HMC News – October 2020

Farmer examining grapes in a vineyard

The grape industry is approximately 50% shipped through the industry estimate of 106,500,000 boxes, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see the industry come up short of that number due to the peculiar growing conditions this season. HMC is not quite that far through the season. We are looking forward to our Allison red seedless harvest, which is our biggest volume variety of the season. Red grapes should be available through December, but it is expected that the industry will run short of green grapes before then.

Piles of compost being scooped up and added to a distributing trailer

Each year after harvest is complete, we replenish nutrients in the soil of our orchards and vineyards. We take soil samples to determine which nutrients need replenishment and then select from different compost options based on their nutritive values. This year, our post-harvest organic orchards need more nitrogen and our post-harvest conventional orchards need more phosphorus and calcium, so we selected two different compost options to meet each of these needs.

Red grapes on the vine

Our Allison red seedless table grapes are finally in harvest! As we shared a few weeks ago, the smoke from California wildfires slowed the maturity of our late season table grapes. That pushed back the harvest window significantly for one of our favorite varieties. Contact your HMC Farms representative for more information on availability and pack styles.

Self-driving cart carrying grape bins through vineyard

As we look into ways to make table grape harvest more efficient, we are testing out a self-driving cart called Burro. Our employees can harvest grapes and place them onto trays that the Burro drives out to the end of the row for them, eliminating the need to push a heavy cart full of grapes to the end of the row. Not only does this make grape harvest less strenuous on our employees, but it makes the time spent on harvest more efficient by eliminating time spent pushing the carts back and forth in the vineyards. Tune in to this week’s Farm Friday on our Instagram page for more details.

Western Growers Careers in Ag students visit HMC Farms

Western Growers (a non-profit organization that represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico) is collaborating with Fresno State University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to create the Careers In Ag program. This program introduces students, who are mostly made up of STEM-related majors (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), to the wide variety of potential careers in agriculture. On a tour of businesses in the Central Valley, the Careers in Ag group visited HMC Farms to cover the topics of farm management, sustainability, plant science, and innovation. Several members of the McClarty family met with the students, discussing their different areas of responsibility and how farming, ag technology, accounting, and sales all fit together to make HMC Farms a successful ag business with a very diverse set of career opportunities within one organization. In addition to open dialogue about different departments and career options at HMC Farms, Harold McClarty discussed the issues faced by California farmers, and the future of ag in the Central Valley with the students.

After the discussion held at the HMC Farms main office, the students headed out to the farms. Drew Ketelsen, Farm Manager and head of our technology projects, introduced the Careers in Ag students to different innovative techniques and technologies we have put in place to become more efficient. He discussed his background in civil engineering, and how that skillset has translated into farm management to transform our planting and irrigation methods. Students observed the difference between an orchard planted in the traditional method and one set up using a high density close-planting method. This new method of planting will ultimately make multiple farming activities, such as pruning and harvesting, more efficient using new ag technologies.

We are thankful to Western Growers for giving HMC Farms the opportunity to show STEM students how they can fit into the world of agriculture, and to hear their questions and concerns about careers in ag. We may have just met the future leaders of industry!

To learn more about the Western Growers Careers in Ag program, read this article.

UC Davis Professors Visit HMC Farms

This month, University of California, Davis professors hopped in two vans and took a road trip to visit HMC Farms. The visit was part of an ongoing relationship between UC Davis and HMC Farms that stretches back many years. On the trip, professors were able to get a well-rounded understanding of our specific commodities, farming practices, and the issues we face today.

By meeting with farmers and other employees who are working actively in the subject matter being taught at UC Davis, the professors had the opportunity to ask questions and gain knowledge from a different perspective outside the classroom. In turn, the HMC Farms team had the opportunity to become educated on current research projects and studies being conducted at the university which pertain to our particular segment of agriculture. As part of our sustained commitment to education, this meeting was a way to bridge the gap between what’s being taught in the classroom at UC Davis, and what is taking place every day at HMC Farms. We hope to continue hosting meetings like this on a regular basis in order to maintain an open dialogue with institutions like UC Davis, which are educating the future leaders of our industry.