California has always been a benchmark (at least for me) when it comes to trends within our food and wine industry. The San Francisco Bay area, along with the surrounding wine country often sets many standards that the rest of us adopt, though sometimes a bit later than sooner. On a recent visit to the region with amical Executive Chef Benjamin Hoxie, it wasn’t a real surprise to see that our Grand Traverse region reflects somewhat of a parallel universe, albeit on a minuscule scale.
Our second session with the 2018-19 National Farmers Union’s (NFU) Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) took us into the country’s heart of organic produce, the salad bowl of America, the sunny Salinas Valley, California. Again, we were the last to arrive late at night, and a bit jet-lagged. For the first day of training, we participated in a hands-on learning session, hosted in partnership with the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), an organization dedicated to creating economic opportunity for limited-resource and aspiring organic farmers through land-based education. ALBA creates farming opportunities while providing education and demonstration of organic farming, conservation, and habitat restoration. About 35 farmers operate their small organic farm at ALBA on an annual basis.
What happens when you put 75+ women farmers from around the country together for four days to tour farms and talk shop, you ask? Magic. Pure magic.