My trip to Monterey Bay on an agricultural tour with California Grown.
As part of the California Grown creators program, I had the opportunity to join an amazing group of influencers on an agritour in the picturesque Monterey Bay area. We visited Far West Fungi, Lakeside Organic Gardens and Ocean Mist Farms. It was incredible to see firsthand where our food comes from and eye-opening to learn more the tremendous skill it takes from the workers to make it all possible. Here are some of the highlights of the trip!
Agriculture in the Monterey Bay Area
I had no idea that Monterey county feeds our nation! Located in California’s central coast region, Monterey is home to the agriculturally important Salinas Valley. It’s uniquely positioned between mountain ranges and opens to the Pacific Ocean, creating perfect conditions for a wide range of crops. Monterey county is the fourth highest agricultural producing county in California, devoting 1.4 million acres to feeding our nation.
California produces more than 400 unique commodities in addition to, seafood, dairy products and wine. It’s the largest producer of agricultural crops in the United States. Paying attention to your food labels and choosing California Grown produce is a great way to support family farmers that have been in business for generations. Knowing where my food comes from is extremely important to me. I love this handy seasonality guide to help me make better decisions on what to buy at the grocery store.
Mushrooms with Far West Fungi
For more than 35 years, the Garrone family has been growing and distributing organic specialty mushrooms. Prior to my visit, I had virtually no knowledge of where these fascinating fungi come from.
CEO, Ian Garrone, Farming/ Production Manager, Kyle Garrone and Marketing and Farm Coordinator Erin Raser took us on a behind the scenes tour of the Moss Landing Farm facility. Far West Fungi grows 12 varieties of mushrooms and forages another 70 plus types. Many mushroom varieties can not be cultivated, and only occur in the wild. Skilled foragers hunt these mushrooms and deliver them directly to stores or marketers.
We learned about growing conditions for different types of mushrooms, how to harvest them and got an inside look at how they’re packaged and shipped all over the country. From the substrate (sawdust) base and the inoculation, incubation, and final bloom, we got to see the whole process! They also sent us all home with a grow kit to try our hands at cultivating our own mushrooms at home!
California’s Salad Bowl with Lakeside Organic Gardens
Next stop on the tour was Lakeside Organic Gardens, the largest family-owned and operated, solely organic vegetable grower and shipper in the United States. Owner and farmer, Dick Peixoto personally walked us through his fields where we learned about the more than 50 different vegetables that are produced and distributed on their properties.
What I found most interesting is the incredible skill and detailed knowledge it requires from all of the farm workers to keep everything running. We learned so much about natural fertilizers, compost, beneficial insects, beneficial companion plants and strategic crop rotations. The bug vacuum, strategically removing harmful pests by hovering above the crops was definitely a highlight of the visit.
Amazing Artichokes with Ocean Mist Farms
Last stop was at Ocean Mist Farms, the largest grower of artichokes in the United States. The artichoke is California’s official state vegetable and it produces 100% of the commercial artichoke crop in the U.S.!
We got an extensive tour of the farm from the whole team including Bobby Bellew Director of Farming, Diana McClean Director of Marketing, Hilda Medina Marketing Manager and Jacob Perez Harvest Operations Manager. I’d never seen how artichokes grow before and wow, was it a breathtaking site. Seemingly endless rows of thick, lush greenery studded with gorgeous purple and green artichoke buds.
On the tour, we had the opportunity to watch the harvesters skillfully navigate the rows, picking artichokes at their prime. In one swift motion, they slice off the bud and toss them over their shoulder into a huge bin strapped to their back called a canasta. Once the canasta is full, they empty it at the boxing truck and head back out again. It’s incredibly grueling work as one canasta filled with artichokes can weigh up to 100 pounds!
Every artichoke plant is harvested up to 30 times during the season and travel from cut to cool in less than four hours, ensuring these beauties are at optimal freshness. I boarded my flight shortly after we left with a backpack full of farm fresh artichokes.
Thank you California Grown
In addition to visiting the farms, we were wined and dined with a wine and cheese reception sponsored by Real California Milk and California Wines. We then enjoyed a farm to table plant-based dinner featuring many of the crops we learned about. It gave the term “farm to table” a whole new meaning for me!
This Agritour was so inspiring and further motivated me to get creative in the kitchen with produce. It’s empowering to understand where our food comes from and meet the people who take great care in growing it. I highly recommend this guide on How to Support California Farmers.
A HUGE thank you to California Grown for this opportunity and to Far West Fungi, Lakeside Organic Gardens and Ocean Mist Farms for their time and hospitality.
This post was proudly made in partnership with California Grown. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting me and the brands that I love. Follow @cagrownofficial on Instagram to learn more about the foods grown in California, farm practices, and discover new recipes!