It’s not hard to be a locavore in California. From our home base in Sonoma County we could eat quite well if we limited our consumption to a 100 or 150 mile radius, depending on your definition of locavore. It’s one thing to eat locally produced produce or beef, but what about packaged goods? Do we really need a jar of jelly that has traveled over 6,000 miles from France, or bottled water from Fiji? Two commonly used ingredients that often go together, rice and tortillas, illustrates how to be a locavore without much effort. La Tortilla Factory and Lundberg Family Farms are third generation, family-run, Northern California food producers who share a philosophy of contributing to healthy, nourishing victuals while continuously innovating to keep pace with current food trends.
Lundberg Family Farms
A large percentage of Sonoma County college graduates went to CSU, Chico, including this author, and the rice fields between Chico and Sacramento are indelibly imprinted in our collective memories from many journeys down the back roads, where we absorbed the natural cycles of seeding, growth and harvest. The Lundberg family has been a part of that legacy since 1937 when Albert and Frances Lundberg moved to California from Nebraska, instilling their mid-western values and work ethic in their four sons. With the ravages of the Dust Bowl fresh in their minds they resolved to care for the land to ensure a productive future and they were a pioneer in growing organic rice. Instead of blending their special rice with that of other growers to sell in bulk they created the Lundberg Family Farms brand and sold directly to the public.
The product choices have expanded but the philosophy remains the same, to produce wholesome, healthful rice, rice cakes, rice chips, and risottos while improving and protecting the environment for generations to come. Specializing in organic, gluten-free, and whole grains, they now offer more than 150 rice products, including variations such as rice bowls, brown rice pasta, brown rice cous cous, rice flour and brown rice syrup. The basmati and jasmine rice is particularly fragrant, while the short grain sushi rice is perfect for Asian dishes. The Black Japonica is a deep purple color and the Jubilee, a mixture of Wehani®, Black Japonica™, short and medium grain red rice, short and long grain brown rice and sweet brown rice is a festive blend of flavors, colors and textures. The Lundberg Family Farms website contains an extensive set of rice-based recipes and coupons.
The Lundberg’s commitment to sustainable farming techniques is exhibited in a number of ways, including using eco-farming and organic practices, rotating crops, planting cover crops in the winter and participating in the Non-GMO project. In 2008 they increased that commitment by hiring an Environmental Coordinator to develop environmental goals for the operation. They have installed several solar fields that allow them to generate 17% of their electricity needs.
A unique program is Egg Aid, which is a conscious choice to create wildlife habitat through the winter cover crop. Migrating waterfowl inhabit flooded fields during the winter and in the spring nest in the cover crops, such as purple vetch, which provides an excellent habitat for duck nesting. Thousands of mallard duck eggs are recovered from the vetch prior to mowing the fields. The eggs are taken to a hatchery where they are incubated, cared for, banded and released back into the wild. On average 2,000 ducklings from eggs collected from Lundberg fields are released back into the wild every year.
La Tortilla Factory
The story of La Tortilla Factory started in 1977 when Jose and Mary Tamayo arrived in Sonoma, drawn to pristine beauty and natural bounty of the area and began creating the familiar tortillas from their homeland in Mexico. Now the third generation of Tamayos, along with their loyal employees who have voted the company one of the best places to work in the North Bay five years in a row, continues the tradition. Located in the heart of Sonoma they have upgraded to a modern manufacturing plant where today traditional flour tortillas are only a small portion of their product line.
Like the Lundberg family, the Tamayos are committed to creating healthy products and are evolving with the times. No partially hydrogenated or fully hydrogenated oils are used which means there are no trans-fats in any of their products. The family has been on the forefront of a number of food trends aimed at supporting a healthy lifestyle, such as introducing organic tortillas back in 2003, followed by fat-free, low carb, organic and extra-virgin olive oil tortillas and wraps. “Smart and Delicious” and “Sonoma All Natural” specialty wraps that address specific health concerns are also available, including gluten-free, low sodium, added fiber and 100-calorie products. Available in stores and military commissaries they’ve even gone to outer space as part of NASA’s food program (it’s harder to be a locavore from space).
On the La Tortilla Factory website you can find an extensive list of recipes and serving suggestions for their 35 varieties of tortillas and wraps, ranging from a scrambled egg and turkey bacon breakfast wrap to inspiring dinner ideas like the rotisserie chicken salad wrap or the more exotic black bean, spinach and poblano pepper taco.
Both Lundberg Family Farms and La Tortilla Factory exhibit the kind of values that attract health conscious food lovers. With several generations looking to the future and innovating their product lines there is a wide variety of products to choose from and, best of all, we can buy local.