorites, like this one printed on this hand-made, cotton apron, "So, if hippies lean over my fence is it legal for me to eat them?" Hilarious!

What's really cool is that you can also purchase items from the exhibit and help support their work and have some great local art in your home too!

Another Year in LA, is a very small gallery, but the building is great, lots of character and lots of potential so we all need to come out and support them so they can keep having these kinds of exhibits.

Here's the details:

Exhibit Runs through Sunday, August 2 and there is a Closing Reception, "After Jam" on that day from 3 to 7 p.m.

Another Year in LA - 2121 Nth. San Fernando Road, #13, (323) 223-4000

Gallery/Exhibit Hours: Tuesday through Friday, Noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Local Food Tips - How to Eat More Local Food -

This is a great posting talking about Roger Doiron's (founder of Kitchen Gardener's International) new project encouraging everyone to celebrate Food Independence Day tomorrow July 4th by eating more locally grown food. Why? Eating locally is patriotic after all!