With everything we’ve learned about Almonds on this trip there is one thing that is certain. They are actually called “Amonds,” no wait, maybe they are Almonds? No, they are called almonds until you knock the “L” out of them at harvest. So it appears that depending on what county you are in, you better know what the farmers call them or you will lose all your street cred.
Learning from the organic pros
The team under the “Big Tree”
A diverse understory is unacceptable to most conventional farmers but the Andersons use it to their advantage
The first dog to like Lamb on the trip
A diverse farm bring other animals, also trying to avoid the heat
We spent the last few days back in the warmth in Almond Country. When I say warmth, I mean 110 degrees warm. For a cold blooded Michigander, this is a number I failed to really understand until trying to bicycle in it. Our team biked from San Francisco to Modesto to meet with the California Almond Board and visit another early innovator in the organic almond industry.
Without AC in the RV it was nice to meet the Almond Board indoors. Tina Owens (Kashi Supply Chain Sustainability) came in for this visit, and the team was happy to have her, as she was our undying source of knowledge about transitional before the ride, and this was going to be one of the more technical meetings we were going to be hosting. Tina presented the board with details on Certified Transitional and gave a pitch to have some more focus on a quickly growing organic industry. Only 0.7% of almond acreage is organic currently and imports of organic is significant. The Almond Board then gave a series of presentations on several of our fields of interest. They spoke on several of their water savings projects as well as the goals of their newly formed organic task force.
After the meeting the team headed over to Anderson Almonds. This organic farm is owned by Glenn and Leslie who were pioneers in the organic industry, and they pride themselves on the health of their soil, the biodiversity of their land, and their passion for healthy organic food. We sat under the “Big Tree” out front (which became the name of Glenn’s daughter Wendy’s almond processing facility) and told stories so entertaining we almost forgot about the heat.
The almond doesn’t fall far from the tree as Glenn’s daughter Wendy is very active in the promotion of the organic almond industry. They host classes on their land and constantly share with neighbors the benefits of organic. After meeting on the farm they invited us to a city hall style dinner with many of their conventional neighbors. It was so cool to watch Tina present about certified transitional and open dialog with many of the farmers about their hesitations with converting to organic. Being a small farmer is tough and adding one more variables to the equation seems daunting for many. We hope Kashi can continue to support these farmers through Certified Transitional.
San Fran is known for its hipsters, high cost of living and it’s tech stars, but maybe not known as well for housing some small food companies that are changing the food paradigm. We got to visit two of those companies while we passed through on our bikes. Both Patagonia Provisions and GoodEggs.com welcomed the Kashi Bike Tour with open arms.
Patagonia Provisions is the food branch of Patagonia (the clothing company) that is working to create sustainable food systems. Owner Yvon Chouinard, has been into sustainability for a long time and this is his foray into food. The team has created some really neat products from sustainable buffalo jerky to beer brewed with perennial grain. We delivered our new Certified Transitional Bars to their team as an early Friday morning treat and exchanged stories about some of their aspirations as a company. They sent us off with some awesome products perfect for a long bike trip. Keep up the good work!
GoodEggs.com was our second stop in San Fran. I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by what might truly be the future of grocery shopping. Good Eggs started by a developer trying to connect farmers directly to consumers. It has since transformed into an app that allows customers to get groceries delivered straight to their door….and in a matter of hours. Think about submitting your shopping list during your lunch break and getting it delivered to your house before you get home from work. They often get products to consumers faster than a grocery store. This team has been a big supporter of the Transitional mission and have several Kashi products available in their growing market place. I’d put my bets on this egg hatching.
Patagonia Provisions crew trading for some Kashi CT Nut Butter Bars
On demand packing of Kashi Dark Cocoa Karma at Good Eggs
The best surf shop in the world…..because of the name
The team was fortunate one late afternoon last week to visit Darren and his team at Grain Millers in Eugene, Oregon (Ore-“gun” not Ore-“gone”) and share some transitional products and stories about a long time business partnership. Pilaf, Kashi’s original seven whole grains and sesame mixture has been produced at Grain Millers for nearly 27 years now.
Designed by founders Phile and Gayle Tauber, pilaf was their answer to a high protein, complex carbohydrate meal that was low in fat and sodium.
As a special treat, Dave Lamb (pilaf’s number one promoter) was given a personalized tour of the plant!
When we first heard about Nisha and Rania, we were excited to possibly feature our first female farmers. We finally got to meet them this Monday, and we realized how much they have to share. Baugher Ranch Organics is a family business, and they are third generation farmers. In 1984, their parents decided after some hardship to convert his acreage to organic. Baugher Ranch was way ahead of its time and made the conversion when it was still very difficult. Just like our previous farm visits, the sisters explained to us how organic fertilizer, weed and pest controls have improved drastically over the last five years, but there is still a ways to go to improve cost and efficiency. The sisters have continued building this business with their families and continue to be progressive in their industry.
We met Nisha and Rania on the farm where Nisha’s husband Ben had taken the morning off from real job to capture some drone footage of the team biking to the farm. We will share that awesome footage soon. They gave us a tour of their transitional orchard, named Giving Tree (after the Shel Silverstein children’s book, my favorite book as a child), and then we had lunch at the farm. They showed us their spring fed ponds and Dave Lamb caught his first fish.
After the farm we headed over to the processing facility, equipped with a roof covered in solar panels, and a community garden for the employees. We saw some amazing sorting and processing equipment followed by the final hand sorting operation. We then met with the entire crew and let them try the Chewy Nut Butter Bars that contain their Transitional Almonds! They were overjoyed.
At the end of the day the sisters surprised our team with a limo and a trip to Sierra Nevada Brewery for dinner, and they even let us camp in their front yard with the RV. Now that is hospitality!
Here are some of the cool things we learned:
Almond trees are actually grafted onto fruit trees. Without the fruit tree stock the almonds would be very bitter.
Only 0.5% of Almonds in the US are Organic, that’s not even enough to supply Kashi if all of our products were organic.
Almonds are shaken from the tree onto the ground making it critical for the ground to be free from weeds. Weed control without conventional herbicide is one of the biggest challenges, so many organic almond farmers use flame trucks to burn down weeds.
Starting almonds with organic practices in this region is extremely difficult and trees aren’t as successful. This make transitional in this region all that much more important.
The team was really looking forward to a weekend of riding without any planned events. There isn’t much to plan along the Oregon coast as it is a bit desolate, but there certainly are a lot of amazing cliffs, islands, and forests to see. The 101 along the cliffs was breathtaking on times, especially on a bicycle and the Redwoods were serene. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
On Thursday the team had it’s first visit to an actual farm in transition to organic. Wyckoff farms is in the Yakima Valley, Washington, and they supply Kashi with Organic Concord Grape concentrate for our Grape Stretch Island Fruit Strips. These are made at our Stretch Island plant in Allyn, WA, which was the first stop on our tour a week ago. The team carried grape fruit strips all the way to Yakima so that all the employees at Wyckoff could try the finished product.
The team biked to the farm in Grandview from Yakima (50 miles) and were met by our sales rep, Dustin, and broker rep, Sue. They welcomed us with open arms and had a full agenda.
The first stop was the main reason the team was here. We were going to see conventional, transitional, and organic blueberry acreage, and talk with the farm managers who were responsible for making it all happen. We were surprised to see that the farm managers were all millennials that were very supportive of the organic movement. They were however very open about the challenges that they have to go through to convert acreage to organic. They agreed that Certified Transitional is a great program to support them during this learning period. Most of the conversation was about the challenges with “plant nutrition”. This is the requirements that the plants need to grow. When they start the 3 year conversion to organic they immediately have to start using different products for fertilizer, weeds, and pests. These products require a big learning curve for the farmers (for example 30% liquid nitrogen for conventional farming must be replaced with a slower releasing 2-3% nitrogen compost). They also emphasized the fact that the labor requirement is about four times higher with organic, because it requires more “tractor passes” per acre. One of the most interesting points was that once the transition is in process, the farmers believe that the land “figures it out” and adapts to the changes, and they can get close to having comparable yields. They have learned a lot in five years and these farmers think more improvements will be made through trial and error and interfacing with educational institutions.
The team also got to see our Organic Concord Grape fields, conventional and organic watermelon fields, as well as hop, hops and more hops!
We are so thankful for this learning experience and for an R&D team that rarely interacts with the farm level, this visit was both inspiration and enlightening.
We hope to get a few more experiences like this during our journey. Thanks Wyckoff and Milne team!
Hello Kashi family and friends! Stef here, and I just have to tell you how awesome the trip has been so far.
Let’s just flip it and reverse it for a sec back to when I first joined the tres amigos, coming out of a very busy and active Memorial weekend. I joined the guys and first thing I notice was this RV ain’t no joke…it’s a pretty big freaking RV! I mean, look how teeny tiny I look in the drivers seat:
You can barely see me, right? I wouldn’t be lying if I said I was a tiny bit nervous driving such a large vehicle. But hey guess what, after my initial 10 minutes of tepid driving around a gas station parking lot and positive support and trust from the guys, I ended up kicking butt driving this beast up and through Washington’s Snowqualmie pass, down and through Yakama valley, and back up and out through the pass, crossing over to Oregon in the course of three days.
I mean, that’s a lot of miles to cover when my team is cycling through and I’m responsible to meet them at checkpoints throughout the entire day to make sure everyone’s a-ok (and to also deliver 2nd breakfast’s and lunch breaks).
Surprisingly, I felt total zen driving the RV on sometimes one- lane curvy, winding roads, with big elevation gains and losses. It’s most likely because of Washington’s stunning landscape!
I also had this epiphany while driving that if I wasn’t a Product Developer, I might have had a promising career as a truck driver.
Holler if you find yourself needing an RV driver… Kashi Developer by day – truck driver by night 🙂