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 impactthe college and the arts had on his upbringing.Click here to see what he had to say.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
HMC Farms recently participated in an ag tech summit at Reedley College to determine the future needs of the ag work force in specialty crops over the next ten years. HMC Farms is a progressive leader in mechanization and technology. We recognized years ago that our time and labor sensitive commodities are not sustainable the way they are produced today. Our role, if stone fruit and table grapes are to exist and be viable in the future, is to combine a technological approach with an educated workforce. This year, we made decisions on which blocks to pick, thin, etc. depending on the daily availability of labor which left fruit on the tree and not harvested.
We live in small towns in the Central Valley that all depend on agriculture, and we have a responsibility to the communities that support us and that we grew up in to find solutions to this changing environment. The purpose of these continuing conferences is to educate community colleges and expose our need for a workforce that reflects the change in the way we get our product in a box and to the marketplace. Exchanging entry level, lower paying, difficult jobs for better paying, more sophisticated, less physically demanding ones is our goal. To make this successful, there must be cooperative effort between colleges, our industry and government for these specialty crops and small towns to continue to exist. It was encouraging to see the celebration of talent and dedication it will take to make this successful. Our way of life depends on it.
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.