California Heartland Episode 921 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…

It's a very happy tree right now!  And it can hardly wait to give us its olives!

You might call this divine intervention…

Meet the Dominican Sisters and a man on a mission to help preserve one of California’s oldest olive tree crops.


I love team roping, and I love this rodeo.

From the courtroom to the corral- meet the California attorney turned cowboy who really makes a case for saddling up and chasing a new way of life!


New composting techniques that turn yard scraps into a gardener’s gold!

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.

Sisters: Look way up there!  I mean way up at the top. 

Sisters: There’s a bunch up here!

Rob Stewart: Excitement fills the air for the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.  It’s that time of year again when their olive trees are loaded.  Cluster after cluster hang everywhere on these historic olive trees with roots dating back to the late 1700’s.  And, they’re still growing right here on the original Mission land where Spaniards settled in Fremont. 

Dolores Ferenz: Well, olives were something native to Spain. It would be something what would be part of their diet.

Dolores Ferenz: So little by little, agriculture became a big thing here. 

Rob Stewart: This is the oldest remaining building?

Dolores Ferenz: Of the original adobe buildings that were part of the mission complex.

Rob Stewart: Wow.  This dates back to? 

Dolores Ferenz: This one was probably built about 1810 after the church was finished.

Rob Stewart: Just like most of the original buildings the mission crops have crumbled except for these still thriving olive trees.  This is the oldest standing mission olive orchard in the state covering the land that remained after most of the mission property was sold to area ranchers in 1830.

Dolores Ferenz: We got back 28 and 1 third acres of our land.  Some of which we have sold off as well. 

Rob Stewart: To? 

Dolores Ferenz: The Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, who are our neighbors behind us here.

Rob Stewart: Behind the mission, rows and rows of olive trees leading up to the Dominicans motherhouse- sort of a divine intervention, the next generation of caretakers of the crop.

Rob Stewart: For decades the Dominican sisters would harvest the fruit and press their very own olive oil – by hand for sacrament celebrations and convent cooking.  But in 1964, that harvest ended, when the sisters could no longer handle the harsh labor of picking and pressing.

Rob Stewart: You used to pick these trees right out here?

Sister Florence Cumbelich: Yeah, but I remember more trees being here.   And not so high, because I think they have grown.  They were lower.  So I could hide.  (laughter)

Rob Stewart: Sister Florence Cumbelich was one of the sisters that used to pick the olives decades ago back when all of this grass was covered with the trees she loves.

Sister Florence Cumbelich: They are gorgeous- I mean you see the silvery tops on them…the breeze blowing through them. 

Sister Karen Elizabeth Zavitz: For years, it was just falling on the ground and we were walking all over it, it was splashing all over our habits.  And it was going to waste - and that really was almost sinful.

Rob Stewart: But that sin on the ground became a gift from up high. For Sister Karen Elizabeth Zavitz and the other Dominican Sisters a saint of the soil stepped in.  When professional olive oil maker, Dan Sciabica offered up the services of his company to pick and press the olives for the sisters- for free. 

Dan Sciabica: I think staying connected to the spiritual significance of the olive tree and also the temporal significance of the olive tree in California is best rooted right here.

Sister Karen Elizabeth Zavitz: He has such a passion for the olive trees and for the olive oil and its many properties - from the sacred to the secular.  And he's really instilled that in us.

Dan Sciabica: I think you’re going to have a good crop this year and of course the olive oil will be impeccable.

Sister Karen Elizabeth Zavitz: I think that we have a lot better harvest coming up.

Dan Sciabica: Your eye is getting trained quickly!  (laughter)

Sister Karen Elizabeth Zavitz: I mean, we had the trees, the desire, but without someone like Dan - it would not have happened.

Rob Stewart: This is where the sister’s olives end up – at Sciabica’s processing plant in Modesto.

Rob Stewart: So when will these be olive oil?

Dan Sciabica: Tomorrow!

Rob Stewart: Tomorrow!

Dan Sciabica: Is that fast enough for you?

Rob Stewart: Wow!

Rob Stewart: That’s not all that’s fast!  The olives ride up a conveyor belt, are dumped into a water bath and the olive press is on!  The water and oil are divided -and in a matter of minutes, the sisters have liquid gold- more than a thousand bottles of olive oil that the sisters sell to raise money for the convent. 

Dan Sciabica: When we press those olives for mission san Jose, I mean, the feeling here is just unbelievable and every once in a while we get a little miracle thrown in.

Rob Stewart: But the sisters will tell you the real miracle is Dan Sciabica a man on a mission – with a passion for preserving history.

Sister Karen Elizabeth Zavitz: That means by the weekend after Thanksgiving, we can really start harvesting. 

Rob Stewart: Back at the motherhouse, the sisters keep their end of the bargain.  Tending the trees and praying for a good crop.  Each of the sisters even has their very own adopted olive tree. 

Sister Karen Elizabeth Zavitz: It’s doing really well so I must be doing something right!

Dan Sciabica: So as we like to say, it’s from blossom to bottle.  And this is what this is because there’s no one in between except God. 

Rob Stewart: And some very dedicated women- praying this growing history will live on celebrating their prized olive oil.

Rob Stewart: And this is- wha-la!

Sister Karen Elizabeth Zavitz: That’s it- pressed, bottled, labeled, sealed, and ready to go out the door! 

Dan Sciabica: To not have olive trees in heaven would be a shame.  (laughs)

Chris Burrous: The nectarine- a mouth watering fruit that’s packed with vitamins, potassium and fiber!  And did you know the nectarine is believed to be a cross-breed between a peach and a plum?  Food and Lifestyle Expert, Laura McIntosh is bringing it home- from the crops to your kitchen.

Laura McIntosh: Joining us up on the kitchen set is John Jackson.  Hi John, how are you? 

John Jackson: Fine, thank you.

Laura McIntosh: Thanks for joining us!  What are you going to cook for us today? 

John Jackson: Well, I’ve got a couple of things.  I’m using nectarines to make a nectarine soup.

Laura McIntosh: But this is kind of a cool soup isn’t it?  Ok, so it’s going to be very flavorful and very easy to do- how do we do it? 

John Jackson: Really simple- normally I add butter to this but today I feel like a little bit of olive oil.  But, you can use either just to keep the fruit from sticking.  I try to dice these uniform so when I cook it, it cooks evenly.

Laura McIntosh: Ok-

John Jackson: …which gives the soup texture and part of it’s cooked and part of it’s uncooked it’s because you didn’t dice it properly.  You don’t want that! 

Laura McIntosh: So very easy, this is just like a quick sauté. 

John Jackson: Exactly- and what I’ll do is I’ll take some sugar and I’ll just add some sugar to it.  Depending on the ripeness of the fruit will depend on how much sugar you want to add.  So as you can see, the sugar on the sides of the pan is starting to caramel, that’s right when you want to add your alcohol.  Pull it off the heat because you don’t want it to explode in your face. 

Laura McIntosh: Right, you don’t want a flame in this instance.

John Jackson: Exactly!  So I’ll add some for flavor, I’ll cook it sec or dry.  For this recipe I’m just going to add a little bit of water. 

Laura McIntosh: Again, here’s where you can substitute and add juice of nectarines or something to give it more.

John Jackson: …or plums or pears or apples or you could add sparkling- champagne.  You can add wine, I mean you can do so many different things with it; it’s just whatever you want.

Laura McIntosh: And you thought there was nothing to do with nectarines besides eat them fresh, well here’s the recipe- it’s easy to do.

John Jackson: So then I’ll just cook this with the liquid until soft, bring it to a boil, cook it until it’s soft, and throw it in the blender.

Laura McIntosh: Once it’s in the blender do we strain it? 

John Jackson: If you want to, it’s up to you, it’s all about texture.  It depends if you like it a little bit thicker, a little bit cleaner- you know.  This has not been strained. 

Laura McIntosh: This has not been strained.

John Jackson: And I did add the peel which has been poached in simple syrup to remove the bitterness and to enhance the flavor of the peach and the color.

Laura McIntosh: …so, all of the fiber in the skin still remains in the soup.

John Jackson: Exactly!

Laura McIntosh: Absolutely, and that’s it.  And it’s cooled, it’s not a warm soup, it’s a cool or chilled soup. 

John Jackson: Right, and something that’s important with food.  Hotter foods require less seasoning, colder food require more.  So, when you taste this and it’s hot, when it cools down it’s probably going to need a little more lemon juice, maybe a little more sugar, maybe a pinch of salt.  So, go ahead and taste it once it’s cooled down. 

Laura McIntosh: And, once it’s here- you have some of this.

John Jackson: I do, that is a raspberry cooling which was done in the exact same way.  Sugar, water, raspberry liquor, sugar and whatever you want, and raspberries- cook it, blend it, and strain the seeds out- done!  Simple!  

Laura McIntosh: So these are two fruits.  One berry, one fruit actually- or droop.  Nectarine is a droop.  And how do we dress this?

John Jackson: Really simple, you just put it in the soup.

Laura McIntosh: And look at that, you can do anything you want.

John Jackson: Anything you want, you could add whip cream to this, you could add mascarpone, and you could add mint leaf. 

Laura McIntosh: Wow, make it your own. 

Chris Burrous: For the last 30 years, Ed Madrid has carved his path as a criminal defense attorney in southern California. 

Ed Madrid: The law is my passion because it gives you an opportunity to really get your hands on issues that make a difference in helping people.

Chris Burrous: But with Ed, there’s more than meets the eye. That’s because behind this suit and tie lies the heart of a cowboy who up to 10 years ago didn’t know his life was about to change after watching a roping event. 

Ed Madrid: I thought, my God, I would love to do this, this is fun! You know, most lawyers play golf, I said, I don't want to play golf; you know I want to chase a steer! That’s what I want to do!

Chris Burrous: Before he could jump into team roping, Ed had one major challenge to conquer.

Ed Madrid: I was close to 300 pounds at that time, and two, I didn't know how to ride a horse at that level.  And so I set my mind to get in shape, and I’ve lost 100 pounds.  I’m in very good shape, I took a lot of lessons and that got me more involved in the rodeo world.

Chris Burrous: So this lawyer by profession turned team roper by passion is now gearing up to take part in an event close to his heart- the San Dimas rodeo.

Ed Madrid: What's your name?

Kid: Nathan. 

Ed Madrid: Nathan, how are you.

Kid: Good.

Ed Madrid: Is this your first rodeo?

Kid: Yeah!

Chris Burrous: Ed is one of 100 volunteers who put on this yearly event that honors the spirit of the true cowboy.

Julie Rodriguez: I love country music, I love cowboys it's all good for me!

Ed Madrid: This rodeo brings together a lot of business people and above all the people that run the rodeo are wonderful people.  None of these people get paid, nobody gets paid! And what people don't see is the work that goes into putting on a rodeo, these people work at this all year long.

Chris Burrous: Ed’s favorite part about this rodeo is the focus placed on children…especially those with disabilities. 

Ed Madrid: Yeah!  Alright!

Chris Burrous: The buckaroo challenge is for 30 kids with special needs.  Today, Ed is partnered up with 8-year-old Cole who has cerebral palsy.

Dena Calderon: This is Cole's 3rd year doing the rodeo and he loves it.  Being special needs even with mild case of cerebral palsy he does have, there's few things he can do that typical kids can do.

Ed Madrid: I've been to many many rodeos but the San Dimas rodeo, it's small it's intimate and it's personal because you know the people.  And these are people that are doing it because they care and it's a wonderful cause, and my god, what a better way to spend your weekend.

Chris Burrous: After this cowboy has showed the tykes how to rope – it’s time for him to get out there himself and get that steer!

Ed Madrid: With the same energy I go after the steer, that's how I go after my adversaries and that's how I rep a client.  When you see me go after that steer today, I will.  Just picture a prosecutor or one of my opponents in a civil trial because I’m swinging that rope and I’m coming after you!

Chris Burrous: Unfortunately, Ed and his partner didn’t win but that’s just fine for this lawyer cowboy. 
It’s not about the prize; it’s about the journey and the lives that are impacted along the way.

Kid: Daddy!  I did it!  Woo hoo!

Ed Madrid: I love team roping, and I love this rodeo.  And God bless the San Dimas rodeo and all the people that run it.

Chris Burrous: The roots of California’s farming families grow deep.  This is the heritage of our heartland.

Chris Kuratomi: I’m Chris Kuratomi.  I’m the 3rd generation to work on this farm.  And my family has been making dried persimmons ever since I was a little girl.

Toshio Kuratomi: I’m Toshio Kuratomi.  I’m the 4th generation here at Otow Orchard and I help dry the persimmons that we sell every year.

Michie Montgomery: I’m Michie Montgomery.  I’m a 4th generation at the Otow Orchard.

Helen Otow: I’m Helen Otow and I was born here on this ranch and I’m still here. Ha ha ha.

John Alston: At age 92, Helen Otow is more than just still here.  She is the inspiration—the heart and soul of Otow orchard, a 40-acre oasis of farm land in Granite Bay a growing suburb east of Sacramento. 

Toshio Kuratomi: To me, she’s been this farmer even after my grandfather died.  She was still here. She was still working the garden, still pruning trees, still picking, still sorting, still doing all the things that a farmer does.

John Alston: And there is plenty to do on the farm which grows a variety of fruit including peaches, pears and plums.  But what sets Otow orchard apart are these:   persimmons… and the ancient Japanese art of Hoshigaki or dried persimmons.

Chris Kuratomi: We’ve always had the persimmons. My grandfather apparently loved persimmons and we planted a lot of them, a lot of the trees that are still here today.

John Alston: Picking the persimmons is only the start of a delicate, time-consuming process that will transform the fruit into a sweet delicacy.  The next step is peeling each persimmon by hand- all 20-thousand of them.  To get the job done, it is a cross-generational labor of love.  There’s Helen’s grandson Toshio, whose day job is computer programmer.

Toshio Kuratomi: It’s kind of about balance I guess. It feels nice to come out on the weekend and help my parents and do something like this because it’s different from what I’m doing day to day for my living.

John Alston: When he is done removing the skin, his next task is to carefully loop a string around each stem and then hang the persimmons to begin the drying process.

John Alston: Then, each individual persimmon is gently massaged…every three to five days for about a month and a half. 

Michie Montgomery: It helps to make the flesh consistent instead of just being dry on the outside and a hard tough core in the center.  It also helps the moisture to be moved around and evaporate and it brings the sugar to the surface.

John Alston: When the process is finished, the persimmons go from being these orange beauties hanging in the sun….to this:  Hoshigaki—sweet, chewy and naturally sugar-coated treats, which the family sells for 20 dollars a pound at their fruit stand on the farm…and on-line, too.

Michie Montgomery: It’s a tradition.  It’s something that connects us to each other.

Helen Otow: My father and my mother- and that’s probably the oldest picture after they came from Japan I’d imagine.

John Alston: Helen’s parents arrived in the U.S. in the late 1800’s, eventually purchasing the granite bay orchard in 1911.  In 1939, her father died.  Two years later, Helen married her husband Seiichi Otow.  But by then, the U.S. had entered world war two and the family was sent to the Japanese internment camp in Tule Lake.

Helen Otow: Oh, it was hard. They didn’t give us much time.  We had to get rid of our car.  We had to sell it real cheap and we left the house.

John Alston: She says friends lived on the farm, but neglected the land which the Otows discovered when they returned after the war.

Helen Otow: Oh it was pretty bad.  They hadn’t been watering it.  They didn’t take care of it much because they weren’t farmers.

John Alston: Decades of hard work have made the Otow orchard what it is today, drawing customers with its fresh produce and, of course, Hoshigaki.

Tosh Kuratomi: Running around and marketing directly to stores was a start, but what really took off was marketing directly to the public.  The signs up at the road—our daughter painted those maybe back in 2001 or 2000 and all of a sudden, instead of one or two cars a day, there were 20 or 30.

John Alston: The sentimental family history of Otow orchard continues.  Michie chose springtime at the farm to marry her husband Scott.

Michie Montgomery: It’s just the most romantic time of year that I’ve ever known.  And then also my grandmother was married here.

John Alston: It’ll be a few years before Helen’s great grandchildren have to decide their futures.  Their dad, Toshio, has a wish. 

Toshio Kuratomi: It’s important for me to feel like there’s continuity and that the farm will still be here 20, 30, 40 years from now.

John Alston: But one thing Helen doesn’t want to see change…

Helen Otow: Well, I don’t want to get big, you know.  I kept telling them- don’t get big, don’t get big ha ha.  We’re doing well.  We’re not getting rich, but we’re doing all right, you know.  And enjoying ourselves even thought it’s a lot of work. 

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

Kristine Hanson: Farmers and home gardeners love compost and they love mulch.  But, what’s the difference?  Well, compost can be a mulch- looks like this.  Straw is mulch but not compost.  Compost does a very important additional thing, adds vitamins and nutrients to your plants, vegetables and trees. 

Kristine Hanson: So, where do we get compost?  Well, the easiest thing to do is buy it.  This is planting compost; this is what it looks like.  It’s all pretty; it’s already been made up for us.  It smells great and it has great nutrition for you soil, you plants and veggies.  Or, soil loves the same things that we like to eat.  So get one of these little bins, keep them right next to the garbage can and add things like fruits, coffee grounds, peelings like potatoes, some green vegetables from the refrigerator, some egg shells and citrus.  Mix these kitchen items along with stuff from the yard, like brown leaves and green grass and yummy!  You’ve got some of the best ingredients for food for your soil.  Now let’s go add all this to our compost pile.

Kristine Hanson: Alright to make your compost pile, you’re going to add a layer of green, like our grass clippings.  You’re then going to add a layer of brown, you’re going to take your kitchen scraps, you’re going to dig a hole and pour those about a foot down.  And then…huh…it’s a matter of time and a lot of turning.

Kristine Hanson: Well this is it, this is what we do at home, you get a pitch fork and you turn and you eventually make compost.  Nicolai Laquaglia is here from the Horticulture Center and you’re doing a good job on this bin but I think there are some easier ways to do this.

Nicolai Laquaglia: These are bins and they work very well- we found that they get up to temperature very quickly. 

Kristine Hanson: We’re going to add a layer of brown and a layer of green. 

Nicolai Laquaglia: Yes, we think of it as carbon and nitrogen- a layer of brown carbon to a layer of green nitrogen.  And you just get it in there, get some water in there, use a sprinkler or something or other and you take a fork and you turn it.  And you keep doing that layer after layer until you get it up to the top. 

Kristine Hanson: This one is a little more portable-

Nicolai Laquaglia: Take these apart or lift them off of the pile.  This is a covered one and there are some advantages to that.  You can just pull it out of this bottom. 

Kristine Hanson: Now there are also some stackables.  As you get more compost, continue to stack it up.

Nicolai Laquaglia: The microbial action is what’s doing the work for us.  And it’s the nitrogen and the carbon mixing together with the right amount of moisture.  And we’re getting these things up to- we had one get up to 164 degrees in one day.

Kristine Hanson: Alright, let’s go talk about the second kind you’re testing. 

Nicolai Laquaglia: You can just have this door on there, and take a hold of the handle and it’s not hard to turn at all.  This is the tumble-wee, we found this to work very well.  Take out the shelf, the top part falls to the second section. 

Kristine Hanson: Now, these all cost money and unfortunately most of us don’t get to buy them and use them like you have.  So, after all of this experimentation, what’s your favorite?

Nicolai Laquaglia: I have to admit, it’s the cheapest one down there.

Kristine Hanson: It’s my favorite too- the green and the black round bins.

Nicolai Laquaglia: That’s right.

Kristine Hanson: The ones that come apart very easily, has lots of hole, they get up to temperature, you said it got up to-

Nicolai Laquaglia: Very quickly, if you wanted to have very quick compost you could have it there.

Kristine Hanson: So we’re going to be mulching our gardens all year long, so why not combine the two and mulch with compost and feed your plants at the same time.  

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.