HMC News – November 2022

The fall rains are upon us. At the beginning of the month, we received over ¾ of an inch, which is substantial for our area. The storm was cold enough for snow in the mountains, and hopefully this is the start of some form of drought relief. Once it dried out, we continued pruning tree fruit orchards and wrapped up harvest on the grapes for the year. Overall, the weather has been nice and cool, which helps the trees enter dormancy and accumulate chill hours. Dormancy is important during pruning because it allows the trees to drop their leaves, giving the pruners a better view of the tree structure and make better cutting decisions. Chill hours are important because it allows the trees to enter their “resting” stage, and a more rested tree is a tree that will wake up happy and ready to go in 2023!

As we learn about and incorporate Ag technology into our farming methods, the goal is not to remove workers or jobs, but rather to improve jobs so that our employees can manage the same amount of work with less physical stress. Ag tech also helps us ensure that we can continue to grow and sell fresh produce as our environmental and political environment continues to shift. In reality, adding technology to our fields will end up saving jobs in the long run by ensuring that we are able to operate for generations to come. Tevel Aerobotics and HMC Farms are working together to create this future.

Click here to learn more.

A huge part of being a family run business is contributing to our community. We live where we work, and coworkers are friends as well as neighbors. Pictured above are one of the many HMC Farms teams, full of family members, coworkers and our community. A life in farming is not simply trees and vines, it is not just what we do, it is who we are, and we are proud to provide for the community whenever possible. We are thankful every day for the opportunity to grow food for our families.

The week before Thanksgiving, HMC employees gathered to volunteer at the Fresno Food Bank. The Fresno Food Bank is an organization that we feel very strongly about. We know both our financial and personal efforts are well directed, as the Food Bank provides crucial support to those that are less fortunate in our community. Each year we donate produce as well as our time. In 2022 HMC Farms donated over 500,000 lbs. to the Central California Food Bank.

HMC News – October 2022

California table grapes are still in full swing, but the import season is swiftly approaching. Shipping flow and port delays have been issues in the past. While we don’t anticipate large volumes of Peruvian grapes to arrive until mid to late December, more Peruvian grapes are headed to the US this year. Some companies have already begun shipments, which is historically earlier than normal. In regards to grape volume, this is the first year Peru is set to eclipse Chile in total table grape production. For California, the California Table Grape Commission has dropped their estimate from 97 million total boxes to 92.5 million. Even though the overall volume has dropped, the remaining volume is higher than previous years. This means we should see no shortage of availability through most of December the same as in previous years.

We are officially into our late season varieties on grapes, Allison and Autumn King. The fruit is looking great and we are continuing to harvest a bit ahead of schedule. Planning is already well underway for next year’s planting. Varieties have been selected, plants have been ordered, the new irrigation systems are being designed, and trellis install is in process.

With the tree fruit season winding to a close, now is the time we focus on replenishing the soil for the season to come. Earlier this year, when flowers and leaves were present, tissue and soil samples were taken from the orchards and vineyards. This gave us a snapshot of the plant nutrients status. Samples were studied so that each block could receive a custom blend of fertilizer to keep it healthy and performing at its peak. Now that harvest is almost complete, we continue to replenish the soil with compost. Compost enriches the soil with carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, while also improving soil pH and the biological properties.

HMC hosted our annual blood drive. Blood donations are in short supply. We found by providing an opportunity to donate on site, many who would not have the time are able to contribute to the ever-present need for donations. It is always exciting to see people come together from every part of the operation and support such a great cause.

HMC Farms recently had the opportunity to attend the IFG Field Day. IFG is one of the prominent table grape breeders based out of California. The field days are designed to provide growers and retailers the opportunity to view and sample new grape varieties. The feedback and dialogue will help shape the future of the grape breeding program. The most exciting part of the Field Day included touring the new Fruitworks facility, their new research and breeding center. The planted experimental vines are grafted on to several different rootstocks which allows us to analyze each vine’s characteristics and help us decide which variety and rootstocks combination will work best in our soils.

Spicy Pancetta Grape Pizza

Imagine what would happen if your Hawaiian pizza took a trip to Italy… Meet the Spicy Pancetta Grape Pizza. The sweetness of bright, juicy red grapes balance out fiery Calabrian chilies and salty pancetta in this Italian twist on Hawaiian pizza. 

 

Watch us make this pizza on YouTube or Instagram!

 

What you’ll need:

1 uncooked pizza crust

1/2 cup pizza sauce

2-3 tbsp calabrian chili paste

8 oz shredded cheese

2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

1.5 oz thinly sliced pancetta

1 shallot, thinly sliced

5-6 oz sliced red grapes

parsley, finely chopped

Overhead shot of pizza, surrounded by grapes, striped towel, brown bottle, bowl of shopped parsley and bowl of sauce

Instructions:

  • preheat oven to 450°
  • prepare dough on baking sheet
  • mix chili paste with sauce to taste
  • spread sauce on dough & top with cheeses, pancetta, and shallots
  • bake pizza for 12-15 min until nearly done (light golden crust)
  • add grapes, bake 3-5 more min
  • Garnish with parsley

Click here to download our recipe card!

HMC News – August 2022

A summer storm made its way to the Central Valley this month. An estimated 1/4″ of rain touched down on our farms, which is unprecedented at this time of year. Some stone showed hardly any impact, while other blocks were more significantly impacted. It appears that the rain impacted all commodities to some degree and the varieties that were just ready to be harvested and in the middle of harvest were most severely affected.

Road and telephone pole in front of an orchard of trees, lightning bold in the background

Table grape harvest remains ongoing. We’re seeing an impressive crop of green seedless varietals coming out of our vineyards this year. All commodities appear to be ahead of schedule compared to last year’s harvest, ranging from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Green grape bunches hanging on a vine with dark green leaves

HMC recently attended the Global Grape Summit with attendees and speakers from six continents (unfortunately no penguins or Antarctic researchers could attend) to discuss viewpoints on the evolution and future of the grape industry. One point of discussion was the impact of the explosion of new varieties, with many different opinions from growers, retailers, and the four major international grape breeders. Harold, as a scheduled speaker, explained that to stone fruit growers, a multitude of varietal options is nothing new. He further explained that many new varieties come with characteristics beneficial to the grower which also provide a better consumer experience. As a business, we not only compete with other grape and stone fruit growers, but also other fruit commodities vying for the shoppers’ dollar. Improved eating characteristics provided by some of the new varieties help inspire consumers to add our products to their shopping baskets.

Two men sitting on stage with a sign in the background that says global grape summit

HMC News – June 2022

We are tipping and thinning clusters in our table grape vineyards. During this process, each grape cluster is inspected and clipped to reduce the density of berries and obtain a manageable overall bunch size.

Two images of green grapes on the vine

At this point, we are getting into a nice harvest groove. Peach, plum, and nectarine harvest is moving right along in our orchards, with flavor continuing to impress across our early season varieties. 

Plumsicle™ harvest has begun! As expected, the crop is sweet and flavorful. Plumsicle is available only in limited supplies this year, but we continue to add more acreage to our Plumsicle orchards each year. For more information on Plumsicle, visit our new dedicated website hmcplumsicle.com.

three plums on a tree with leaves. The word Plumsicle and tagline "oh so sweet" in the top left corner.

Last week, some heavy winds and precipitation made their way to our farms. This actually kept us out of the fields for a day, which never happens in the summer. The wind blew quite a bit of fruit off of our trees, and some trees even blew over. After a week of days peaking at over 100°F, the forecast finally shows a little relief as we are expected to drop back into the 90s, and potentially a hair below that for the holiday on Monday. In our table grape vineyards, we’ve seen a little bit of burn on the varieties that haven’t entered veraison yet, but nothing compared to last year. Thankfully, this year’s heat wave came a little later, which meant that there was more canopy coverage in the vineyards to offer shade and protection to berries susceptible to sunburn. Our Sweet Bond and Flame red seedless varieties are gaining color, and Ivory green seedless is in veraison. Berries are still sizing up across our vineyards.

dirt road with row of fruit trees and dust in the background. Fruit lying on the ground beside the trees.

HMC News – May 2022

Harvest season is finally here! Peach and nectarine harvest is underway as stone fruit continues to mature and grow in our orchards. Pictured below is our Sangria plum, which will begin harvest at the end of May. Thinning has now wrapped up in our stone fruit orchards. The warm and sunny spring we’re having is perfect for growing great tasting fruit with high sugar content. We have seen excellent eating quality right out of the gate.

Tree with green leaves and developing plums

So far fruit looks and tastes as good or better than last year’s vintage crop, and we hope that will continue for the whole season. HMC is expecting similar total volume as last year, with a bit more acreage making up for yields that are expected to be slightly less than last summer. We also expect the industry’s total volume to be down about 10% or so, due to acreage reduction, hail, and frost. Overall sizing seems to be running a bit smaller than last year, and 30 degree swings in this month’s weather created a bit of harvest inconsistency. The eating experience remains excellent with brix higher than the previous season’s average.

Nectarines in a cardboard box

We are installing trellis structures in the new planting blocks, and beginning to train juvenile trees into the 2D wall structure. Grape bloom is done in our vineyards, and bunches are shattering out and entering the “berry set” stage. During shattering, unwanted berries fall off the bunch. The remaining berries are then set, and will begin the maturation process as we inch toward the 2022 grape harvest. 

Take a look at the before and after of a grape cluster going through bloom shatter. During bloom, excessive flowers fall off of the stem, leaving more space for the berries to grow and develop. During this stage and up to berry softening, the berries are more susceptible to sunburn. With some hotter temperatures in the weeks ahead, we will continue to monitor the crop.

HMC News – March 2022

This month, Reedley College held the official groundbreaking ceremony for the McClarty Center for Fine and Performing Arts. The new 24,000 square foot facility will attract talent and draw audiences from near and far. It will also provide students and faculty the much needed opportunity to showcase their talents and skills on campus. Harold gave a remarkable speech about his own life and impact the college and the arts had on his upbringing. Click here to see what he had to say.

McClarty family with Tiger mascot, construction sign in background

It got cold at the beginning of the month. There was a widespread freeze, but only various colder locations suffered any significant damage. As you can see in the picture below, the juvenile nectarines on the left are green and shiny, compared to the frost damaged nectarines on the right that are dark and dull looking. While we feel that the overall volume was not affected by the freeze, March-April is a worrisome time for us as we monitor for potential cold temperatures and hail events.

Left: healthy juvenile nectarines // Right: cut open juvenile nectarines damaged by freeze

As grape vines awaken from dormancy, buds begin to form and swell until they open up and reveal green leaves and new growth. The opening of these buds is called bud break, a process that is currently happening in our table grape vineyards.

Green leaves opening up from dormant grape vine in a vineyard

Sarah McClarty, our Chief Financial Officer, is featured in this month’s Western Grower & Shipper magazine as a WG Women Ambassador. Sarah is part of the first few graduates of WG Women, a women’s professional development program under the Western Growers umbrella. Before WG Women, Sarah worked to create a women’s group at HMC, which allows the women from across our organization to participate in networking, teambuilding, and volunteer opportunities. Because we are in the midst of Women’s History Month, this feature is extra special to us. Read the article here.

Magazine article from Western Grower & Shipper magazine

Our stone fruit orchards are moving right along. Juvenile fruit is growing on our trees, with nectarines pictured above. At the beginning of this week, we received just over an inch of precipitation on our farms, which included some hail. It’s a little early to determine the extent of the hail damage. We have not yet thinned our early season varietals, which sometimes gives us an opportunity to sort through the fruit on the trees and remove pieces that may have been damaged by hail.

Row of nectarine trees

Reflecting on 2021 and the future of California agriculture

Next year will be better.

We live by this credo, which some find irrational. The onerous circumstances we must navigate in California agriculture to produce better tasting fruit each year are getting increasingly more difficult, and have yet to reach an inflection point. Inputs, whether they are labor, water, or materials, haven’t just become more expensive, but at times they have become unavailable. If you read our newsletter on a monthly basis, you are aware of some of the creative ways in which we are trying to keep costs from continuing to rise. We want to keep our products as competitive with other commodities as possible, and don’t want to push the products we grow into “luxury item” status. We believe in the stone fruit and table grape commodities. As we reflect on what may have been the best tasting season in our history, we take some pride in having brought these products into the marketplace. It is this belief and small sense of pride that urges us to continue to do what tastes right.

-Harold McClarty

Winter charcuterie inspiration

With so many holidays throughout the month of December, we find ourselves snacking constantly, and there’s no snack we love more than… well basically anything served on a board. Why do snacks taste so much better from a board? Honestly, it’s a mystery, but even our kids love a good snack board so we’ve rounded up some charcuterie board ideas from the HMC Farm Kitchen to get you through the holidays and into the new year. 

 

Board #1: The winter classic

This is one of our favorite winter charcuterie boards. We started with HMC Farms red seedless grapes (of course), and added local almonds, pistachios, pomegranates, and salami—in fact, nearly everything on this board is grown or made in California. What we love most about this board is that it balances the sweetness of in-season fruit with the saltiness of salami and nuts and the bold flavor of our favorite cheeses. It’s a crowd-pleaser, and our go-to when hosting a small gathering or cocktails over Zoom.

Charcuterie board with grapes, salami, cheese, pomegranate, crackers, and nuts

What we used for the winter classic:

  • HMC Farms red seedless grapes
  • Pomegranates from the Central Valley
  • Almonds from the Central Valley
  • California pistachios
  • Two kinds of salami from Busseto Foods
  • Rainforest Crisps
  • Dubliner cheese from Kerrygold
  • Habanero and jalapeño cheddar from Yancey’s Fancy

Board #2: The vegetarian board

FYI: meat is not required for a delicious board of snacks. We said it. Honestly, why should meat eaters have all the fun? Whether you are a vegetarian, shifting toward a more plant-based diet, or simply not eating processed meats (hello, pregnant ladies!), this board is a great option to enjoy your board sans-meat (you can also ditch the cheese or swap for vegan cheese to make this a vegan board). Honestly, even if you’re an omnivore, you might not even notice the salami is missing—we didn’t!

Charcuterie board with fruit, nuts, cheese, and crackers

What we used for the vegetarian board:

  • HMC Farms red seedless grapes
  • Oranges and pomegranates from the Central Valley
  • Red walnuts from the Central Valley
  • California pistachios
  • Marcona almonds
  • Brie cheese
  • Manchego cheese
  • Dubliner cheese from Kerrygold
  • Red wine cheese
  • Mini crisps
  • Rosemary from our backyard for garnish

Board #3: The charcuterie wreath

It took us a minute to get on board with the charcuterie wreath trend. It seemed like a waste to leave a giant gap where there should be a pile of yummy snack foods. However, with the holidays upon us, we concede that a charcuterie wreath is cute for Christmas gatherings. If you’ve got a plate so cute you don’t want to cover it up, or if your famous artichoke dip needs a home on your charcuterie board, this might be the perfect fit for you.

Plate that says Happy Holidays with grapes, cheese, nuts, and a salami rose. Greenery, crackers, and a kitchen towel around the plate.

What we used for the charcuterie wreath:

  • HMC Farms red seedless grapes
  • California almonds
  • Salami
  • Manchego cheese
  • Cranberry white cheddar cheese
  • Served with a side of mini crisps

Board #4: The jarcuterie

This portable pint-sized snack is a promising pick when plating your preferences isn’t pleasant. (We are trying to compete with Peter Piper and his peppers here). A jarcuterie is an adorable way to refer to all of your favorite charcuterie board items served in jars. Why do we love jarcuteries? They remind us of Christmas stockings. There are layers of fun surprises, and you honestly never know what you’ll find at the bottom. You can easily customize jarcuteries for people with food allergies or dietary preferences that would make different foods overlapping on a board a bad idea. This is also a great way to prevent people from touching (or breathing on) all of the treats, and it’s pretty easy to make these little guys look just as adorable as a full spread. As a fun bonus, your uncle can’t hog all of the HMC Farms grapes if everyone gets their own portion.

Three jars filled with nute, grapes, cheese, peas, an crackers.

What we used for the jarcuterie:

  • HMC Farms red seedless grapes
  • Salami
  • Marcona almonds
  • Cranberry habanero white cheddar
  • Manchego wedges
  • Rosemary crackers
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Cookies from Life’s a Batch

HMC News – November 2021

In the beginning of this month we continued to prepare for new planting in our orchards. Once the old trees are pushed out, they go into an industrial wood chipper. The ground wood is then incorporated back into the soil on our farms. Through this process, we are doing our part to capture carbon in the atmosphere and fix it in the soil. Chipping the wood also eliminates the need to burn old trees, which can have a negative impact on the air quality in the Central Valley. The next step will be to go in and break up the compacted soil (a process we call ripping) and level out the ground.

We are slowly coming to end of table grape harvest with less than 10% of our grapes left to harvest. We are clipping and cleaning bunches during packing more than we had expected in order to remove sunburned berries from the summer heat waves and grapes impacted by October rain. The finished quality of grapes in the box still looks excellent, but additional effort is required to get it that way. Our final production numbers are expected to be a bit less than our pre-harvest estimates as we slowly wrap up.

At the end of this month we found ourselves almost fully prepped to plant new trees in our stone fruit orchards. The next steps toward planting are marking the planting rows and installing the underground irrigation system. After those final tasks are complete, we just need to wait for the nursery to deliver our trees, and we can begin planting in January.