If you follow me on Instagram, you get to see I have a thing (or two) for strawberries. I absolutely love the taste, texture and nutritional properties of the fruit! When the California Strawberry Commission asked me to take a trip and learn about how they are farmed, I was thrilled!
I’ve always seen the strawberry baskets at the grocery store and saw that the label said they came from California. But seriously, year round? It turns out that California has over 40 thousand acres that grow strawberries!
I was shocked to learn that over 80% of our strawberries come from California. It makes sense, the weather is perfect year round to grow them! They have warm and sunny days, fog that rolls in and a light ocean breeze. Apparently, strawberries grow where people love to live. –I can’t argue there.
I love learning about our food. Learning how things are grown and how farmers continue to tend to their family farm for generations. Regardless of what you might think about farming, farmers really do care about their crops and are constantly trying to figure out ways to make them better for us.
I never considered exactly how strawberries were grown. They are one fruit that I try to buy organic but it doesn’t always happen. I typically purchase 2-3 pounds of strawberries per week, along with other fruit.
I ate my share of berries right of the plant and I have to say that I’ve never tasted fruit so delicious in my life! yes, without washing them. Oh well.
I did learn the differences between “conventional” and “organic” strawberries. I was shocked to learn that strawberries aren’t as “dirty” as I thought them to be… you know, full of pesticides and horrible things for you.
I saw with my own eyes bug vacuums going up and down the rows suctioning pests from the plants. They also introduce “predator bugs” to eat off the pests that damage the plant. I didn’t know any of that before. I thought people or big machines sprayed the plants all the time but apparently that is not the case.
Everything that is done is documented so it can be inspected by off-site inspectors. In addition, many farmers have entire sections of their fields dedicated to organic farming, so they utilize organic methods as much as possible.
I learned that strawberries are watered and nourished through underground plastic strips. Any chemical application is also done directly through there and not sprayed directly on the fruit. This also helps worker-safety conditions since there is no air spraying during picking times. In addition, if a section is sprayed because it’s infested it’s off limits for picking.
Another busted myth was that workers work in deplorable conditions and barely earn minimum wage. One farmer said that his workers earn minimum wage plus production; making their earnings up to $17hour at the peak of the season.
The fields also have trucks that are filled continuously and sent to the cooling facility every hour. Berries are packaged in the little plastic containers we buy at the store at the field but they are sent to a cooling facility where they are chilled down to 34 degrees to preserve their freshness.
From there, strawberries are shipped out in trucks cooled at 34 degrees to everywhere else in the nation (and internationally!). I have to say that it was very cold inside the shipping facility.
Of course, we also ate a lot of amazing fresh food and strawberry themed dishes.
One of my favorite parts was the California Strawberry kitchen challenge. I learned to actually cook with strawberries and not just eat them fresh. The challenge part was to create a dish using strawberries. We were broken up into teams and I was lucky to be paired up with Jess (Sodium Girl) and Jen (of Playful Pantry). The three of us worked great together and won the challenge! We created strawberry buffalo wings!
You could say we were thrilled.
And this my friends, is a little recap of my trip. I will continue to purchase California Strawberries from the grocery and not feel bad about myself if they aren’t always organic or they don’t fit my weekly budget. And you know what? I am glad I went on this trip and got to meet a few farming families. It gave me an entirely new perspective of where my strawberries come from and also that there are people behind each little basket I purchase that really cares about their crop.
I wrote this post while participating on ambassadorship and sponsored trip. Of course, all opinions are my own.