Want to hear a small world moment? I stumbled upon this blog one day and had to say the gal in the photo looked familiar. Come to find out, she was! I was in 4-H with her for many many years back in California. Jenny Holtermann has been around nuts, specifically almonds and walnuts, all her life. Not too long ago, she decided to start blogging about her life growing up as a nut grower as well as not married to a nut grower. I grew up around nut production so I knew what goes into it, but most of the Midwest isn’t familiar with this labor intensive crop. I was delighted to read Jenny’s posts giving an insight into California agriculture. I know nuts are most commonly found in baked goods, but I decided to change it up a bit. I made this delicious almond crusted chicken and topped it with a strawberry balsamic vinegar sauce.
- When did you start farming? What brought you into farming?
I grew up on my family’s almond and walnut farm in the Northern California town of Chico. My family has been farming there for over a hundred years. I went away for college and met my almond farmer husband. He brought me to the Southern Central Valley of California where his family farms almonds. Today, we farm together with his father and grandfather.
- What chores did you have growing up on the farm?
Growing up a farmer’s daughter I worked during summer vacation and holidays doing any miscellaneous job on the farm. Anything from pruning small trees, checking irrigation, painting young trees to protect them from sunburn, and just lending another pair of hands.
- Are there any differences between your farm now and your farm when you were a kid?
Farming in the southern end of the state is much different than the small farms I grew up with in Northern California. In the Southern Central Valley the farms are larger in size as well as the fields are larger acres. Our average field size is 80 acres now, growing up in Chico that was a large field. In our area the climate is more desert arid with less rain and flatter land.
- What has been the hardest part of farming for you?
Starting out and getting established in our area is very hard. With large scale family farms and corporate farms surrounding us, we have a lot of competition for new land, increasing the price per acre and making new land for sale very scarce.
- What has been the most satisfying part of farming for you?
Being able to farm alongside multiple generations every day is very rewarding. My husband and his father run the day to day, but his grandfather makes his rounds around the farm every day to make sure everyone knows what they are doing. And if someone isn’t doing it right, he will be sure to tell you. It is a rewarding experience to have 3 generations on the farm at once. My husband and I are also expecting a little almond farmer of our own in December, it is very exciting to think we are raising the next generation on our farm.
- What crops do you grow and why?
Almonds only. They grow best in our climate and region on California. Kern County is one of the largest producing counties in California and the Nation for almond production.
- What is your favorite thing to do with a food crop you grow?
Eating almonds straight off the tree is the best! You won’t find a better tasting almond. But they are also great for adding to your favorite cooked veggie like green beans or bussel sprouts, topping on your garden salad or baking with.
Future of Farming
- What is one message you’d like to get across to the general public about what you do?
We are a multi generation farm and in our area that is hard to come by. We are welcoming the 5th generation to our farm at the end of year and we are excited to be able to have a farm to share. I invite you all to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Facebook or twitter to see what we do every day. Everyone’s farm is different and California is so diverse in climates and growing regions. I hope to educate and start a conversation with you about why we farm the way we do.
- What advice would you give to anyone interested in getting into farming?
Be patient. Life isn’t going to hand you a farm and tell you what to do. You need to make your own mistakes and learn from the ground up how to do things. New farmers also need to be open to here from the older the generations as well. A lot of times new farmers jump in and try to change everything, but sometimes those older generations have tried it before and can tell you what worked and what didn’t. Be open to trying new things and never be afraid to take a new step.
I love experimenting with different nuts for breading meats. I love some nut crusted fish, using walnuts or pistachios. Plus it is a great alternative for those who cannot have gluten. I used four chicken breasts for this recipe that were very flat. If you have big chicken breasts, just use two and cut them in half. The equivalent of meat should be about 1 pound or a little over.
- 1 lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (either 4 small ones or 2 large cut in half)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup of almonds
- 1 cup of fresh strawberries, rinsed and stems removed
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tbsp of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- Preheat the over to 350. In a food processor, process almonds for 1-2 minutes to a bread crumb consistency. Pour into shallow dish or plate. Set aside.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl, add heavy cream to the egg. Add the flour to a separate small dish or plate, salt and pepper well. Start the process by first dredging chicken in flour, dip chicken into the bowl containing the beaten egg, followed by dipping the chicken into the almond mixture. Coat each chicken breast with almond crumbs on each side. Place in a glass baking dish. Cover and bake for 30-35 minutes until chicken is browned and tender. While the chicken is cooking, make prepare sauce.
- For the strawberry sauce, combine the strawberries, sugar, and balsamic in a food processor. Place strawberry mixture in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the cornstarch in 1/4 cup water to form a paste. Pour into sauce. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Add rosemary. Salt, and pepper if needed.
- Top chicken breasts with the strawberry balsamic sauce and garnish with extra fresh rosemary.