Peter's Weekly Walkthrough
August 9, 2023
This week is going to be less of a walkthrough and more of a walk about. Not too long ago we were privileged to take a tour of Cal Farms out in Oregon City. They are based on Clackamas River Dr. but have fields in eastern Oregon and Arizona. As you drive up this beautiful road following the Clackamas River, it takes a sharp bend to the right veering away from the river. Barely noticeable behind a row of small trees, Cal Farms is immediately on the left. Blink an eye and you missed it. That morning, we were greeted by Ambrose Calcagno who with Anthony, lead the tour. It is a fourth-generation family farm that started in Portland and eventually moved out to Oregon City. After making sure we had our safety vests, hair nets and hard hats, Ambrose started with peeled baby carrots. He answered a lot of questions from growing to processing peeled baby carrots. He and Anthony have it down: you need loose soil so the carrots grow long and straight, you plant them this far apart so they do not crowd each other. It took x number of days then you could harvest. AND THEN we went on to growing leafy greens. This is Anthony showing us some Rainbow Chard starts. Ambrose and Anthony explained they could seed directly into the soil, but they choose to start with planting start plugs instead. They have farming down to a science. By using starts, they can get another crop out of the field a year. This extra crop can mean the difference between breaking even or not. The chards were planted later in the day and should be harvesting in September some time.
The next stop was in the packing shed. Anthony explained the various crops they grow: leafy greens, radishes, carrots, root vegetables, squashes, and green onions. The green onions were beautiful. Anthony stated they need to be processed for a major retailer which meant the tops were cut off. He did not know way they want this done because they are so pretty with the tops on. Couldn’t agree more…..
Our eyes were next drawn to the radishes which were being cleaned and packed. So red and with bright green tops, I was humbled as my radishes went directly to seed this year. There was talk of radish sandwiches. That was a new one for Anthony. The radishes went into a bath to get any dirt from here before they were boxed and ready to ship. Some how my mind jumped to the Radish slices you get at the taquerias on the plate with your tacos al carbon.
Anthony took us outside to demonstrate how they cooled the veggies down rapidly. For the leafy greens like the romaine he is holding here, they use a vacuum chamber. The chamber looks like a mini submarine and can hold 4 or 5 pallets. Once loaded up the door is closed, the vacuum is turned on. In about 7 minutes out pops cooled lettuce to 38*.
This is the part where we all geeked out. The pallet of cilantro is being loaded into the icing chamber. It looks like it came out of a sci-fi horror flick. After the pallet is loaded into the chamber, the doors close the fun begins. An ice slurry is streamed thru the pallet from every direction. Anthony stated the hand holds on the side of the box are there so the ice can get into the box and thru the pallet. It sounded like a huge washing machine as it filled every box with ice including the boxes in the middle of the pallet. Wham! Four minutes later, the cilantro went from 88* to 38*. Anthony explained that if they did not get the produce chilled, they would get only a day out of it. This makes sure the produce will last a week or more.
Cal Farms focuses on market vegetables both conventional and organic. You seen the radishes, chards, green onions, and romaine. Other items they grow are root vegetables like the beets shown here and cabbages, other leafy greens, squashes, and Kales. Kale seems fitting since the farm is close to Portland.
This was my parting shot which was taken in a field looking towards the Clackamas River. Looking down was this very idyllic shot of Little Miss Ladybug nestled in the Italian Parsley happily eating all the aphids.