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Scenic Cali?

So on Thursday Ryan and I started our road trip up the Cali coast for Carmel where a friend of Ryan’s was getting married on Clint Eastwood’s ranch.

While I’ve been to a few spots in Northern Cali, I’ve never taken a road trip up the coast and let me tell you…it was an eye-opener!

Along the way I kept rambling on to Ryan about two certain thoughts…one was about “cheat days” and the whole debate over them and whether they should even be called “cheat days” and the other was about our farming systems and the environment.

And while I’ll talk about cheat days tomorrow after my food hangover wears off, today I do want to talk about the nature of farming while the images from our drive are still fresh in my mind.

So I am a Midwest girl. And I grew up driving through farmland. Just about every tennis trip we took, my mom and I would drive through hours and hours of farmland.

Mostly I just thought it was boring. Super flat land with rows and rows of the same crop. Basically just corn as far as the eye could see.

There would be a few horses…Maybe some cattle…But mostly just CORN.

But anyway, my point is, I’ve seen lots of farmland before and never really given it a second thought…until now.

And I don’t know if it was all the cool and new scenery or the fact that I’m more conscious about where my food comes from now, but a lot of what I saw really made me question…

Ryan told me the scenery would be cool even though we would be driving through a lot of desert. He said we would also drive by the ocean, through some interesting scenery in the hills, through more forested areas and then finally on our way home…lots of farmland.

What I didn’t realize is that I was going to see everything right next to each other and at times, all at once. I saw ocean next to farm next to desert next to forest next to great huge hills.

I also didn’t expect to see wildfires right next to the road.

The hills were covered in smoke and there were fires all over...even right by the highway.

The hills were covered in smoke and there were fires all over…even right by the highway.

When I was younger, I remember learning that wildfires could be good and necessary for some ecosystems. But that wasn’t the case with all of the fires popping up around Southern Cali. These fires were damaging not only potentially to people’s property but also to the land and natural vegetation.

The fires made me shake my head in disbelief. I never thought I would see one.

As we drove on through a slightly flatter area a bit away from the ocean, we passed strawberry fields and blueberry farms.

And then as we entered back into a few more hills, we saw a whole bunch of cattle roaming the hillside….

I was like “AH!” Grass-fed, free range BEEF!

So right now if you are a vegetarian, you may want to tune out as I’m going to start my whole YAY for meat thing. Just giving you a heads up…

Anyway, I was excited to see the cattle roaming the hillside so close to our home especially since a local meat shop owner here had recently told me that the reason it was hard to get grass-fed beef is because we are so surrounded by desert terrain.

Here was proof that there actually was local grass-fed beef!!!

All those happy cows roaming and eating and enjoying the sun.

Look at those cows grazing!

Look at those cows grazing!

I was excited!

But then I turned to Ryan and said, “I wonder why there are so few. There could be whole herds roaming these hills!”

And I’m sure now if you are a vegetarian still reading you want to now tell me about all the bad things the animals we raise on farms do to our environment.

But don’t. Because pasture-raised animals don’t have the same impact on our environment that industrial farms’ conventionally raised animals do. Pasture-raised animals are actually GOOD for our environment. They actually help regulate the ecosystem and can help keep it way healthier than our freaking monocrop farming does…but I’m getting to that…

Anyway, I was excited to see the pasture-raised cows and just sad that I didn’t see more of them. There was a ton of hillside that could be grazed and as Ryan pointed out, “The areas where the cows seemed to have grazed look healthier!” (Which in fact they did…way more green on the hillside with cows!)

Maybe if we had more animals eating the grass and renewing the soil like they used to, we wouldn’t have as many devastating wildfires as we do now….Just a thought….

So sometime after seeing the cows and the wildfires, we stopped in San Luis Obispo. We met with a friend for a hike, which ended up turning into more a mile straight up climb…AH!…before heading out to dinner in town.

We were also super lucky in that there was a farmer’s market going on that night. And on top of produce and meat from a ton of local farms, there was a stand with RAW MILK!

A bad picture of the raw milk stand!

A bad picture of the raw milk stand!

It was the first time I’d seen a stand with raw milk since there is so much pressure by the government NOT to sell it…And it isn’t usually worth the headache for the farmers.

As cheesy (bad pun?) as it sounds, seeing that raw milk and pasture-raised cows really made my day.

I was like “YESSSSS! There is some hope for good, naturally raised and grown food here!”

After leaving San Luis Obispo, we began to move a bit more out of farmland as we wound through the hills by the ocean although I do swear we saw farmland with cattle roaming free and ZEBRAS…although I didn’t manage to snap a picture, but instead failed epically getting only a picture of my finger…

The view on our drive we beautiful and definitely different from anything I’d seen in the Midwest or even on the East Coast. And as I raved about the view, Ryan told me to just wait till we drove back home the less scenic way.

On our way back home, we were going to drive through Salinas, which is a huge farming community. It most definitely reminded me more of the farmland in the Midwest even though it wasn’t endless corn.

As we drove through Salinas, the winds were terrible. Ryan then remarked that the winds were a problem when it came to organic farming and pesticides.

Driving through Salinas.

Driving through Salinas.

He said that most of the time organic farms and pesticide-using farms were right next to each other and that when the wind blew, the pesticides would be blown right on to the organic produce.

So much for thinking your organic produce was so much better huh?

Of course, if we didn’t promote monocrop farming, maybe we wouldn’t have the same insect and soil problems that we have now and wouldn’t need to use the pesticides…But then I forgot….It isn’t plant farming that is causing the environmental problems is it?

Anyway, even worse than the fact that our organic produce isn’t really organic, is the serious health problems created by pesticides for people within the community.

Ryan then started telling me about how the community has a whole bunch of health issues because of the pesticides.

I couldn’t believe it.

Like honestly, couldn’t believe it.

What the heck is wrong with us? For all we talk about “eating well” and “living a healthy lifestyle” we don’t seem to really care that we are using all this crap and following farming practices that will kill us.

Quality matters people.

Anyway, what was a very scenic drive really opened my eyes and made me look around and think.

I’ve driven through farmland before, but this is the first time I think I’ve ever really looked at it.

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