Fall is finally upon us. With the last 100+ degree day behind us we can begin to prepare for the season ahead. Rain is not forecasted in the foreseeable future, but we are prepared. Our late season table grape vines are now covered to protect them from any precipitation we may have between now and the end of harvest. The covers are perforated in the middle so that rain can drip down in the center of the V-trellis without falling directly on the grape bunches. Our late season grape crop is looking to be of great quality, although earlier than normal. The stone fruit season is starting to wind down as we finish up on our last varieties of the year. Our grapes seem to have made it through the recent heat with minimal damage. As the weather cooled off, we experienced some sporadic rain cells throughout the valley. The forecast shows relief from the heat over the days ahead, although we may still have a few warmer temperatures in store this month before the Central Valley finally settles into fall weather.
A group of nutrition experts and social influencers visited our farms recently as part of the Safe Fruits and Veggies Tour. This annual event, organized by the Alliance for Food and Farming, is designed to give these individuals a first-hand look at the care and commitment farmers put into growing safe food. We were able to discuss our sustainability efforts, technology, and our focus on growing delicious, healthy, safe food for consumers around the world with them. We hope that these visitors will help spread the word about the safety and importance of incorporating fresh fruit into a healthy diet.
In 2018 Growing Produce interviewed Jon McClarty and Drew Ketelsen about their innovative new approach to growing tree fruit, high density planting. Four years later they checked in to report on the progress and success of the method that is now the new norm for HMC Farms. “The laughing and snickering, that changed by 2020, and now a lot of people think the whole system was planning for this year, 2022, with the $15-an-hour minimum wage. A lot of people were waiting to act, and we wanted to be proactive,” Drew says. “We’re garnering more curiosity because they are starting to experience what we all know is coming, when labor gets really short.”
The crispness of fall is finally in the air on our farms, and that means we’re cooking up all of our fall favorites in our farm kitchen! One of our favorite holidays around here just so happens to be Halloween, and we’ve got some ideas for healthier Halloween treats featuring grapes from HMC Farms! These treats are kid and adult approved, so gather the whole family and swap out sugary sweets for nature’s candy!
Looking for the perfect snack for your favorite Halloween movie? Whip up a bowl of these monster eyes! This almost-too-cute-to-eat snack is simply HMC Farms green seedless grapes topped with candy eyes (trust us, the plastic googly eyes don’t taste good, so please don’t eat them). To stick the candy eyes to the grapes, use a small dab of your favorite nut butter or icing. Get the monster eye look by just adding candy eyes to the top layer of grapes, it’s tough to keep them stuck to the grapes on the bottom layer.
Having a full on Halloween movie marathon or party? Try this Halloween snack board! We used the bowl of monster eyes for the center, and surrounded them with HMC Farms red seedless grapes, ghost & bat veggie chips, string cheese ghosts, cheddar jack-o-lanterns, pretzels, almonds, and candy bones. We achieved the string cheese ghost and cheddar jack-o-lantern looks by using a permanent marker on the plastic wrappers. If you want to draw directly on the cheese, be sure to use a food-safe marker! You can easily add some spooky salami to this board, or swap the cheddar rounds for mandarins, but the monster eyes are a must!
If you look at our Halloween snack board and imagine your children fighting over the same string cheese ghost, or if the thought of other people’s hands touching your food haunts your dreams, try a charcuterie assortment! This is a perfect way to offer snacks to a skeleton crew, or a whole mob of zombies in your backyard. It’s also a great way to have the kids help put snacks together – let them wash and dry their favorite color of HMC Farms grapes and fill up their jar while older kids or adults create the salami & cheese skewers and strong cheese ghosts.
The jarcuterie is perfectly portable for a treat yo-self moment in your bathtub with a glass of wine, or for watching your favorite celebrities learn to dance on television.
If you’re using HMC Farms grapes in your Halloween snacks, be sure to tag us on Facebook and Instagram!
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.
Pruning is in full force in our traditional tree fruit orchards, as pictured above. As you can see, the trees are bare of leaves, allowing our crews to distinguish between older wood and fruiting wood. We will soon begin pruning in our high density planting orchards, which is a slightly different process. Pruning allows us to prepare for the next season by maintaining the shape and structure of the trees.
HMC Farms table grape harvest is rapidly winding down. The weather has continued to cooperate with our harvest, helping to maintain excellent grape quality. It looks like we may finally see some precipitation in the middle of next week. The forecast shows high temperatures in the 60s with some chilly overnight lows to start Thanksgiving week.
Autumn is staking its claim on our tree fruit orchards. These beautiful fall colors signal that pruning time is near. We wait for the leaves to fall off of the trees in order to prune and select the best fruiting wood. Older wood appears thicker and rougher, like the tree’s trunk, in comparison to fruiting wood, which still has fresh bark and is likely to bear the best fruit.
Our table grape harvest is still going strong, with weather that continues to cooperate well in our vineyards. The forecast shows daytime temperatures dipping down with highs into the upper 60s to end this week, and then climbing back up a bit to start next week in the high 70s. Some cloud cover lies ahead, but there is still no significant chance of precipitation on our farms.
This year has proven to be one of the most unusual fall weather patterns we’ve seen. The weather has been virtually perfect for grape growth and harvest on our farms, with high temperatures in the 70s and 80s and cool overnight lows. With precipitation continuing to hold off, we will likely complete our grape harvest before adverse weather hits our vineyards.
Wildfires have blazed through parts of California over the past few weeks. Our farms were not in close proximity to any of the fires, but we’ve monitored the air quality closely, as smoke from these fires can drift to the valley floor. Fortunately, the major fires have been fully or mostly contained at this point. For updates on the California wildfires, visit the CalFire website. Table grape harvest is still going strong in our vineyards. The forecast shows slightly warmer days, with high temperatures creeping back up into the low 80s.
On Friday, October 4, Harold McClarty received the Award of Distinction from University of California, Davis. This award is the highest recognition given by the university to individuals whose achievements and contributions enrich the UC Davis image and reputation and enhance its ability to provide public service. Harold, who served on the university’s Board of Trustees for six years, and the McClarty family are long-time supporters of UC Davis, making this honor particularly special. Click here to read more on this topic.
Fall post-harvest fertilizer is currently being applied to our peach, plum, and nectarine orchards. The fertilizer helps replenish the trees’ nutritional reserves, and is essential for fall root development. In spring, these reserves will provide an important energy source as the trees come out of dormancy. Timco and Allison red seedless grapes and Autumn King green seedless grapes are in active harvest. The weather is cooperating well with table grape growth.