California Heartland Episode 916 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 .  And, by the Almond Board of California; California Almonds, loved around the world, grown in California’s Heartland. 

Coming up on California Heartland…

Everybody’s got a smile on their face this morning, that’s good!

Women inmates are serving time – farming California almonds.

You get to know each tree believe it or not, it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

See how they’re learning to grow, harvest and package their own rehabilitation in a central California field.

We grew 52 tomato plants this year.

They’re seeing red in Carmel—where its time for the annual TomatoFest!

What's your favorite?

My favorite is the Kentucky beefsteak.

Pull out the salt shaker and feast your eyes on the best heirlooms the state has to offer!


What’s a weed?  A weed is just a plant in the wrong place!

How to whack the weeds in your yard—tips from master gardener Fred Hoffman.

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: Sunrise over the central valley: a symbol of long days, searing heat and hard labor.

John Lobertini: But on this morning the barbed wire and the guard tower set a very different tone.

Man: Let’s go line up!

John Lobertini: This is the Valley State Prison for women in Chowchilla, a place where hard labor is a welcome diversion from hard time.

Priscilla Escobar: Yea, I’ve held jobs, but nothing like this.  Like the first couple of weeks I worked, I had blisters on my feet from the walking.

John Lobertini: At the crack of dawn as many as 30-low risk inmates leave the prison and march down this long gravel road.  

John Lobertini: It’s the path to redemption and rehabilitation.  And these women are repaying their debt to society by farming this 650-acre almond orchard right next door.

Priscilla Escobar: When I first came out here I was like, oh my God, I’m going to get lost! Where am I, which way is out?

John Lobertini: After just 4-months on the job, Priscilla Escobar is embracing farming in a way she couldn’t have imagined.  Escobar used to be a drug dealer.

Priscilla Escobar: You get to know each tree believe it or not.  Sounds silly but you get to know each row, each tree, by the ground you walk on & the looks of the tree.

Priscilla Escobar: And just to see the leaves.  In there, there are not trees.  Even the simple fact you’re around a tree makes a big difference.

John Lobertini: It makes a difference because this is business too.

John Lobertini: 50-percent of this almond crop is sold on the open market.  The other half is then sold by the prison industry authority ending up in government properties like hospitals, schools or on the dinner trays of thousands of inmates.  Almonds are a 2-billion dollar a year industry in California and the number one export crop.

Leo Lamb: See one like this?  You’re looking for any possible defects.

John Lobertini: Leo lamb outbid a herd of packing companies for the right to sell these almonds.  For more than a decade now he’s watched the evolution of this inmate labor camp.

John Lobertini: Can you look at this and tell me how good a job they’re doing here?

Leo Lamb: They’re doing a very nice job.  They’ve done very very well the last 2-3 years. 

John Lobertini: The inmates do more than water the plants.  They learn how to run heavy equipment, prune trees, spread fertilizer and maintain what seems like a never ending irrigation system.

DeMarie Davidson: Either a Coyote or a Squirrel got really thirsty.

John Lobertini: DeMarie Davidson spent her previous life behind a desk. 

John Lobertini: What about farming came as a surprise?

DeMarie Davidson: How much work it really is, truthfully!  You don’t realize it when you buy it in the store the whole history that product has. You know the almond starts with these tiny little green pods, and then the skin opens up and then you’ve even got another shell and then you actually have the almond in another shell.

Woman: If you guys have your rows and your fields, get going.

John Lobertini: Working with people who never farmed before requires patience, in much the same way as the crops do.  Ray Mattesich sold his own fields years ago to run this prison agriculture business.

John Lobertini: What’s it like working with these women?

Ray Mattesich: I do get satisfaction from seeing the interest there.  But, it’s got to be nurtured.  They don’t want to be in prison, if you give them the opportunity to do some learning and some skills that’s where the internal satisfaction comes from.

John Lobertini: These inmates earn 30 to 95 cents an hour but a percentage of that goes to a victim restitution fund.

John Lobertini: Prison businesses up and down California generate 75-different commodities.  And get this, in 2007 the profit, this is the profit, was a staggering 160-million dollars.  Simply put, these businesses pay for themselves. 

John Lobertini: Across the street from the orchard a small processing center sorts, packages & ships almonds.

John Lobertini: It too is run by inmates.

Ray Mattesich: There are many skills that they learn here they don’t have to go directly into farming or agriculture.  There’s a back hoe over there; if we teach the how to run a back hoe they can learn that and go to any construction site.

John Lobertini: For some the challenge is learning how to work.  Getting up and showing up was never part of the routine.

Theresa Hughes: I’ve learned a lot though; I’ve never had a real job.  I was always in trouble.  By doing this out here, I’m learning a lot of things.  I’ve learned my lesson, I really have.

Pamela Davis: It’s helped me open my eyes and realize that I can do things better for myself and for my kids.  I have a family out there and I didn’t realize how much I need them and they need me.  I look forward to going home and being with them. 

Ashley Freitas: Hi my name is Ashley Freitas my herd name is Candy Land Farm, Nigerian Dwarfs.  I’m in 4-H, I’m 17 years old; I live in Burleson, California.  My goats name is CLF Sweetie Pie.  She’s a Nigerian Dwarf; she’s a miniature dairy goat.  She’s 11 months old, we milk our goats twice a day and they can produce up to 2 quarts a day of milk.  They’re more dairy, a Nigerian Dwarf is more finer boned, they’re not as stalky as a Pygmy Goat.  I really like the Nigerian Dwarfs because they’re smaller, I really like their color and some of them have blue eyes.  They’re really friendly and I got grand champion at the California State Fair with my little doe.  Thanks for watching my California Heartland. 


Chris Burrous: Ahi Tuna, it’s a California favorite.  The fresh fish is loaded with protein and very low in calories.  The yellow fin tuna is caught year round in the Pacific Ocean—and can range in size anywhere between 3 to 200 pounds.  So grill it, BBQ it or sear the fresh fish.  Food and lifestyle expert Laura Macintosh is bringing it home from the crops to your kitchen.

Laura McIntosh: Well thanks everyone for joining me, are you ready to cook?  I am here- Do you recognize him?  Rajko Marin, from Tadich Grill- hi Rajko!

Rajko Marin: Hi Laura!

Laura McIntosh: What are we doing today?

Rajko Marin: So today we’re doing- we have nice, fresh, Pacific Ahi Tuna. 

Laura McIntosh: Yeah, it’s beautiful!

Rajko Marin: And, we’re going to spice it up a little.

Laura McIntosh: Ok, what are these spices?

Rajko Marin: This is rose garlic, lemon pepper, sesame seeds and a little bit of salt…pepper.

Laura McIntosh: It’s good!  It’s delicious!

Rajko Marin: Just coat it a little bit, on a plate very well coated.

Laura McIntosh: Yeah, and we’re going to sear it?

Rajko Marin: Yes, and we’re going to sear it in olive oil.  We just got a little bit of olive oil.  On the grill, make sure this is moist with oil.

Laura McIntosh: So would you rub it with a little oil first? 

Rajko Marin: A little bit of olive oil…any oil.

Laura McIntosh: And then the spices…

Rajko Marin: And then you can sear it on your grill.  I quick sear it on the pan on both sides and two prawns, just for the garnish.  So, you can do it with the scallops, anything, crab legs all the things you want.  So I need this…

Laura McIntosh: And we’re going to turn it.

Rajko Marin: We’re going to sear it, just slowly turn it around.  This is going to be just for the garnish. 

Laura McIntosh: I absolutely have to tell you, I love how the scallops turn this orange color.

Laura McIntosh: Oh, it’s gorgeous. 

Rajko Marin: Pretty much okay…

Laura McIntosh: Oh good!

Rajko Marin: This is pretty much done. 

Laura McIntosh: You know what are nice guys, you put everything in one pan: the bread, the prawns, the tuna…all in one pan. 

Rajko Marin: So we got a little salad of mixed greens.

Laura McIntosh: Ok, great.

Rajko Marin: A little micro-greens we have pea shoots, we got mixed greens, we got daikon- it’s all a mix. 

Laura McIntosh: Beautiful!

Rajko Marin: So to make dressing for the salad, we need a little bit of yellow mustard, Dijon mustard, honey, a little mayonnaise, garlic and I have orange champagne vinaigrette.  Mix this together.

Laura McIntosh: Right!  With a little bit of that!

Rajko Marin: With a little bit of that- a little mayonnaise, if you need more spice to it, the garlic yeah.  This is the plate we’re going to garnish.

Laura McIntosh: Okay, this is easy!

Rajko Marin: Easy, this is very very easy.  This, I just toss with a little bit of dressing.  So this salad is pretty much done.

Laura McIntosh: It’s done and ready to go?

Rajko Marin: So this is what I use, a little bit of cucumber.  It’s an English cucumber and relish.  I’m going to put it on a plate.

Laura McIntosh: Now, you slice those nice and thin. 

Rajko Marin: Yes slice it- you can slice it on a machine, you can slice it by hand.

Laura McIntosh: Ok, what a great combination.  I have an idea what you’re going to do and it’s going to be fabulous.  Ok, now all my viewers all my friends out there know that I can just eat one of those.  I love those!

Rajko Marin: And then I got a little bit of toasted bruschetta.  Ok, so I’m going to split the tuna in half, I got two prawns.

Laura McIntosh: That is just beautiful.  And you’re going to cut that, how are you going to cut that? 

Rajko Marin: I’m just going to cut sideways. 

Laura McIntosh: Ok, look at how delicious that looks. 

Rajko Marin: Yes, very very delicious.  Then I just splash, drizzle sesame seed oil, a little bit of teriyaki and I got wasabi.

Laura McIntosh: Bring it on!  Oh, look at that.

Rajko Marin: Just a little- this is a good dish.

Laura McIntosh: This is a beautiful dish.  You know what I like?  We did it here, you saw it, it was simple and easy.

Rajko Marin: It’s very easy to make.

Collins Shields: You wouldn’t find anybody like this guy because everybody wants to make money and this guy just likes to see things grow.

Jennifer Quinonez: This “guy” is Jimmy Williams and what he grows are organic plants and herbs in Hollywood. 

Jennifer Quinonez: It’s a big change of pace for this former New Yorker, who found new a way to turn a leisurely pastime into a new way of life.

Jimmy Williams: I used to design sports wear and this was a hobby, I didn’t start this business until 8, 10 years ago.

Jimmy Williams: This is the Persian basil, that’s the Thai basil…

Jennifer Quinonez: He’s nicknamed the “plant guru” by many of his loyal customers because of his vast knowledge of seeds and soil.

Collins Shields: Well it takes me back to where I come from, my folks were farmers and I went through all this, potting plants, putting them in the ground, watching them grow, harvesting them and you know that type of thing.

Jennifer Quinonez: What Jimmy produces, along with the help of his son Logan, is hundreds of distinctive organically certified plants and herbs.

Logan Williams: Dad do you want me to take the fig tress and put them over here?

Jimmy Williams: That’s might be a good idea.  Ok, great.

Logan Williams: My dad’s personality in a word would be charismatic, he’s inviting, that’s probably why people not only like our plants but like buying form us, we’re naturally friendly.  We really want you to make sure you have fun with it and really enjoy what you’re doing.

Jimmy Williams: And that’s a lettuce leaf, you ever try that one?  Try it, just take a leaf.  And that literally gets the size of lettuce.

Jennifer Quinonez: Jimmy grows more than 500 different varieties of fruits and veggies in the front, side, and backyard of his Hollywood home.

Jimmy Williams: We have an average size lot here in Hollywood we use every corner of this yard, to grow things, the way we use the space we can grow 2-3, 000 plants on a 3x2 space; you just have to do it in stages.

Jennifer Quinonez: The first stage of growing begins right on the top of his garage!

Jennifer Quinonez: How many different varieties are you growing here?

Jimmy Williams: There are 11 different lettuces, in this 3x2.

Jennifer Quinonez: So this is how it starts.

Jimmy Williams: We broadcast seed this tree, then we take them out carefully and put them in the 6 pack or 4-inch pot or a one-gallon container.

Jimmy Williams: I know people that are going to a certain foreign country on vacation or going to visit and the first thing I say is bring me back some seeds!

Jimmy Williams: These are baby papayas right here, this is how they start out.

Jennifer Quinonez: His interest in saving seeds has helped keep a family tradition alive.  In fact, Jimmy is still planting the heirloom tomato seeds brought over from West Africa by his great-great grandmother in the early 1800’s.

Jimmy Williams: The tomato tastes exactly the same, as it did 50 years ago.

Jennifer Quinonez: But growing and selling his plants are just a few of his daily duties.  Another big part of his business, called Hayground Organic Gardening, is installing and maintaining edible gardens.

Jimmy Williams: Oh Susan, I’m here.

Susan McCann: Oh, I’m glad you are because look at this.

Jimmy Williams: Oh boy, trouble. Yes, that’s aphids.

Jennifer Quinonez: But beyond maintaining the gardens, Jimmy takes pleasure in teaching his clients the best way to get more out of their plants.

Susan McCann: Ok look it’s ready.

Jimmy Williams: Yep, yep.

Susan McCann: Oh wow.

Jimmy Williams: It is ready.

Jimmy Williams: More ready than you thought?  Oh, the smell of this.  You smell that?  It’s incredible.  Yeah.

Susan McCann: That’s the freshest ginger…oh my.

Jimmy Williams: I think we can leave some in.

Susan McCann: Oh, definitely leave some in.  But, I’ll use this.

Jimmy Williams: Ok, we’ll put this back. 

Susan McCann: It looks like it’s all beautifully taken care of.  Because it’s not that hard to do, but in fact it is much harder to keep it nice looking.  But with Jimmy, he comes in he helps me.  I want to be like him (laughs) I’ll never get there, but I want to get his knowledge.  It’s great.

Logan Williams: We always grew stuff at home and you know, over the years people said you know you can sell this right?  And, we never believed it we never thought anything of it, but overtime it just sort of happened and it kind of chose us I like to think, we didn’t choose it. 

Jimmy Williams: I can do this forever!  I just want forever to be a long time! (laughs)

Chris Burrous: Pack your bags and grab your boots.  It’s time to hit the road with the Ag Traveler.

Melanie Kim: Carmel…

Melanie Kim: This beautiful city by the sea conjures up images of rolling waves and wind blown trees...

Melanie Kim: The upscale shops on Ocean Avenue…
Melanie Kim: And for thousands of tomato lovers… a big celebration!

Four on the Floor: (Singing) California here I come…right back where I started from.

Melanie Kim: If you're planning a trip to Carmel why not time it to coincide with a huge harvest party it's called the TomatoFest and right here is the ticket to tomato heaven.

Melanie Kim: The chance to experience all things tomato has them flocking to the Quail Lodge Resort in Carmel Valley.

Tomato Lover: Wow!

Melanie Kim: Here it’s all about the tomato.  From a tomato car to Miss Hot Tomato, even a place to check your…no, not your coat, you guessed it…your tomatoes!

Garrett Gould: It’s pretty heavy to carry a bushel of tomatoes around so instead of having to bring a cart or something like that we have them bring the bushel here.

Melanie Kim: At TomatoFest you can buy heirloom tomatoes…Get seeds to grow your own and taste the fruit as you never have before.

Melanie Kim: That looks amazing.

Tony Baker: Well we have a homemade cracker with fennel crusted ahi tuna and beautiful water tomato sorbet topped with a little bit of micro celery and some smoked salt. 

Melanie Kim: Wait back that up a little Tony, did you say tomato sorbet?

Tony Baker: Yep.

Melanie Kim: It’s a culinary competition the red food fanatics can‘t get enough of!

Mary Ann Hunter: I have four tomato plants at home and one's a new plant and I don't know what those tomatoes taste like so I hope to find that out today... but I can't tear myself away from all this gourmet.

Melanie Kim: Why do you like cooking with heirloom tomatoes?

Beverlie Terra: Why do I like cooking with heirloom tomatoes?  Because they're local, I'm a localvore.

Melanie Kim: I like it!

Beverlie Terra: And you know there's not a whole lot of areas where you can go get such a variety of tomatoes.

Gary Ibsen: Heirloom tomatoes are meant to be a regional food... food to be enjoyed down the street, a food to be consumed within 2 or 3 days of harvest to get the maximum flavor.

Melanie Kim: This huge harvest celebration grew out of just six tomato seedlings….and this man’s passion for heirlooms.

Gary Ibsen: It started with a Portuguese farmer friend years ago handing me six tomato seedlings
He said look these are heirloom tomatoes throw away your hybrids.  And I brought these six tomatoes home and grew them and it was amazing the flavor that came out of these tomatoes right away my inclination was to share them.

Melanie Kim: First with a handful of chef friends and now all of these tomato lovers!

Melanie Kim: Gary Ibsen, the festival’s founder, presides over the tomato tasting tent where 350 varieties of heirlooms are ripe for the tasting.

Gary Ibsen: All of these have distinctive different flavors. We get the flavors all the way from tropical fruit to the lemony lime citrus-y flavors and those big blustery tomato flavors that kinda make you go, wow!

Melanie Kim: It seems everyone has their favorite…

Tomato Lover: My favorite is the Early Girl.

Tomato Lover: Gregory’s All Time…

Tomato Lover: The Kentucky Beefsteak…

Melanie Kim: And family is what this fest is all about.

Melanie Kim: Front and center are the heirloom or heritage varieties. Some passed down for generations.

Gary Ibsen: Each one of these tomatoes it's not only a different flavor a different characteristic and taste but it's comes with a family history it comes with a cultural history and so part of our mission is to save that as well.

Bill Anderson: We grew 52 tomato plants this year.

Melanie Kim: Good for you.

Christine Anderson: Yeah it's fun!

Melanie Kim: You came all the way up from LA for this?

Christine Anderson: Uh huh, absolutely!

Melanie Kim: And to make it a total tomato-trip why not stay at the renowned Quail Lodge?

Melanie Kim: Where the food fun continues…

Matt Bolton: The green zebras are kinda on the bitter side…firmer texture side and then you have your brandy wines.

Melanie Kim: Chef de cuisine Matt Bolton at the Covey Restaurant loves serving them up in unique dishes.

Matt Bolton: Today what we're doing is a Monterey bay abalone dish and it's accented with an oven dried heirloom tomato.

Melanie Kim: Wow and they're absolutely gorgeous too.

Matt Bolton: And there you have a beautiful heirloom tomato dish for this evening.

Melanie Kim: The Carmel TomatoFest, not your typical harvest gathering but a treat for all the taste buds.

Four on the Floor: (singing) California here I come…

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

Fred Hoffman: California is home to a wide variety of plants from all over the world, trees, shrubs, fruit, flowers…they all call California home.  And so does California homeowner’s biggest nemesis- weeds!

Fred Hoffman: And true to California’s tradition of innovation, more and more gardeners are using smarter, more unique and greener alternatives when it comes to controlling these unwanted plants.

Fred Hoffman: What’s a weed?  It’s just a plant in the wrong place.  But the key to a weed eradication program is to know your enemy!  For instance, this beautiful plant- it’s a flowering Morning Glory but it’s a weed and it’s wrapped around my pop corn.  If you don’t know what your weeds are, there are a lot of great books and on-line references for you to check.  Or, dig out a sample; take it to your local nursery or cooperative extension for a positive I.D.  

Fred Hoffman: When it comes to controlling new weeds, the best offense is a good defense and that includes spraying your lawn and garden twice a year with a pre emergent to keep the weeds from popping up.  Pre emergents include all sorts of active ingredients, there in granular form, liquid form and if you’re looking to do it organically look for the active ingredient of corn gluten meal.  It’s best to apply pre emergents twice a year for year round control in late winter and late summer.  

Fred Hoffman: Another way to start weeds before they start organically is to use landscape fabric or weed cloth.  This allows air and water to permeate through, unlike black plastic.  The key with weed cloth is make sure you put it the right side up that allows the water to flow through.

Fred Hoffman: The downside to weed cloth is you have to cover it up with mulch to keep it from decomposing in the sun.  So a lot of gardeners are skipping the weed cloth and are just putting down 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch.  And what that does is it stops the weeds and it feeds the soil.

Fred Hoffman: Weed killers kill weeds and unfortunately any desirable plants you might have like this beautiful rose.  So, when I’ve got my backpack sprayer on and I’m killing a lot of weeds I use this piece of cardboard to separate the desirable plant from the undesirable plant like these weeds before I spray. 

Fred Hoffman: For pinpoint weed control, you can use one of these devices.  Just put the weed control product inside the tubes, and there’s a sponge on the end.  That way you can just dab on the weeds one by one without harming any of the nearby plants. 

Fred Hoffman: The most organic way to control weeds is also the most old fashioned.  Dig them up or pull them out.  Also if you just cut off the weeds before they set flower you can control next year’s population.   Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some 21st century whacking the weeds to do on this pompous grass.

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

To order a copy of this show, visit us online or call 1-888-814-3923 the cost is $14.95 plus shipping

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 .  And, by the Almond Board of California; California Almonds, loved around the world, grown in California’s Heartland.