I’m excited to share my experiences from a sponsored trip with Pacific Coast Producers last month, but this is not a sponsored post- I simply want to share some exciting and meaningful information with y’all!
I had the pleasure of attending the Heart of California Orchard and Field tour at the end of August. I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience and how it’s already impacting the decisions I make in my own home! I’m so excited to share the highlights of the trip and the moments and knowledge that resonated the most with me.
Pacific Coast Producers is a cooperative of about 160 farms. These farms often belong to third and fourth generation farmers, which is always so touching to me to see families pass down their livelihood throughout the generations. These family farmers put their blood, sweat and tears into growing crops that get preserved into cans in canneries just a few miles away from the farm. I had the privilege of learning about (and picking!) peaches at Micheli Farms and observing a tomato harvest at Joe Muller & Sons Farm. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I even did an Instagram live while riding on a tomato truck that was harvesting tomatoes. It got a little bumpy and juicy on that truck, but that was pretty close to a bucket-list experience for this dietitian nerd!
Spending time with these farmers was such a humbling experience for several reasons, but the most valuable realizations came through watching the farm to canning process from start to finish. I’ll be the first to admit that in my house, sometimes canned foods tend to be low on the totem pole compared to other forms of produce, but I truly don’t feel that way anymore. I always knew canned foods have a place, but now I feel like I have a more powerful story and connection to these foods that have been preserved for our consumption and can help families get just one more serving of fruits and veggies every day!
The last night we had a time of reflection and shared what experiences were most valuable. I’m sure I sounded like an airhead, but in complete transparency I shared how unlike other forms of fruits and vegetables, I didn’t really make a connection between the farm where the produce was grown and the end product. Somehow in my mind I didn’t associate canned fruits and vegetables with their origin- a farm. Did you know (because I sure didn’t!) that the length of time from orchard to can for peaches is only about 8 hours (and sometimes less!)? Tomatoes often are in the can in about 2 hours after being harvested and watching that process was truly mesmerizing. I’m not even kidding when I say I can’t wait to make more recipes with canned tomatoes!
And because it had been a while since I brushed up on my canned food nutrition, I was excited to re-learn that nutrients are sometimes even higher in canned foods. For examples, folate in canned peaches is actually up to 10 times higher than fresh! And lycopene, an important phytonutrient in tomatoes, is absorbed 2.5 times better in canned tomatoes than fresh. We even got to sit on some brand new research on fresh apricots and canned. Apricots are such a fragile fruit and canning them (or freezing them) is an excellent way to preserve their lifespan and also reduce food waste that could easily result from fruit quickly spoiling.
Sustainability and food waste were hot topics during the tour and one more area I’ve been doing some soul searching on. Did you know that 40% of all food we produce in the United States ends up in a landfill? Although food waste comes from many sources, our homes are the most frequent culprit. The average consumer wastes 300 pounds of food annually and I know I can do a better job of minimizing food waste in my own house by eating more leftovers, purchasing less food, starting to compost and also purchasing more canned foods. Not only do canned foods help minimize wasted food with their more generous expiration date, they also can give confidence in terms of seasonality (many of us don’t know what’s in season or not) and you can have faith in their production regarding efficiency and sustainability practices! I was blown away at all that’s being done at the Pacific Coast Producers canneries and how every single part of the fruit or vegetable is used. Even if it’s used to water grass that will feed livestock, it’s used- there is very little to no waste happening with the production of these canned foods!
I recognize these experiences I’m sharing with you are likely ones most folks won’t experience first hand. I wish my family, friends, clients and every consumer could visit these farms and watch gorgeous produce make it’s way to a cannery to be preserved for the years to come, but I know that isn’t the case. I hope these personal snippets will inspire you to keep canned fruits and vegetables in your pantry and not only use them as a last resort! We ALL need more fruits and veggies in our life and canned foods are one of the easiest ways to help us get closer to the minimum 5 servings a day we all need! Thanks for letting me share my heart about this special trip!