Farm Food Facts

Carolyn O'Donnell, John Boyd, Get Snacking Challenge

May 14, 2019 Episode 24
Farm Food Facts
Carolyn O'Donnell, John Boyd, Get Snacking Challenge
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Carolyn O'Donnell, John Boyd, Get Snacking Challenge
May 14, 2019 Episode 24
USFRA
Show Notes Transcript

Our Thought Leader is Carolyn O’Donnell, spokesperson for the California Strawberry Commission.

The Stories You Need To Know:
• California Strawberry Commission announces “Get Snacking Challenge” Campaign
• Florida Farm builds Accessible Strawberry-Picking System
• Millennials have Specific Requirements when it Comes to Food
• Using the Right Vendors can Reduce Food Safety Risks

Today's Farmer is John W. Boyd Jr., farmer & founder of the National Black Farmers Association, featured on "American Farms" Reality TV show



Phil Lempert:
0:01
Farm, Food, Facts: where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter.
Phil Lempert:
0:10
Welcome to the Farm, Food, Facts interactive podcast presented by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance for Wednesday, May 15th, 2019. I'm your host, Phil Lempert .
Phil Lempert:
0:21
Later on in the podcast, we'll be joined by John Boyd, one of the stars from The American Farm on HISTORY. But first it's all about collaboration, as our thought leader today discusses just how important of a role health fits into the role of farmers, in particular strawberry farmers. Most supermarket produce managers don't realize that today there's over 600 varieties of strawberries, and certainly consumers don't know that fact. Strawberries can also fall under the category of superfoods as they ranked in the top 10 fruits and vegetables for antioxidant content. That delicious strawberry has also been shown in a Harvard study to reduce the risk of heart attacks in young and middle aged women who consume at least three servings a week by 32% because of its flavonoids, and that's just one of its health attributes. We're going to talk more - a lot more - about strawberries with Carolyn O'Donnell, spokesperson for the California Strawberry Commission. And then later, we head to the farm with John Boyd Jr. in Virginia, one of the farmer stars in The American Farm series on HISTORY, who shares his story.
Phil Lempert:
1:29
Carolyn oversees the California Strawberry Scholarship Program, and in the past 24 years, the program has awarded more than $2.6 million in educational financial aid, all for the children of strawberry field workers. Before that, she served as Issues and Food Safety Manager at the Commission and led the development of an illustrated field ready food safety training tool recognized with an NSF International Food Safety Award in 2010. Besides her passion for all things strawberries, she also sings with the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus and it's performed in major European cities, twice in Carnegie Hall, in Cuba, and is planning a tour to South Africa later this year. Carolyn, welcome to Farm, Food, Facts.
Carolyn:
2:16
Thank you. Feel glad to be here.
Phil Lempert:
2:17
Over 600 variety of strawberries. Seriously?
Carolyn:
2:22
Seriously. And not necessarily all of them are delicious, but they're a very unique genetic octoploid. And so that makes them very complex genetically and it allows for a lot of variation.
Phil Lempert:
2:36
So, do we stop at 600 or are there additional varieties that are being developed and if so, what are the traits that those will have?
Carolyn:
2:45
So, strawberry production is always, there's always some breeding going on and looking at refining either the look, or the flavor, or the vitality of the plant. A number of different characteristics are always in play. Probably the biggest focus right now is also disease resistance. Strawberries can be sensitive to a number of diseases and pests and plant breeders are looking for those specific traits that will help resist those diseases and pests while still producing a fruit that looks good and tastes great.
Phil Lempert:
3:18
So, let's talk about, looks for a second. You know, in the past few years, another crop- potatoes - has really evolved where we're seeing purple potatoes, and red potatoes, and all different colors. Are we ever going to see a different color strawberry?
Carolyn:
3:33
I suspect there may be some variation for the novelty. I believe there is something called a pine berry out there right now that's a more of a pale pink or almost a light yellowish color. And we'll make maybe see some of that. But what we know is consumers really love their bright red strawberries.
Phil Lempert:
3:51
Of course, especially on Valentine's Day. I mentioned how strawberries are heart-healthy. What are some of the other nutritional benefits of strawberries?
Carolyn:
4:03
Strawberries do provide a unique combination of nutrients, and fiber, and phytochemicals that really help to reduce inflammation. And we know that inflammation leads down a lot of different pathways towards disease. So cardiovascular benefits are certainly one of them. Certainly brain health is looking at, you know, we're seeing some studies find that better. And then, reduction of potentially some cancers, and knee pain, and possibly addressing some bowel inflammation issues as well.
Phil Lempert:
4:35
That's interesting. I didn't realize about brain health, because certainly brain health is one of the hottest topics that we're seeing today in the food world.
Carolyn:
4:44
Definitely, as the population ages and the baby boomers really start to get more interested about keeping sharp into their later years. They're definitely looking at ways that at, how can I eat better to help improve my brain health?
Phil Lempert:
4:57
And at the other end of the spectrum, we have parents who want all their kids to go to Stanford and Harvard and stuff like that. So, you know, we're seeing brain health, DHA and omegas for kids' foods as well. So forget all that. Just give them strawberries.
Carolyn:
5:15
Absolutely. They're low in sugar. They're actually only 50 calories per serving and they've got all kinds of great things for your body in terms of fiber and folate and potassium. And they actually have more vitamin C than an orange.
Phil Lempert:
5:30
Did not know that either. What are some of the issues that are facing the strawberry farmers these days?
Carolyn:
5:37
Well, strawberry farmers, most of the strawberry farming in this country comes in California. About 85% of the strawberries produced in the U.S. are produced here in California. So we're always working on partnerships with institutions such as Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and the University of California and U.S. Department of Agriculture to take a look at, what are the ways that we can be more efficient in producing our strawberries? So using less land, using less water, using less fertilizer, using less pesticides. And so, we're doing a lot of work around that, but we're also looking at automation. For strawberries, they're a hand-planted, hand-harvested, hand-weeded crop. And that often gets to be a challenge for some strawberry farmers to be able to find a workforce that can help with all those hand labor that happens in the field. So, we've been working on a lot of research related to automation and we've been working with, for example, the Engineering Department at Cal Poly and also working with other folks who've been kind of tinkering with different ideas out in the field to see, are there ways to automate some of these tasks?
Phil Lempert:
6:45
And also when we go in the fields, and I've never been in strawberry fields, but I have been in other crop fields, they get really hot. And there are times where it's just almost impossible for a human being to go out there and pick strawberries or other crops because it could be 115, 120 degrees.
Carolyn:
7:08
Well, we're going to have you out to a strawberry field sometime, because strawberries don't do too well when it's hot; that's the reason why you see them grown mostly in the coastal areas. In central and southern California is where the temperatures are modulated so it's not too cold at night and not too warm during the day.
Phil Lempert:
7:27
I am just learning so much from you. This is great. So talking about learning, what would you like our listeners, both supermarket retailers and the media, to know about strawberries?
Carolyn:
7:38
Well, not only what we've talked about in terms of their being delicious and nutritious and that a lot of the strawberries do come from the state of California. But we also have a very robust research program that takes the research and translate it into action in the fields. And that includes things related to food safety, and that includes things such as controlling pests by helping farmers to optimize their bug vacuums or to be able to calibrate all they're spraying equipment and things just so that they make sure that they're using everything in the field the most efficiently possible.
Phil Lempert:
8:12
And if people want more information about strawberries and the Commission, is there a website they can check out?
Carolyn:
8:19
There are two websites that they can check out. If they're really just looking for recipes and interesting videos about strawberry farming, they can go to Californiastrawberries.com. If they're a little bit more interested in the science and the research and things around strawberries, then calstrawberry.com is the place to get all the latest research about strawberry production.
Phil Lempert:
8:42
Terrific. Carolyn, thanks so much for joining us on Farm, Food, Facts. I'm looking forward to that invitation.
Carolyn:
8:48
Sounds great. Thank you.
Phil Lempert:
8:52
And now to the news:
Phil Lempert:
8:54
Talking about strawberries, the California Strawberry Commission announces their Get Snacking Challenge campaign. The commission is encouraging consumers to create, name, and share an original strawberry snack of the summer on Instagram using #GetSnackingChallenge. Every month, the winner will be selected for their best strawberries snack, along with two runner-ups, that will advance to the finals for a chance to win the grand prize of $1,000. The summer long campaign will run through August. As you just heard from Carolyn, research suggests that eating 8 strawberries a day may improve heart health, help manage diabetes, support brain health, and reduce the risk of some cancers. Snacks supply nearly one quarter of the daily calories that are consumed by Americans today. What grocers need to know is the contest goal is to create a buzz about strawberries while giving consumers different ideas about consuming the fruit as a snack. Be sure to display the contest and increase your sales.
Phil Lempert:
9:56
And while we're speaking of strawberries, here's a very heartwarming strawberry new story. Florida farm builds accessible strawberry picking system. Roger's Farm, near Gainesville, recently introduced a wheelchair accessible section to their strawberry fields. The strawberries are planted into repurposed pipes that are constructed at three different levels, the highest being about four feet. This allows people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities to pick the strawberries, when ordinarily they couldn't walk through the narrow rows or bend over to pick them from the ground. Mike Stephens, one of the owners of Roger's Farm, noticed some visitors would stay on the side of the fields while their family members went out to pick the strawberries. People with disabilities, as well as elderly people, tend to have a harder time going into the fields and they're not able to participate in the family fun. Stephens' mother came up with the idea to get the strawberries off the ground. Old Irrigation pipes from the base and offshoots of the plants from the fields were cut and planted into the pipes to grow new berries. Drip tape runs through all of the pipes, getting water and fertilizer to the plants. And, here's a hidden benefit: because the strawberries hang from the pipes and are not often sitting in rainwater, like those in the fields, Stephen's noticed that less strawberries are being damaged. What grocers need to know is a bit of thoughtfulness, empathy and creativity from the folks at Roger's Farm has opened a door for the elderly and those with disabilities, allowing them to enjoy a farm experience in a way they couldn't before. A lesson to be learned for every supermarket: perhaps it's time to rethink our store shelves.
Phil Lempert:
11:38
Next, we shifted to some news about food retail. Millennials have specific requirements when it comes to food. The millennial generation seems to be a tricky group to cater to for many businesses. At face value, millennials are good consumers of food products as they eat out on a regular basis, order take out, and cook at home just as much, if not more, than previous generations. However, they tend to have different priorities than their predecessors and established iconic brands are now suffering because of their stuffy, outdated images or ineffective branding. Millennials are significantly more educated on issues of health than their parents were at similar ages. Millennials value convenience and visiting a restaurant is not always ideal. Bringing food from any restaurant directly to one store is the perfect service to provide for millennials, as unlike previous generations they don't necessarily value that full table service one might get at a restaurant. Instead, they prefer speedy service and options to eat at home. Apps allow more of a level playing field between restaurants in which the quality of the food and the experiences is judged, rather than just the location or the decor. What grocers need to know, is that in the rush to offer grocery delivery, many supermarkets are not putting their prepared foods or to-go offerings center stage, which is a huge missed opportunity to this demographic.
Phil Lempert:
13:10
And for our final news today: Using the right vendors can reduce food safety risks. Food safety concerns are at an all time high. Using the right vendors and distributors can help supermarkets and restaurant operators protect themselves. Work with vendors that have a food safety plan in place and ask for a copy of it. Procedures should include tracking where the produce comes from, third Party audits, outbreak recall systems, food safety manuals, and supplier-distributor approval programs. There are four main reasons why it's so important: public Health, brand protection, mitigating financial loss and fostering traceability. What grocers need to know is that consumer confidence in our food system needs to improve. And one of the best ways to do that is for you to take the lead and share with your customers the level of detail that you demand from your suppliers and be sure to add your own food safety practices.
Phil Lempert:
14:06
Now let's head to the farm. Continuing our discussion with those farmers who are on The American Farm on HISTORY, today, we've got somebody who's very special here. We've got a fourth-generation farmer, John Boyd, Jr., who is also the founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association. And John, you know, when I read about you, and I've seen you on CNN, and I've seen you on TV for forever, you've met with President Clinton, you've met with President Obama, you've met with Secretaries of Agriculture. You are the ultimate farmer and the ultimate person to have as a story on The American Farm. You've also been quoted saying land ownership is a big tool and a big plus for people, but you know, being a fourth-generation farmer, you're to the point now where the farm has been in the family for about a hundred years and you're faced with a particular problem in what happens next with the farm. Tell us a little bit about that.
John Boyd, Jr.:
15:15
Yes, it is. And first of all, thank you very much for having me and for that very warm and introduction, I really do appreciate it.
Phil Lempert:
15:20
Well deserved.
John Boyd, Jr.:
15:21
Thank you, and excited to be a part of this show, The American Farm. I believe it's long overdue for national television to have a full scale, a full blown documentary series about farmers because we only get, you know, 30 seconds on radio, or 30 seconds on television. And so I think it was very good that the History Channel took a chance on this and hopefully, the American people will tune in and watch and learn more about farming. But, my next generation of farmers, and I'm a fourth-generation farmer and my dad and Granddad taught me everything that I know about farming, and I was faced with, just like you said earlier with a peculiar situation where really none of the children have shown a whole lot of interest in farming. So I'm now trying to show them the ins and outs and, you know, quite frankly, this is new territory for them. Although they watched me from all these years, they never really participated in the farm. So you're watching as, as I'm watching them for the first time, getting into tractors and stuff like that.
Phil Lempert:
16:36
Well, that must be great. So John, to your point, that consumers and viewers really don't understand: number one) where our food comes from, number two) how hard it is to be a farmer. You know, I look at the stats that are out there and most farmers would - in fact, we just did a report where those huge farms, well they're growing. The small farmers, the people, you know, who just want to play and be a country gentlemen, they're growing. But the mid-size farmers, folks like you, you've really got a lot of pressure financially. You've got to deal with weather conditions. Mother Nature has not been good to the farmer in probably the past three or four years. It's a tough job. So, for your kids to not be at the point where they say, okay Dad, yeah we're going to take it over, I can sort of understand that because this is one of the hardest jobs that there is.
John Boyd, Jr.:
17:34
Yes it is, and just like you saw, farming is the absolute hardest occupation in the world. You know, I tell people all the time, it's even hotter than construction because construction at least you finished one building, and you get a break, and you wait till the other job comes through, right? But farming is a 24 hour, day-in, day-out cycle. And for people like me, it's really no Thanksgiving or Christmas without something that we have to do on the farm, on all of those holidays as well. So it's definitely the hardest occupation in the world. The work is hard, and I tell people all the time, no matter how good the equipment is, there's always a physical labor that's required to hook it up, or take it apart, or do the ins-and-outs of that particular task with the tractor. So, it's laborsome, it's hard work, but the work is very rewarding work. You know, like today I'm up planting soybeans, and the smell, the land, and the fresh air; there's absolutely no smell like that. So I love the farm, I love what I'm doing, and hopefully, one of the kids will step up and what I call catch the farming fever. You know?
Phil Lempert:
18:51
And besides everything that you talked about, without you, I don't have food to eat. And I think people just have to understand that, you know, when you've got our farming community across the nation that is just faced with all the disasters and everything that's gone on. I mean, that's why I applaud BoBCat Studios, The American Farm; this whole thing I think is well overdue, as you said before. And I really believe that we're going to see it move away from a celebrity chef to celebrity farmers like you who can really tell the story. Now you've been on TV before, from a news standpoint; what was the experience like working on this American Farm series?
John Boyd, Jr.:
19:44
Well, the experience is quite different than, like I said, 30 seconds on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox, or something like that. The camera crew being here for just about a year with myself and my other family members. So, towards the end, we really got a feel for the camera crew and they really got a feel for us. But at the beginning, it was very new territory, you know, especially for my family who never, you know, had an experience with a camera in your face 24 hours. Even when they caught me in some bad situations where, you know, you may see me unhappy for a few minutes, but that's what it is. Your equipment breaks down, you're frustrated with the weather, you're frustrated with the prices of what you're selling the commodity for, and it's really what Americans needs to see. You know, that farming isn't easy and we do a lot of work to produce that crafts.
Phil Lempert:
20:46
Yes, certainly do. And, whatever we can do to help really promote, not only The American Farm but your efforts, that's what we do at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. So, you know, John, thanks so much for being on the program, so much for everything that you do and and hopefully, this planting season will be a good one for you.
John Boyd, Jr.:
21:13
I hope so. And I'd like to say a special thank you to BoBCat Studios for taking a chance on the Boyd family and the other families involved on this wonderful show.
Phil Lempert:
21:22
Let me ask you a question. Have all the families ever met?
John Boyd, Jr.:
21:25
No. I learned about the other families when you did, you know. When it came on I got to see the other families, and I'll be honest with you, I was quite interested in their farming operations and what it is that they do and the other family members. And I think some of the characters there are quite photogenic. So, I'm really impressed with what I see so far.
Phil Lempert:
21:46
Yeah, we have to talk to them about having a party and get all five families together. And I'll come too.
John Boyd, Jr.:
21:54
We'll have to come on your show all together. Maybe do a podcast and talk, and meet one another.
Phil Lempert:
21:57
Terrific. Well John, thanks so much for joining us on Farm, Food, Facts. Much appreciated.
John Boyd, Jr.:
22:02
Thank you for having me.
Phil Lempert:
22:04
For more information on all things food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit fooddialogues.com under the Programs and Media tab, and visit us on Facebook at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next time.
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