California Heartland Episode 903 Transcript

California Heartland is made possible by The James G. Boswell Foundation, committed to sharing the stories and successes of California growers.  Bank of America, bank of opportunity.  Funding provided in part by, The California Farm Bureau Federation, proud publishers of “California Country” magazine.  More information is available at

We’re actually out here doing something for other people and serving a purpose, oppose to just being locked up inside.

Meet inmates forging a future of protection, one tree at a time- see how these inmates are building a new foundation for themselves, and the state.

Farm and family, the heritage of this California cattle company. 

I like to play around; I like to chase the horses. 

But business here is no child’s play; we’ll open the books on the living legacy at Five Dot Ranch. 

Go ahead and rub these between your palms for a natural deterrent for mosquitoes.  

And the homegrown remedies of lavender, right in your own backyard- next, on California Heartland. 

Chris Burrous: From your backyard, to the back country, in a field, or on your family table, it’s all about what keeps California moving and growing, this is California Heartland.

John Lobertini: In the late 1840’s the small Sierra Nevada town of Georgetown became the gateway to the gold rush; a place in time that changed California forever.

Now, stand in line guys.

John Lobertini: 150-years later that pioneering spirit is driving prospectors of another kind.

You know, the fact that we are convicts and we’re actually out here doing something for other people, and serving a purpose oppose to just being locked up inside. 

John Lobertini: These are the inmates of the Growlersburg conservation camp--today mining the forests for what makes fire burn.

Mark Skubish: There have been instances where we've had fires where we've already done clearing.  We've gotten there and instead of a raging inferno we've been able to catch the fire and contain it.

John Lobertini: Growlersburg is one of 43 inmate conservation camps up and down California.

John Lobertini: Camps dedicated to fighting fire; and changing the landscape that often feeds the flames.  Each year they spend close to 7 million man hours in the trenches cultivating this timberland; one of California’s largest agricultural commodities: corrections officer Cynthia Karrington watched the mission play out back in mid-May when fire threatened the nearby mountain town of Pollock Pines.

Cynthia Karrington: I believe our crews were the ones that saved the Pollock Pines and that community by responding so quickly & the type of work that they do. 

John Lobertini: What they do is very selective work, smaller trees are felled at the roots and limbs are neatly pruned

Dale McGill: Well The reason we limbed ‘em up is to keep the fire away from getting into the canopy, the over story is called the canopy,  if we can limb it up to at least walking height, at least 6-10 feet we keep the fire out of the canopy.

John Lobertini: But this is where this story takes a turn.  The Douglas fir, Black Oaks, and Ponderosa Pines pulled from these forests live on.  In some cases they become picnic tables and benches; and they service the publics in parks throughout California.

John Lobertini: With equipment even the sierra’s first lumberjacks might find antiquated-- inmates work with care and precision. 

Richard Thortenson: We’re constantly fixing stuff and everybody gets some hands on training as far as that goes.  And the knowledge of learning how to run the machines; which is really dangerous, you don’t just sustain a cut here; you lose a limb if you’re not careful.

John Lobertini: The lumber comes from the forest’s they clear and the finished product falls into place like a children’s puzzle.

John Lobertini: And there’s a respect among these craftsmen few inmates gave or received on the outside.  Richard Thorstenson has been in and out of prison for 14-years.

Richard Thortenson: I stay out of the table room.  I have an agreement with the table room guy, that’s his baby over there!

John Lobertini: The collaboration is a success.

John Lobertini: There are cabinets and conference room tables and electronic consoles too.  The quality is eye popping.

John Lobertini: But you won’t find this stuff in a furniture store; it’s only available to government agencies, school districts and parks.

John Lobertini: Is there anything in Governor Schwarzenegger's office? 

Kelly Keenan: Not to my knowledge as of right now.  But we would be more than happy to make him anything he would like.

John Lobertini: Charles Renovales thinks he may have found his calling; it’s something about the smell of the wood.

Charles Renovales: Right away, you can be looking the other way and they can be cutting something.  Oh, yea that's oak. Oh yea, that's pine.  Oh, that's a fir you know.

John Lobertini: This confluence of fate is feeding Mother Nature and the human soul.

David Anzuldua: There are 5 or 6 coming out of just this one plant here; that means they’re going to give pretty good!

John Lobertini: David Anzuldua grew every piece of produce his fellow inmates ate last year, 16-thousand dollars worth they say.  At 50 and a life long alcoholic Anzuldua desperately wants to hang on to the inner peace this garden brings him.

David Anzuldua: I was really bless for the last 3-years to know that you plant something and you watch it grow and I really learned to appreciate things for the natural of it.  No more fast lane.

John Lobertini: Drugs and alcohol are the demons that haunt most of these inmates; there are no sex offenders or violent criminals here.

John Lobertini: But at conservation camps like Growlersburg the road runs in both directions.  Jointly managed by Cal Fire and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, inmates earn their way into this program; and the people of California get highly trained fire fighters to care for their forests.

John Lobertini: You guys are getting a pretty good bang or your buck aren't you?

Kelly Keenan: Absolutely, the inmates are paid one dollar an hour, when they’re actually on an incident, the cost effectiveness of that you know working in very difficult, remote area's is astronomical.

Captain Ray A. Harrington Sr.: It saves the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars as far as fuels reduction and preventing forest fires from spreading.  We’re assisting them in becoming productive citizens, not only working within the forestry, but I think that they’re capable of going out and getting gainful employment with other agencies.

John Lobertini: For many the high sierra is worlds away from the life they once knew.  

Mark Skubish: I grew up in the city.  This is by far different.  It’s beautiful out here.

John Lobertini: 34-year old mark Skubish found mostly trouble on the streets of Covina.
But here he’s a leader among inmates; and Mother Nature is the unusual backdrop for redemption and renewal. 

Mark Skubish: The camp program has opened up a lot of avenues for my future as far as work and who I am now as a person.  I’ve had time to think about who I am and what I want to do with my life.

Chris Burrous: Who said potatoes have to be boring? Forget the russet bag of potatoes and start introducing different varieties of potatoes into your cooking.  A few obvious additions to the spud family are sweet potatoes, red potatoes and yams.  And with so many delicious potatoes grown right here in California –it’s no wonder you can whip up some great side-dishes.  Food and lifestyle expert Laura McIntosh is bringing it home with a fabulous three potato gratin.

Laura McIntosh: Dana, let’s talk about what you’re doing right now.

Dana Jaffe: Well, we're going to make a three-potato gratin.  Very simple dish.  We have used sweet potatoes.  They're garnet yams, actually.  We've use a kennebec.  And we're using a red potato.  And we've sliced these and put them into water so that we could do that part of it ahead, which is really useful.

Laura McIntosh: And notice you guys that the peels are still on the potatoes.  So, you don't need to peel your potatoes.  Wash them real well just before you're ready to slice them, put 'em in water, and put 'em in the refrigerator.

Dana Jaffe: So, we're going to do a little bit of pepper and a little bit of salt.  And a little bit of cheese.

Laura McIntosh: Mmm, what kind of cheese are you using?

Dana Jaffe: We're using an asiago.

Laura McIntosh: Oh, one of my favorites!  I love asiago cheese.

Dana Jaffe: So, we basically just repeat this layering process with a little bit of cream and a little bit of potato until it's done.  And then you put it in the oven and bake it for about an hour.

Laura McIntosh: Okay, about an hour.  How many layers typically for, say, a party of four?

Dana Jaffe: It depends on the size of your baking dish, once again.  We're going to put probably three to four layers in here, and it will settle as it bakes. But that should be enough for eight to ten people.

Laura McIntosh: One more layer, I think we can do it.  Any potato that you wouldn't use?

Dana Jaffe: Maybe the blue ones.

Laura McIntosh: Maybe the blue ones, okay.  They're sliced really thin.  You've done a nice job...really slicing those.  We have one in the oven that we're gonna pull out and check and let you see what that looks like.

Dana Jaffe: That is pretty much ready for the oven.  We're gonna go ahead
And top that with a little bit of cream.

Laura McIntosh: And away we go.

Laura McIntosh: And away we go.  Remember, this is a little high, but it will fall a little bit, and that's what you want.

Laura McIntosh: Take a look at this, you guys.

Laura McIntosh: Oh, man, are you happy?

Dana Jaffe: Yes.

Laura McIntosh: Yes, good. Okay, that one is in. This one is out.  Dana, this looks absolutely fantastic.  Easy to do, and like you said rich, right?

Dana Jaffe: Very rich.

Laura McIntosh: Very rich, but tasty and remember all these recipes are found on our website.

Hi my name is Emilee Noble.

Hi my name is Tommi Noble.

Welcome to our California heartland.

Feeding them watering them getting the eggs.

Gathering them back in their coop.

It’s really fun and you get to see what they look like when they grow. And you get to see what they look like when they are babies.

Most of the time it can be fun.

And hard.

You have to actually take care of them.

Their favorite food is watermelon and strawberries, popcorn, bread.

We actually did not know that they could eat that.

The black one, I like that one because it is like the boss of all the chickens. And it goes gawk. And stuff like that to people. It’s funny.

Thank you for coming to our California Heartland.  Bye.

Chris Burrous: When you think of ice-cream, you probably think of cows. But it’s time for them to move over, there’s a new kid on the block….

Chris Burrous: These Petaluma area goats are raised for their milk…but it’s not for goat-cheese. Their milk is the main ingredient for a healthier version of one of America’s favorite desserts.

Laura Howard: Goat milk is amazingly similar to mother’s milk, so in nature it’s the most natural sort of thing that is meant for human consumption in terms of digestibility.

Chris Burrous: Laura Howard is co owner of Laloo’s goat milk ice cream—but she hasn’t always been running with the goats

Chris Burrous: Following a successful Hollywood producing career, Laura wasn’t fulfilled --so she up and moved to India to study yoga and begin living a healthier life.

Laura Howard: I began a whole new quest for not eating anything that I couldn’t pronounce and went on a cleanse which included no caffeine, no dairy, no alcohol for a year…and the dairy was the hardest part.

Chris Burrous: Goat’s milk is permissible on a cleansing diet because it’s easier to digest.  So Laura began eating goat milk cheeses and yogurts--but she couldn’t find her favorite dessert—ice-cream!

Laura Howard: There was nothing like goat milk ice-cream on the market that I could find on the Internet or any store…

Chris Burrous: So she began experimenting in her kitchen until she came up with her own recipe.

Laura Howard: Everybody just flipped and said oh my gosh, this is amazing and it’s so low fat and it’s so rich and creamy.

Chris Burrous: Only after discovering the “slow food” movement in Italy, was she convinced that she should follow her dream. So they moved to Petaluma.

Laura Howard: Petaluma is the center basically of the natural food revolution and the slow food movement.  Making these really unique, really delicious, pure products from the land, straight to the table.

Chris Burrous: Taking advice from other Sonoma county food producers and using only fresh, local ingredients and no preservatives, Laura started Laloos four years ago.  And today business is booming! Gone are the days of Laura peddling her ice-cream out of a truck. Now, using a co-op of goat farmers and teaming up with whole foods and other natural markets, Laloos is available in more than 750 stores nationwide.

Laura Howard: I follow my own pallet for most of what I do and I think I’ve just been incredibly fortunate and very lucky so far, that the things that I like and have chosen to make, the public has also liked.

Chris Burrous: All the low-fat ice creams and the new frozen yogurts were developed right here in her home kitchen.

Chris Burrous: Flavors like Vanilla Snowflake, Brownie and Clyde, Raspberry and Deep Chocolate—just to name a few!

Chris Burrous: Working at home gives Laura the opportunity to see her daughter throughout the day.  And for her and her husband, the bucolic setting is the perfect place to raise a family.

Douglas Gayeton: My daughter, as every 1 or 2 year old has, they all have books that have pictures of cows and horses and goats and chickens and when my daughter sees the picture, she doesn’t say chicken, she says Capo, because that the name of “her” chicken.

Chris Burrous: Having this close connection to the land goes hand in hand with Laura’s commitment to quality.

Douglas Gayeton: She has supported local farmers, she has created a product that didn’t exist and has really stayed true to herself.

Laura Howard: It’s hard work, but it’s mostly just fun. It’s ice-cream.

Chris Burrous: The roots of California’s farming families grow deep; this is the Heritage of our Heartland.

John Alston: Along this secluded road in the sierra high country, a family tradition dating back more than 150 years is still going strong.  This is the heart and soul of the five dot ranch.

John Alston: The Swickard family has made this cattle ranch north of Susanville their home, their business and their passion.

Todd Swickard: My name is Todd Swickard and our family’s been in the business in California since 1852 and I’m the sixth generation to be here.

Midge Swickard: I am Midge Swickard, Todd Swickard’s mother.  My husband Jack and I came up here in 1959 and settled on this ranch after leaving San Jose.

Lori Swickard: My name is Lori Swickard.  I’m married to Todd Swickard and I’m very blessed to be part of the Five Dot operation for about 20 years now.

John Alston: Over the years, they built a reputation raising open range cattle, all natural, no hormones.  But how the Swickards got here to Lassen County and where their business is headed-- is the real story.

Todd Swickard: Some of the family came across on wagon trains.  Some went across the Isthmus of Panama and some went around the Cape Horn on the southern end of South America to get here.

John Alston: The family settled in the Santa Clara valley at this ranch near San Jose.  A trail of deeds shows how the property was passed down to family members as the Swickards made a name for themselves in the agriculture business.

Midge Swickard: The most favorable conditions must have prevailed on Harvey Swickard’s farm because he certainly has made money raising hay and wheat.

John Alston: But then came urban development. In 1948, a freeway split their beloved ranch in half.  Over the next decade, they were surrounded by subdivisions and Silicon Valley.

John Alston: Was it hard to give up the house in Santa Clara? 

Midge Swickard: Not at all.  I just wanted to leave. Ha ha ha.

John Alston: So Midge and her husband Jack put out feelers and started looking… when they got this brochure for a few thousand acres near Susanville.

John Alston: How much is the price? 

Midge Swickard: 56 dollars an acre. 

John Alston: Still going for 56 an acre? 

Midge Swickard: Not hardly. (laughter)

John Alston: In 1959, the family drove up to take a look.

Midge Swickard: My mother and father-in-law were coming up to the Lake Tahoe area, so we said go look at it while you’re up there.  And they came back and said they thought it had possibilities.

John Alston: Did it ever! Little by little they started hauling bits of their lives and their home-- to Susanville.

John Alston: So these are from Santa Clara? 

Todd Swickard: Yes, these are some of the old original Swickard family windows that we brought up.

John Alston: Those old windows have since been replaced, but other memories from their home—live on.

Todd Swickard: Two of the things they brought were the bricks you see here.  These are the original bricks that were between my grandparents and great grandparent’s house. It was the walkway there.  And another interesting thing is the door here that’s on the house is from the old original Swickard house.  The door and the hardware that was built in the 1850’s and they brought it up and we adopted it into this house here.

John Alston: This is the morning commute? 

Todd Swickard: That’s right.

John Alston: Today, Todd Swickard, is as ambitious as his father jack who at age 15 became one of the youngest breeders in the nation.

John Alston: Jack passed away in 2001. 

Todd Swickard: I mean he was very concerned about the stewardship of things.  You know we try to take real good care of it. Kind of a motto in the industry is to leave it better for the next generation than we inherited it.

John Alston: And now, the seventh generation of Swickards appears to be continuing the tradition-- Logan is the youngest at 11.

John Alston: Your father grew up on a ranch, your grandfather did, and do you think you might want to do that? 

Logan Swickard: Yes, because it’s fun and you get to ride a lot.

John Alston: Also part of the herd--14-year-old Katelyn, 17-year-old Lindsay and 19-year-old Kirby who is studying agriculture and economics in college—she’s already sizing up her office

Kirby Swickard: When we opened up the niche market in Napa, it really sparked my interest in the whole marketing aspect of it.  So I think that’s what I want to do is come back and help my mom further that and expand it.

John Alston: Do you think Jack would approve of the way Todd’s handling things? 

Midge Swickard: Oh, Absolutely.  Absolutely.  He’d be so proud of him and he’d also be proud of his daughter-in law.

John Alston: And as the Five-Dot-family tree continues to grow--so does the history behind this land.

Chris Burrous: Everyone’s a farmer when it comes to their own backyard, try these tips for doin’ it Home Grown.

Kristine Hanson: It’s a common sight in Europe, rows of beautifully scented lavender.  These plants grown wild in the Mediterranean so it’s not wonder that they’ve become a popular yet romantic landscape plant right here in California with our Mediterranean climate.

Kristine Hanson: There are lots of things to love about this plant, it’s pest free, it tolerates dry conditions and even thrives on it- look at the natural bush shape of it and it’s got this blue green color so it adds a little depth to your landscape, and it sends out shoots of scented flowers that can be used for medicinal and herbal purposes for you and your pets, but what kind do we pick?

Kristine Hanson: So do you buy English, French or Spanish lavender?  Well those names don’t define the variety, just the country where you might find these types of plant- there are 3 types of lavender.  One, an Augusto folia, or English lavender plant- think romantic cottage style, this is also great the flowers can be used for cooking in the kitchen.  The Intermedia or French lavender, think perfume.  There’s lots of oil in this plant, this makes a great dried flower and is used in all types of aromatherapy products.  Then a Stoechas, or a Spanish lavender, not great in the kitchen as an herb but what a fabulous blast of color in the landscape, you recognize the Spanish or Stoechas by it’s unique blossom, kind of like little rabbit ears at the tip of the blossom.  Now all of these plants need a little bit of pruning to look good, think I’m gonna go to work on this one.

Kristine Hanson: Now one thing gardeners don’t like about the plant is the straggly appearance it has after a couple of years, well it simply needs a haircut- we’d all look a little bit un-kept if we didn’t get our hair trimmed.  So you’re gonna go in and cut about 2 inches below the stalk, right into the leaves of the plant.  You’re gonna continue to do this on each plant, and you’ve got these flowers and once this is done it will be pruned for the next season.  It will start to fill out for the rest of the summer, and will start to produce flowers and you’ll get more flowers next year by doing this at the end of the season this year.  Now this is a lot more efficient than cutting every flower spike and as you can see when it’s done it’s a nice rounded shrub.  And now we have these flowers and I’m going to show you what we do with these next.

Kristine Hanson: This is my favorite part, not only do we enjoy the lavender plants year long in the garden but we get to bring these scented flowers indoors, and I’ve just trimmed off the bottoms of the plant and the stalks that we just took off of our pruned plant- and you can tie them like this and leave them flat to dry or you can clip them and put them just like this into a vase and they will dry naturally and provide scent for your house for the entire year and in some cases like these, they’ve been providing scent for my house for the last couple of years.  You can also use these discarded stalks in the fire place later in the winter.  And then the dried florets, that’s what we call the little dried flowers that come off of the lavender, go ahead and rub these in-between your palms, put them on you at sunset, and your kids for a natural deterrent for mosquitoes- also, sprinkle some in the pet’s bed and you wont see any fleas.  So as you can see the lavender is a full service plant that’s not only old fashioned, but contemporary in any home or garden.

Chris Burrous: That’s California Heartland, for more information on any of these stories go to I’m Chris Burrous see you next time.

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California Heartland is made possible by The James G. Boswell Foundation, committed to sharing the stories and successes of California growers.  Bank of America, bank of opportunity.  Funding provided in part by, The California Farm Bureau Federation, proud publishers of “California Country” magazine.  More information is available at