With my love of food, farming and wellness at a tipping point, I moved my company’s focus to specifically focus on serving these industries moving forward. As part of that, my team and I will be exploring different states (Washington, Oregon and California), taking part in the events that are held there, participating in education opportunities and talking with organizations and farmers firsthand.

For Valentine’s Day and to kick this off, I headed down to International Ag Expo in Tulare, California. For those of you (mostly city folk) that don’t know it, Ag Expo is the largest annual agricultural conference and exhibition in the country. The event has 1,500 exhibitors displaying cutting-edge agricultural technology, farming associations, agricultural councils, leading universities and equipment on 2.6 million square feet (for someone who specializes in trade shows, that is a lot!) of exhibit space. In terms of attendance, over 106,700 people from 49 states and 63 countries made their way to Tulare to take part in the event.

Depending on your interests and business, Ag Expo has something to offer. From learning about advancements in cattle genetics and more efficient practices for dairy productions, to learning about the agronomy and sustainable farming, to connecting with agricultural schools or female farming projects, the event is what you make it.

For me, my day was spent five ways:

  1. Connecting with groups that focused on women in farming and agriculture;
  2. Connecting with local livestock associations;
  3. Investigating agronomy and meeting with organic soil companies;
  4. Attending dog training classes (so very awesome as an owner of dogs who never want to stop working)
  5. And learning about the latest in drone technology.

Connecting Female Farmers

Online and via Instagram, the farm lives of women is one of my favorite things to follow. It started with The Female Farmer Project and Modern Farmer, but it quickly expanded into other groups and individuals. During Ag Expo, I meet with the amazing folks from FarmHer and learned about their Grow project (a one-day conference aimed at young women interested in a career in agriculture). Founded by Marji Guyler-Alaniz  in 2013, her passion project of photographing female farmers had blossomed from a blog into a product line, television show, podcast and is now a series of educational events taking place across the U.S. Given the fact that women are largely underrepresented in Agriculture, Grow by FarmHer is a must need program aimed at younger women thinking of exploring careers in farming, food or any area of Ag.

Grow By Farm Her hopes to help girls age 16-22 to choose careers in Agriculture.

The joy of connecting with professional women in farming didn’t stop with FarmHer, it quickly continued on to CWA, California Women for Agriculture. I’d been following several chapters of CWA on Facebook for awhile, always loving what they were talking about in their local regions. During Ag Expo, I got to meet with Paige, a member of the central valley chapter. The goal of CWA is to actively promote the importance of a healthy, vibrant (and I’d add diverse) agricultural industry within California, as well as ensure that we have an affordable, reliable and domestic food supply. Paige and I were kindred spirits, quickly talking through challenges on water, consumer perceptions of how animals are raised for meat, and the challenges of educating customers on organic, non-sprayed and conventional produce. In the end, she and I agreed that education on food, meat and how things come to a table has a lot of room for growth (look out for that article coming shortly after this one).

I also was able to connect with the Westlands Water District, where Diana, their PR and communications liaison, and I struck up an even deeper discussion on water and how central valley farmers were managing drip irrigation systems to manage their water use but still maintain their crops (another article on this coming soon too!).

Beef  –– It’s What For Dinner!

In 2018, consumer meat consumption hit an all time high. Even with the increase in plant-based diets and continued popularity of being vegan, Americans are eating more meat than ever. The USDA reports that the average American will eat 222.2 pounds of meat and poultry per year! Because of this, I took some time to connect with Beef Farmers & Ranchers. The project, created by the National California Beef Association and Cattlemen’s Beef Board, is doing an amazing job of increasing it’s educational efforts to teach consumers about beef’s nutritional benefits, how the body uses beef protein and teaching people how to make cost effective, diverse meals at home. What’s more, they’re also starting to contribute to the ever growing conversation on how beef is being responsibly raised and how we’re labeling and marketing beef (subscribe to their industry newsletters here).

We need to stop demonizing cattle’s impact on our environment, instead, let’s aim to better educate people about what it takes to raise cattle from start to finish.

Agronomy & Advancements in Organics –– The Science Is Brilliant

Now this is the part that took up the rest of my visit given the fact that soil, water and growth are at the root of food production. Two companies stood out during my visit, the first was HB-101 (Flora Co. Ltd.) and the second was Agro Natural Sciences. HB-101 is a plant revitalizer created by Japanese horticulturalist Yoshinari Kawase (Kawase currently works with the Portland Botanical Gardens). For over 400 years, his family had been responsible for the health of trees in their provence. Going through their handwritten records, he sought to create natural, organic revitalizers and compounds that would aid the recoveryof weak or sick trees.

After the review, he developed HB-101, which is made from Japanese cedar, pine, cypress and plantain grass. Japanese cedar, pine and cypress tree extracts are known for their antifungal and antibacterial properties; the plantain grasses are known for helping plants and trees move nutrients through their root structures, clean out old toxins and bringing new nutrients in (much like cupping does for stagnant blood in our own bodies). Overall, the compound increases the microbes found in the soil, helping trees to become healthier (you can buy it on Amazon).

With Agro Natural Sciences, I was especially impressed with their Quantum Growth product. Quantum Growth is a completely organic blend of microorganisms designed to support and enhance a plant’s growth process. The photosynthetic strains of microorganisms in Quantum Growth sequester atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide converting and storing them as sugars and proteins for the plant. They are ten times more effective at producing plant food than the plants are themselves. Because it’s not a spore forming product (thus subject to incremental weather conditions for its overall effectiveness), it’s a much more resilient product when it comes to weather (like lack of rain) and limited water supply. The photosynthetic bacteria actually help generate their own developmental environment, helping the plants if something is missing.

Worth The Trip

After covering the three areas above, I managed to also get in a few classes and seminars and learn about some of the drone technologies (which I’ll cover in a later post). Overall, the trip to Ag Expo, and driving 430 miles round trip in one day, was well worth it. If you plan on attending, book your hotels well in advance, and if you have any dietary restrictions or eat really healthy, plan on bringing your own food. Also, make sure you’re wearing waterproof boots, it’s raining in California again so it may be quite mucky.

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