In my last post, I told you a little about the California Strawberries Farm and Culinary Tour event I attended last weekend (see Day 1). You already know that strawberries are my favorite fruit, so the tour was heaven for me! California has a 12-month growing season for strawberries, and strawberries are grown on over 40,000 acres in California by over 400 farmers. Here are the photos from Day 2, where we went on a tour of two different family-owned strawberry farms in California, as well as a strawberry cooling facility.
In the morning we were greeted with an incredible breakfast…
Then we headed to the first farm in Watsonville, CA, owned by Rod Koda and his wife. Mr. Koda farms both organic and conventional strawberries on more than 27 acres. He answered many questions we had about strawberry farming. Here are some facts you may not know that I learned during a Q&A session with Mr. Koda:
- GMO is NOT currently used to grow any California strawberries
- Fumigation is being phased out, and although it remains on a “critical-need restriction” in conventional farming, innovative methods are being used more and more. These methods include “bug vacuums” that literally suck up all of the bad bugs (lygus), and the release of “good bugs” that eat the “bad bugs” that harm the strawberries (the two-spotted spider mite)
- If you are worried about the use of pesticides in conventional farming, it is estimated that a woman could eat around 2,000 servings of strawberries in one day before seeing toxic effects from pesticide residue according to current research at UC Riverside on the safety of pesticide usage in fruit and vegetable farming (for more information, go here)
After visiting Mr. Koda’s farm, we had a spectacular lunch with views of the ocean and a nutrition talk from Mitzi Dulan.
Then we headed over to a strawberry cooling and shipping facility called Berry Chill Cooler, where Ed Kelly talked to us about what happens to the strawberries after they are picked. They are sent to a cooling facility, where they are cooled to 34 degrees F and then transferred onto a refrigerated truck. California strawberries are shipped both domestically and internationally. We also learned that strawberries are best up to 7-10 days after they are picked, if they are chilled before being shipped to the grocery store. If you are getting them from a farmers’ market, chances are they were not chilled and need to be eaten within 1 or 2 days! It is best to wash them right before eating, so they won’t rot.
Our last stop was Naturipe Farms, where we got to pick our own strawberries!
After a very informative day, we all enjoyed a dinner prepared by Chef Tim Wood at Carmel Valley Ranch, who hosted a cooking lesson and blogger culinary competition on our last day at the ranch.
It was so much fun meeting so many talented food bloggers, and getting to both cook and eat with them! We learned a lot from the tour, and from each other.
A special THANK YOU to everyone at the California Strawberry Commission, Carmel Valley Ranch, Shinta Kawahara Farms, Naturipe Farms, Berry Chill Cooler, and of course all of my new foodie friends for this unforgettable experience.