There were fields, there was dessert, and then there were POTATOES. In the land of potato, I got to see first hand the connections between nature, industry, and consumers. This was the purpose of the trip; to learn about the agriculture industry. I wanted to see how my two pound bag of supermarket potatoes got to my hands. I wanted to see how all those potato products I love got processed and I hoped at the end of it that I would still believe in big industry and not just wish for the simple days of products locally grown and locally sold which is definitely the growing trend in the food industry (just notice all those “locally grown” labels in your grocery store).
But then there is that thought…do I really have room for a potato field in my “backyard” in New York City. And would I really want my tasty tubers to have to deal with a wicked climate of sometimes monsoon rains and often freezing winds. Honestly, I’d rather have some tasty taters.
But that’s a lot about personal preference and does not begin the adventure. So let us begin with the Clear Springs Trout Farm:
Okay, number one: there is not a lot of water in Idaho. It also take a lot of water to raise rainbow trout. But water is needed in Idaho for sprinklers on fields and water to pipe potatoes through a processing field, and guess what people need it to. So Clear Springs is operating with thirty percent of the water that they were used to from their beginning. So isn’t it nice that they still let me strap on some waders and play with their fish. I thought so. But then again it took a couple well placed suggestions like “hey, those look fun” and “can I try them on?” And who said Idaho wouldn’t be fun.
So on to the specifics of trout. Well first trout cutting techniques. Do you know that they have a fish laser. Seriously, we are talking Austin Powers style. Lasers for fish. I’m wondering if they can skip the whole clear cuts method of service of providing perfectly boned fish for food service and instead start making mini lasers for culinary students. I’m thinking I have to work on them a little harder for that. All the workers do have a share in the business after all (a great fact that they are proud to share). So maybe those nice boys who let me rock the waders will build me a mini laser. Here’s to hoping.
But they output 100,000 pounds of fish a day! That’s a lot of fish. I love fish but that’s a lot of fish. And what do you know…the land of potato is also the land of rainbow trout. Who knew? We are beginning to create a menu…of local Idaho products. Hmm…
Critical flaw–they wouldn’t let us see the laser. It was too busy of a processing day. Man! A six hour flight and no laser?! All I got was some knowledge of Swai. It’s Vietnamese catfish, just we can’t call it catfish the way we have to call champagne “sparkling wine” if it isn’t from Champagne. Okay-Swai…look for it. It’s coming at you if it hasn’t hit your already.
Onto the Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese Farm.
That’s me and the Jersey cows. Jersey cows are great. They have that signature Jersey hair…no joke…these girls have some serious hairdos. And talk about brown-eyed girl. They are so cute! I have absolutely no qualms about drinking their milk or eating their cheese. Okay I wouldn’t want these strapped to me by any means:
But these are happy cows. Check out their products: http://www.ballardcheese.com/
Their halloumi cheese sauted and mixed with some seasoning and fresh lime juice. Yum Yum Yum. This is cheese you can grill and fry. Oh, the possibilities! This is the steak of cheese. It is hearty, decadent, delectable. I am still noshing on the cheese that I brought back with me. But here’s a surprise… I haven’t shared any of it.
But I am amazed at the Ballards. I mean they share their farm. They share their home. Then they feed us! These are good people.
You’ll see these guys at the local farmers market. You will find them in Boise’s top restaurants. We were served their cheese at our first Idaho dinner at Brick 29:
A dinner that features Idaho products. Potatoes, Corn, Tomatoes, Lamb…
So, I’m jumping a bit here but it just takes us to the next stop on our little sojourn through the agricultural heartland:
The Lava Lake Lamb Ranch:
That look on my face is culinary euphoria: a perfect blend of nature, hard work (I climbed this hill in flip flops!), and soon to be a full stomach of perfectly organic/natural protein. Wow!
This is the view. Include the fact that the word “yurt” was included in our directions of how to locate a ranch that loses reception once you reach its electrically fenced gates. We aren’t talking an Industrial cattle ranch here. You didn’t smell the ranch before you arrived. NO, you passed lava rocks used to train the first astronauts and fields of sunflowers. Happy dairy cows and happy sheep. Idaho raises some happy beasties. I am not saying I’d live there. I mean I am a city girl after all but this is beautiful country.
And this is just the beginning…we have yet to see those all star spuds. Keep checking in 🙂