Saturday, March 05, 2005

Fresno County's Blooms and Blossom Trail are followed by the Fruit and Orange Trail every year.

To see more blooms and blossoms pictures from Fresno County, go to HomeStager

Blooms and Blossoms

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

California's Last Frontier: Affordable Land, Houses, Good Schools & Lots of Orchards

Secrets Revealed: Affordable Housing, Land,
Water & Labor In The Other California

Shopnowshop Housing Data Systems

What First Comes To Your Mind When Talking About California’s Central Valley?

Without any doubt, most Americans and the rest of the world tend to describe California by its popular tourist destinations, commercial ports, freeway systems, and economic pillars: Hollywood, Disneyland, the Golden Gate Bridge, Big Sur, Venice Beach, Highway 1 and Highway 99, Silicon Valley. But there is a secret that those who are not familiar with the Golden state don’t know about.

For sure, there is another California that’s home to the greatest garden in the world. Central Californians are those who proudly tend to it. The 400-mile-long Central Valley supplies fully one-quarter of the food America eats. It's a long, mostly flat and incredibly fertile pocket of land nestled between the coastal mountains and the Sierra Nevada range. You will find cities such as Selma known as the “Raisin capital of the world,” Reedley, known as the “Fruit capital of the world,” and Old Town Clovis, for its antiques and laid-back Cowboy lifestyle.

Some would tend to say there is not much going on beyond the farms while going down Highway 99. Others are saying there are no marquee destinations, only sober, business-first cities and vast stretches of farmland and cattle range. Over the past few years and with many important developments and businesses coming to these towns, the Central Valley is beginning to change rapidly. Values are being added to corners that were just open fields a few years ago. Venture off the freeway and highway into Fresno where you will find the brand new, money-making Riverpark Shopping Center, hot shops at Fig Garden Village

Families from the more opulent Bay Area looking for lower-cost housing in California's inflated housing market are trading a three-hour commute to work for a little country space and serenity -- and once-fertile fields are being paved over to make way for subdivisions. They once bought low, now sell high and relocate to Central California’s affordable housing market. These changes are documented in such books as “California Blossoms and Harvest Delights , “California, a Breath of Fresh Air, and The Long Lost Garden of Eden.” Farmers are under increasing pressure to reduce their dependence on chemicals for higher crop yields. And amid all this change, there is a huge Latino population -- many of them illegal immigrants -- whose lack of economic mobility impedes their assimilation into the American melting pot. As a group, the Asian population (Japanese, Indians, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Koreans, Singaporeans, and many others) has done a good job of assimilating by adopting the pillars of American mobility, Education and homeownership. Just visit Fremont, California, and you’ll see how the affluent and well-educated immigrants have even surpassed the other ethnic groups including the whites or caucasians. To get a better idea of the competition, visit a private school, San Jose High or a Parent Teacher meeting.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Organic, Shade-grown Coffee, Birding, Birders and Sustainable Agriculture

Way above the large expanse of white sandy beaches of Jacmel, Haiti, I was hiking with a few friends of mine and local coffee growers. Far away from the political chaos that envelops most of Haiti, I found tranquility and peace of mind once for all. We were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves among acres of deep hill-side shade coffee trees. We were visiting a coffee plantation that has been in the family since probably colonial times. It has been passed from one generation of coffee growers to the next.

According to the current residents of the plantation, these coffee trees and beans have raised their children, provided them all with a good education. Some of them are doctors, engineers and lawyers working in this country, the USA, Canada and Europe. They soon talked about their disappointing coffee prices in the past few years. Up to the 1970s, Haiti was known for its rare coffee beans and seeds which were brought over by French planters. The coffee production from Jacmel was the best you could find in the country. Even today, these coffee growers command good price for their beans from special coffee markets in the USA and Canada. What it comes down to these days has to do with know-how, marketing experience and contacts in the USA and Europe. We become producers for upscale markets.

Armed with binoculars, cameras and all sorts of modern electronic gadgets, we were ready to intrude in this pristine land where coffee reigns. We were amidst the beauty of mother nature. This plantation was the last refuge for migratory birds. We were suddenly realizing the importance of shade-grown coffee to the ecology. Humans as well as these little birds were benefitting. There was no sign of erosion. The terrace walls help keep the top soil in place. Under this huge canopy, the migrants found enough nutrients and safety from predatory birds. Taking pictures would not make justice of what we were experiencing up there. After walking about the plantation, we found a nice spot overlooking the ocean and had lunch. It was the best picnic we had ever had.

Sustainable agriculture is possible with shade-tree coffee production. We observed that the whole plantation was bordered by old, tall oak trees. The owners understood the relationship and rapport between different species of plants and birds.

If you want shade-grown coffee, here is a list of resources:

Birds and Beans Inc.
2415-B Lake Shore Blvd. West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M8V 1C5
FAX: 416-913-6453

Cafe Campesino
302 W. Lamar Street, Suite C
Americus, Georgia 31709
FAX: 912-924-6250

Cafe Sombra
Colorado Trading Company
3100 N.W. 72nd Avenue, Suite 121
Miami, Florida 33122

Caribou Coffee Company
615 North Third Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401
888-CARIBOU (888-227-4268)

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
33 Coffee Lane, P.O. Box 657
Waterbury, VT 05676

Higher Ground Roasters
829 Parkway Dr.
Leeds, AL 35094

Thanksgiving Coffee Company
19100 South Harbor Dr.
P.O. Box 1918
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
800-648-6491 FAX 707/964-0351

Vienna Coffee Company
1813 Southcliff Dr.
Maryville, TN 37803
865-567-2058 FAX: 865-981-9319

Montana Coffee Traders
5810 Highway 93 S.
Whitefish, MT 59937
800-345-5282 FAX: 406-862-7680

If you would like to feature your own shade-grown coffee service, please let us know

Here is a good link you can always use: The Atlanta Audubon Society has a lot of resources that you can access.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Tasty, Salient Tribute to Coffee in the American Culture

Viva Columbian Coffee!

He drank coffee in the morning, at noon and in the afternoon. So I modeled my coffee-drinking years after him.

My interests in the best coffee brew lead me to these facts published by Life Magazine: (Klein, D. and Kingbury, K. Life Magazine, Jan. 14, 2005)

Most of the coffee grown in the Western Hemisphere can be traced back to a single coffee seeding brought to Martinique by a French naval officer in 1720.

Eleven billion pounds of coffee are consumed worldwide annually

Forty-nine percent of Americans drink coffee every day. Each downs an average of 3.4 cups.

Annual per capita coffee consumption in the U.S. is 9.2 pounds. Chocolate consumption: 12 pounds

Total number of specialty coffeehouses in the U.S. in 1989: 585

In 2003: 17,400

Percentage of population who drank espresso in 2003:15

In 2004: 25

All coffee is grown within 2,000 miles of the equator

A pound of roasted coffee requires 4,00 beans, most of which are handpicked

Coffee has been shown to cut the risk of parkinson's disease (by half), cirrhosis (by 53 percent), and colon cancer (by 24 percent). But it's also been linked to higher rates of infertility and osteoporosis

The French philosopher Voltaire reportedly drank 50 cups a day. The amount of caffeine in 49 eight-ounce cups can be to the average human

The world's most expensive coffee is Indonesia's Kopi Luwak, the beans of which are consumed and then excreted by a small civet cat. It sells for $300 per pound.

Let us know about your tastiest, best coffee or gourmet coffee.

Other Links:

Visit Beer and Wine

Spring Break Stories

America Wakes Up With A Cup of Coffee

What goes into a cup of coffee?
Do you know how much it takes to grow the beans?
Do you know how much intensive labor
Is required from the coffee growers
In Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Brazil, Costa Rica?
Who is now benefitting from this hard labor?
Is it the worker? Is it the middleman?
Starbucks wants to differ. It's all about business.
It's all about controlling the supply to meet demand
Yes, beans capitalism. Let's count the beans.
Nothing goes by chance. All the moves are calculated
The demand is high for coffee, coffee products in America,
Europe and the rest of the world.
Long live this golden seed that produces a golden bean!
Long live America! Long live the coffee consumer!