Almonds or “Amonds”?

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.

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.

Singing off from the Cali Coast,

Matt

Good Eggs and Provisions

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.

 

Kashi Pilaf…..Where it all Began…..

And where it all continues.

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!

-Dave’s story (Matt scribing)

Giving Tree

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.

 

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The Oregon Coast…Oh My

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.

-Matt

Transitional…what it’s all about!

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.

bike team pic
Bike team with Sue and Dustin
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!

farmers milne
Meeting the farm managers

farm learning
Lessons on concord grapes
jason-and-stef-1[1]
Jason teaching Stephanie how to pull Nutgrass, the toughest type of weeds
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!

-Matt, Steph, Dave2

She’ll be coming down the mountain, here she comes…

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’t see Dave Lamb in the background, but you can see his peace sign

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).

Matt’s Strava trip log

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!

Snoqualmie Falls
Somewhere in Yakama Valley
​​

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.

Wrapping up a 50+ mile cycling day

Holler if you find yourself needing an RV driver… Kashi Developer by day – truck driver by night 🙂

– Stef

Friends and Fun in Seattle

The three day Holiday weekend in Seattle was very eventful for the Kashi Bike Tour.

DAY 1

On our first full day and after an amazing breakfast at Dave and Stef’s house (Matt’s friend from High School) on Lake Washington we made our way to begin our task of a Kashi product give away outside a Fred Mejer grocery store.

As we were preparing for our giveaway a fire truck pulled up right behind our now infamous Kashi RV (at least we think so) and out stepped three Seattle area firemen.  Dave Lamb quickly took this opportunity and approached them about our tour and they were excited to try our new Kashi bars.

It wasn’t long in the same parking lot up walked to the Kashi RV one of the top long jumpers in the USA over the last 6 years, Norris Frederick (27’ 5″ long jump). We snapped a picture with him and our team before he hurried off to continue his training.

IMG_0766

Matt and I took a case of Kashientious re-usable tote bags inside the Fred Mejer and after getting permission from the store manage we handed out totes in a true Kashi ambassador style. It was fun and exciting to see the smile on folks faces as we promoted our brand.

 IMG_0665

We were graciously invited to dinner with some of Dave Maroukis’ friends, the Zapolowskis, the infamous Kalamazoo bike couple (plus their lovely daughter Isabella).  The ZAPs even let us borrow one of their cars so the team could better manage the hills of Seattle.

 

IMG_0767DAY 2

On Sunday morning the Kashi Bike Tour crew took a 31 mile bike tour around Seattle with Brad and wow did we found out quickly there are no flat roads in Seattle.  We also had a fun opportunity to ride 2 laps around a Velo drome cycling track, meeting some World champion cyclists that were training on the track.  Of course that was an impromptu opportunity to share about our Kashi bike tour.

After the morning bike ride we made our way to downtown Seattle for an informal product give away and we encountered hundreds of excited folks that were willing to sample our Transitional Bars.  We even made it to a Folk Festival near the ‘Space Needle’

IMG_0681

DAY 3

The biggest day of the weekend was a fundraiser called the 7 hills of Kirkland bike tour, raising funds for the homeless in Seattle.  We had  provided 2000 Kashi bars to be given to the cyclists during the ride and we had a Kashi booth  at the post ride celebration to share our Transitional Story with folks from Nunn Hydration and QAI.

We estimate we touched 3000 people at this event through product give aways and the very cool and exctiting discussions with folks at our booth.  What an amazing day and great way to end the holiday weekend in Seattle for the Kashi Bike tour crew.

IMG_0694

So excited that we will have Stefanie join the crew tomorrow!

-Dave Maroukis

 

FINALLY…

After being left behind and bribing a passing motorist with Kashi coupons, I finally made it to Stretch Island.  Allen Hollinshead and crew threw a rousing sendoff, replete with a breakfast of Kashi cereals, a “swag” exchange – the SI team was thrilled with their Kashi sandals and the tour team was presented their own Stretch Island “goodies” – finishing off the morning with a combined picture session, featuring Stretch Island’s very own professional photographer, Vita.  The guys were shown the Fruit Leather process in action with a guided tour.

Fitting 200 cases of product and reusable grocery totes in the RV wasn’t easy – there was not a “nook or cranny” of the motorhome that was left untouched.  We then biked towards Seattle and across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  The day ended at REI Headquarters for a product drop, 58 miles later.  Thank you to the Stretch Island team for a memorable morning of sharing your love.

-Dave Lamb

No man left behind

All I can say is Sorry Dave Lamb.  During our last morning push to make it to the Stretch Island sendoff on time we stopped to snap a quick picture of a picturesque bay surrounded by monsterous pines.  We hopped out of the car snapped a picture and then hopped back on the RV.  We had about 15 minutes left to get to Stretch Island.  About 10 minutes later I looked back to the back of the RV and yelled to Dave Lamb to make sure everything was going okay…..assuming he was in the bathroom.  No response.  5 minutes later I yelled again.  No answer.  I looked down at my phone and saw several missed calls from Dave.  Ooops!  We left a man behind.  But no worries, Dave had already befriended a local (also named Dave) and was hitchhiking to Allyn.  What a dude!

dave the hitchhiker
Hitchhiker Dave (Lamb) with Fisherman Dave!

“If it rolls, we can fix it”

It is all about the Journey!  We are heading to our first stop of the tour at the Stretch Island Plant in Allyn, WA.  This is a stop we’re extremely excited about.  Stretch Island is an organic success story as they launched Organic fruit strips a few years ago and they have done very well.   The plant has prepared a grand send off with shirts, breakfast and an escort out of town!

The 1600 mile trip in our 34′ Fleetwood Bounder was beautiful especially for those of us who haven’t made this trek before.  It was however, not absent of challenges.  In the first half day driving out of LA the notorious Grapevine claimed another victim.  As we coasted down into the valley on the other side of the mountain range the RV suddenly had trouble keeping speed.  We were cruising down the highway at 35 mph, feeling like Ricky Bobby in Talladega nights, with semi’s blowing past.  We decided that it was best to get help, but too late to get a hold of anyone.  We setup camp in front of the closest auto mechanic, with a sign in front that read “If it rolls, we can fix it”.  I love the confidence.  We met the mechanic and owner, Vidal at the door at 7:59 AM and within 15 minutes he knew what the problem was…at least the first one.  24 hours later we were on the road with instructions to keep it at 55 which translates to 25 up the mountains.  A few Walmart parking lots and good Samaritans later and we’ve made up the ground to keep our date with the Allyn Plant.

Good Morning Washington!

-Matt and Crew

 

Michigan crew is thawing out just in time

At the Health Foods Expo West over a year ago I met a Kashi legend and told him my dream to bike across America.  Without hesitation Dave Lamb, the chief Kashi Ambassador said “can I join you?”  Over the next week I somewhat forgot about this interaction but then received a call from Dave with a sales pitch.  He had a sponsor, a sag wagon and a masseuse….A masseuse!?!  Then of course I’m in.

At first, we were hoping to take a bike ride across America and have Kashi sponsor some jerseys to show off our passion for the company and the food, but this has since blossomed into a full blown marketing adventure.  Our goal is to promote the new Transitional Certification developed by Kashi and Quality Assurance International (QAI) which helps farmers convert from conventional to organic farming.  The program is a consumer facing program where consumers can buy products that actually help the famers make this challenging, costly three year-long transition.  Exciting stuff if you care about farmers and the environment!

The team is split across the country with some in Michigan and one in San Diego.  It is finally warm in Michigan so the team has been busy thawing out the legs and getting ready for the trip.  Still waiting on that masseuse….

-Matt Stinson

Kashi jerseys
First Mechanical!  Many more to come.  From left to right: Dave M., Matt S., Alexa S.