Saturday, 23 June 2012


Flying from California to Washington DC. A vast landscape stretches below, desert with what appears to be salt lakes and dust whipping up. Earlier some high peaks with remnants of winter snows till clinging to the shady aspects.

The flight will take over 4 hrs, time to catch up on some thoughts. Did the last China blog last night, as I said, I'm still coming to terms with what I saw. Sometimes when you see something for the first time it makes a deep impression on you and on a subsequent visit the sensation is very different. Is that what happened?

Anyway, we have had a whirlwind overview of Californian Ag production. The state is something like the seventh largest economy in the world, and Ag contributes around 36 billion.
(By the way, I look out the window again the view had briefly changed to some large green circles in a broad valley system, before crossing some long ridge lines and canyon walls. I wish I had a map to follow the route...)
We started with a quick afternoon trip into San Francisco, the majority of the group elected to sleep off some jet lag and do some laundry. This may have been a good move, we were to be in a different hotel every night, thus washing has been impossible. (My mind wanders back to the luxury hotel in Kaifeng, laundry was returned to the room pressed, in sealed plastic bags.)
Oh well, the clam chowder on fisherman's wharf is one of THE things to do in San Fran apparently, and I could not dispute that! Stopping to watch some street performers doing their thing in order to pay for their classes at the circus school, and the washing and sleep began to feel far less important.
Dinner and briefings in the evening at Glenda Humistone's house, supplied with good food, beer and a glass of red would normally have had me asleep, however the stimulating conversation allowed me to win the battle this time. It was not always to be the case.....

Another range with the defiant snow patches, and my view becomes obscured by a large fire, the hight of the smoke at a similar altitude to the 737 from which I peer.

Early the next morning, it must have been a Sunday from memory, an altogether unreliable source by now, and we were away early to a farmers market. It was in the car park of the council chambers, or the equivalent of, and had a very impressive range of produce, a great spot for breakfast!
It's certainly used as an advertising and PR platform for the more entrepreneurial stall holders, as many chefs visit to find specialty products.
From then on, it is all a bit of a blur, thank goodness for the iPad, the notes I have will bring back the essence of most meetings and visits. It is an excellent tool, and I haven't felt the need for a laptop at all ....yet..... I like to back up to the cloud on a regular basis though.

I think we had 25 meetings or visits over the six or so days, so the pace has been hectic, the battle with sleep, a constant. Some very interesting meetings and discussions had me actually seeing double, the slides on the projection screens changing color in front of me!
It was amazing to see so much in such a short time, from irrigation testing facilities, wineries, organic wholesalers, urban agriculture, nuts and fruit, education facilities, including an afternoon at UC Berkley, to urban renewal projects in areas where unemployment is running over 20%.

We were hosted one night on farms, it was an absolute pleasure to be in a house and bedroom, not a hotel. A barbecue dinner with all the hosts, most of whom are graduates of the Ag leadership programme, allowed for engagement and discussion at a high level.
My host manages 6 farms, mainly almonds and stone fruit, the candy apricots were appreciated by all over the next couple of days!

However, it as hard to feel a connection to California, I guess the time was too short, and the time difference from Beijing took more out of me than I gave credit, especially when I was waking at 3:30 am on many nights early in the week. I think another visit will be essential.....

A really big thanks to everyone who helped make this leg of our journey such a success, Glenda packed as much as she could into the programme, and it was well worth it.

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