A month or so ago, I spent a couple of days with members of our Vegetables team in California. It was a great change in pace from being in the office — having a chance to talk at length with people who spend their days looking for ways to improve fruits and vegetables for farmers and eaters like me. An added bonus was that I met Megan Brown, a sixth generation rancher from Chico, California that I’d been talking with on Twitter for more than two years. (See how happy we were to finally meet each other?)
As somewhat early adopters of using Twitter to talk farm & ranch topics, and both having off-beat senses of humor, Meg and I became friends quickly. Several times she’s asked me questions when she’d hear something about Monsanto. Early this year, I met one of her neighbors, olive farmer and cattle rancher Irv Leen. Irv told me I had to get to California to show Meg around a bit and answer the hundreds of questions she had. And just like that, we simply had to work it out.
Meg’s enthusiasm for the tour with was tangible. From the moment she signed the guest log at the desk, I knew this wouldn’t be a typical tour — she already had her friend Daniel snapping photos. And we had an incredible visit. The next day she blogged about the Monsanto visit and said she’s be writing more. It’s been a little while since the visit and now we know why as she wrote this week:
My field trip to Monsanto left me overwhelmed, I think I caught a really bad case of agnerditis while I was there. Monsanto was fascinating, it was like taking a plant science, a sociology, and a economics class all in one day. I loved it! Unfortunately, I have a mild case of writer’s block when it comes to writing about our day there, I learned so much! However, I am fighting it! Because I think it is important to talk about GMO’s, technology and Monsanto with an open mind.
The new post, Field Trip: Monsanto and Tomatoes, really taps into a shared passion Meg has with one of our tomato breeders who’s affectionately known as “Doug the tomato dude” in Meg’s post. Tomatoes have a special place in Meg’s heart and family. It’s not only about planting tomatoes in gardens; recipes with the famous fruit are near and dear to her heart — and her family. As Doug talked about 20 years worth of his time being spent trying to improve tomatoes, he said something that really perked up Meg’s ears:
The most exciting thing I learned during this portion of my tour was about the seedless tomatoes that have been developed, the Sweet Seedless. My Grandma has diverticulitis, so foods with little seeds, (like tomatoes), hurt her, she actually cannot eat them. This is unfortunate for people like my Grandma, because it can affect her nutrition. I plan on going to over to my Grandma’s house next spring and plant some Sweet Seedless in Papa’s old garden plot, so my Grandma can eat something she loves again. I think my Papa would be super proud of me.
Meeting Doug the Tomato Dude and learning about his work in tomatoes was marvelous. Being an animal science person, it is wonderful for me to learn more about plant science. I was able to make the connection in my head that like cattle, plants often benefit from different breeding techniques. These techniques and technologies are changing agriculture for us farmers and ranchers in the best possible way – we can produce more with less, we can increase the nutritional content of some foods, we can increase diversity, and we can give our consumers more choice! What an amazing time to be involved in agriculture!