Saturday, February 26, 2011

Food Prices and You, The Consumer

Our combine harvesting wheat, August 2010

If you are like I am, when I shop for groceries, price matters. I want to buy what I want, but at affordable prices. And when buying produce, I try to only buy items grown in the USA. My reasoning? First, I try to buy local and when I say local, I mean food grown within the USA boundaries; secondly, foreign countries have different standards on what treatments can be used on their crops, so as a safety measure, I choose USA grown food.

Grand-angel, Natalie on the farm, who enjoys the good food her
grandpa grows.  Remember farmers live on their land,
we raise our famiilies here and we grow crops in the safest
and most economically manner possible.  Farmers are here for you!
 Today I heard that Wal-Mart will no longer be stocking “organic foods” as it appears their customers do not want to pay the higher price associated with products grown organically. It’s pretty simple, it comes down to what do you want to pay for? I do think it’s important that the consumer have the choice of conventionally grown food vs. organic, either way, let the consumer pay for what they want. Today’s conventional farmer is geared to producing food or livestock that affords the consumer the best quality at the most reasonable price. This is not a bad thing either as Americans spend just 9.8% of their income on food—less than consumers in any other country. We truly are fortunate to be living in this country and to be able to have those choices.

Today’s farmer not only tries to get their crop to your dinner table in an economical fashion, but we have several factors that play a role in the price of food that you pay. One is nature; we cannot control that one and do the best with what we are dealt. The other factor is environmentalists (or environmental groups) that think only organic is the way to go and then try to garner the public’s support to implement laws about how much space a chicken needs or some other kind of regulation imposed on the farmer who is trying to feed you and your family. So the next time you have the option to vote on animal welfare or some kind of conservational issue that affects the farmer, ask yourself, are you willing to pay the extra price? Need an example? Next time you go to the grocery store, take a look at “organically grown, free range chicken eggs” vs a conventional method of producing eggs and you will most likely find the prices to be $5.49 for organic vs $1.49 per dozen. As I said before, it is your choice. I have a farm blog that is worth re-reading .

Next week the people that feed America will be meeting in Florida for a national conference. From there I will be blogging (hopefully daily) about what we are doing to help you, the consumer, enjoy the high quality of foods that we have all come to expect. So as always, hope you enjoyed this blog and feel free to email me at

Friday, February 18, 2011

Social Media, Farm Blogs and the Food Network

Evening sky from the cab of the tractor
This past week I was contacted by Jen O’Donnell from Intuitive Entertainment regarding a segment she was doing for The Food Network about adventurous and dangerous jobs in the food business. This will air on TV as a one hour special, divided into three segments and each segment will feature someone as they talk about their life, their work, and the audience will see their daily adventures in the food and farming industry.

The Farmer (Joe) checking the
wheat the day before harvest  is set to begin
For added interest, here are some of my favorite photos sprinkled throughout this blog.

The farmer's big boy toys, it takes a lot of equipment
to feed America
Jen said they had never done this kind of a feature before and felt it would be of great interest to their viewers. They were looking for farmers who burn their wheat stubble and Jen told me that she googled Idaho Farms and up came my farm blog! So after reading my blog, she called me. It truly was an honor for me to get to talk to Jen and it re-affirmed my thoughts that social media is an important tool for every farmer to tell our side of story. With the average American so far removed from the farm, people are interested in what we do. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, those of us that do this full time, are kind of a novelty to the rest of mainstream America. I explained to Jen that we do not burn our stubble and it was not a common practice anymore in this area, but we would contact her if we thought of someone who did. We said we used to burn wheat straw on some acreage in the early years of adopting no-till or direct-seed farming methods, but for us, it was a short term fix while finding the best methods to manage crop residue.

Spring work in 2010, getting ready to seed wheat

I went on to tell Jen about our Dinner on the Farm series and invited her and her production crew to come out during one of our dinners or really anytime for that matter. So Jen if you are reading this, you have an open invitation to our farm and our life on the farm. =)   The Food Network is on the right track with their 3 part segment and I can't wait to see it.

Dinner menu for Dinner on the Farm

The Farmer (Joe to the left) and guests in our garbanzo field   

Guests looking over some of
the equipment that farmers need

A day or two before my call with The Food Network, I was reading Country Living magazine that had a whole section about “haycations” and the fact that families will spend big bucks to spend a weekend on the farm learning where food comes from. I also read with interest in Sunset magazine about people taking “veggie vacations” where one herb-farm has guests work in the kitchen garden and on the farm, then it ends with a nine course meal. The rest of the article talked about how a new generation of people are getting into making their own jams/jellies and having chicken coops in their backyards.

The Farmer and I think this is wonderful and are excited to see more people start their own urban gardens and have chicken coops in their backyards, as it gives them a glimpse of what full time farmers do only on a larger scale.  They will get to experience first hand the ups and downs of raising crops and animals. So hats off to the segment of people who are striving to get back to their agriculture roots by either taking farm vacations and learning about where their food comes from, or by raising poultry and/or urban gardens.

As always, hope you enjoyed the blog and feel free to email me at

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Farmers Love their Land & Community


Joe in front of the fire hall just before we head up to work

Farmers not only have a strong bond to the land, but also with their community. Because the land is our livelihood, we are tied to the region and great bonds are developed with those who live in our small, rural farming community. Joe is a fourth generation farmer with deep ties to the fine folks of Genesee and having married a hometown boy, I too have developed a deep love of our community. So today, we are volunteering our time at the annual Genesee Fireman’s Crab Feed. Joe was a volunteer EMT for 18 years and we worked every year at this fundraiser. After Joe retired from the fire department, we attended as guests, but this year we thought it would be nice to once again lend our time to a worthy organization.

The crowd going through the food line

The take out dinners ready to go
 People get the option of eating within the fire hall or getting a take out and at times 500+ dinners would go out the back door.

Joe was manning the beer stand, this is a popular spot to be

The early diners enjoying their dinner
Cody, our hired man is a volunteer firemen and
next to him is friend Don, a retired fireman at the takeout station
To give you a little history of our lives, let me begin by saying, from what I’ve observed, either the farm kids either love the farm and do whatever they can to have the opportunity to farm or they move away, never to return. Joe grew up on the farm and always knew this was his choice of occupation, but the farm was not big enough to support 2 families. So after Joe graduated from the University of Idaho, he took a job as a chemical rep for Elanco, in the agriculture division and lived in Montana. After working away from the farm for about 2 years, Joe came back to Genesee to farm along with his dad. As the farm was still small, Joe also took a part-time job driving school bus for the morning route. He and his dad also did custom harvesting before their own harvest began. Custom harvesting is when a farmer hires someone to come in with their own combine and harvest that farmer’s crop. This usually occurs when either the farmer chooses to not own a combine or needs extra help in getting in their crop. So with off farm income and doing the custom harvesting, it brought in extra working capital and helped Joe work into the farming operation.

The church looks exactly the same as the
day we got married over 25 years ago

A couple of months after Joe arrived back in Genesee, we met as he used to sit behind me at the church he had grown up in and one that I had just started attending while he was in Montana. I was a divorced single mom of a 2 year old and lived in a nearby city, but always liked the Genesee community so I started attending the Lutheran church there.  Anyway fast forward a couple of years, we got married in that same church and Jennifer, my daughter was the flower girl. To give you a laugh, I’ll share that while Joe and I were taking our vows, Jen was going up and down the aisles talking with people, showing them her purple tights and excitedly telling them once we got married that she was going to get a kitty, a swing-set and that we would be getting a baby too! (Yikes, no I was not pregnant) but when preparing her for moving to Genesee after we married, I had told her  that she could now have pets, a yard and a swing set, and I must have mentioned that later on she would have brother or sister later on.  But somewhere in the 4 year’s brain, she thought they all arrived at the same time.) So of course, I found out a few weeks later about her announcement at the wedding and was a tad bit  mortified. Oh well, 3 years later we had a new daughter, Kaitlyn.

As we continued to build working capital and buy equipment, I worked full time, Joe still worked part time driving bus and doing custom harvesting until we had the opportunity to rent more ground. Then Joe’s brother Jay, who also moved away and was working as an electrician, was also able to come back and work on the farm too. Jay’s wife, Lisa, also worked off the farm until the arrival of their son, Zack 9 years ago.   So through a combined effort of working well, smart and very hard, we have been able to increase the size of the farm and enjoy a challenging, but worthwhile livelihood and life.  So there you have it in a nutshell how my farm life began.  As always, thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoy the blog.  All my best, Gayle

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Making of Hummus

Once the crop leaves our field and goes to the warehouse, farmers usually don’t get a chance to see how their crop is used to make the actual end product. We know who buys our crops and that wheat will end up as flour or in bread, crackers, cookies, noodles, etc and that one of the uses for garbanzos (chickpeas) is to make it into hummus. So I am excited to show you how a new local company uses locally grown garbanzos (of which some are from the Anderson Farm) to produce fresh hummus with no preservatives.

I met Bronzestone Hummus owners, Tish and Heath at their manufacturing site, and their facility is located in a nearby town just 16 miles away from the Anderson Farm. Even though Tish and Heath had just gotten in from a successful marketing trip in Seattle, they were hard at work but took the time to show me around and answer questions.

The refrigerated truck to transport the hummus
Tish was excited to announce they had just signed on to provide their specialty hummus with Metropolitan Foods in Seattle, WA.  I'll list the other stores that also carry their product at the end of the blog.  She and Heath have working on this deal since July and the excitement was evident about their newest success.  Tish explained they were slowly moving into smaller grocery store chains to give their business a chance to accommodate the increased demand. 

A view of the commercial kitchen
Another view of the kitchen site
Their kitchen site was spotless and Heath was in the process of making a batch of hummus when I arrived.

The garbs had already been cooked and the garb cooker was in the cleaning mode.

Heath adding the onions into the caramelizing machine
 Heath had just started adding the onions in the caramelizing machine and even though it was only 9:30am, it smelled delicious and made me think I was hungry.
The onions just before the lid was closed to
begin the caramelizing process

Next I peeked into their cooler to have a look at the garbs that had been cooked and were being cooled prior to be processed.

The freshly cooked garbanzos that were cooling in the refrigerated cooler

 In one of the other tubs was a batch of sun dried tomato hummus waiting to be packaged.

Hummus that is ready for packaging
(this flavor is their sun dried tomato hummus)

A view of the tubs from within the cooler that contain
either cooked garbs or the finished product before packaging
Heath sealing the tubs of hummus
Tish explained they had just purchased this new sealing machine that Heath was using to provide a better seal for their product which means a better shelf life.  Tish advised that even though customers like having a product that contains no additives, they still expect a long shelf life.  I told her that when we buy their product it usually doesn't last more than a week around our house and that made her smile, but said that was not always the case with others.

The final product, yummmmm

As promised here is the list of stores that carry their gourmet hummus: Rosauers, Yokes, Huckleberries, Moscow Food Co-op, and now Met Foods in Seattle. 

To see an excellent video clip that shows more on how their hummus is made:

As always, thanks for stopping in and I hope you enjoyed the read. 
All my best, Gayle.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A New Farmerette Has Arrived

On January 21, 2011 our farm gained a new "farmerette", our 3rd grand-angel, Maggie Dee Marie Lowe!  

Of course, we think she is perfect and beautiful and little Maggie joins the other perfect and beautiful big sisters, Brinley (5) and Natalie (2), along with proud momma, Jen and daddy, Soren. 
Maggie Dee Marie Lowe
7lbs 2 oz, 19 inches
Joe holding Maggie.  All through Jen's
pregnancy he had dubbed the baby "Larry"
In our little farming community when our girls were growing up there were several daughters of farmers in each of the girls' class  and some worked on the farm or at the local co-op during harvest weighing in trucks while some didn't work at all.   Our girls worked on the farm during harvest and we will welcome all of our grand-angels too when  they become old enough.   In fact, we really liked having a female in the seat of the tractor as they were less prone to hot rod the equipment.  =)  So with our newest crop of girls, we look forward to more  "tractor drivers".  At this point, there is clear interest from the 2 yoa, Natalie, as her favorite thing is to crawl up on papa's lap and they look at his farm equipment magazines.

This past May, Erin, the young woman (who replaced daughter Kaitlyn when she no longer wanted to work on the farm during summer breaks in college) graduated from high school and we did hire a young man to drive the tractor during harvest and he has some big shoes to fill. =). 

More is on the At Home on the Farm page.