Wednesday, March 3, 2010

California Small Farm Conference Day 2

The hotel has provided a breakfast bar of fresh fruit, coffee and breakfast burritos for us to start the day with and a good thing because with a pitch dark hotel room it was hard to get up!! So used to waking with our bright High Desert mornings! We board a charter bus for our Greenhouse Production Tour. First stop is Sunset Valley Orchids in Vista. Fred Clark specializes in breeding new species of orchids. Of course Michael and I spent most of our time inspecting the greenhouses themselves, which were comprised of cellular automated walls for ventilation. Imagine an air mattress filling up the walls. They were temperature regulated and the "mattress" construction added additional insulation, and as the greenhouse became warmer the walls went down and as it became cooler the walls went up!! The mattress configuration appeared to add strength also, a must in our winds!!

Next stop Mellano & Co., a very large cut flower/foliage farm in Oceanside. They were using the outdoor row covers for extending their seasons. They also had a string of simple florescent lights strung down the rows to control flowering actually creating two short nights! Huge operation!! The structures were far from wind proof, but they had become quite sturdy thanks to an underlying current of competition that was created within the employees. The employees were trying to "out do" the other in seeing whose row cover would still be intact the next day after a good Santa Ana blasting!! They would actually show up at work early the next day to see whose structure was still standing!

Next stop, Oceanside Produce, a large tomato operation. Even with visiting each of the large outfits I still walked away with helpful information. The tables for transplants were of simple construction that I could duplicate in my future seedling house and the walls that they created were constructed by themselves out of necessity simply comprised of Agribon fabric and a pulley system. Onto the Tasting Reception!!
Oh my!! I have never experienced such a diversity of culinary choices!! I ate beef that melted in your mouth and octopus that was not chewy!! Coffee that was not bitter! There had to be 12 different high-end restaurants and 12-15 wineries and a brewery!! Even a longstanding conference attendee said that they had never experienced anything like this before!! I ate an identical set of braising greens that I sell in a wonderful vinagrette!! San Diego welcomed us with their best!! One restaurant chef asked me if we knew where his owner could buy wild boar to raise!! I said it would be cheaper to hire a hunter! We visited the exhibits and saw all the upcoming technology and the majority were of an organic basis!! One exhibit was selling the "business model" that we just started with the support of community of ordering produce per item online!! What a wonder to see the trends changing. I really honestly believe that our faltering economy is spurring inovation and a lot of this is coming from the movement for better, higher quality local food!!

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