farming

  • 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.
  • By Kath­leen Weaver

    Most con­sumers believe pro­duce comes shrouded in plas­tic; per­fectly selected apples pre­sented in a pris­tine pack­age ready to enjoy. And while any­one eat­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles excites me for all the obvi­ous rea­sons; health and com­merce related, there is one sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between the eater of today and that of the past. Eighty years ago most folks knew how an apple was grown, which is no longer the case.

    Eighty years ago a sub­stan­tial chunk of the work­force was employed in agri­cul­ture; 22% of work­ers rep­re­sent­ing roughly 27 of 123 mil­lion peo­ple who called the US home at the time. They farmed on small farms in all regions of the US pro­duc­ing mostly for their own sub­sis­tence. How­ever, trends began to shift with elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, mech­a­niza­tion, and infra­struc­ture and trans­port improve­ments, allow­ing peo­ple to seek off-​farm work. This is where we see the most sub­stan­tial change in our food sys­tem that until recently remained unchallenged.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Well over 100 apple vari­eties are com­mer­cially grown in the United States. For nearly five decades, red deli­cious apples were the con­sumer favorite.

    This year, title of con­sumer favorite will now go to the Gala apple instead of red deli­cious, which falls to the num­ber two spot.

    Apple grow­ers are tend­ing to grow more of the newer vari­eties as a reflec­tion of chang­ing con­sumer tastes. Gala apple pro­duc­tion is expected to grow almost six per­cent above last year.

    Taste, tex­ture and sweet­ness account for surg­ing gala apple pop­u­lar­ity. This out of hand fresh treat hits the mark on all cri­te­ria.

    Until the 1970s, Amer­i­cans had only a few choices of apples. Golden Deli­cious offered a color con­trast and Granny Smith brought tart­ness to the table. The iconic Red Deli­cious was the shin­ing star and heav­ily pro­moted by Wash­ing­ton state growers.

  • Cal­i­for­nia avo­ca­dos have arrived! They are gen­er­ally avail­able from April to Sep­tem­ber, but for the nearly 5,000 grow­ers in the state, the avo­cado sea­son is a year-​round endeavor.

    Farm­ers walk their avo­cado groves every month to check on the trees, assess weather affects and grove con­di­tions. They must ensure avo­ca­dos are on the right track for pro­jected har­vests. Each stage in the growth cycle is crit­i­cal.

    Avo­ca­dos, grown on trees, have a tree growth cycle with six stages: flow­er­ing, shoot growth, root growth, fruit set, fruit growth, and har­vest.
    That’s a lot to watch and care for dur­ing each sea­son.

    Cal­i­for­nia pro­duces about 90 per­cent of the nation’s avo­cado crop. Ninety-​five per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia avo­ca­dos are the Hass (rhymes with pass) vari­ety.

    The Hass vari­ety accounts for about 80 per­cent of all avo­ca­dos eaten world­wide. By now, most of us under­stand that an avo­cado is actu­ally a fruit.
  • Clos­ing out the year gives way to per­sonal and pro­fes­sional reflec­tion.

    As an indus­try, 2018 pre­sented many dif­fi­cult chal­lenges to hur­dle for every sup­ply chain stake­holder.

    Grow­ers, ship­pers, proces­sors, sup­pli­ers, retail­ers and food­ser­vice estab­lish­ments all shared in the endeavor to deliver fresh pro­duce.

    Demand­ing everyone’s atten­tion through­out the year were var­i­ous prod­uct recalls, warn­ings and alerts. Recent romaine ill­nesses are still top of mind. Fifty nine indi­vid­u­als, in fif­teen states, were affected in the last out­break.

    These all too fre­quent out­breaks unfor­tu­nately adversely impact the health of any num­ber of fresh pro­duce con­sumers. For the rest of the mar­ket­place, it casts a dark shadow on eat­ing any leafy greens or veg­eta­bles.

    Pro­mot­ing increased con­sump­tion of fresh pro­duce is an already tall task. Rebuild­ing erod­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence in the after­math of these peri­odic out­breaks puts addi­tional stress on most indus­try professionals.
  • A 300 mile radius, or less, to define locally grown may not mat­ter much to those that are able to pick straight from a hoop house out back every­day.

    That real­ity doesn’t exists for most fresh pro­duce cus­tomers.

    For three sea­sons out of the year, regional grow­ers make it easy for us to scratch our local itch. That fourth sea­son is tougher to rely on for close to home grown.

    Liv­ing in the mid-​west, or other cold belt states, poses real chal­lenges for sourc­ing fresh pro­duce from inside the USA dur­ing win­ter.

    Cal­i­for­nia, Ari­zona and Florida man­age to eek out a fair amount of crop pro­duc­tion through the dead of win­ter. The desert regions (Yuma and Huron) do the heavy lift­ing for Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia let­tuce and wet veg­etable production.
  • The Spring equinox brings a bal­ance of light and dark­ness as the sun rises from the true east and sets in the true west.

    The first day of Spring arrives this Wednes­day, no mat­ter what the weather reports might claim.

    Most of us in the United States wel­come the new sea­son pos­si­bil­i­ties and the promise of milder days and nights. No one more so, per­haps, than the Cal­i­for­nia farmer.

    It’s been a cold, soggy win­ter in the Golden State. This year’s storms are a dra­matic change com­pared to last year, which was extremely dry.

    Snow totals are above aver­age in most of the west. The high­est snow to water totals are in California’s Sierra Nevada moun­tains, which is great news for farm­ers of the San Joaquin and Sacra­mento val­leys.

    At this writ­ing, num­bers are about 200 per­cent higher than 2018 totals. This is good news for the reser­voirs in west­ern states.