agriculture

  • “A“mazing

    Late sum­mer to early fall is a per­fect time to pick and high­light bell pep­pers. They tend to thrive in the hot Cal­i­for­nia sun, so the recent heat wave was not a deter­rent to these col­or­ful beau­ties.

    The 2020 Wash­ing­ton state apple har­vest is just under­way. This season’s crop looks to be stel­lar and close to last year’s size in vol­ume.

    Apple farm­ers keep grow­ing larger crop sizes and more vari­eties to please the world­wide con­sumer demand of this favorite fruit.

    For the sec­ond straight year, Gala apples will be the high­est vol­ume vari­ety pro­duced at 23 per­cent. Red Deli­cious is pro­jected at 17 per­cent, fol­lowed by Fuji apples at 14 per­cent. Granny Smith and Hon­ey­crisp are at 13 per­cent each of total pro­duc­tion.

    This year, new­com­ers Cos­mic Crisp is fore­casted to come in at 1.2 per­cent of the total crop and Cripps Pink at 5 per­cent. Pretty good for the new­bies.

    Organic apple pro­duc­tion is on track to be about 16 per­cent of the total, or 21 mil­lion boxes. This is up from 15 mil­lion boxes in the 2019 apple crop. By the way, not all organic pro­duc­tion is ulti­mately packed, sold and mar­keted as organ­i­cally grown.
  • “Vol­un­tary“

    In the realm of fresh food prod­ucts, either retail or food­ser­vice, prod­uct recalls are not par­tic­u­larly unusual.

    A recall is the action or method of remov­ing or cor­rect­ing prod­ucts that are in vio­la­tion of laws admin­is­tered by the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA).

    A food recall occurs when there is rea­son to believe that a food may cause con­sumers to become ill. A food pro­ducer ini­ti­ates the recall to take foods off the mar­ket. In some sit­u­a­tions, food recalls are requested by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) and the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (USDA). Obvi­ously, prod­uct can be recalled for many rea­sons. This can include (but not be lim­ited to), the dis­cov­ery of organ­isms such as bac­te­ria like Sal­mo­nella or for­eign objects like bro­ken glass or metal. It can be due to a major aller­gen (dairy or nuts) not being dis­closed on a label.

    Most prod­uct recalls are char­ac­ter­ized as being “vol­un­tary”. This term is some­what ambigu­ous and may lead indi­vid­u­als to believe that a vol­un­tary recall is optional. That is def­i­nitely not true.

    A vol­un­tary recall is an indi­ca­tion that the man­u­fac­turer, grower or ship­per of the poten­tially harm­ful pro­duce has been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and coop­er­a­tion with the fed­eral agency.

  • Blos­som Hill

    The Blos­som Hill orchards are located in Pat­ter­son, Cal­i­for­nia. Some sug­gest this loca­tion to be the world’s best apricot-​growing region.

    Lucich — San­tos Farms have been family-​owned for more than 90 years. For over 35 years, they’ve devel­oped exper­tise in grow­ing, pack­ing and ship­ping Cal­i­for­nia apri­cots and apri­ums under the Blos­som Hill Orchard name.

    Four gen­er­a­tions over­see the daily oper­a­tions. Their over­ar­ch­ing goal is to pro­vide cus­tomers with the best eat­ing, sweet­est, juicy apri­cots.

    Jim Lucich, sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Blos­som Hill, said the 2018 crop in Pat­ter­son is lighter than usual. Weather played a part with the crop set. Chill hours were lower than needed, and some cold and rain that came after the bloom had an effect on the crop.

    The com­pany grows its apri­cots in a sustainable-​minded envi­ron­ment. Lucich and San­tos Farms and Blos­som Hill Packing’s objec­tive is to pro­duce pre­mium deli­cious fruit with food safety in mind.
  • Brent­wood Dia­monds

    Nes­tled between Mount Dia­blo and the Sacramento-​San Joaquin Delta in the East Bay, Brent­wood, Cal­i­for­nia is renowned for grow­ing excep­tional fresh mar­ket pro­duce.

    In par­tic­u­lar, sum­mer cher­ries, peaches and delec­table sweet corn are what local mar­kets and chefs cel­e­brate.

    Hot Cen­tral Val­ley days and cool, off-​shore breezes at night make it the per­fect loca­tion for grow­ing sweet corn.

    The cobs are picked dur­ing the early milk stage of ker­nel matu­rity, when sugar con­tent and mois­ture lev­els are high. This is in con­trast to field corn, which is har­vested in the dry, starchy dent stage. Over the last cen­tury, sweet corn pro­duc­tion in the U.S. has increased as farm­ers and geneti­cists have devel­oped hardier and sweeter vari­eties.

    To clar­ify, most of the corn grown in the United States is the com­mod­ity crop known as field corn. It is used as ani­mal feed, ethanol, whiskey and goes into all kinds of processed foods and food ingre­di­ents. High-​fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and corn oil.

  • Bumper Crop

    There has been a resur­gence of Cal­i­for­nia gar­lic, both in con­sumer demand and also in pro­duc­tion. The 2018 Cal­i­for­nia gar­lic crop will heighten that trend.

    Christo­pher Ranch, California’s largest gar­lic sup­plier, reports fan­tas­tic pro­duc­tion lev­els this year, the likes of which have not been seen in years. Great news for gar­lic lovers.

    Ken Christo­pher, Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent for the com­pany, announced their fore­cast this sea­son to be about 100 mil­lion pounds of gar­lic.

    “Demand for organic gar­lic has been explo­sive and it is the fastest-​growing busi­ness seg­ment”, Ken Christo­pher said.

    The com­pany har­vested 5 mil­lion pounds of organic gar­lic last year and expect to har­vest 10 mil­lion pounds of organic gar­lic in 2018. By far, this is the biggest organic crop ever for Christo­pher Ranch. This will be the first year they are expected to have a 100 per­cent Cal­i­for­nia organic program.

  • Cal­i­for­nia Pears

    Cal­i­for­nia pear farm­ing areas are arguably in some of the most desir­able and beau­ti­ful places in the state.

    The beauty of his­toric pear orchards con­tributes sig­nif­i­cantly to the appeal of com­mu­ni­ties such as Court­land and Clarks­burg, located in the Sacra­mento River Delta grow­ing region.

    Lake­port and Kelseyville rep­re­sent the Lake County pear grow­ing dis­trict. Ukiah, in the Men­do­cino grow­ing dis­trict, rounds out the real estate.

    Together these grow­ing areas pro­duce approx­i­mately 150,000 tons of pears each year. The vol­ume of pears pro­duced in Cal­i­for­nia has declined in recent years, as has the num­ber of pear farm­ers.

    Even so, the Cal­i­for­nia pear indus­try remains a lead­ing sup­plier of pears to the world.

  • California’s Baby

    Straw­ber­ries thrive along California’s coast­line. Between the west­ern ocean expo­sure and the Pacific winds, fields are insu­lated from any extreme tem­per­a­tures and weather.

    In 2018, Cal­i­for­nia farm­ers grew more than 1.8 bil­lion pounds of straw­ber­ries. That’s nearly 90 per­cent of the nation’s crop.

    It takes a vast, com­pli­cated infra­struc­ture of advanced plan­ning, pick­ing, pack­ing and trans­porta­tion to antic­i­pate and meet world wide demand for straw­ber­ries.

    By this time of year, oper­a­tions are in full swing, with the peak of the sea­son start­ing in late April or early May, and run­ning for six to eight weeks.

    It is par­tic­u­larly impor­tant for farms, as straw­berry sea­son is peak­ing in the next few weeks, to have a game plan. Because coro­n­avirus is peak­ing at the same time, a large por­tion of the mar­ket for the fresh berries has dis­ap­peared.

    Restau­rants receive roughly 15 per­cent of California’s peak har­vest berry crop, accord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia Straw­berry Com­mis­sion. Most all of them have stopped order­ing strawberries.
  • Club Med

    A Mediter­ranean diet incor­po­rates the basics of healthy eat­ing — plus a splash of fla­vor­ful olive oil and per­haps a glass of red wine.

    Touted as one of the health­i­est ways to eat, this tra­di­tional cook­ing style of coun­tries bor­der­ing the Mediter­ranean Sea is more a way of life than pre­scrip­tion for a diet reg­i­men.

    Key com­po­nents on the Med menu are fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles, fish, whole grains, fresh herbs, beans and lim­its to any unhealthy fats.

    Red meat is more rarely con­sumed and poul­try, eggs, cheese, and yogurt only in mod­er­a­tion. Processed foods, refined grains and sug­ary bev­er­ages are avoided.

    What needs to be con­sid­ered is how inte­grated diet and lifestyle are woven together. Eat­ing any meal is an event. Meals are shared with fam­ily and friends and peo­ple take their time to enjoy every bite.

  • Cul­ti­vat­ing Change

    Giv­ing back is good. We believe in local farm­ing and we believe that sup­port­ing grow­ers in our com­mu­ni­ties is the best way to ensure a future for food.

    Cul­ti­vat­ing Change, the Greener Fields Together local farm grant pro­gram, aims to fund projects that will help local farm­ers do what they’re best at, farming.

    Grant amounts up to $30,000 will be funded on an annual basis to qual­i­fy­ing grow­ers through an online vot­ing plat­form and peer review panel.

    Cul­ti­vat­ing Change grants are open to all local farm­ers and aggre­ga­tors where pro­duce pro­duc­tion or aggre­ga­tion makes up at least fifty per­cent of their busi­ness. All appli­cants will be eli­gi­ble to par­tic­i­pate in the pop­u­lar vote por­tion of the con­test and only Greener Fields Together local farms will be eli­gi­ble to win by panel review.

    All appli­cants must use grant money for the pur­pose spec­i­fied on their appli­ca­tion, share project results, and if selected, agree to the usage of their name and like­ness in mar­ket­ing and pub­lic rela­tions collateral.

  • Cul­ti­vat­ing Change

    Cul­ti­vat­ing Change is a local farm grant pro­gram offered by Greener Fields Together.

    It aims to fund projects and pur­suits that will help local farm­ers do what they’re best at– farm­ing.

    Qual­i­fied grow­ers and aggre­ga­tors are able to win fund­ing based through an online vot­ing plat­form and peer review panel.

    As farm­ers applied for this cur­rent Jan­u­ary pro­gram, they were required to apply for a spe­cific fund­ing cat­e­gory to enhance an area of oper­a­tions. Demands for all farms and ranches requires a con­tin­u­ous state of improve­ment for sus­tain­abil­ity.

    Cer­ti­fi­ca­tions is one fund cat­e­gory that assists with organic, food safety, non-​GMO, fair trade, bio­dy­namic or other daunt­ing reg­u­la­tory require­ments. This is an avenue of com­pet­i­tive advan­tage for many growers.
  • Deep Roots: Agri­cul­ture 360


    Learn about California’s rich agri­cul­tural industry.


  • Earth Days

    Every day is Earth Day in the demand­ing world of agri­cul­ture. Today’s farm­ers are keenly aware of the value of water, soil and clean air.

    These irre­place­able assets are essen­tial to pro­vid­ing for our food secu­rity. Sus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices con­nect the dots for farm­ers and the land and sur­round­ing nat­ural habi­tats.

    The future of food and that of the planet are insep­a­ra­ble. What we choose to grow, how we grow it and what we want to eat in the future deeply influ­ence the nat­ural envi­ron­ment.

    It’s been sug­gested that adopt­ing one of three (Mediter­ranean, pescatar­ian or veg­e­tar­ian) dietary plans would not only improve human health fac­tors (Type 2 dia­betes, can­cer and heart dis­ease) but would also pos­i­tively affect envi­ron­men­tal impact.

    Data is stack­ing up to sup­port the links between diet-​health-​environmental challenges.

  • Esca­lated & Weak

    We all read the updates on weekly mar­ket con­di­tions. Weak, strong, up, down, esca­lated, Acts of God, legs, no legs. All pro­duce lingo to inform end users on the state of let­tuce, berries and veg­eta­bles.

    It all sounds fine in an update on paper. Real­ity sets in when we as con­sumers shop and take our fruits and veg­eta­bles home for meals pre­pared in our own kitchens.

    For the past sev­eral weeks, exces­sive and pro­longed heat (triple digit tem­per­a­tures) in our prime grow­ing areas is news­wor­thy. Next came the head­lines of mul­ti­ple fires through­out Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton. Smoke and ash con­tinue to push air qual­ity in to unhealthy ranges.

    Warn­ings of short sup­plies, higher prices and tight mar­kets are a direct result of those late sum­mer events. Har­vest dis­rup­tions due to lack of labor or min­i­mum time avail­able to pick, sort and pack have worked against grow­ers.

    Prod­uct alerts tell retail­ers and chefs to order tight or “truck to shelf or truck to plate”. Valen­cia oranges have suf­fered from heat stress. Romaine, ice­berg and leafy let­tuces are now show­ing the affects of insect dam­age and high tem­per­a­tures.

    Grow­ers do their best to mit­i­gate all qual­ity con­cerns in every crop. It makes good sense for the farmer to want to make the most of their sales. Still, unavoid­able cir­cum­stances have pre­vailed this sum­mer to give grow­ers more headaches than usual.

    Since most meals are now being made or con­sumed at home under COVID restric­tions, pro­duc­tion dis­rup­tions hit close to home on food waste and the wal­let. Fewer store trips for mar­ket­ing mean the per­ish­ables need to last and go farther.
  • Essen­tial Labor

    Labor Day 2020 comes in the midst of a global pan­demic and an era of essen­tial work­ers.

    Since early March, front-​line work­ers, across mul­ti­ple indus­tries, have faced unprece­dented con­di­tions to per­form our most cru­cial ser­vices.

    Typ­i­cally, Labor Day marks the offi­cial “end of sum­mer” fes­tiv­i­ties, vaca­tions and leisure pas­times. Kids go back to school and fam­i­lies set­tle in with more struc­tured rou­tines.

    Sport­ing events, con­certs and back­yard bar­be­cues are Amer­i­can high­lights from Labor Days past. Not this year. Card­board cutouts will suf­fice to enter­tain base­ball fans and online vir­tual con­certs intend to ser­e­nade lis­ten­ers.

    Back­yard grilling will be served to a restricted num­ber of peo­ple. No crowds or large par­ties allowed this year. Gath­er­ings will be lim­ited. Amaz­ingly, those respon­si­ble for feed­ing Amer­i­cans have shown remark­able resilience.

    Farm­ers in Cal­i­for­nia have bat­tled destruc­tive fires through­out major grow­ing regions this sea­son. Still, they con­tinue to har­vest, pack and ship.

    On the table, and with­out much inter­rup­tion, we con­tinue to eat our fresh pro­duce. Mel­ons, toma­toes, sweet corn, cook­ing veg­eta­bles and salad ingre­di­ents mag­i­cally find there way to the gro­cers and restaurants.
  • Fall For­ward

    There is no deny­ing the visual cues of Autumn. Trees and leaves are turn­ing color. Darker morn­ings greet us with fewer day­light hours left for leisure. Farewell sum­mer.

    Crisper, cooler night­time and morn­ing tem­per­a­tures are just what is needed to bring on our most favorite fall fruits.

    A wide array of veg­eta­bles, décor items and flo­ral selec­tions vie for atten­tion this time of year. Think about col­or­ful and tasty first fall bites.

    Crunchy and crisp, juicy and sweet are descrip­tive words for the Hol­i­day Seed­less grapes that are just on the scene. They make grape fans of those look­ing for a sweet tooth solu­tion.

    Eat­ing pat­terns and cook­ing meth­ods fol­low the steady pro­gres­sion into fall food choices. Bak­ing, broil­ing and brais­ing, segue nicely from out­door bar­be­cu­ing and grilling. Cal­i­for­ni­ans will con­tinue to cook out­doors year-​round.

    Glide back into the kitchen with new crop apples, Brus­sels sprouts, pump­kins, per­sim­mons, hard squashes and pomegranates.
  • Field Days

    Farm­ing isn’t just about fresh pro­duce. It’s also about sus­tain­able food and com­mu­nity cul­ture.

    As stu­dents return to the class­room and sum­mer days slip away, its time to plan a trip to a local farm, orchard or ranch.

    Fall har­vests give the con­sumer an up close and per­sonal view of how our foods are grown and pro­duced. This per­spec­tive allows for greater appre­ci­a­tion and admi­ra­tion.

    Start to fin­ish, the process of seed to fork is more than just a catchy slo­gan to the peo­ple pro­duc­ing our food. It’s a full­time com­mit­ment and major invest­ment of time, money and human resources.

    Cul­ti­vat­ing soil, grow­ing crops and rais­ing live­stock all con­tribute to the rich agri­cul­tural story in the United States. From bee keep­ing to hor­ti­cul­ture, the life-​work equa­tion for farm­ers gets blurry. There is no line that typ­i­cally will sep­a­rate the two.

    On a daily basis, from morn­ing to night­fall, farm­ers move from task to task. As a way of life, there is a rhythm to nec­es­sary duties that fol­low each sea­son. This real life drama plays out with daily work lists and plenty of grit, deter­mi­na­tion and ambi­tion. No couch squat­ters allowed.
  • Fields of Dreams

    What was once taken for granted has for­ever fun­da­men­tally changed.

    Eat­ing out at a local restau­rant or café has dearly been missed. See­ing our favorite wait staff and hear­ing about menu spe­cials will be music to our col­lec­tive ears.

    Going to the gro­cery store for weekly pro­vi­sions used to be a chore at best. New restric­tions, pro­to­cols and short­ages com­pound the already stress­ful house­hold duty.

    Nor­mal rou­tines are mor­ph­ing in to excep­tional expe­ri­ences. Curb-​side food hand offs and don­ning masks and gloves just to push a shop­ping cart may be part of the next level nor­mal.

    The food sup­ply chain in Amer­ica has been extremely chal­lenged. For those who can and will con­tinue to afford fresh foods, it is a time for real grat­i­tude check.
  • GAPs

    Food safety risks may be reduced on the farm by fol­low­ing good agri­cul­tural prac­tices (GAPs).

    GAPs help grow­ers under­stand the prac­tices and risks asso­ci­ated with their farm. They help iden­tify prac­ti­cal ways to reduce the risk of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing pro­duce being grown, har­vested and packed.

    There is no such thing as zero-​risk, but prac­tices and steps need to be in place on farms to min­i­mize any poten­tial risk of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Although the com­mon prin­ci­ples of GAPs don’t change from farm to farm, each GAP is unique, as every grower does things dif­fer­ently.

    GAPs focus on assess­ing the risk in five key areas:
    Water
    Manure/​Compost and Soil Amend­ments
    Land Use (Previous/​Adjacent) and Ani­mal Access (Domestic/​Wildlife)
    Equip­ment, Tools & Build­ings
    Employee Health & Hygiene
  • Hand Work

    Every seg­ment of the pro­duce indus­try is pre­sented with sig­nif­i­cant and unique labor chal­lenges.

    From farm­ing and pack­ing oper­a­tions to dis­tri­b­u­tion com­pa­nies, and food­ser­vice oper­a­tors (schools, and restau­rants) to retail gro­cers — hav­ing enough of the right kind of work­ers is a con­stant work in progress and strug­gle.

    Labor sav­ing inno­va­tions are widely accepted when costs and engi­neer­ing make pos­si­ble new ways to pro­vide fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles to con­sumers. Chef ready and con­sumer ready value added prod­ucts take time and energy out of the food prepa­ra­tion equa­tion.

    As Amer­i­cans enjoy the last of summer’s ripe peaches, mel­ons and toma­toes, Labor Day looms. Farm­ers share the worry of hav­ing enough hands to pick and har­vest pep­pers, cucum­bers, straw­ber­ries, apples and pears.

    Mech­a­niza­tion and tech­nol­ogy con­tinue to advance all aspects of grow­ing. While machines have replaced human hands for a lot of farm jobs, many fruit, veg­etable and nut farm­ers still rely heav­ily on peo­ple to plant, main­tain and har­vest their crops.

  • Henny Penny

    Its easy to ignore “The sky is falling” warn­ings when they are incon­clu­sive. The clas­sic folk tale of Henny Penny (Chicken Lit­tle) bares rec­ol­lec­tion when food safety is at stake.

    The most recent indus­try mes­sages regard­ing romaine let­tuce alerts have been frus­trat­ing for every­one in the sup­ply chain.

    In defense of all stake­hold­ers, no one wants to err on the side of per­sonal ill­ness or worse case sce­nario, death.

    As com­pa­nies wait for more infor­ma­tion from fed­eral agen­cies on the E. coli O157:H7 out­break that has been ascribed to chopped romaine only and not a spe­cific sup­plier, fresh pro­duce indus­try asso­ci­a­tions are com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a uni­form voice about the sit­u­a­tion.

    United Fresh Pro­duce Asso­ci­a­tion, Pro­duce Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion and the Leafy Greens Mar­ket­ing Agree­ment have worked in con­cert on com­mu­ni­ca­tions regard­ing this recent outbreak.