A few growers were recently invited to meet with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to explain our position on California water. Fresno County is the number one agricultural county in the United States. We live in a very unique environment that allows us to feed not only a great part of the nation, but also the world.
Governor Newsom just introduced a plan that will prioritize any and all available water, and agriculture is at the bottom of that list. We are concerned about his knowledge of our needs and nervous that this limited resource continues to be divided by increased demand upon less and less water. It is ironic to have to explain to our elected officials the value of food… something which every hungry country already understands.
McClarty Farms has been very diligent in owning and acquiring property in areas of abundant ground water. We have had the rights to this water for over a century. It is often not about availability, but about ownership. We are nervous that we are being legislated by large populations in coastal cities with no knowledge of how food gets onto their table. Permanent crops must be planted years before they are ready to harvest. Water unknowns today are forcing farmers to make decisions that will impact our food supply five years from now. Our obligation is to educate and inform, making people aware of the growing concern we have for our way of life, our own families, and all agriculture-dependent families. We do not want to see bare grocery store shelves or be dependent on imports for our food security. We as farmers have always been innovative and creative, and we will continue to work to solve these challenges. Using available tools, we do everything we can to manage water as efficiently as possible. “Marginal” water-challenged areas are left fallow, while drip irrigation and new technology allows for better water management, determining the perfect quantity for plant needs.
Our job now is to make people understand that we need to share the most important commodity in California… water.
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.
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.
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.
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.
High density planting, shown above, allows our farm crews to prune, thin, and harvest the organized rows with greater efficiency. Now that these trees have grown large enough, we will bring in a platform pruning system to prepare them for winter and the coming season. This new method of farming will ultimately result in an even better quality of product and more efficient system of delivery for the California stone fruit system.
Our weather has finally caught up with the calendar. Since Thanksgiving, we’ve received about 2.59″ of rain, which is more than 20% of our annual average. Sunday, a thunderstorm dropped quite a bit of hail in some spots on our dormant farms. The forecast shows no rain through the weekend, with precipitation popping up again toward the end of next week. We’ve had a some foggy mornings this week, which are likely to continue due to ground moisture.
Traditional pruning is quite labor-intensive, and we are always looking for ways to improve upon the process. This year, we are using a pre-pruner in preparation for pruning our grape vines. The pre-pruner thins out excess growth and performs a basic cut on vines, significantly reducing the amount of time crews need to spend on pruning. This should allow crews to more easily access the vines for targeted pruning, making the overall process more efficient.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, some precipitation finally materialized in our area, allowing us to complete grape harvest just before the rain began. The lack of any early rain this year was highly unusual, but it seems that we’ve gotten back on track. We are removing rain covers in our grape vineyards and pruning in our stone fruit orchards, taking breaks to enjoy “farmer’s holidays” during the welcome rainy weather.