Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour

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Hi guys! I never post on Saturdays, but after a crazy week I just couldn’t get this post up on Friday. So here I am! It’s the weekend, YAY! After two weekends of travel and tons going on at work, I am so happy to be home right now and catch up on the one million things on my to-do list.

On Monday, I mentioned I would share all of the details of my farm tour trip last weekend, so let’s get to it!

I was invited to attend a tour of the Imperial and Coachella Valleys by the awesome people at the California Farm Water Coalition. We did and learned SO much on this trip, so rather than bore you guys with all of the nitty gritty (and tons of facts), I figured I would share some of some highlights with you.

 

Lakeside Organic Gardens

Our first stop of the tour was in Holtville, CA at Lakeside Organic Gardens. We met Kay Day Pricola, Executive Director of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association and Scott Howington of Lakeside Organic Gardens.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

While both Kay and Scott were incredibly knowledgeable and informative, more than anything they were both hilarious. They had our group cracking up nearly the entire time, which made learning about farming (something I’ll admit I knew next to nothing about before this trip!) and produce really fun and interesting.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Kay and Scott took us around to see kale, cabbage, celery, fennel, and more, stopping along the way to explain how each are grown.

 

Holtville Rib Cook-off

Next, Kay and Scott took us to the Holtville Rib Cook-off in the middle of town. Holtville is a very small town, and it didn’t take long to see that 1.) Basically everyone in Holtville was at this festival and 2.) They all knew each other.

Having never lived in a small town like this, I found this whole experience to be so much fun! Kay was saying “hi” to nearly everyone we passed, which I just couldn’t get over. She knew everyone.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

We didn’t stop to eat any food at the cook-off because we had lunch plans later that afternoon, but it was great to walk around and check out all of the booths and entertainment.

 

Veg Cool

On Saturday afternoon we headed to Veg Cool, where all of the produce from Lakeside (and a few other farms) is washed, boxed, cooled, and picked up by trucks to be distributed to grocery stores across the country.

Did you know that those rubber bands and twist ties you see around vegetables in the grocery store are all put on directly in the field? The farmers have to be REALLY careful about which band or tie they use because if it’s wrong (red cabbage vs. green cabbage), a grocer will turn it away even if the produce is perfectly fine. Then that food has to be found a new home (donated to food pantries, etc.) so it isn’t wasted.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

We all got to take turns going inside the cooler at Veg Cool, but it wasn’t safe for us to stay in for too long because the floors are wet and slippery.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Also, the guys that maneuver the forklifts are SOOOOO FAST.  These men carry dozens and dozens of boxes of produce at once and drive in reverse at full speed like it’s nothing! I wish I had a video to show you.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

To sum it up, the entire process from field to grocery store can take just 24 hours, which very impressive when you see how many fruits and veggies these guys are processing at one time.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

Ellen Way + Coachella Valley

On Sunday morning we met with Ellen Way of the California Women for Agriculture, who toured us around various fields in the Coachella Valley.

A big highlight for me was visiting the date palms that you see below. I looooove dates. I add them to everything like my Vitamin-Packed Green Smoothie and No Bake Oat and Nut Granola Bars, so it was fun to see and learn about how they grow.

Did you know that dates can only be grown in warm climates like California and the Middle East? Also, harvesting them is VERY labor intensive — someone has to climb all the way up those trees multiple times throughout harvesting and man, those things are tall!

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

We also checked out fields of bell peppers, which they keep covered from the sun with the tarps (as you can see below), as well as seedless grapes and artichokes.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

SeaView

Our final farm stop was at SeaView. We were a little rushed to get back to San Diego, so we were only able to spend about a half hour here.

All of our eyes lit up when we were told we could pick some citrus to bring home. Personally, I had only ever been apple and strawberry picking, so picking my own fresh oranges and grapefruit was such a treat! Luckily, I was traveling back to Los Angeles by train, so I could load up on lots of oranges, which Travis and I both love.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I also want to note that the grapefruit we tasted at SeaView was some of the sweetest I’ve ever had. I usually find grapefruit to be too sour, but this stuff was delicious and I regret not bringing home more! The longer the grapefruit stays on the tree, the sweeter it gets.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

Inferno Restaurant: Brawley, CA

Our very final stop on the tour was to the Inferno Restaurant in Brawley, CA. Now, remember when I mentioned earlier that Kay Day Pricola was the most well connected person ever? Well, on Saturday she overheard our group mentioning how we wanted to try Inferno, but they are closed on Sundays (the day we were trying to go).

So, of course, Kay picks up her phone and calls the owner (who just happened to call her the hour before!) and asks him to open the restaurant for our group the following day. Whaaaaat!?

And he said YES. We couldn’t believe it.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

So on Sunday afternoon we met the owner, Ray Babb and his head chef, who cooked us a delicious meal of homemade pizzas, steak tacos and deep-fried ice cream!

The entire meal was ridiculously good. Because they source all of their ingredients from the surrounding farms in the area, everything tasted incredibly fresh.

If you ever find yourself in Brawley, CA — go here!!

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

I had a great weekend touring the Imperial and Coachella Valleys and I learned so much. Before I leave you guys, I want to share just a couple quick facts that might be interesting to you:

 

— California is home to 78,000 farms growing 400 different crops! Farming creates 450,000 jobs in this state.

— California farmers grow 50% of America’s fruits, nuts and vegetables — 50%!

— Agriculture uses 40% of the state’s water supply, but EVERYONE benefits from the food grown on farms.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

— The Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley can grow year-round. You can thank this area of the country for allowing you to have cantaloupe in the middle of November even though it’s a summer fruit.

— Most farms are passed down generation to generation. Many of the farmers we met were in their current job because their parents, grandparents, etc. were all farmers.

— What’s crazy is that only 2% of our population is farmers, but 100 years ago 90% of our population farmed

— A lot of advanced farming technology comes from Israel, not the United States. One example is drip irrigation which is a method of releasing water slowly through long passageways (in this case, plastic tubing you see below).

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, however I was invited to attend this farm tour by the California Farm Water Coalition and my hotel and travel were paid for. I hope you enjoyed this post and I appreciate your support!

4 Comments

  • February 18, 2016 - 7:51 am | Permalink

    What a great trip! I agree with you, Kay was hysterical! Loved everyone we met so much!

    • Rachel (littlechefbigappetite)
      February 18, 2016 - 8:45 am | Permalink

      It was so great to meet you, Sara!

  • Kay
    February 19, 2016 - 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the kind word. We so enjoy sharing our food story with those who care so much about good food. Had dinner with my wonderful husband tonight at Inferno. It was the best of a small town with lots of friends also enjoying an evening out, and food more akin to big city life.
    Fresh hearts of romaine with Cesar dressing followed by pizza with fresh greens.
    Lucky to be a big city girl in a small town. Kay Day Pricola

    • Rachel (littlechefbigappetite)
      February 19, 2016 - 10:03 pm | Permalink

      Kay!! So great to hear from you. Thank you for reading! It was such a pleasure to meet you — thank you for spending so much time with us. I hope we can meet again someday.

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