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.
Our table grapes have moved into the veraison stage. During veraison, the berries on the grape clusters begin to soften and change color, as pictured above. This color change marks the onset of ripening. From this point, the grapes pictured above will ripen fairly quickly.
Harvest remains ongoing for HMC Farms peaches, plums, and nectarines. Table grape harvest is still tracking slightly behind last year’s harvest dates, but will begin soon. Weather over the past 10-14 days has been very cooperative with the start of our table grape veraison. Hot and sunny days are in the forecast, just touching 100° over the weekend before dropping back down, but overnight lows should remain mostly in the low 60s.
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.
HMC Bunchkins Champagne grapes are now available! Also known as Zante Currants or Black Corinth grapes,
these naturally petite grapes are popular with consumers. The thin-skinned berries can be eaten individually or as a
whole bunch. Bunchkins are sweet, delicate, and have a narrow window of availability! Contact your HMC salesperson for more information.
Harvest remains ongoing for HMC Farms peaches and nectarines. Plum harvest has increased to include both red and black plums. We are a few weeks away from table grape harvest. Hot and sunny days fill the forecast, with a slight dip in temperature at the end of this week before climbing back up to the high 90s.
HMC Farms hosted a special visitor last week: Greg Ibach, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Under Secretary Ibach toured our packing facility in Kingsburg before participating in a round table discussion on current trade issues, explaining the administration’s position and allowing us to explain ours in return. We appreciate the effort to show that the USDA cares about farmers and understands that we are in an uncomfortable position. It’s exciting that top officials in ag are showing an interest in farmers, including US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, who visited HMC Farms last year and invited Harold to be a guest at the NYSE bell ringing earlier this year.
Red plum harvest is slowly increasing, with black plums beginning harvest soon. We have completed approximately 2/3 of leafing and tipping in our grape vineyards. At this point, we are about a month away from grape harvest. It’s hard to believe that just a couple of weeks ago we were still facing heavy rain, and we are now in the midst of a stretch of hot and sunny days.
It appears that the unusual weather period has passed, and we are now into hot and sunny days, which is typical of weather at HMC Farms in early June. The fairly sudden change in temperature has caused our tree fruit to begin maturing more rapidly, leading our farm management team to adapt to the changes while remaining selective in harvest to avoid any lingering issues from the adverse weather. We anticipate that things should be back to normal by next week.
Plum harvest at HMC Farms should increase in the next couple of weeks and be in full swing in the second half of this month. The cool weather previously slowed down the sizing of our table grapes, but with the shift to warmer temperatures they are now beginning to size at a faster pace. We are leafing and tipping in our vineyards. Tipping involves trimming each bunch in order to obtain the best size, color, and flavor for harvest.
This month has been the strangest weather we can remember at HMC Farms in the month of May. On Sunday, we received nearly 1.5″ of rain, and the high temperature was 58°. We have adjusted to deal with issues caused by the unusual weather, meaning that the fruit tastes great, but we are losing quite a bit to get it into the box. We will have to wait to see what impact the weather has had on our grapes as we approach table grape season. As the weather returns to normal, the problems we have faced in our orchards should correct themselves
Peach, nectarine, and summerwhite harvest remains ongoing. Plum harvest has begun with light volumes of Flavor Rosa plums. We estimate that the HMC Farms grape harvest will begin on par with, or possibly slightly behind, last year’s dates. The forecast shows temperatures warming up into the low 90s by early next week, which is more consistent with historical averages.
The names of tree fruit varietals often come from the nursery, but occasionally we have the opportunity to name them ourselves. Our Krista peaches are named after our very own Krista Jensen Carlson!
Tree fruit thinning is approximately 75% complete in our orchards. Peach, nectarine, and summerwhite harvest remains ongoing. Plum harvest is scheduled to begin soon. Grape harvest is estimated to begin at about the same time as last year, which could be impacted slightly by weather.
Adverse weather remains active through this weekend. While it is not good for our crops to have rain so far into the harvest season, we have been able to mitigate damages to this point. There has been minimal impact on our crops in comparison to some other types of active crops. We will continue to monitor the weather with a close eye as more rain approaches.
Chelsea (McClarty) Ketelsen and Sarah McClarty are featured on the current edition of Western Grower & Shipper magazine. The issue’s focus is women in agriculture breaking stereotypes. Chelsea is our Vice President and Sarah is our Chief Financial Officer, both crucial positions in our leadership structure. They are joined by several other women at HMC Farms in key leadership roles – from Packing House Manager to Director of Food Safety. Click here to read the full article.
Peach harvest is increasing, with nectarines, white peaches, and white nectarines beginning harvest this week. Once again, a chance of rain has popped up in our weekly forecast. We will continue to monitor weather developments as they occur.
Harvest is beginning in our peach orchards this week! Yellow nectarines, white peaches, and white nectarines are scheduled to begin harvest next week. We anticipate being in full volume harvest by the week of May 20.
Around this time of year, each grape berry reveals a tiny flower called bloom. The clusters of grapes have an excess of berries, so we need to thin them during the bloom. Because thinning grapes by hand would be quite time consuming and costly, we complete grape thinning by spraying. This process allows room for each berry to grow to an appropriate size, resulting in better quality grapes. The timing of this spray is crucial to its success.
Precipitation has crept back into the weekly forecast. We will continue to monitor the weather closely as we approach potential thunderstorms.