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The Journey to Organic: Dairy edition

1 Dec

The gray sky casted shadows into the dairy barn, sprinkled onto the floor are the expensive out of state gold organic hay. Working as a team the three women of the organic dairy, bundled in multiple layers of Carharts jackets and sweatshirts, scurry back and forth accomplishing the day’s chores before the rain soaks them to the bone.

The Organic Dairy Farm is ran by a team of Chico State students that run a herd of 85 cattle with organic and sustainable farming methods.  The local organic dairy provides for 157 families, and provides research on groundbreaking organic and sustainability methods. After its conversion from a traditional dairy in 2007, the Chico State Dairy has overcome some massive changes. Although what does the term organic really mean when dealing with dairies?

“For organic pasture, as far as the land quality and the soil quality, not using pesticides or herbicides does make the actual nutrients of the soil last longer” said Chico State Agriculture Student and Organic Dairy owner Hannah Bucher. “The soil will actually be healthier. In reality the milk quality as far as conventital organic the nutrients are basically the same. What it comes down to, on the consumer side, is a preference. But as far as the land aspect, land which is certified organic will be healthier.”

Switching to Organic

Organic agriculture is one of the fast growing facets of agriculture according to the United States Agriculture Department. The dairy segment of the Organic food sales is the second largest sector, following closest behind fruit and vegetables.

“Actually a lot of dairies have gone into organic to save their dairy” said Samantha Herd a fourth year Animal Science student who works at the Chico State Dairy. “You got milk prices at three dollars per a gallon, and you have organic milk at five. So organic milk gets a première premium, that 20 cents or whatever it ends up being can actually end up saving a dairy.”

“Why do you think I am still enrolled at college, it because we converted to organic” joked Bucher.

Bucher family converted her dairy from a conventional dairy to a organic dairy in 2007. Converting the diary dairy took her family five years to transfer the herd of 700 dairy cattle to certified organic. The Bucher family slowly convert the herd by treating the land as organic, and only using abiotic that stemmed from natural ingredients and where approved by the Organics board.

“It really depends on your property” said Herd as she explained the different ways of converting dairies. Chico State’s Dairy sat dormant for three years as they “sold off all their cows, built up their soil, took those years to get certified organic, got a herd donated, and then transition that herd into a organic all at once.”

Just cause your organic doesn’t mean your sustainable.

However despite the “more paperwork then you can imagine” and numerous inspection Bucher states that the hardest thing was finding feed that suited organic standards.

“We were getting corn or almond hulls, which we had to get some organic matter from Argentina” explain Bucher. “And we had to get hay from Nevada, and the carbon foot print of that truck hauling it from Nevada to here was ridiculous.”


(Organic Calf at Chico State Dairy)

Because the farms have to have feed that is certified organic they often have import foodstuff from other states because of the lack of organic food that is availed in the local area. Chico State usually imports their hay from a family that lives in Oregon, but because of the drought (which limited amount of foodstuff that farmers in California was able to grow and created a shortage) they had to import form Ohio.

However Herd was quick to point out that there was ways to make up for having to truck feed across the country such as irrigating with solar pumps, and reusing manure as fertilizer in the fields. “So its saying that they are not sustainable at all” said Herd. “its just saying that they are less sustainable then they could be if they had these open markets of having the hay closer. “

“When people ask “why are you getting from all the way over there” its because we have no choice, we have to feed our animals” said Bucher. “Farmers will do anything for their animals, and sometimes it not the sustainable choice. But you got to do what you got to do.”

*edited December 1st because of typo’s


Traveling home

30 Nov

It was weird going back to my home town, this place where I had spent 18 plus years of my life, and seeing it through different eyes.

Now I was the tourist, the person who drove in just to see the holiday parade. (Which was fantastic by the way, there was a group that motorized their recliners!) To see friends, hang out at the local water hole. It was strange, going back to Hanford, attending these events I saw that while it was nice to reminisce this part of my life was over. And it was time for new adventures to begin.

Emerging into adulthood is a interesting transition, and it comes with its peaks and pits. Now, as I am about to graduate from CSU Chico its time I decided what I am going to do with my life. The dream is to work for a agriculture company promoting local food, or better yet just being able to promote farming in general. The good news is that I’m young, and the bulk of my journey (hopefully) is still in front of me.

So while it was nice to go and see some old friends and appreciate where I come from its exciting to see the adventure ahead.

Stay warm,


Do we really need a high speed rail?

27 Nov

Growing up in the Central Valley (California to be exalt) we have always valued the farm land that was spread around our small town. However about 10 years ago (roughly) there was a proposition for a high speed rail, basically just a really fast train, which at first would run in between Fresno and Bakersfield. However the grand idea would that connect two major metropolitan cites, San Francisco and L.A., and would provide more job opportunities.

However well the initial intentions of the High Speed Rail (HSR) might of been, it wasn’t clearly thought out. And here is some of my bigger issues with the train:

  • The majority of the audience, aka the Central California residents, weren’t in favor of the train.
  • The route of HSR keeps changing, and there still isn’t a definitive route
  • The current plan of HSR calls for constructing to go through nearly 400 homes and the relocation of almost 400 “commercial or industrial businesses
  • The overall cost of the train is 68 billion
  • A planned hit in agriculture revenue of about 34 million, and a lost of 340 job from production farming
  • there will be a permeant loss of 3,500 acres of “important” farmland
  • In addition to 1600 acres “temporally disrupted” during the building of the HSR

The major thing is that no one thought to educate individuals about the HSR, instead of talking to people about the trail officials just announced how they expected things to be done. If they had taken the time to educate people and make informed decisions about planning maybe we wouldn’t have the current PR nightmare on our hands. Officials rushed to proclaimed the benefits of the HSR, although with current financial trouble can we afford to finance another project?

Right now we are in one of the biggest droughts in California, but instead of addressing that issue Californians are caught up with the idea of a train. I don’t debate that the HSR could of been a great tool for California, but with the physical and political climate is now the right time to be pushing for a train? The facts are that we don’t need a fancy train, but we will always need “important” agriculture land.

Have a good thanksgiving,


Photogenic Tuesday: The Journey Down South

26 Nov

Waking up this morning at three a.m. I struggled to gather my various pieces of luggage so that I could make it to the train station in time. Dashing to the station I arrived to find that the train had already pulled across the road blocking access to the train station, leaving me with two options: 1) Knock on the wrong side of the train to hope they let me on or 2) Drive to Sacramento. Being the stubborn person that I am, and much to the conductors cringe, I knocked on the window and received a lecture about not being there on time and how to enter a train the proper way.


Now life is a adventure, as I sat on this train ride to through Bakersfield I passed through a number of larger agriculture towns. Slowly the green fields of agriculture transformed into bare patches of dirt, as signs of the drought emerged.


California is now in the middle of a record drought, and now many farmer are facing the challenges of not having enough water. And many others are choosing to leave their land barren rather then letting their crops die from dehydration.

Things are tough for California Farmers, and its going to be tough for a while to come.

Have a good night everyone,


Break with a side of the Common Cold

25 Nov

Finally able to enjoy more then 8 hours of sleep my body settled into a relaxing rhythm, finally taking proper care of my body for the first time all semester my body had a little melt down.

Just when I gave my body a little rest apparently thats when I gave the cold virus the opportunity to take over. Waking up off and on through out the day is medicating with soup and orange juice I am constantly reminded how lucky that I am to have fresh produce.

Not only does my roommate get fresh oranges, but she gets the best local soup delivered to my door. The variety and abidance of California agriculture is present in almost all of my daily activities such as making coffee to pulling on my sweatshirts to go and muck stalls.

So yes as I start to suffer the sniffles I thought I would compile my own list of what helps me get over a cold in a hurry:

  • Airborne (Start taking this when everyone getting sick)
  • Tea (hot and cold, both kinds are relaxing and feel good on a sore throat)
  • Orange Juice (usually when I am sick I have galloons of the local stuff on stand by)
  • Soup (preferably not Top Ramon, but yeah I am a college student and making Top Ramon is surprising hard to mess up)
  • Reflexology (In the theory that every part of your body is connected in your hands and foot, massaging your feet with vapor rub is actually soothing and increases my recovery ten fold)

Well,thats all for now guys. I am going back to cuddling with my night quill and tissue box before I ride the train to Bakersfield.

Stay well,


Miniature Donkeys

24 Nov

Occasionally I do odd work such as raking leaves or washing trucks that fits around my busy schedule.

Today I got the opportunity to work with miniature donkeys, which are becoming one of my favorite animals. Miniature Donkeys, not to be confused with another miniature (the horse, which are horrible mean creatures) are incredibly friendly and intelligent. In my pervious job I help trained a donkey which was highly skilled cart pulling (which doesn’t sound that complicated, but between voice commands and different types of cart pulling it got complex rather fast.  Donkey Odin also was a strong bugger he could pull up to six grown men in cart, not that we ever tested but that was the rumor)

SEA_5888In addition to being creatures of burden donkeys are also skilled at:

  • Companion animals
  • Driving (aka cart pulling)
  • Riding (small children only)
  • Agility 
  • Random Tricks
  • Showmanship
  • Therapeutic

Have a lovely night every one!


The Chaotic Mess

23 Nov

Clothes scattered around the floor, papers (that are really important) thrown haphazardly around my room. The room is dark, as the power up and down the street is still out.

Surveying my room I realized that things have gotten way out of control this semester. Caught up in the magic of senior year I took on a multitude of tasks and got overwhelmed, emergencies became the norm as every week I slowly became more stressed and frantic.

But looking back at all the opportunities and people that I have met I wouldn’t have it any other way. Yes, there were the sleepless nights up writing and planning, the last minute crafting, stressing out about jobs, and the general disasters that arose each week.

I kind of forgot of about the everyday things that I needed to do to take care of myself. That’s why I am really looking forward to this break, I need time to recharge. Maybe it is time to do some laundry, and throw out somethings that I don’t need anymore. Because in the end it would be really nice to see the floor again. In addition it would be great to be able to navigate my room to grab my laptop in case of another blackout.

Have a great weekend everyone,


The California drought: a short video

22 Nov

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Especially if you brought your horse to one of these lakes.

The California Drought isn’t a joke, in fact its one of the largest drought in California’s two hundred year history. Right now conditions have “slightly” improved. However, that doesn’t mean Californians should let up on the water conservation there is still a lot of work and water needed to return the state to normal.

Like I mention before that there is a lot of things that we should still be doing to conserve water for example like not watering your lawn when its raining (saw that yesterday when I was running) or fixing leaky faucets.

The following is a video I made for a class, yet still thought it was applicable to this conversation. Sorry for the shaky video, and the general B rate PSA footage IN the terms of the class project I had to make and edit everything on a camera phone .

Have a great weekend guys,


Marketing with Morrison

21 Nov

So I know the past couple of days I have been alluding the Marketing and Social Media presentation that was presented with the North Valley Food Hub, and now I have finally had the time (and the notes) to do this piece justice.

R. Brent Morrison (From Morrison and Company) describes marketing as

  • is how to create,communicate and delve something that is of value to someone
  • the foundation of knowing your consumers are, what your consumers need and what they are willing to pay for it
  • is producing what you can sell vs. selling what you can produce

Morrison was kind enough to break down the different types of the market situations.

  • Brokers/Packers: They buy harvest commodities, and then marketing like commodities on a pooling basis
  • Value Added: Is when they a business buy a product like tomatoes and then make it into salsa,or example Top of the ‘Morn Dairy. Some Advantages to this marketing system is that there is more price stability, and have there is the potential for more profit.
  • Direct Market: Selling directly to consumers. Some models of are farming tourism and tasting rooms. Advantages lie in higher margins and non farming opportunities, although on the flip side its a completely different business from agriculture and can lead to higher costs.

This was just a basic overview of different aspects of farming and how they apply in agriculture.

I hope that everyone is having a good week,


Rain and Storms, with a little bit of Frozen

20 Nov

So I know I proposed that I would talk about research market, however life works in mysterious ways. Tonight my power went out at my house after a aggressive rain storm. (Question: What do Californians get excited about? Answer: Rain and pumpkin coffee!)  I had to flee my house for the warmth of a friends (and internet access), and ended up leaving all my notes at home.

Therefore I decided to switch todays topic to a matter which I am very concerned about: Christmas Spirt. Shopping at Jo-Anns today I fell into a whirlwind of glitter, christmas ornaments, and massive to do lists. Suckered into the Christmas section, which is so cleverly displayed, I began to wonder if this is all Christmas is about?

Throughout the rows of sparkly ribbon and 50% off pink stockings that read “My First Christmas” (which I seriously considered buying for my roommate) were Frozen merchandise. Let me be clear, I like Frozen probably more then I should. (I mean “youwwhooo summer blowout sale” is a classic) However when did Christmas become so integrated with sale pitches and figuring out were to place merchandise so that it will sale effectively. To be honest Frozen has nothing to do with Christmas, in fact looking around a lot of the stuff on the shelfs had nothing to do with the season at all.

This is currently my roommates first Christmas celebration, as a exchange student from Sir Lanka she has never experienced the bonding rituals of decorating the tree, baking cookies (or burning them), or watching old Christmas specials on T.V. I want to make this a experience she won’t forget, a chance to spend time with our funky makeshift family and find some joy in the pouring rain.

Okay rant over, I promise tomorrow that I will try to have the market research post up and running. And I swear I am so happy about the rain,although once I get my coffee things will be better.

Have a nice night,