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!
Drew and Alex from our HMC Farms grape team recently took a trip to Murcia, Spain, to visit the Sheehan Genetics grape breeding facility. The trip enabled Drew and Alex to explore the new varieties in development at Sheehan, some of which will soon arrive to the United States to be planted. We continuously search for new varieties with the best flavor and eating quality, which also fit into certain time frames during our grape harvest season. The trip was very informative, and we are excited for what the future will bring!
Harvest remains ongoing for HMC Farms peaches, plums, nectarines, and table grapes. Krissy and Scarlet Royal red seedless table grapes are in harvest, with Timco harvesting soon. Ivory green seedless table grapes are in harvest, with Great Green harvesting soon. The forecast shows peak temperatures mostly in the high 90s, with overnight lows in the mid 60s.
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.
Last week, a group of California State Senators and representatives from the California Fresh Fruit Association visited HMC Farms in order to get a behind-the-scenes look into what farming is like, and the difficulties that farmers in California face. We always welcome the opportunity to educate our politicians about the risks and opportunities we face as a farming business in California. Our guests included Senators Steven Glazer from Orinda (7th district), Melissa Hurtado from Sanger (14th district), Scott Wiener from San Francisco (11th district), General Richard Roth from Riverside (31st district), and Bob Wieckowski from Fremont (10th district).
Harvest remains ongoing for HMC Farms peaches, nectarines, and plums. We are in the last week of bunch thinning in our table grape vineyards, which will essentially wrap up pre-harvest labor. Table grape harvest is still a couple of weeks away. A slight break in heat is in this week’s forecast, with temperatures climbing back up to the mid 90s by Monday.
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.