Friday, March 23, 2007

Farm Field Trip in Salinas

Last Friday the June Jordan Food class took a field trip! We had a fabulous time visiting ALBA, the Agriculture and Land-based Training Association in Salinas, CA.

ALBA offers a training program in organic farming that helps limited-resource farmers and farmworkers to manage their own sustainable farm buisnesses. Very inspiring. ALBA Organics is the marketing and distrubtion arm, that sells produce through a CSA and wholesale distributor.

Our farm guide, Karina, a farmer from Peru, explained to us how the farm operates and the farming methods used. We walked on a road that forms the border between ALBA and the neighboring conventional/industrial farms.

To our left, conventional/industrial farms spread out for miles, as far as the eye could see, most of them dusty brown and empty of any crops (because it is March).
To our right, ALBA farmers' organic plots were lined with hedgerows of flowering trees and shrubs buzzing with insect life, and the fields were colorful rows with a diversity of crops, like ruffly purple lettuces, spiky green onions, and even some shiny red strawberries!
Karina showed us how ALBA uses hedgerows and interplantings (flowers planted directly in the rows among the crops) to attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and parasitic wasps that eat or kill the "bad bugs" that eat the tasty crops. The contrast was obvious - ALBA's hedgerows were the only trees or shurbs for miles in any direction. ALBA looked like an oasis surrounded by the desert of endless dusty brown conventional fields.

When our group spotted some shiny red strawberries, they went running . . . straight into the muddy rows that made some serious shoe-cleaning necessary later on. Anyway, we enjoyed the delicious fruit.

Our group visited the farm's cooler and distribution shed, where small trucks arrive to load up and take the crops to market. We ran into an old friend of Urban Sprouts, Martin Bournhonesque, who was packing up his famous arugula and other veggies to take to San Francisco's best restaurants and grocery stores (like Bi-Rite Market and NoPa Restaurant, also friends of Urban Sprouts!). Martin gave us a bag of fresh greens to eat on our sandwiches at lunch.
Our last stop was to visit the chickens, and then we got back in the car for the long trip home. It was great to get out of the city and have fun together in such a beautiful place! More pictures HERE.