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California + A Conversation About Our Food

Friends, I wish you could come over to my house, knock on the door (the doorbell doesn’t work!), kick off your shoes, and plop yourself down at our dining room table. We could chat while the tea kettle whistles and the smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies fills the air. (They’ll be irresponsibly under-baked. I hope you don’t mind). I want to talk about your favorite TV show and how you met the love of your life and the stuff that stirs your soul—the things that make you feel alive.

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And then I want to tell you about California. I want to tell you about the farmers and scientists, the plant managers and graduate students. I want to make it live in your mind, like you shook their hands, witnessed their passion, heard their stories. I want to have a conversation, and I want so badly for it to be around the table. A table like this:

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I wish we could raise our glasses and let tomato juice dribble down our faces while we heartedly proclaim that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than an August tomato.

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But I haven’t yet become independently wealthy (one of these days), and plane tickets these days are getting a little extravagant. So I’ll have to ask you to pretend with me. Grab a cuppa something warm and comforting, pull up a chair, and let’s chat over some (pictures) of pasta.

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If you follow me on Instagram, you probably caught bits and pieces of my whirlwind trip to California in July. Most of what you saw was food (really, really good food) and wine (really, really good wine). It’s rare that we bloggers get to spend time hanging out in person, so this was a special treat. I felt so blessed to be clinking glasses with these lovely ladies.

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But this trip was about much more than just eating and drinking. My fellow bloggers and I went to California to learn. We went to talk to the experts in food production, the ones who are pioneering the industry, conducting the research, and developing food for the future (or our wine glasses).

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There are a lot of buzzwords in the food world right now: Non-GMO, hormone free, natural, organic, sustainably raised. If the packaging on our foods is any indication, we have a lot to be worried about, and even more to be confused about.

It’s so difficult to know how to prioritize our food consumption. Each day, we receive a barrage of mixed messages. Is wheat the big bad wolf? Can GMOs really make me grow an extra thumb? And what about those sneaky pesticides? Is that apple actually slowly killing me? When we’re bombarded with so much information from so many different sources, it’s difficult to know who to trust. It can even be tempting to throw in the towel and live on a diet of lettuce sprouts grown in a sterile glass mason jar for the rest of your life.

But these questions don’t have to paralyze us. If there’s one thing I learned from this trip, it’s that questions are good. They move us to pursue answers. Research. Discover. BUT (and this is a big but), it’s important to be critical about where we research.

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That’s where Best Food Facts comes in. Best Food Facts is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing you unbiased information about food production, preparation, and consumption. They work with a team of experts across the U.S. to answer food-related questions with the most-up-to-date scientific research on the issue.

What I love about this organization is that they aren’t proponents of any certain way of eating. They don’t advocate for organic vs. conventional, tell you you should go Paleo, or use scare tactics to make you afraid of your food. Instead, they present the facts in a clear and easy to understand way and allow the consumer to make the educated choice that is best for their family.

One thing I learned from our trip is that every part of food production is connected to people. There are real humans, with feelings and opinions, behind every piece of produce that comes to our grocery stores. There are passionate scientists working each day to develop crops to help feed the populations of third world countries. There are women who sort tomatoes, third generation farmers who plan the rotation and precise planting of crops, and faithful individuals who devote their lives to planting, nurturing, and harvesting some of the best fruit I’ve ever eaten.

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At the end of the day, when we make choices about our food, we’re really making choices about people. We’re making choices for the health of our families, yes, but our choices also affect the greater population–the workers who harvest the tomatoes, the farmers who plan the crop, the companies who bring it to market, and our neighbors who may (or may not) enjoy the same access to fresh, quality produce that we do. There is so much that goes into every bite we consume, it’s worth taking the time to do your research and feel confident you’re making the right choice for you and your family.

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I would encourage you to check out Best Food Facts, send them any burning questions you have about food and food production, and take the time to check out the many articles they’ve already assembled on their website. As one of our nutrition experts told us, “the more you know, the more you can eat.” I think you’ll find the more you get to know your food, the less you’ll have to fear, and the more you’ll be able to enjoy it.

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  • gloria September 7, 2014, 12:15 PM

    what a wonderful blog. i live in california this article was great infor thanks! the pic of the grapes made just want to eat them ofthe vine.. 🙂

  • Bethany September 8, 2014, 10:11 AM

    What a beautiful blog post! I loved reliving our trip through this post! – Bethany

  • littleredkitchen September 8, 2014, 12:42 PM

    This sounds like such an amazing and informative trip! I’m always looking at where my food comes from and it’s impact on me and the environment. I can only imagine what you learned (and how good it tasted, there is something special about the food in California!)

  • Nancy September 8, 2014, 12:55 PM

    I love that there’s one site that gathers up all the important food information. There’s so much out there, it’s hard to know what’s true, accurate, what to believe, etc. And what an amazing opportunity you had! I’m sure you learned a lot and ate a ton of delicious fresh, local food!

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood September 8, 2014, 1:00 PM

      I agree. It’s so confusing when there’s a new article every other week talking about something else that will kill you. I like having a single source where I can fact check and hear actual expert’s opinions.

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