Food Grows Where Water Flows

For more than 25 years, the California Farm Water Coalition has been working with our members to share information about farm water issues, and reminding Californians that "Food Grows Where Water Flows."

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CFWC Blog

CFWC’S 2019 Summer Blogger Tour

July 12, 2019 in CFWC Blog

CFWC’S 2019 Summer Blogger Tour

At the end of June, CFWC invited three bloggers from across California to join us for an in-depth view of a small slice of California agriculture. This has become a tradition of the California Farm Water Coalition. Sharing California agriculture with the public requires bringing the public to view first-hand what makes our farms special- and that’s what we do on our blogger tours.

Getting to take those so in love with the culinary creations they make and showing them how it is grown is the perfect pairing. The bloggers truly enjoy getting the behind the scenes tour and hearing from the heart of the men and women dedicated to farming and agriculture. Sharing their first-hand experiences with the public, bloggers and social media influencers are carrying the reality of farming into our urban communities.

CFWC invited three great bloggers this year to join us for one of our best tours yet! Liren Baker is a food blogger based out of San Francisco. She has always enjoyed food and transformed this affection into her blog Kitchen Confidante. The second is Chelsea Foy of Lovely Indeed based out of Modesto. Her blog, with its expansive following, has blossomed over the years into a full lifestyle theme including motherhood, travel, shopping and of course, food. We were also joined by Evi Aki of Ev’s Eats, a food blogger out of Los Angeles. Evi shares recipes she loves to make, places she loves to eat and a look at her recently released cookbook.

The region we choose to highlight changes with each tour and this time it focused on the Central San Joaquin Valley. Based out of Fresno, we explored the surrounding area to see the wide variety of foods grown here, and the businesses that depend on those farms.

Day One- Getting Underway

Our blogger guests joined us Friday morning and we hit the road for the next two days. We started with the Gibson Farmers Market located at CSU Fresno. This farm stand is an icon in the Central Valley, serving their patrons with fresh produce, meats, nuts, ice cream, wine, and much more, all produced by the students as they learn the sciences and arts of agriculture. Their famous sweet corn is a staple of the summer with many local consumers buying it each morning for their evening meal. After exploring the store, we visited the fields where the produce was grown and harvested just earlier that morning. Beyond enjoying all of the goodies, our bloggers were blown away to learn that a local university is putting so much emphasis on teaching the next generation about growing food while sharing it with the community.

Next we visited Wawona Frozen Foods, where we were given a tour by the father-daughter team of Bill Smittcamp & Blair Smittcamp-Martin, part of the family team that runs the company. They began as a small farm over 50 years ago and since have transformed into one of the only frozen fruit processors remaining in the region. In addition to providing a fresh-tasting product, they also put huge emphasis on food safety and running their operation sustainably. They have partnered with the USDA to create healthy lunches for schools. They are a great partner to the local farmers growing stone fruit. Their fruit is used in a number of products like fruit cups and baked goods. Chances are you have had their fruit before without knowing it – and we bet it was delicious!

Liz Hudson talks farming.

Stop number three of the day was another sweet one! We traveled to Sanger to see Liz Hudson of Hudson Farm Stand. She and her husband have farmed stone fruit for decades, but more recently planted a diversity of fruits and vegetables to sell at their farm stand. You can count on them for fresh fruit, delicious vegetables and great hospitality as many guests from across the world do each summer. We were greeted with her famous peach and blueberry cobbler that rivals any dessert you’ve had. Liz has been a great friend of the California Farm Water Coalition and recently stepped down from our board after being a Board member for nearly 30 years. This stop was a great chance for us all to see what it is like to be a farmer, with our bloggers learning about all the victories and hardships that farmers experience throughout the season.

We ended the day visiting Cruff Farms in Kingsburg where we were hosted by Larry and Sharon Cruff, who grows grapes. Our visit started in the vineyards where their vines are growing the 2019 grape crop that will be dried into your favorite Sun-Maid Raisins. Larry walked us through the process from start to finish and our bloggers learned how the Cruff Farm has become more efficient over the years. Did you know most vineyards that grow grapes for raisins are planted in rows from east to west to aid in drying of the grapes? Not all of us did either until Larry shared his behind-the-scenes knowledge. Larry shared how they use water to grow the fruit and all his efforts to be as sustainable as he can, including a sustainability certification. The visit ended with a generous supply of sweet Sun-Maid raisins in a goodie bag with all the different types of raisins you could imagine, including new tart watermelon-flavored raisin snack (hitting the shelves soon!) (One of our bloggers large raisin supply set off all of the TSA red flags on her way back to the Bay, but it was worth it to enjoy the tasty treat!)

Day Two- The Open Road

Day two started with a drive toward the northwest with a few quick pit stops along the way to learn more about the crops, farms, and growing practices of the area. We explored some of the passing pistachio and pomegranate orchards and were lucky enough to see a cotton field in bloom. We visited Stamoules Produce, where Chuck Dees showed us the different stations in their fresh vegetable chilling facility. Sweet corn that was being harvested that day was packed into boxes in the fields surrounding the facility. Once transported to a central facility, it is chilled and covered with ice to remain fresh before making its way into a truck to be shared with the rest of the nation. Chuck explained a bit about the farm and the needs of the crops as we toured the equipment yard and some of the surrounding acres growing the numerous other crops they produce throughout the year.

Sarah Woolf explains surface and groundwater issues.

Next, we visited with Sarah Woolf in the Red Top region, near Chowchilla. Our bloggers had a chance to learn more about how groundwater and surface water work together to provide a sustainable supply for farms in the region. Sarah has dedicated her life to helping the public understand water efficiency and agriculture, something our bloggers could appreciate. It was great to hear how farmers throughout this region have worked to have access to water for their crops and how they use it efficiently with the help of technological advances, and regional cooperation- especially during the recent drought.

Derek Azevedo of Bowles Farming shares melon fresh-from-the-field.

Derek Azevedo of Bowles Farming shares melon fresh-from-the-field.

We then traveled to Bowles Farming Company, an operation that has called Los Banos home for over six generations. Vice President Derek Azevedo joined us for lunch and shared some of the history of the farm and the surrounding region, along with some great insights into the farm and the consumers who rely on it.

We discussed many of the advancements Bowles Farming has implemented to grow their diverse crops efficiently using less water and resources while maintaining quality and safety. Our bloggers were excited to head out into the fields, where we picked fresh tomatoes and Derek dug up some fresh carrots. Our last field was planted to watermelons where we saw and tasted the difference between female and male watermelons (yes, you read that right).

The last stop for the trip was at Volta Wildlife Area, with Chris White of Central California Irrigation District and Ken Swanson from Grassland Water District.

The two showed us how water management in the region has evolved over the years, with local farm water suppliers and environmental water users cooperating to improve local conditions. It was especially interesting to see the strong partnership between agriculture and environmental lands, including those critical to the needs of migratory waterfowl as they move along the Pacific Flyway. Working together, we are able to efficiently use this resource.

The last night of our tour was capped off with a great dinner with Dan Errotabere, a local grower. He shared a very practical look into what farming looks like on his farm, including how it has changed over the years. Like many farmers, he was raised on their farm and began working there as a young boy helping his father. He then took over the operation and has seen the new advancements that have become available for him to implement to aid in efficiency.

Sharing their Experience

These two days gave our bloggers a great introduction not only to how food is grown but also deeper topics like water efficiency, labor and the challenge of unexpected weather. It started a great conversation about the pride of California’s farmers to grow fresh and safe food that feeds Californians, Americans and even people across the globe.

For the bloggers, this new knowledge will now accompany the incredible dishes they make for their blog using fresh California-grown foods. We are so glad they joined us for the adventure and can’t wait to see where the California Farm Water Coalition Blogger Tour is headed next!

 

Check out the summaries the bloggers posted from the trip:

It’s Saturday, and farmers markets across the country are bustling and bursting with summer’s bounty. For many of us, that might be the closest we get to learning more about the food we eat.  I’m feeling especially blessed this weekend to be spending it in the fertile fields of my beloved California, in the Central Valley, at the heart of harvest season, with my friends at @farmwater. We’re having heart to heart conversations with the farmers who are generously sharing so much of themselves and the work that goes into the summer peaches you bought this morning and the sweet corn you’ll be grilling tonight.  In the many years and farm tours I’ve had the honor of joining in the last nine years, the conversations have changed and now more than ever, water is the precious resource that farmers are working hard to protect with innovation to keep providing our country with healthy food.  For each pistachio I snack on, frozen peach I drop in the smoothie blender, and cup of almond milk I drink, I will think of the water it takes to make each day delicious.  I hope you join me on my #instastories as I share their stories! And the next time you go to the market, talk to your farmers. Get to know them better. Understand your food better.

– Liren Baker | Kitchen Confidante

When you pick up a carrot, or a peach, or a tomato at the grocery store, you’re looking at so much more than just that produce. You’re looking at the farmer who planted it and tended it, the water that grew it, the laborers or the technology that harvested it, the people who packed it, the transportation that got it to you. Traveling my home state with @farmwater and the #cfwcfarmtour this weekend has filled me up more than ever with pride in California, gratefulness for the farmers who grow our food, and appreciation for the fresh, amazing foods we eat. What do you wonder about your food? Do you ever think about where it comes from? If you have a question, leave it in the comments.

– Chelsea Foy | Lovely Indeed

Hope you’ve been enjoying my little farm series! Wanted to share a quote I saw that’s been stuck with me this weekend… “more than a business, the family farm is a lifestyle- its an ideal worth preserving” Where our food comes from, how it’s produced, & manufactured is so important! It’s been nice to see that California farmers take such care in delivering us the best not only in producing our food but preserving & managing water which is literally the key to life. I will definitely think twice about where my food is coming from when I shop now!

– Evi Aki | Ev’s Eats

 

View some of our bloggers’ posts below!

California’s Marathon Trek Towards Smarter Water Policy May be Stopped in Its Tracks by Shortsighted Legislation (SB 1)

June 10, 2019 in CFWC Blog

California’s Marathon Trek Towards Smarter Water Policy May be  Stopped in Its Tracks by Shortsighted Legislation (SB 1)

You’re running a marathon that everyone said you’d never complete. But despite many obstacles, you kept moving forward, and now the finish line is in sight. You’re feeling good that the work is going to pay off. And then, at the last minute, race officials insert themselves and announce that once you finish, it won’t count for anything.

California is at this juncture right now. Following marathon-like efforts and negotiations, Voluntary Agreements on water management are on the verge of completion. However, state officials are now considering legislation, SB1, that would negate all that progress.

Before last December’s meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board both outgoing Governor Jerry Brown as well as incoming Governor Gavin Newsom stated their clear preference for a Voluntary Agreements (VAs) approach toward water management in California. Head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, Jared Blumenfeld and Wade Crowfoot, head of the California Natural Resources Agency are actively involved in moving the VAs over the finish line.

However, SB1, if passed, would lock California into the existing regulatory framework, returning us to an endless cycle of lawsuits and delay. While the legislation gives lip service to supporting the VA process, it clearly states any cooperative agreement would exist separately from the existing regulatory structure, rendering the VAs moot. Scientists, farmers, environmentalists, government agencies and other stakeholders have been working together on the VAs to find a better way. Rather than forcing the state to continue policies that are not securing a reliable water supply, everyone came together to try and chart a course towards smarter, more workable policy that will produce a better result for all Californians and for the environment.

Implementing the VAs provides a wealth of benefits. They require scientific studies and put the new science into practice managing our most precious resource. They provide an agreed upon amount of water for river flows as well as new environmental projects and other improvements, paid for by farmers, water districts and other water users, that will help get maximum benefit from the water. And, they address all the stressors that have put fish populations at risk – loss of habitat, decreased food sources and predation. The VAs take us out of the slow grind of the existing regulatory process and allow us to use scientific adaptive management to address problems as we go. In addition, all users will have a certainty of water flow that is simply not a part of our current system.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) says the VA would, “increase flows in rivers and the Delta and make major investments in habitat. And perhaps most important, create sustainable funding for these efforts (including fees on water diversions), while improving scientific research on and governance of restoration efforts.”

And probably most important, because the VAs are the product of compromise and agreement on the part of all water users, we can move forward today, removing ourselves from the endless cycle of lawsuits that has dominated California water policy. Real results will be felt now, not 10 years from now.

SB1 would result in the collapse of the Newsom Administration’s voluntary approach to updating California water policy. We shouldn’t let the Legislature chain us to the past. We can see the finish line. Let’s cross it together.

Brussels Sprouts Recipe – Lamb Loin Chops with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and a Mustard Mint Sauce

May 21, 2019 in CFWC Blog, Recipes

Brussels Sprouts Recipe – Lamb Loin Chops with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and a Mustard Mint Sauce

While many people associate Brussels sprouts with fall and holiday meals, Californians are lucky to have these local and healthy veggies available fresh all year round. Spring and summer are a great time to bring Brussels sprouts to your barbecue!

RECIPE:  Lamb Loin Chops with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and a Mustard Mint Sauce

Recipe by: California Grown

Ingredients

Lamb Chops:

  • 8 lamb loin chops
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T. fresh chopped thyme
  • 2 T. butter
  • Salt & pepper

Brussels Sprouts

  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts, sliced in half
  • 1 leek, white portion thickly sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Sauce

  • 3 T. whole grain mustard
  • 2 T. white wine vinegar
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/3 c. chopped mint leaves

Directions

  1. Add the mustard, vinegar, honey and mint leaves and stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside
  2. Preheat oven to 450. Toss the Brussels sprouts and leeks with salt and pepper in the olive oil. Roast for 15-20 minutes until crisp and bright green.
  3. Add 1 T. olive oil to a cast iron skillet and heat to super hot.
  4. Add 4 lamb loin chops to the pan. Let it sear for about 3 minutes without moving. Turn over and sear for an additional 3 minutes. Add half the butter and half of the broth mixture. Cook about 1 more minute or until desired doneness.
  5. Cook the other batch of lamb loin chops in the same manner.
  6. Place the Brussels sprout on a platter, top with the seared lamb loin chops (top with a little butter if desired) and serve alongside the Mustard Mint Sauce.

 

If You’re Concerned about Climate Change and Water Supply, California Farms Can Help Show the Way

May 17, 2019 in CFWC Blog

If You’re Concerned about Climate Change and Water Supply, California Farms Can Help Show the Way

In a 2018 Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) survey, 80 percent of respondents said climate change is a serious threat to California’s future. And 72 percent cited water as a concern, with drought and water supply named most frequently as our biggest environmental issue. If you see yourself in these statistics, you should be cheering the efforts of California farmers.

All Californians have been called upon to conserve. Urban users tripled their water efficiency overall and some regions have done even more. Farms and water districts invested billions in water-saving technology for decades including drip, micro-sprinkler and subsurface irrigation; sensors that monitor water use; recycling irrigation water; lining canals; utilizing technology to prevent leaks, and more.

The impacts have been stunning. San Luis Canal Company in the San Joaquin Valley saves 5 billion gallons of water each year and sees greater savings coming. Cooperation among three neighboring water districts lead to water-savings of 8.1 billion gallons annually. On Los Banos Creek, more than 10 billion gallons of water are being added to water supplies annually through improved conservation practices.

And yet, as effective as conservation is, we also know its limits. Even with unprecedented efforts, our latest drought clearly showed conservation is just one tool in the box, and we not only need every existing tool, we must invent more.

This is particularly true if you are among the Californians concerned about climate change. Some scientists tell us that one of the biggest changes in store for California is to expect more rain in place of our historic winter snowpack.

This year is a good example of what may lie ahead. An estimated 18 trillion gallons of precipitation fell on California in February alone. And yet, with many reservoirs at capacity, California will not be able to save much of that water. If you’re concerned about climate change, then it’s important to recognize that new water storage is the first building block. Additional storage will help capture rain and fast-melting snow, assist in ground water recharge and help avoid flooding. The good news is that several projects that have been studied for decades are ready to go and simply await funding. Californians should whole-heartedly give their support.

To those who say we can’t put all our eggs in the storage basket because it takes time and climate change won’t wait, we say again, farmers are leading the way.

Farmers have been working with government agencies, community leaders and conservationists to restore and expand floodplains. Providing flood water an alternate path rather than just running out to sea provides habitat for the base of the food chain in addition to contributing to groundwater recharge. The largest public-private floodplain restoration project in the state is at Dos Rios Ranch in Stanislaus County. River Partners, a non-profit that manages the project says, “Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots and climate-protection powerhouses.”

Restoration, as well as planting cover crops on farms, helps combat climate change in multiple ways. According to a recent state report, farms and forests could absorb as much as 20 percent of California’s current level of carbon emissions. Despite massive benefits, California has been slow to support these efforts at the same level as other strategies.  In 2017 California spent more than 20 times on electric car rebates than it did on helping farmers adopt new climate protection technology.

Farmers share California’s passion for our environment. In many cases, the land they’re protecting has been home for generations. So, in preparation for our shared future, it makes sense to look to California farms for a smart, productive roadmap.

STATEMENT: Voluntary Agreement on Water Represents the Future and Deserves Prop 68 Funding

May 1, 2019 in California Water, CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Endangered Species, Fisheries, News Archives, Regulations, Releases, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Salmon, Water Allocations, Water Rights

STATEMENT: Voluntary Agreement on Water Represents the Future and Deserves Prop 68 Funding

By Mike Wade, Executive Director

California Farm Water Coalition

California has always prided itself on cutting-edge ideas. It is the place others turn to for new solutions to old problems. We are currently faced with a choice to continue that tradition of innovation with a fresh approach to water and environmental management or chain ourselves to outdated practices of the past.

Last fall, in a historic first, competing water interests came together to produce a voluntary agreement (VA) that will govern water use, habitat projects, and implement new science-based management practices. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) says the VA would, “increase flows in rivers and the Delta and make major investments in habitat. And perhaps most important, create sustainable funding for these efforts (including fees on water diversions), while improving scientific research on and governance of restoration efforts.”

This agreement is the result of years of collaboration between government agencies, water users and environmental interests, conducting scientific studies and projects that put the new science into practice. The VA takes us out of the slow grind of the existing regulatory process and allows us to use scientific structured decision-making to address problems as we go.

The California Legislature is considering a budget this week with funds specifically earmarked for the VA that could provide additional momentum to this progress. Funding from the voter-approved Proposition 68 will help jump start this science-based process. That would mean choosing science-based rules and voluntary, holistic approaches to problems rather than the outdated regulatory status quo. The PPIC says, “What’s clear is that negotiated solutions to water conflicts are fairer and longer-lasting than top-down regulatory solutions or, worse yet, litigated solutions where judges end up trying to manage water.”

And there’s no reason to cling to the past. It’s clear that the current outdated system isn’t working for anyone. Endangered fish populations continue to struggle; farmers face dwindling water supplies; urban users make continuous cutbacks; groundwater supplies are dangerously depleted; and current policy does not address new challenges we face from climate change.

One of the many things this process has revealed is that helping struggling fish populations takes more than water, which is important, but not the only habitat feature fish need. It takes a combination of water at the right time plus attention to habitat, food supply and predator control.

There are other ingredients essential to this agreement. Under the VA, change happens now. Additional water for environmental purposes and habitat restoration begins immediately. That means we reap the benefits today. The regulatory approach could take decades. Plus, in another important first, agricultural water users will pay fees to implement ongoing environmental projects. While there is a need for initial Prop 68 funding, user fees are critical to long-term success because they are an ongoing source of funding.

In a letter to legislators in support of the VA, a group of statewide organizations, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the Bay Area Council, summed it up this way: “The Voluntary Agreements provide a tremendous opportunity to provide more water for fish, wildlife and habitat restoration and a more reliable water supply for a growing state with climate and water supply challenges. The Voluntary Agreement will replace the policy and legal conflicts that have defined the last three decades. Instead, they rely on a collaborative and adaptive management process that will move the state substantially closer to the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.”

California must choose. The Voluntary Agreement represents the future and a new path away from a failed regulatory approach.

We Need Both Wet Winters and Long-Term Planning to Stay out of Drought

April 3, 2019 in CFWC Blog

We Need Both Wet Winters and Long-Term Planning to Stay out of Drought

Groundwater recharge and storage ponds are part of the solution

An online search of “California drought” literally turns up millions of articles, and some of the headlines appear in conflict. One series says California is “drought-free” and others warn we’re still operating at a water deficit.

What’s the real story? Should California celebrate or is not yet time to stop doing our rain dance?

Both sets of headlines are true. We’ve definitely had a wet winter. As of April 2, the Sierra snowpack was 161% of normal and we’ve also had a lot of rain, with 18 trillion gallons falling in February alone. However, we also have depleted groundwater reserves due to the length and severity of our most recent drought. And most experts predict that California is likely to stay on this “boom” or “bust” water cycle for the foreseeable future.

The good news is there are things that can, and are, being done to equip the state to deal with our water and climate reality so Californians aren’t reduced to simply holding our collective breath each winter, waiting to see what Mother Nature decides to serve us. Water districts, government agencies and farmers have been researching solutions and preparing projects for years.

Large water storage projects are critical to our future. They allow us to save water in the wet years on a sizeable scale. Multiple projects are ready to go, with all the necessary research and studies completed and funding in the works. However, these projects obviously take time to build and we also need additional strategies to help us now.

Local water districts are expanding local and regional solutions to improve water management.

This is where local water districts have been stepping up to provide smaller solutions in the near term. By building infrastructure that captures high water flow when available, these projects help prevent flooding as well as direct that water into groundwater recharge areas. Many of these projects are now becoming operational.

One group of water districts known as the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority are currently expanding a pilot project. With funding assistance from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Exchange Contractors, in partnership with the neighboring Del Puerto Water District, built a 20-acre recharge and recovery pilot project in the Orestimba Creek area. Due to its success, the Authority expanded the project to an 80-acre site with funding assistance from the Office of Emergency Services (OES) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The expanded project, operational this year, will capture flood flows from both the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers as well as Orestimba Creek. It will provide a long-term solution to area flooding, as well as provide storage for that water.

An even larger project on Los Banos Creek, a cooperative effort among various water districts, is almost fully operational. It creates nearly 200 acres of additional recharge and storage ponds, 7 recovery wells and harnesses previously evaporating water.

In another approach, the San Luis Canal Company has invested millions in new technology and upgraded infrastructure. SLCC’s new water-regulating reservoirs and other infrastructure improvements allow for on-demand water deliveries. This makes it possible for individual farmers to install water conservation systems such as drip irrigation. The conserved water that results from these efforts helps take the pressure off our groundwater supplies. Similar projects are underway in other water districts as well.

Together, these and other projects provide multiple benefits. They not only conserve and store water, they take the pressure off the need to pump groundwater, help diminish subsidence, contribute to groundwater recharge, prevent flooding and provide a more consistent water supply to critical wildlife habitat as well as farms and people.

And in the end, we will need it all – wet winters as well as small and large projects, capable of capturing and storing the water that comes to us.