Well, time to travel West. I think I will see some sights on my bucket list, visit family in Oregon and drive down the West coastline to my next farm visit.
Harvest Hosts will be my first choice along the way. First stop, DeForest, Wisconsin at the Upick Strawberry Farm. The farm is family owned and was once a dairy. The current generation is using the land and buildings to grow vertical strawberry plants and portable growing uprights to take to assisted living facilities so the residents can garden indoors. I had a nice area to park beside the original farmhouse. Quiet and peaceful stay. Yummy Strawberries for breakfast.
Next Harvest Host stop, Metz's Hart-Land Creamery. Watched the family milk the herd, bought ice cream in the farm store and slept well beside the cow barns. A bit smelly...but hey, what can one expect at a dairy!
Stayed at a Harvest Host in Brandon, South Dakota, the Wilde Prairie Winery. Wines are much different than I am used to. The winery is an old dairy barn turned tasting room. Beautiful! Parked in a field next to the vines. A rainy night.
Stayed at a KOA in Sioux Falls for a night, enjoyed a South Dakota chorus of crickets and fields of sunflowers on my way to Mt. Rushmore. Excited to get there and experience the Black Hills area.
What a surprise I had when approaching Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota! Harley Davidsons EVERYWhERE! Yep...you guessed it! Sturgis Rally!! I had no idea I would be in the area at the same time as the Rally. I had no idea what to expect...what fun!!!!!
Great time at Mt. Rushmore and touring the Black Hills area. Bikers are extremely careful and helpful when I got lost in the State Park.
Stopping to visit my father's ancestral nation, the Crow Reservation. My great-great-great grandmother was from the Appasoloka nation. I have been here several times and always happy to return. Eat a buffalo steak, visited the battle of the Big Horn memorial and watched the people set up for the Crow Fair. Unfortunately I was a week to early.
Last stop in Montana is the town of Garrison. Not really a town, just a vacant school, a few residences and a KOA campground. BUT, it has my last name...so I must stop! And it was worth the stop. We live in a small world. I meet the campground hosts who attended Cal Poly SLO the same time I did. We had a nice visit. After a nice walk to a nearby creek bed, I was thinking about my father's history and my grandson Garrison who was named in honor of my father who was the last male Garrison in our family and a Crow feather dropped from the sky and landed on my RV steps. Thanks for the blessing Dad!
On my way to Idaho to check out Coeur d' Alene and Sandpoint. Stayed at a beautiful KOA journey in between the two towns. This is an area I am interested in learning more about. Could be a good retirement community. I enjoyed touring the area and think I will return in the late spring to explore more thoroughly. Lake Pend Oreille is big and beautiful! Would have to be a snowbird in the winter months.
From Idaho to Oregon for a scenic drive down the Columbia/Hood River. Stayed at Memaloose State Park for two nights. Got some work done and enjoyed the river before continuing on toward Silverton to see family.
My cousin lives on a farm. He has a century barn that is amazing! The walls are lapped together. Why don't we build barns like this now? Such an art.
The drive down the Oregon/California coast was magnificent. Another drive I would like to revisit and spend more time in the seashore towns. Check out the elk crossing over highway 101 near Klamath and the Big Trees!
I will stop at one of my client farms in the San Francisco Bay area to check in and then on my way to the Central Coast to make another client visit in Salinas.
Started the month out with a hard lesson for all you RVers out there. I use a reflective shield inside my front window to keep the heat out. If you have the smallest of chips and your running an air conditioner, the change in glass resin temperature will crack the window....as seen below...
I now place the reflective shield on the outside of the window to keep the inside of the RV cooler AND the window cool. And of course, my insurance does not include broken windshields.
And, since LIV got a new window, I decided it was time to get her cleaned up for the next job!
Off to Illinois! I drive every year to a farm client who has diversified from corn, beans and potatoes to add peppers, cabbage and squash. I try to go a different way each year to see new areas. This year I am in a bit of a time crunch so will have to take the long boring route 80. I did however spend some time in the Donner Pass area of California, part of the Tahoe National Forest, just before going into Reno, Nevada. Beautiful there.
Traveling on down the 80, a side trip to Lovelock was fun. The signs said there was a place to purchase a padlock to lock your love? Well, my curiosity got the best of me and off the 80 LIV and went. Here is what we saw. Yep, lock your love at the historic LockLove courthouse! LOL
Pushed through Deeth, Coalville, Rawlins, and stopped at Sidney, Nebraska. The original Cabelas has a wonderful campground there. It was so nice we stayed two nights and got some work done. Zoom calls and checking HeavyConnect accounts to be sure all client documents are submitted or if someone needs assistance with corrective actions.
Next Stop 6 hours down the road in Adel, Iowa where they are always ready for the wizard of oz effect (yes, thats a tornado shelter... and floating on the Platte River.
I have been given several instructions for surviving tornadoes and my strategy is to drive like %$## to get out of its path! Don't hook up, keep the weather station alerts on, face outward and keep the keys in the ignition.
A favorite stop is the BIGGEST TRUCK STOP OF AMERICA ~ Iowa 80 ~ Disneyland for Truckers. LIV gets a bath, I usually find something fun for the grandkids and see all the silly displays.
The highlight this year was running into one of my favorite YouTube channel stars in the parking lot! Keep Your Daydream hosts, Trish and Marc. I felt like a star struck teenager when I saw them filming in there truck, so I got the courage to walk up and introduce myself. Could hardly speak but managed to eek out my name. What nice down to earth people they are! So friendly. Here's a picture of their KYD rig.
After driving 2200 miles, I arrived to my clients farm in Illinois on the third of July. First thing I do is weigh LIV on the truck scales. Under 10,000 GW! Parked in my usual place and fixed a pre 4th all american dinner. The farm was quiet and hot! 102° and 78% humidity. Always nice to meet up with this generational farm family and their fantastic farm employees. I will be staying for a month here to assist with customer visits and annual audit document review and training a new food safety coordinator assistant.
After three years with this farm family, I feel they are prepared to take the reins and implement their food safety plan with confidence. When AgEmpowered concludes a contract, we are always available by email, phone or text for our clients when they need us.
Started the year off with a new generator muffler. LIV and I plan to do more boondocking and using our Harvest Host membership. Generator fumes can be annoying let alone dangerous! This piece of equipment is a must when no electrical hookup is available.
First client visit this year is located in Yuma, AZ. Audit day is coming up. Annual reviews and sanitation training are due. This team has it down! Audit day successful! Thank you Ceres Certification International for sending yet another qualified auditor! Corrective Actions and Preventive Measures complete!
Yuma is great this time of year, however still dusty. LIV needs a good bath. She seems to run better when she is clean and spruced up. Me too!
My first airflight since COVID and purchasing LIV. Booked a seat in the very back, masked up. It wasn't as bad as the media portrayed. Always cold here, so left LIV behind. She is not suited for...yes...7 degrees below!
My client is always ready for an audit. Food Safety everyday here! Whoops, what is that mop doing head up? LOL, always a few things to work on.
Audit passed, a few corrective actions completed and overall a great visit. Lots of changes here in the year ahead. They are growing and expanding. Hum...I wonder if successfully implemented food safety has anything to do with that? :>)
Heading back to California to welcome a new client near my homebase...where it is a bit warmer...sigh. Stay tuned for this exciting client. More to come later!
After the initial visit with the new client, internal audits and timeline planning is complete. Another fun and satisfying project. Just a Hint...this one will be education oriented.
I am fortunate to have a bit of down time with family (eldest and youngest of 9 grandkids and a grand lizard pictured)
Yes, we are family of farmers (of all kinds)
See ya later Family! Off to the next new client in NorCal. Left a bit early so I could visit Lake Almanor. My father talked about this lake and how he would love to have a cabin there some day. He was there in spirit with me as I explored this absolutely amazing place. The water was sweet and plenty of it! A nice sight in dry ole California.
Oh! and my 1st Harvest Host stay at BE LOVE FARM on the way to Lake Almanor. This is a regenerative agriculture operation. Check out "Kiss the Ground" documentary on Amazon Prime. The owners son produced this film!! I got to meet him. The owner made freshly fried donuts for all the overnight guests and the local community. Many people showed up for the donuts and I know why. BEST donuts I have ever tasted!
Be Love Farm
Lake Almanor is so beautiful. Fisherman in spot next to me caught their limit of smallmouth bass. I was invited to join them for blackened fish tacos, YUM. Thank you Byron and Paul!
Need to leave two days early. DARN!! There is a forcast for snow and freezing temps. LIV is not outfitted to withstand freezing weather, so off we go to our second Harvest Host location. Hard to leave this beautiful place. All good things must come to an end...temporarily. I will return!
Come with me on a scenic drive down hwy 70.
Lovely stay in Grass Valley. Harvest Hosts. The couple I stayed with were very welcoming and helped me understand pros and cons of a solar installation on LIV. Yes, I finally ordered a solar panel to charge my batteries when I am boondocking. 100 amp hours of power. Nice to not have to run the generator sometimes.
The picture is of my morning friend greeting me. "Whats for breakfast Miss Deb, acorn soup?"
Time to get back to work. Off to a job that will be a different kind of food safety program than I have been sharing with you so far. This is an on farm bakery! Oh my, I can already taste the experience. Ingredients come from 250 acres of organically grown produce (certified by CCOF) and processed into ready to bake products. Bakery items and other fresh fruit, olive oil, granolas, conserves are sold direct to the consumer via mail order and to a few local stores. Definitely a HACCP plan here. By the way, the empanadas are very tasty and one of my favs! The Food Safety implementation is in compliance with California Code. The client will be attempting Global Food Safety Initiative compliance to acquire a few commercial accounts and sell over state line. More fun to come with this client. Very excited to be a part of this project.
3rd Harvest Host stay at 43 Olive Oil Ranch. Great olive oil tasting. I learned it is much like wine tasting and the process is similar. Quiet secure place to sleep for the night and watch the Red Moon appear in the sky. Took a hike up the hill and saw some bright yellow birds. Still trying to identify them.
I want to give a shout out to HeavyConnect. This software makes my job possible on the road. My clients love it too! See you soon!
I have been many places and assisted many farming operation since I last posted. I promise to catch up soon!
Nice KOA campsite in Kansas. I meet interesting and nice people almost everywhere I stay. Had a glass of wine and great conversation with my neighbors at this park.
Love the truck wash at the "Biggest Truck Stop" in the US. Why can't we have these in California? Oh yeah...no water...
KOA Journey Campsite in eastern Kansas. Hum...KOA seems to be my choice this trip. They are improving!
Wanted to see Branson MO and parts of the Ozark National Forest. Made it to Sedalia, but too hot and a long way off my path this trip. Turning back. Maybe next time around and a different route.
Let's explore Missouri, come on! No grass under our feet! But first lets make a stop at the Dutch Country Store. Need to refill my tiny cupboards.
Once again...over the Mississippi River we go! Next stop, Missouri.
Who knows what town Mark Twain resided? Yep you guessed it! Hannibal, MO! I was excited to be here at the Mark Twain Cave Hollow campground. A beautiful area right on the Mississippi River.
What an experience! I could have a complete blog post just on the campground. Here is the abbreviated experience. Cave tour; wine tasting; restaurant; hiking; village; theater...
And did I say TORNADO?
From glorious sunny skies to black and wet skies in two hours that seemed like days. Here are some before, during and just after pictures.
Bye Bye Mark Twain. Off to the next farm visit. See you there!
When making changes to your operational procedures, involve your food safety and quality consultant early in the process.
Thinking about industry, customer and government compliance before making changes may save you time and $$$ when drafting your change plan. It is never a good thing to have to undo what you have done because you only thought out efficiency. Efficiency is mighty important! I agree...but if the process does not comply to requirements...well...you know the rest of the story.
Here is a string of changes that might come with simply adding a new line or piece of new equipment, or maybe retrofitting an existing building;
Take a look at the picture below. An existing building...a nice blank slate to start with. What would be first on your list of "to do's" if you where to repack potatoes in this building?
How about resurfacing the floor, and wall siding that can be cleaned and sanitized efficiently.
Why do I always pick the hottest days to drive through Vegas...
First stop, Sevier, Utah KOA. Nice stop in a park newly built on the river. A bit dusty, nice folks, and the best part...30 degrees cooler than Vegas!!
LIV would not go beyond 2000 RPM or 45 MPH peddle to the metal. So I pulled off in a rest stop, opened the hood thinking I had an oil leak or something, couldn't see anything obviously wrong, so I sat down with a cold beer (no not really...I don't drink when on the road :) with a cold glass of water and You Tubed Transit Van "decrease in speed". Sure enough, I found a video that explained if any lead parts are used on the frame, it will cause the system to think something is wrong and decrease speed until it is fixed to protect the engine. Well...take a look at the first pic. What do you see. YES! A blown out lead tire and YES I ran over a piece of it. I found it wrapped around my generator muffler so I removed it and hoped that was the problem. Yep it was! LIV took off like a rocket and all was good. Thank goodness for You Tube!
So much hay in Utah! Where's all the cattle?
Second stop, boondocking in the Vail area of Colorado. Beautiful...The next morning a hot cup of coffee and off to see the Georgetown Trains.
Meals on the road are not bad when I can mix a bit of frozen with fresh local products.
Had a beautiful trip through the Rocky Mountains, stopped many times to take in the view and made it Limon, Co in the evening where I stayed the night before I was to reach my next client.
WHEN MY NEXT FACILITY CLIENT TOLD ME THEY WOULD BE AUDITED BY THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR OF THE PRIMUSGFS AUDIT SCHEMA, MY FIRST THOUGHT WAS...!@#$%&*...even though I felt confident about the food safety plan. THEN, ON A BEAUTIFUL ROAD TRIP FROM SAN DIEGO, CA TO YUMA, AZ IT BECAME CLEAR TO ME...
THIS AUDIT EXPERIENCE WILL MAKE ME A BETTER CONSULTANT! It will take me out of my comfort zone (not that this industry ever gets comfortable...forever changing!) and every little detail of compliance will be examined. And woman and man was I right!
The facility staff do a great job implementing the company food safety plan! Drains clean and sanitized, floor cracks filled and sealed, rodent traps in place and in good condition, replaced the door seal you can see light coming through, cartons are labeled with all correct coding information to enable trace back and trace forward and all other good practices in place.
So...33 corrective actions later (mostly document details)...WE ACQUIRED AN ALMOST PERFECT SCORE!
For those of you reading this that may not be familiar with audit scoring systems, there is a very important lesson (among 1000's) I learned while working at PrimusLabs for almost a decade; Anything less than 100% means there are things that need improving right away for product integrity. It's not like school when we thought we were doing well if we got a score somewhere in the 90's.
As a consultant and educator of food safety, I must say, my PrimusGFS (GFSI) document writing skills have vastly improved after this experience! A few operating procedures perfected and all staff was re trained on any changes made. We will be looking hard at our www.heavyconnect.com/ HeavyConnect internal audit program this coming year for quarterly implementation consistency. THANK YOU Auditor Molina for making us better food safety implementers!
This year I will focus on how food safety everyday is implemented by my clients and how they communicate this to their customers. It is not always a cake walk. New employees, new compliance requirements, busy seasons and supervisors/managers/coordinators wearing many different hats and changing positions can be a challenge.
Let's travel to a farm visit where a harvest crew is being trained to harvest a new product. Looks neat and tidy right? What can you see that may need improving?
Yes, you got it! Harvested product cartons will need barriers from direct contact with the soil. This operation went far beyond a simple barrier after trialing different methods of harvesting. They purchased new harvest equipment! Cartons are pre loaded onto the harvest equipment platform, built and labeled on the second level, and never come in contact with the soil. After careful handling and a spray of antimicrobial before packing, the carton is conveyed to a trailer that transports the product to a cooler. A large cost to the operation...more efficient, employee friendly, better safety and quality. A good investment!
Another observation while training this crew that is common among new crew members and should be re-enforced by harvest crew supervisors/managers often. Stay in control of harvest tools at every step. From issuing the tools, collecting the tools, sanitizing throughout and at end of day and storing the tools.
How should this knife be worn?
This operation chose cleanable and sanitizable knife scabbards for their employees safety and cleanliness.
After a day in the field, this client has completed an internal harvest crew audit and will work on documenting corrective actions and setting validation review timelines. Job well done!
Here I go, into 2021 after a few weeks with family over the holidays. Well rested and ready to set travel plans for this years on farm/facility visits. This years travel will be more of a routine since I have settled into the full time RV lifestyle and have a solid client base.
Thank you for all your holiday gifts this year. My family and I enjoyed the thoughtfulness! And from your local farms!