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I was moved to tears by fruits and vegetables

This is a sponsored post in partnership with California Farm Water Coalition.

Have you ever noticed how fruits and vegetables, especially veggies, get a bad rap in our society? They’re often synonymous with diets or food depravation, and they’re the butt of jokes everywhere. Meat and sweets, however, are considered to be “fun” foods. You know you’re doing well when you have plenty of both. I feel the complete opposite.

My life was less full when my access to delicious produce was limited. I feel like I’m truly living when I can stuff a handful of fresh greens or juicy ripe strawberries into my mouth. I haven’t always felt like this. Living in Northern California has given me a whole new appreciation for salads, though.

From my first few days of living here, I knew food was different than where I came from. I realized quickly that fresh fruits and vegetables was one of the best and most surprising perks of moving from Philadelphia to Oakland. A recent visit to Salinas Valley thanks to an invitation from the California Farm Water Coalition, nicknamed the Salad Bowl of the World, gave me an insider’s view of this very special benefit of California living.

Visiting the Salad Bowl of the World

It’s one thing to appreciate the delicious produce from our lovely state, it’s another thing to see exactly where it comes from. To meet the people who work so hard to ensure my family has fresh food in our home was a humbling experience from start to finish. There are so many moving pieces to bring fruits and vegetables from farm to table. From the employees harvesting produce in the field, and in some cases washing and packaging them up so that they could be taken to the market immediately, to the team in charge of technology, it was amazing to see all that goes into making a farm work.

Our first stop was Tanimura & Antle Farm where we were able to learn about new technology called Plant Tape which makes planting easier and faster. Plant Tape also cuts down on labor. That’s important since there is a labor crisis in California, especially on the farms. I was surprised at how much technology played a part in farming. It was eye-opening to understand how the founders of Tanimura & Antle found and purchased the technology, and to see it in action.

Watching the harvesters work was like seeing poetry in motion. In one swift motion, they could pick the right produce, cut it, and place it in a bag. It certainly takes skill to do that work, and we heard stories of how many folks have tried to do it, but couldn’t last even 15 minutes.  The work of harvesting is hard. It’s one of the most important jobs ever, but so many people look down on it. What I saw on those farms was dexterity, efficiency, and stamina. When I think about the humans who are responsible for getting food to all of us, I am so grateful.

Interesting note: check out the barcode on the bottom of your pack of strawberries. Each harvester has their own number, and it’s attributed to every pack of strawberries they pick. Remember, a person did that for you. 

The place where chopped salads are born

Our next stop was Taylor Farms. They are the family owned and operated company that is the maker of 1 in 3 salads consumed in the U.S. Not only do they make amazing salads, they also provide things like snack trays, cut produce, grilled chicken kits, stir-fry kits, and more. If there is produce involved, Taylor Farms probably makes it!

Visiting their facility, I was amazed at how clean everything was. There is a huge emphasis on food safety and cleanliness, even for us as guests. It’s apparent throughout that it’s a priority for everyone in the building.

The other thing that stood out was Taylor Farms’ commitment to sustainability. It’s one of their pillars along with quality, innovation, and being a trusted partner. They are diligent in reducing the amount of waste they produce, and use renewable and alternative energy to run their plants.

Big lessons learned

The biggest takeaways from my visit to Salinas Valley was more reverence for the food that I eat. When I think about how much food my family has wasted over the years, I’m sick. I can’t believe that we are so nonchalant about wasting the thing that keeps us alive.

I teared up several times on the visit. It was such a reminder of what makes this country so beautiful. Politics aside, we live in a place where there is food to eat, there are jobs, there is opportunity to grow and own and be healthy and live. I’ve taken that for granted. Between the harvesters racing up and down aisles of strawberries to increase their pay for the day, to the deliciousness of fresh from the ground snap peas and cauliflower, I was moved. And changed.

I guess it’s true what they say—fruits and veggies are good for you.