HMC News – August 2020

Grape vineyard with smoky sky from wildfires in California

Smoke from the multiple wildfires around California settled in the Central Valley this month. We are carefully monitoring the air quality to ensure that our employees working outdoors remain safe, and are deploying additional safety measures as needed.

Two white peaches on the tree. Snow Princess white peach from HMC Farms.

We’re in the final stretch of the stone fruit season. Though we are closer to the end of the season than the beginning, there is still a lot of good fruit in our lineup over the coming weeks. We are about 80% through peach and nectarine harvest, and about 70% through plum harvest.

News article describing the record-breaking heat in California's Central Valley - reaching 112 one day

It’s hot! Record temperatures this month challenged our crops and people. It’s always hot in the Central Valley in August, but these extreme temperatures require us to take precautionary steps to ensure the quality of our product and the safety of our people. We applied a protective reflecting spray to the tree fruit, while constantly regulating moisture in the ground. We also stopped all field operations at noon when temperatures were too high. While this a big hardship on our time sensitive commodities, the health and welfare of our employees is our top priority. It has been an unusual summer, and this is just one more challenge we’ve dealt with.

Two types of plums with a brix meter showing 20.1 on the screen.

We continue to enjoy many of the newer plum varieties that were planted recently. When picked tree ripe, with a bit of give, we have seen sugar levels much higher than traditional plums of the past.

HMC News – July 2020

McClarty family from HMC Farms walking through orchard

The Fourth of July not only celebrates the independence of our country, but it also marks the “spiritual” half way mark of the stone fruit season, and is the historically referenced start date for grape harvest in our area. The first six weeks of the season definitely require the most effort. We are generally still thinning through early June while picking the most temperamental and time sensitive varieties of the season. The Fourth of July is a point in time at which we reflect, look forward, and take a quick break with our families. We hope you had a moment to relax and celebrate over the holiday (hopefully with a peach in hand).

Table grape cane cutting equipment in a vineyard at HMC Farms

This month, we used Cane Cutters in our table grape vineyards. This equipment cuts excess growth in the centers of the rows with blades that form an upside down V shape in order to increase sunlight and air flow. Increased sunlight helps our red and black seedless grape varieties gain color, and extra air flow helps to prevent disease pressure in grape clusters and vines.

Crews harvesting table grapes at HMC farms using umbrellas

HMC Farms table grape harvest is now underway in our vineyards, kicking off our table grape season! Overnight lows have remained under 70°F, which is great for color development in our red and black seedless table grape varieties. 

HMC Farms table grape vineyard drip irrigation line and soil moisture

HMC Farms regularly monitors soil moisture to ensure that we are providing the proper amount of irrigation to our trees and vines. We combine several sources of information from physical examination to sensors, and even the weather forecast, to determine the proper frequency and duration of irrigation. This topic was featured in our Farm Friday Instagram story, a weekly behind the scenes look at what’s happening at HMC Farms. Find us on Instagram here, and follow along with our Farm Fridays!

Boy bites into a freshly picked peach in an orchard at HMC Farms

It’s been a vintage year so far for California stone fruit. We have received more than normal complimentary letters about the great tasting stone fruit. Newer varieties and a discipline to only pick the most mature fruit has put these summertime favorites back on top. We are half way through the season and should have good eating well into September.

HMC News – June 2020

Our platform equipment is now being used for harvest in our high density stone fruit orchards! This is an exciting moment for us, since this concept has taken three years of hard work and dedication to come to fruition.

Nectarine harvest at HMC Farms using new ag technology: platform equipment

We recently installed an optical grader to the packline in our plum packing house at HMC Reedley. The optical sorter not only improves our efficiency by automatically removing fruit with defects before it reaches the pack tables, but it also provides detailed statistics about each lot of fruit that help us improve our practices out in the field.  Our plum team is pictured above (Raul, Paula, Nick and Greg).

Personnel from HMC Reedley's plum team standing by new plum grader equipment

Veraison is just beginning in our Flame table grapes, which is the point at which ripening begins. Red and black varieties begin to change color, and green varieties lose some opacity as natural sugars begin to accumulate in the berries. These particular grapes will be ready to harvest next month.

Veraison in HMC Farms table grapes, grape color is changing from green to red

We are excited to begin harvest of our proprietary Plumsicle™ later this week. This piece of fruit was selected purely for flavor reasons and we think it is unequivocally the best tasting plum or plumcot of the season (don’t tell the Holiday plum, Honey Punch, or Ebony Rose that we said that). They will be available this season in 1# clams and 2# bags, with the variety name itself proudly featured on the package.

Plumsicle™ proprietary plum or plumcot variety displayed in 2lb bag and 1lb clam packaging

HMC News – May 2020

Harvest has begun in our stone fruit orchards! At this point, the fruit is a little smaller than normal due to the decreased amount of time between bloom and harvest, and the timing is a little ahead of last year.  

It’s hot!  Last week we experienced rain and peak temperatures around 72°, this week’s record projected heat is as high as 109°. Grapes and stone fruit don’t like this heat any more than people. In stone fruit, extreme heat slows everything down and halts growth, causing some heat damage to the fruit – especially dark colored plums. In table grapes, any of the exposed berries not covered by foliage will burn.

A few months ago, we increased efficiency and eliminated the need for ladders by using platforms in our high density stone fruit orchards. Since then, we have started to experiment by attaching an artificial light to the same equipment to perform “night thinning.” Beginning before the sun comes up, crews are able to finish this crucial process in the cool morning hours. Going forward, we will modify our picking by transitioning this process into harvest, resulting in an optimal product by removing the afternoon heat. This is an efficient operation that benefits the workers and product by eliminating the summer heat.

We are moving rake wire in our table grape vineyards. This process opens up a wire in the middle of the trellis that helps guide and organize the canes and their growth to conform to the V shape of the trellis. There are multiple benefits of rake wire use. It helps get all of the clusters to hang out in the “fruiting zone” underneath the trellis, making maintenance and harvest more efficient. Sunlight is allowed in to hit the bottom of canes, which helps with fruitfulness in next year’s crop. A pocket forms for air to flow and escape, reducing chances of humidity getting trapped underneath the canopy.

Feeling Peachy: Activity Sheets for Kids from The Produce Moms

Stone Fruit {Tree Fruit}

Feeling peachy? Stone fruit season is in full bloom, and we couldn’t be more excited that our friends at The Produce Moms created some fun peach-themed activity sheets for kids!
Original blog on The Produce Moms website

What exactly is a stone fruit (also referred to as tree fruit)? It’s a fruit with a large, hard pit or “stone” inside of it. The stone contains the seeds or kernels of the fruit. The stone fruit category includes peaches, nectarines, plums, plumcots, apricots, cherries and more!

Let’s take a little closer at the anatomy of a stone fruit…

Feeling Peachy Activity Sheets

As we know, education is key to consumption.  We love to create activity sheets focused on fruits and veggies.  It is a great way for kids to learn more about the fresh produce that they love to eat. In our first activity sheet, we have the kids complete the basic anatomy of a peach.  Using a color-by-number approach, they will also learn what each part of the peach is called.  Also on the first activity sheet is a fun math problem.  But be careful, the math problem is a bit tricky!

Our second activity sheet is a funny & peachy story created “Mad Lib” style.  Kids will fill in the blanks with words of their choice and be able to create their own story! Some of the younger kids may need help with the parts of speech. The best part is that you can create multiple stories with this activity!  We also have a fun suggestion for adding stone fruit to your next pancake breakfast!

HMC News – March 2020

Plum trees are not self-pollinating like peach and nectarine trees, so they require pollination from other plum varieties in order to produce fruit. To give our plums the best chance of pollination, we plant blocks of cross-pollinating varieties adjacent to each other on large ranches. It is important to choose varieties which bloom at the same time to ensure that bees can do their work, moving pollen from the blossoms of one variety to another. when the bloom timing of the varieties is off, or when the weather is too cold for bees to fly (below 55°F), the result is a short plum crop. As pictured, we have lots of uniform bloom this year, which is hopefully a good sign for a full plum harvest.

Our dormant grape vineyards recently received a layer of compost to help feed soil microbes and replenish depleted nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil. Using compost allows us to maintain soil health using organic forms of nutrients, and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizer. To ensure the compost we use is safe to apply, it is put into rows, brought to an appropriate temperature, and turned multiple times to ensure any pathogens are cooked out. The timing of compost application depends on the weather – we wait until late winter has passed so that heavy rains don’t wash minerals past the root zone and the temperature is warm enough for soil microbes to be active.

We are taking as many precautions as possible to ensure a continued supply of nutritious produce during these unprecedented times. We are staggering break and meal periods in our facilities to minimize the number of people in a given area at one time, we have changed configurations in our processing facility to maximize social distancing, and we are continuing to follow our already extremely high standards for hygiene and food safety. We are also fogging common areas with disinfectant during off hours and have procured additional laptops to allow some employees to work from home as necessary. We are planning for the upcoming stone fruit season, with thinning starting. So far there looks to be a heavy crop load, which will require extensive and timely thinning of our crop. We are watching the skies closely as there is rain in the forecast, and we have approached the time of spring in which precipitation that turns into hail can be incredibly devastating.

HMC News – February 2020

Several members of our team from sales, production, and quality control recently visited our HMC Farms office in Chile. The group was also able to visit vineyards and packing facilities in multiple growing regions throughout the country. The key takeaway from the trip was an enhanced understanding of the scale and complexity of farming operations in Chile, as well as the unique challenges regarding production coordination, farming practices, and logistics.

The Fresno County Blossom Trail is one of the main early-spring attractions of California’s Central Valley. Each year from late February through mid-March, delicate blossoms from peach, nectarine, plum, apricot, almond, and apple trees decorate the 62 mile loop. Part of our farms sit directly on the blossom trail, adding pink blooms from our peach and nectarine orchards and white blooms from our plum orchards to this stunning display of natural beauty.

National School Breakfast Week, which launched in 1989 in order to raise awareness of and participation in school breakfast programs, is March 2-6. As alternative serving methods, such as breakfast in the classroom and breakfast on the bus, have gained in popularity, prepackaged and ready-to-eat items have become a staple in school breakfasts. HMC Farms provides value-added grapes, such as our washed and ready-to-eat Grape Escape, to schools across the nation as part of their school nutrition programs — which include breakfast, lunch, and snacks!

HMC News – September 25, 2019

We are currently in the process of placing vine cover on our late season grape varieties. Vine cover protects grapes from early rain in September and October. The timing of the cover placement is important because we don’t want to cover the vines in very hot temperatures and trap heat around the grapes, but we also want to protect the grapes from rainfall as early as possible. We normally begin covering our grape vines in early to mid September, when we begin to see chances of precipitation in the forecast.

Crop Update:

Harvest continues to slow for HMC Farms tree fruit. Table grape harvest is in full swing. Timco red seedless grapes have begun harvest. Allison red seedless and Autumn King green seedless grapes will harvest soon. The weather on our farms has jumped back into the 90s for a few days, but the forecast shows a progressive drop in high temperatures, putting highs in the 70s to start next week.

Stone fruit galette recipe, as seen on Indy Style morning show

Stone fruit harvest is beginning to slow down at HMC Farms, so we are squeezing in as many ways to enjoy our delicious bounty as possible. One of our favorite quick and easy recipes for a dessert that’s sure to impress is a stone fruit galette. If you haven’t heard of a galette, it’s similar to an open-faced pie. It can be made using a single type of stone fruit, like peaches, or a variety of your favorites. In this case, we used peaches, nectarines, and plums to make a mixed fruit galette.

This recipe was featured on the Indy Style morning show by Lori Taylor from The Produce Moms. If you missed the episode, click here to watch how easy it is to make this crowd-pleasing dessert or brunch addition.

What you’ll need:

  • 6-8 pieces of HMC Farms peaches, nectarines, plums, plumcots, or summerwhites
  • Pie crust (pre made crust works just fine, but you can also make it from scratch)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar + 1 Tbsp for sprinkling (raw sugar can be used here)
  • 1 Tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-2 Tbsp flour or cornstarch to thicken the filling
  • Beaten egg or cream for the edges of the crust

Steps to the easiest impressive dessert you’ve ever made:

  • Preheat the oven to 375° and roll out pie crust on parchment paper on top of baking pan or stone.
  • Slice the HMC Farms fruit.

Tip: A lot of our HMC Farms peaches and nectarines are clingstone varieties. We’ve found that the easiest way to create pretty slices of fruit is to place the fruit on a cutting board with the stem side down and slice straight down on each side around the pit. These larger pieces can be sliced more easily that trying to separate each slice from the pit individually.

  • Combine all ingredients (except for the egg or cream wash and the 1Tbsp of sugar) in a large bowl and gently stir.
  • Place the mixture from the bowl in the center of the pie crust.
  • Fold the crust in about 2” in overlapping pieces to create a pleated look.
  • Brush the top edges of the crust with the cream or beaten egg, and sprinkle the remaining sugar on it.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes, checking every 5-10 min beginning at 30 min.
    Tip: some of the juices will run out from the galette in the oven. Don’t be alarmed by this, but do prepare in order to prevent a mess in the bottom of your oven..
  • Remove galette from the oven and cool on a rack.

HMC News – September 18, 2019

Holiday plums are here! We wait all year for this HMC Farms proprietary red plum that has green undertones, speckled skin, and a sweet and distinctive flavor. Contact your HMC Farms salesperson for more information on availability.

Crop Update:

Harvest is slowing for HMC Farms tree fruit. Scarlet Royal and Krissy red seedless table grapes and Autumn King green seedless table grapes are in harvest. Timco and Allison red seedless grapes will harvest soon. The forecast shows high temperatures ranging from the low 80s to the low 90s. We are closely monitoring any chances of early rain, which tend to pop up in the second half of September.