Plum trees are not self-pollinating like peach and nectarine trees, so they require pollination from other plum varieties in order to produce fruit. To give our plums the best chance of pollination, we plant blocks of cross-pollinating varieties adjacent to each other on large ranches. It is important to choose varieties which bloom at the same time to ensure that bees can do their work, moving pollen from the blossoms of one variety to another. when the bloom timing of the varieties is off, or when the weather is too cold for bees to fly (below 55°F), the result is a short plum crop. As pictured, we have lots of uniform bloom this year, which is hopefully a good sign for a full plum harvest.
Our dormant grape vineyards recently received a layer of compost to help feed soil microbes and replenish depleted nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil. Using compost allows us to maintain soil health using organic forms of nutrients, and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizer. To ensure the compost we use is safe to apply, it is put into rows, brought to an appropriate temperature, and turned multiple times to ensure any pathogens are cooked out. The timing of compost application depends on the weather – we wait until late winter has passed so that heavy rains don’t wash minerals past the root zone and the temperature is warm enough for soil microbes to be active.
We are taking as many precautions as possible to ensure a continued supply of nutritious produce during these unprecedented times. We are staggering break and meal periods in our facilities to minimize the number of people in a given area at one time, we have changed configurations in our processing facility to maximize social distancing, and we are continuing to follow our already extremely high standards for hygiene and food safety. We are also fogging common areas with disinfectant during off hours and have procured additional laptops to allow some employees to work from home as necessary. We are planning for the upcoming stone fruit season, with thinning starting. So far there looks to be a heavy crop load, which will require extensive and timely thinning of our crop. We are watching the skies closely as there is rain in the forecast, and we have approached the time of spring in which precipitation that turns into hail can be incredibly devastating.
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!
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.
Harvest is rapidly approaching for our peaches, followed by nectarines and then plums in the coming weeks. From this point forward, our tree fruit will continue to grow and deepen in color until harvest. Keep in contact with your HMC salesperson for harvest updates.
This week’s forecast calls for warm days and cool lows. We are nearing the end of weather concerns, and heading toward hot, sunny days. Our tree fruit thinning is more than half complete, and bunches continue to form on our grape vines.
Our peaches, plums, and nectarines continue to grow as summer approaches. As pictured, our peaches are beginning to gain a little bit of blush color. The anticipated sunshine and warm weather ahead will help our fruit continue to grow and deepen in color and flavor. Things are shaping up for harvest to begin a couple of days later than last year’s start date, which may shift slightly depending on the weather over the next couple of weeks. Keep in contact with your HMC salesperson for harvest updates.
Hot days are upon us, but a chance of precipitation lingers in the forecast. We are in the final weeks of historically-based weather concerns. Our tree fruit thinning is approximately halfway completed, and grape bunches are forming on our vines.