Traveling & Seeing Farms Q&A (Podcast Transcript for Grounded by the Farm episode 205)

May 5, 2021

Grounded by the Farm episode 205 Traveling & Seeing Farms Q&A

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Deb Brown, Georgia, Katana, Grounded by the Farm, Brandon Wilson, Liz Tagami, Corey


Grounded by the Farm  00:02

Food is more than just what’s on our plate. It’s the places where it’s grown. It’s the people who grow it and so much more. Join me, Janice person, your host on Grounded by the Farm every other week as we talk about the foods we love.


Grounded by the Farm  00:17

Well, when we started doing international interviews, I knew I was taking a chance. We’ve tried to line them up early and often. And recently, I decided to take a little vacation time. And in that time period, we kind of wore through the padding of interviews that we might have. And coming back from that we hit a few different stumbling blocks. But I wanted to stay on schedule.


Grounded by the Farm  00:49

And so last week, I asked on our social media channels, who had questions, what questions you would like to ask. And now I’m going to be on the other end of that q&a, you guys are sort of interviewing me. Hopefully, by the time all of this publishes, we will have an interview with a Ugandan fish farmer in the can. I’m so excited about that. We have so many other interviews on the way. Hopefully, this will be a one time affair. However, if you guys would like to leave voicemail for us, tell us what you’re thinking about this show. That number is 989-303-8489.


Grounded by the Farm  01:34

Let’s go on with the episode. As a way of background, I’d like to tell you, I am an avid traveler. I truly love travel. And part of the reason we started doing international interviews was we weren’t able to travel much anyway. And this was a perfectly good excuse to travel just by means of talking to people overseas. So you know, I actually designed my entire Master’s work around taking my first truly international trip. And that was a trip to Russia to work on my thesis. I love travel so much that my nieces and nephews each when they turn 16 get to choose a place where we go together. In that post a video asked what questions you guys have. And we’re going to start off with one from somebody who caught us on Instagram and on clubhouse.


Liz Tagami  02:33

Hi, Janice. This is Liz Tagami, the merchant adventurer, your buddy on Instagram and clubhouse. I saw your post today and love that you’re somebody who can travel and visit farms and farmers in the United States and around the world. Here are some of the questions I have for you.


Liz Tagami  02:57

There is a tremendous dried fruit business coming out of Turkey. Have you ever been there?


Liz Tagami  03:02

We enjoy tea very much in the US. Have you been to tea plantations in Japan, China or India? Whether a Sonam or salon we know as Sri Lanka, teas from those regions are very popular.


Liz Tagami  03:16

There’s real beauty in seeing rice grown in tropical areas. Have you seen the terrorist rice paddies in the Philippines or Bali? I enjoy your posts very much. Thank you for considering these and taking us with you on your travels around the world.


Grounded by the Farm  03:33

Oh my goodness, does Liz have a way of asking questions that makes you want to travel? She certainly does me. And I’m going to break it into three separate questions here. The first one she asked was about dried fruit and Turkey and whether I had been there. Let me say I’ve been to Turkey a few times. I’ve been very lucky. One of my closest friends in the world is Turkish. And I’ve had chances to go there while he was living in Turkey. I have been back visited his family as well as traveled independently. A lot of time there. But the first time I went to Turkey, I was there a little over two weeks, flew into a city called Izmir which is on the A gn coast. And we basically toured the Aegean and the Mediterranean coastlines, all the way down next to Syria. Now, in that time, dried fruit did come into play. We were there during fig season. And I know that’s the season a lot of people haven’t had some exposure to but I grew up my grandmother had fig trees and my mom made fig preserves. We love figs. And so for me, I can’t help but remember we were drawing between cities in an area that looked pretty much desert, very bear some slight raises and elevation and things, but not much foliage to speak of not many businesses or anything, but we would come around that curve where two roads meet. And next that you know, there would be somebody there along the side with just an umbrella and some of their produce usually what the tractor maybe with an animal that had brought them there and a cart. I don’t know how many times we had to stop and buy figs, both fresh and dried ones. We also had more than plenty of apricot, dried apricot, some people I know in the Silicon Valley, do apricots and cherries. I don’t know if anybody ever there was a place in Sunnyvale on El Camino reality. They were also in her family had Olsen’s cherries they had a market right there in Sunnyvale and I had the chance to go by and visit her as well as her family got the same feeling of love and excitement about dried fruit, but not with the same mysterious location as being in the middle of nowhere Turkey. I did not eat a lot of the raisins. I’m going to confess they have a lot of raisins there. I’m not a raisin girl. I think that’s why I have trust issues. But I do love. I do love some of the dried apricot some of the dried figs. And I gotta tell you those dried cherries I had when I was with I bought them from the Olson’s I look and they still have their website up and everything they have sold their market, I think but their farm is right there in Sunnyvale. It’s a beautiful area. And last time I was out there just a couple of years ago, they also had an educational area where it was a bit like a park and they had some great boards up that you could see anytime a day. Check that out if you’re ever in the Silicon Valley. Okay, that’s the first one on the dried fruit. And now I’m going to replay the next part so I make sure I remember it.


Liz Tagami  07:06

We enjoy tea very much in the US. Have you been to tea plantations in Japan, China or India, whether Asana or salon we know as Sri Lanka, teas from those regions are very popular.


Grounded by the Farm  07:21

Oh yeah, tea plantations. Sadly, Liz, going to a tea plantation in Asia is still on my bucket list. I have a huge tea person. I don’t even drink coffee Not at all. And some time ago, I thought I was going to be able to go to one. I was visiting friends in Malaysia during the season of Ramadan. And I delfy trick, and I thought maybe we would get to go to one there’s there’s a few right around the Kuala Lumpur area where I was visiting some friends. However, we got so caught up in some of the festivities and festivals and all those kinds of things. I didn’t miss it. But it is still on my to do list. I have however, been to one tea plantation. It is not an Asia. It’s actually the only one I think in the US. And that’s near Charleston, South Carolina. I’m going to have to remind myself the name of it. But it was a really neat opportunity to go and see how tea is grown. I bought more than my fair share of tea there. And I’ve actually been back since my first time so loved left tea loved the tea plantations, but I would like to see it on large scale. The environment around Charleston is not at all like what you see in the Asian teas and stuff. So many of those are grown on the side of hillsides and things like that, but I still have that one to check off my list. Alright, so


Liz Tagami  09:06

next up from Liz. There’s real beauty in seeing rice grown in tropical areas. Have you seen the terrorist rice paddies in the Philippines or Bali?


Grounded by the Farm  09:17

I love this question. The rice terraces are probably one of the most. For me compelling images I’ve ever seen from National Geographic. I’m going to put a couple of pictures on the website Grounded by the Farm calm because although I have not been able to go my niece, Corey who actually asked the question on the show, you’ll hear from her later, and her husband Josh, were able to help some of his family plant rice when they went back to the Philippines just before they got married. And his family is from an area where they do the terracing. So she knows it’s Really backbreaking work. It’s part of those fields that are all manual labor. And she was able to do that and visit with the family. I have gotten to see rice farmed in Japan. And maybe I’ll talk about that a little bit more later, but it’s more like rice paddies. So it’s very flat fields. You don’t have to do the terracing, there are smaller rice fields than a lot in the US. We talked about rice a good bit when we talked to Matthew Sliger. Last summer, but there’s a good bit going on in that rice space. And I actually went to a rice Museum in Malaysia to my family, I think we discussed on that my family loves rice, and we eat a lot of it. So I’ve enjoyed seeing rice grown in several countries also sided India now that I’m thinking about it, where my friend a geek is from in Kerala, they grow a lot of rice. So I was able to do that. So now we’re gonna move on to the next question.


Corey  10:59

Hey, this is Corey in Asheville, North Carolina. And I was just wondering, what is the most surprising farming business that you’ve seen in your travels, and whether it be something in the United States or somewhere else that you’ve been to, you know, a lot of the traditional ways of farming that were used before there was a lot of machinery, or one of the coolest machines you’ve seen, you don’t want to try and figure out something that might be the most shocking thing that you’ve seen in the different ways of farming you’ve seen across the world. Right.


Grounded by the Farm  11:33

Alright, so that’s my niece. I was telling you about Corey in Asheville, among the most surprising or shocking I want to say, it’s how farmers integrate both the old world and new technology at the same time at the same, you know, without skipping a heartbeat. And where I really saw that a lot was in places like India, and I would say, seeing water buffalo out in the fields, actually working animals in the fields because they don’t have tractors. I, I found myself thinking about National Geographic type photography and scenes. However, you know, some of the time I was walking around the field with my dear friend Geeta, to go see her great aunt who lived on the other side of some rice fields, across the the small village they were in. And at the same time, you would see a farmer doing that you would see them pull out their mobile phone. And a lot of times, they’re getting news and information about various pests. So if you have an insect, that’s a problem or something like that, you may be using a water bath buffalo in the field, but then also using your phone to get the latest information about what to do about the pest. And that is really challenging for my mind. Because for me in so many ways, I think of traditional ways of farming, like I’ve seen in the US is like in the Amish country of state like Pennsylvania, I’ve seen it in several places, there are various communities that have differing levels of technologies. But I can remember seeing a swatter that was cutting and turning hay on the back of a horse drawn carriage. And it was something unlike I had ever seen when I was in Pennsylvania, but those people don’t also then have cell phones and things. So that contrast of such modern technology, and such traditional kinds of ways of doing things is really dramatic. And I would say not only in India, but at least from what I hear from friends and farmers in areas of Africa that may also be pretty similar in some of those places. A lot of times some of that traditional farming methodologies. Is it often more like subsistence farming, instead of farming that then goes to markets. And so a lot of times that’s connected to poverty, which is kind of hard for me to see. But in some places like Japan, I’ve actually seen where it’s not connected to poverty, which was very interesting. And, and here in the US, you actually have people doing really high tech things along with things they learned from the great grandparents. But in Japan, one of the things I saw and you’d mentioned like a coolest machine or something and that question times, my first time in Japan, my sister was living there and we went out to visit a rice farm. So I could write an article for a magazine. And when we did that they were planting rice. And they actually transplant rice. And I think I talked about this with Matthew. But they had something that looked a lot like our four wheelers, or golf carts or whatever. And on the back of it, it just had these trays of little rice plants, and they were going right into the field. Right into water, everything was ready to go. It was amazing. But it was a very small field. I also talked to a farmer who farmed a little bit more area, larger farms. And years later, when I went back to Japan to visit family again, we were able to go back and visit one of the farmers who spoke a little bit of English, and were able to see his home and meet his family and all those kinds of pieces. And when we were out at the barn, where he had some things going on, I realized they hand cut, or they cut all the rice straw. And then they bundle it. And the grandma at the time was hanging up all of the bundles in the barn to be able to feed them later to livestock.


Grounded by the Farm  16:20

And it was a wooden barn, it just felt very much like the traditional side of things. However, you know, we were also driving Toyota cars and tractors and things like that. So it’s a little bit of a multi technology and traditional things. And part of what made that feel so familiar at the same time, was as this woman was doing some of that work. Her great grandchild was playing and entertaining us to death. She was a beautiful little girl, she’s, she’s now well.


Grounded by the Farm  16:54

She’s now well into adulthood, but at the time she was she was just playing probably two, three, maybe four. And, and that multi generational connection is something that you just always see in farming, it seems. Alright, so next step.


Georgia  17:12

Hi, this is Georgia from Boston. I can’t even say that without love. And obviously, I’m from North Carolina, the South anyway. My question is, in your travels abroad, have you been to a farm that produces the same product or produce or whatever as, as farms here in the US? And if so what was like a major difference that stands out to you? And if so, do you also think that there are there’s a lot of sharing of we do it this way? versus we do it that way? And I would imagine in certain parts of the world, there’s less automation than other areas or, you know, less big machinery? And what’s the ability of how productive they can be one versus the other, with or without a belt? Hey, Georgia,


Grounded by the Farm  18:15

I really appreciate the question. And I think I answered part of your question, as I talked through some of the mechanization and some of those other elements involving rice a little bit earlier. But one of the crops I’ve seen the most between both the US and abroad, is the crop that I worked the most, and that I’ve been the most involved with. That would be cotton. I’m a southern girl, too, you know. So I’ve been able to go to cotton farms in Turkey, India, Israel. So actually, it’s it’s funny, but you know, you end up seeing it in a lot of different places. I’ve even seen it in Hawaii, but across the US. And because of the kinds of jobs I had, for a long time, I was the communications person for a cotton Seed Company. With that I got to help host people from the cotton farming world from all over. And I have found so many similarities and so many differences both that I thought I just talked through a few of those. One of the big things that farmers are always thinking about is irrigating their crops, how to get their crops to grow, things like that. And so frequently you will find farmers asking how we’re doing it in the US or Australia has had a lot of issues with drought. So they may be a little bit ahead on some technologies now and then some other crops actually have come ahead and done things a little bit differently. So learning about that is something that is current When you’re around farmers, they’re always asking each other questions about how do you do this? How do you do that? Here’s what I found works for me. Some of the differences are really, based on the kind of labor and machinery people have, I can tell you that friends who went to China, quite often, were amazed at the number of people that work in the fields, they actually have people that will take off the vegetative branches at a certain point in the crop, so that all the energy of the plant is focused on the cotton bowls and how to make those better. In the US, we just could never do that. Also in the same in Australia, where you’re talking bigger fields, bigger farms, fewer people, I’ve actually pulled worms or something off of my tomato plants in my backyard. But it would really be hard to do that across large numbers of acres with small labor force that we have in the US when it comes to that those kind of pieces have been different. One thing that we see here in the US sometimes is on like berry farms and things, they may put out a plastic to kind of warm up the beds, said that the plants get started growing earlier, because people like me want their strawberries as soon as we can get them. And they actually do that with cotton in a country like Spain, I’ve never seen it here in the US. But in Spain, it was really helped. Because what you want to do there is really warm up the soil, make sure that it’s in the right environment for the kinds of plants that you’re growing. And I guess in some areas of Spain, they have soils that might typically be cooler, maybe not get as much sun. So they do that to kind of encourage the plants to get a good start and encourage the soils to warm up. Those are really cool. But I’ll tell you, you also find really big differences between two areas of one country, how cotton has grown in the US Pao cotton is grown in Georgia and California, those places are so different, the way they’re grown is so different. Same thing happens in Turkey, I remember when I was there on my first trip, seeing children who were out of school for months on end hand picking cotton in one area of the country. And in another area of the country at not only did they have machine pickers, but there were women who actually were running one of the farms. And so you know, as part of it is the societal differences. Part of it is the mechanization. And do you have the infrastructure and financial wherewithal to do that those are pieces around some of those contrasts that I’ve seen, and kind of similarities to the other piece you asked about was programs to encourage that exchange of ideas. And you can tell even just the way I was discussing sort of what I did when I worked for that cottonseed company, there are a lot of programs that do that. Some of those are through governments. I know at different times we helped host through USA ID is a program in the US that encourages some of these kinds of connections. And we had people coming in from Egypt, from Burkina Faso from Mali, and Benin, is actually a group of a multiple in that area of Africa all came together and brought their finance, agriculture, societal development, all of their kind of cabinet members. So it was really high level. Sometimes it would be farmers that were brought in. That may also happen. Companies sometimes sponsor those types of things. But we also see a lot of associations. In the US. A good example is the National cotton Council. And we actually in the US have programs to take people from Georgia out to California or from Texas, up to Virginia, those kinds of things just to get some of that conversation going on here that may be specific to the crop or livestock or something that the farmers are producing. And it may cross all of those things to those educational programs frequently aimed at younger farmers at smaller farmers, people who may be considering making a change and what they’re producing on their farm, those kinds of pieces. But actually, those kind of programs is how I got to go to Germany. I knew a couple of farmers from Germany and when they came to the US for a program, I went and met them. You may remember that episode with Marcus who is a pig farmer we interviewed just a couple months ago. Well, I actually was able to go over and be in Germany to meet with some of the others. And that program was all around sort of connecting with consumers and connecting to the general public and helping people understand agriculture and farming a little bit more. I hope that helps and answers your question.


Deb Brown  25:17

Hi, Jan, this is Deb Brown, and you know me from save your town. I’ve worked with rural communities, and I’m curious of the places that you’ve traveled, what kind of crops are people growing, that they then turn around and eat? And do you have any recipes? Saying, bye now?


Grounded by the Farm  25:38

Hey, Deb. Thanks so much for that question. Yeah, it’s interesting in India, is one of the places that immediately comes to mind there as people harvested their rice in that area. And also in the Philippines. When I saw rice and some other crops, a lot of times they’re looking at how much do we hold aside for our family, and then how much is available for us to sell to the market. And that’s especially important in places with poverty, where people are not sure that they’re going to have sort of the hard cash to be able to go and buy the food that they want when they want it. So they grow staples that they can keep on hand, I’d say corn, cassava, rice, all those kinds of things come in. But usually what they want to do is be able to have enough of that crap that they can also sell it in most places, a lot of times they’re looking for income that could pay for their children to go to school, pay for health care, maybe build a home that seals pest outside. You know, in some places, you have a lot of those. But I can say as far as things that turn around and eat. I have a long list. So I can remember, on the coast in Turkey, sitting down to a restaurant that had fish and we were right there. But the water at our feet pretty much we were out on a floating platform. And I the Turkish tradition is lots of small plates. And so we had lots of little appetizers, salads, all those kinds of things on the table. And there was some cheese that was unbelievable. So I was trying to, you know, trying to figure out what the sheep or goat or what was it. The gentleman didn’t speak a lot of English, but he ultimately just pointed to the goat and said it was fresh. So that’s when that really comes to mind. I also visited friends in Malaysia that I didn’t realize were farming and they were growing dragon fruit but I’d had some dragon fruit but nothing like this. And it has a deep purple flesh and it was amazing. In Italy, I’ve been to some agriturismo kind of places where they not only we saw grapes, but they make it into wine and serve it at their restaurant. In the Philippines. I went to a vegetable field day and we had sweet corn and they cut them into like one to two inch pieces so we could try lots of different sweet corns that they had and sort of vote on which ones we alight. And then in Germany, I went to a great fruit farm and they were selling jams and jellies and meats and all that kind of stuff. And I think by now you know in the US we have a lot of that I have so much honey that when my niece helped me with my pantry trying to clean it out and purge some things we found so much honey that now I would probably be considered a honey hoarder. So we’ve we’ve talked about people like Brandon wet that that you pick strawberries as well as other things. And the jacket Nazis have their almond business and things like that. Alright, so what’s next?


Katana  28:57

Hey, Janice, as soon as Katana in western Missouri, and the question I have for you is in the US it can be kind of hard for young farmers or people who want to get into agriculture, to get the land and the equipment and and kind of get into farming. Is it easier in other countries? Is there a an easier point of entry? And what’s that process like for new farmers outside of the US? Thanks so much by


Grounded by the Farm  29:23

Katana…. That’s a good question. I’m gonna hedge my bets a little bit. And I’ll say in some parts of the world, it’s much easier to get into farming, especially in in some areas of Africa or South America. Even in India, part of it is in the US. You would have to make such a significant amazing amount of money to be able to buy land and equipment and all those kinds of pieces. In a lot of the world. land prices are still not where they are in the US and they don’t have the mechanization and stuff. And so I’ve actually talked to several farmers who were able to be the first to their family to start farming. Of course, outside the US, you have lots of people who are also farming as a family tradition, I think Marcus was seven generations or something. But I think you’re seeing a little bit more of it, where maybe somebody in their 20s and 30s makes money, and then is able to go back. And if we able to talk to the Ugandan fish farmer, you will find that part of the pieces is he invested in agriculture after making a bit of money somewhere else, and we’re still quite young when he did it. I think it’s easier in some places. But I would suggest that in places like Australia, and Europe, any of the truly developed agricultural nations, it’s a lot harder to get into, into agriculture, because of the cost of entry. And I think that barrier is going to be a bigger concern in the US in places as we have farmers aging out and more and more, we like having smaller local farms and things like that. I think a great combination of those farms works. But I know there are a lot of people in the US who would like to get into farming, and it’s just cost prohibitive. So it’d be nice to find some models that would allow new farmers to be able to do that.


Brandon Wilson  31:25

My name is Brandon Wilson. I’m now located in lifestyle North Carolina. I originally grew up on tobacco farm in Virginia. And my question is, how common is it that a former we’re willing to fall into two geological locations?


Grounded by the Farm  31:41

Brandon, I love that question. In part, because I have a friend who farms in Virginia, he’s in an area called the northern neck, it’s up closer to the DC area, probably than tobacco farming. But he farms there and then down in Mississippi, and he is able to make that work, because the timing of planting and harvest are so different. And he can go back and forth and do some of those pieces. But you find that in a few areas. And where I’ve noticed it most is where you could do it counter seasonal, there are a few farmers from the US who go to Brazil and farm in the off months here. So after you harvest here in the US, you immediately are planting in South America, you harvest in South America, and you come back here in plant. It’s a it’s it’s not common, but it’s happened more times than in the recent, like last two decades. Probably the other one is since I worked so much in cotton, I know how many people move between Australia and the US. Again, it’s that kind of difference in season. And what I see as much as that is something that links back to what we were talking earlier, is how much people can do counter seasonal to sort of understand the way other people farm and do things along that line. One of the places I see that work the most is Australia and the US going back and forth on cotton, you can plant in Australia, in the fall when we’ve harvested here in the US. And then they’re harvesting now as people in the US are getting ready to plant. And so we’ve seen people come back and forth that way, either to work on farms in the US, or to actually, you know, sort of learn from other people while they’re here. So it works out really well. It’s not really common, but it’s become more common in the last couple of decades. All right. And I think


Liz Tagami  33:43

one last question. One of my favorite drives in an agricultural area was one late January in Spain. The oranges were still on the tree and the almonds were in bloom. It was amazing. Have you ever been to that part of the world? Janice, this is Lowe’s to dami your merchant adventurer on Instagram and on clubhouse.


Grounded by the Farm  34:07

The picture Liz has drawn for me makes me want to take that trip next year. I have not made that trip and it sounds amazing. Almond bloom is something that just captures people um, you know, imagination in a way that very few things do. And to see oranges on the tree and the smells that that must produce sounds amazing. I would say one of my favorite drives was along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey going from fat yet at Talia, the similar the California coast and some of the valleys in California you see so many different crops. I love driving around agricultural areas and quite frankly, have been known to do that. As I mentioned in the video. I’m a bit of an egg nerd in that I’ve gone to places because I wanted to go to the beach like in the Philippines or something, but we’ve added on a trip to the side to go see the international rice Research Institute or things along that line. So you’ve got me thinking a trip to Spain and go into Valencia in January, maybe one of those kind of trips I need to experience. Well, I hope you guys find this an interesting episode. Again. We’d love to hear from you guys, either on social media, always hit us up on reviews, comments on those reviews would be great. And you can call us. That number is 989-303-8489. We don’t actually answer that line, but we do monitor it and listen to recordings and you’d like to give us a suggestion or if you have questions for us to answer some topics that you think we ought to cover, please go ahead and share that information with us. We’d love to hear from you.

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