This year I am really excited to be partnering with California Strawberries as one of their 12 ambassadors. I spent a few days this past week visiting a couple of California Strawberry farms and learning about the growing process.
The event was held in the San Louis Obispo area of California. We stayed right on the water near Pismo Beach and it was truly amazing. Any chance I have to wander the beach I am a happy girl.
We kicked off the event with a gorgeous dinner overlooking the water. It was the perfect chance to meet everyone in attendance and sample a few strawberry recipes. One of the favorites for the night was these Summer Breeze Cocktails. You know I had to get the recipe so you all could try them!
Summer Breeze Cocktail
2 oz Rum
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz Chambord
1. Muddle strawberries, combine other ingredients and shake. Strain into a glass with fresh ice.
2. Garnish with fresh strawberries
Yum! You are going to love this fresh and perfect for summer cocktail! In the next week or so I am going to share a recipe for a new appetizer we had during the reception. Oh my gosh yum! The combination of strawberry and mint is divine!
One of the best parts of the entire event was seeing the strawberry fields and talking to the farmers. I grew up in the city and do not have any farming experience. I am so impressed with the hard work and courage it takes to own a farm. They never know if it is going to be a good year or scary year for their crops.
The first farm we visited was Providence Farms in Santa Maria, California.
Tom and Ruth Jones, Providence Farms in Santa Maria
Tom Jones is a third generation farmer who became interested in growing strawberries at 21 years old after moving to Watsonville in 1984 to attend college. His plans changed after discovering a passion for strawberry farming – and falling in love with the woman who became his wife. Now the owners of Providence Farms, Tom and Ruth have been growing strawberries and blackberries in the Salinas Valley and Santa Maria for 28 years. Married for nearly 30 years, with three children and one grandchild, Tom handles day-to-day operations, and Ruth manages administration. Continuing the family farm legacy, their daughters help out as needed and their son Parker is a ranch manager.
Proveidence Farms grows organic and conventional strawberries. The field that we visited was an organic field. In this picture Tom is spreading bugs that will hopefully protect the strawberries from a different type of bug. Tom plans to grow from 60 acres of organic strawberries to over 200 acres in the future. He hopes that organic will continue to become more mainstream.
One thing that Tom mentioned was he feels the drought is making them better farmers. I love that Tom took a potential crippling weather condition and is turning it into a positive for his business. He said that the drought is teaching them new watering methods and ways to manage the farm.
One of the most amazing stats that I heard was there are 32,600 strawberry plants per acre of farm!
Oh my that is a crazy amount of strawberries! I may have volunteered to taste test a few of them during our visit.
For lunch we visited Presqui’ile Winery in Santa Maria Valley. Chef Alfonso Curti from Trattoria Uliveto came in and did a cooking demonstration for us and whipped up a seriously delicious lunch. I can’t wait to share his Panna Cotta Recipe soon. If you are in the Santa Maria area I definitely suggest checking out his restaurant. Go in hungry! If the lunch we tried is even a small example of what they offer you will not be disappointed!
The final farm we visited was a farm located right near a city. The city has literally grown around the strawberry fields. It was interesting learning about the difference between an urban versus a rural farm.
We met with Luis and his daughter Lorena Chavez from L&G Farms in Santa Maria.
Luis Chavez embodies the American Dream. He came to the United States from a small rural town in Jalisco, Mexico. Born in 1934, he was raised in a home with no electricity or running water. He hasn’t attended a single day of school in his life. His father and family grew corn and beans to survive. Because he had 11 brothers, there was no opportunity to take over the family farm. He moved to California in search of a better life. In 1955, Chavez arrived in the Golden State as part of the Bracero program (a guest worker program between Mexico and the U.S.). The Chavez family now employs 300 people and farms nearly 300 acres. Despite never attending school himself, Luis is especially proud that he was able to put his children through college and pay for his grandchildren’s schooling. Luis’ son, Danny, attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, earning a degree in 2004 in agribusiness. Danny is joined by his siblings in carrying on the family business – and the American Dream.
We were each given a clam shell and sent into the field to fill it with fresh strawberries. After this I will never look at a package of strawberries the same. It is a work of art to get the right number of strawberries in the package and looking good.
Each strawberry is hand placed in the clam shell before it hits our super market shelves. I am so in awe of the care and precision that goes into packing strawberries.
I love these strawberry packages. The pictures are of California Strawberry growers. If you look in the left side at the 2nd package down you will see Luis Chavez and his son on the package.
Luis is in the fields every day doing what he loves. His daughter says that even in his 80’s there is no stopping Luis!
Check out this video of Luis and his son sharing their history and love for farming!
This year each of us as ambassadors is sharing an amazing fact/tip about Strawberries! Here are #12reasons that Strawberries are pretty darn amazing. We all know there are way more than 12 reasons but this is a pretty good start.
Reason #1 – High in vitamin C (more than oranges) and may boost immunity.
Reason #2 –May reduce the risk of heart disease, according to studies.
Reason #3 – Considered a superfruit with loads of antioxidants and anthocyanins.
Reason #4 – Grown by caring strawberry farmers who use sustainable farming practices.
Reason #5 – Nationally celebrated and voted America’s favorite fruit.
Reason #6 – Versatile and can be added to savory and sweet dishes.
Reason #7 – Vibrant and juicy for summer snacking and entertaining.
Reason #8 – Grown to perfection in ideal growing conditions along California’s coast.
Reason #9 – Loved by kids and ideal for back to school lunches.
Reason #10 – Ideal for adding appeal to holiday dishes and special occasions.
Reason #11 – Low in sugar, naturally sweet with only 45 calories per cup.
Reason #12 – Available year-round and easy to freeze.
We participated in a press trip to learn more about California Strawberries. All opinions expressed are our own.