HMC News – September 2023

It was an August we won‘t soon forget. Our hope is for things to settle this month and to have more answers than questions in the near future. We are still evaluating fields and changing plans on a daily basis to do what is best for our tree fruit and table grapes. For now, we will focus on the good. The plum crop faired very well through the storm, and we will have red and black plums available late into the fall.

While the table grape situation continues to shift on a daily basis, we do have some positive news to report from the field. This month we were able to distribute farm worker aid payments provided by the USDA for all farm workers who worked in the field in 2020 and beyond. We are currently providing glucose testing in our orchards, making it easier for individuals to check in on a health issue that may be of concern.

In honor of National Farm Safety this month, we would like to highlight what we do to keep workers as safe as possible in the field. We have field specific safety trainers who regularly train employees on correct harvest and pruning techniques, heat illness prevention, and poisonous insect and animal awareness, to name a few. Each of these topics are broken into specifics, for example, we hold training for ladder safety in orchards that are harvested traditionally and another for platform harvesting. Throughout the summer we organize tailgate topics in the field, where we emphasize specific areas that may be of concern that day. These tailgate topics are increasingly helpful during the hotter days in the summer when heat illness is one of our highest priorities.

We are managing the crop and quality of table grapes out in the field to the best of our abilities. While the cleanup can be tedious, we are encouraged by the end result we see from the vineyard. If everything continues on the current path, we should have grapes into December. Harvest is wrapping up on Krissy, Scarlet Royal, and Timco red seedless and harvest is just getting started on Great Green and Autumn King green seedless. Our early Allison vineyards have been picked and we will get into the bulk of that variety over the coming month. We will continue to watch the weather and do our best to prepare for any future storms.

 

 

 

HMC News – August 2023

As you know, California had a historic amount of rain and snow this winter and spring. The Sierra Nevada mountains in our region recorded 237% of normal snowfall, which is now generating an excess of water that growers can utilize as it melts. Instead of pumping groundwater, we are able to take water directly from the mountain reservoirs via canal systems. Our irrigation districts have also been able to fill their recharge basins to percolate water and recharge groundwater aquifers. Having full reservoirs on is a wonderful thing, and the abundance of last winter’s precipitation will even have a beneficial carry over effect into the 2024 season.

A lot of the time when we mention the weather it is in regard to the heat, but the cool nights can play as much or more of a role in fruit maturity. Studies have shown that overnight lows below 68° F are what actually help to accelerate color and berry ripening in table grapes. With a forecast of cooler nights part of this month, we could potentially start to see the fruit moving closer to normal timing as opposed to the two-to-three-week delay; we’ve been seeing this summer. It usually takes a couple of weeks to really see the full effects of the weather, whether it is hot, cold, or ideal temperatures, so only time will tell.

The tree fruit season has quickly caught up to last year’s timing. Infact, nectarines, white nectarines, and white peaches are going to end earlier than last season. There was a light rain recently in certain spots and it is affecting the fruit in those areas. We had hoped that the timing of grape harvest would move up with the onset of cool nights, but that hope hasn’t come to fruition. Color is the main hold up on our red varieties and unfortunately color up does not have the same effect on grapes as it does on tree fruit.

We had an unexpected storm this month. The issue is not only the amount of rain, it is also how quickly the rain came down. Someplaces in the valley registered over half an inch in 30 minutes. This is unheard of in our area and is uncharted territory for August (which was unlike any this valley had seen in over 85 years); and it is manifesting itself in all the negative ways we predicted. We are getting some clarity of the damage and product lost in both grapes and stone fruit. Pack outs on tree fruit, which is how we measure the number of boxes packed from fruit received from the field, are less than half of what they were before the rain. In some cases, we are choosing to abandon the fields rather than pick, especially nectarines. This month will probably be the end of our rescue attempts on nectarines. We will limp through peaches until we get to the later varieties which begin in late September. In our vineyards we are cleaning the grapes. This process involves clipping out individual berries and bunches that are not suitable to be packed. The packing costs have risen about 20% as a result of all the cleaning required.

We appreciate your patience and understanding during a very difficult time.

 

HMC News – July 2023

Harvest continues in all tree fruit commodities, both organic and conventional. While the fruit may not have known there was a recent holiday this month, we did, and were happy to celebrate with fresh Peach cobbler, a stone fruit salad and a few more of our favorite summer tree fruit recipes (after we finished picking and packing). We hope all who celebrated had a happy and safe Fourth of July filled with fresh fruit and a few fireworks!

This month a heat wave with temperatures peaking at 114 degrees Fahrenheit hit the central valley. This requires earlier and shorter harvest hours for tree fruit, so crews can pick in the morning when it is cool and avoid the exceedingly high heat in the afternoons. The fruit tends to stall at these temperatures, meaning it goes into a state of lower activity, with minimal growth and maturity during peak temperatures. For grapes, the risk of sunburn is still worrisome, especially in later varieties that have not yet completed verasion.

Traditional “sunburn” happens wherever the sun touches the fruit at those high temperatures and is fairly obvious right away. Recently, we started noticing some berries that were protected from the sun and in shade were beginning to shrivel. The good news is we left more fruit on the vine than in previous years, hopefully it will help compensate for the shriveled berries.

With forecasts lingering above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, heat awareness is increasingly important. People are encouraged to take additional water breaks, are reminded of the warning signs for heat illness, and work in a buddy system. This is when we see increased benefits in our ag technology. All picking platforms have built in shade canopies, to provide relief from the heat and the burden of carrying a heavy ladder. Drone or robotic harvesting can be utilized in the future on these exceedingly hot days. Pictured below is an advanced farm harvester that can pick tree fruit in day or night conditions. Click here to see them in action.

Even though it seems like we have been at this for months, we are only halfway through our stone fruit season. It has been a quality eating year and some of the best varieties are yet to come. Fortunately, the heat did little damage to the existing fruit, and we are all looking forward to a slight cool down. This is the perfect time to get in extra stone fruit ads before the season begins to wind down. Grapes are starting slow, much like stone fruit did. In about a week or two we will get into full harvest volumes and are hoping to have ample volume for the entire season. The season harvest dates are remaining later than “normal”, and we are still unsure if that trend will continue for the remainder of harvest.

 

 

 

 

HMC News – January 2023

This month California was in a drought and a flood at the exact same time. We are ending the year with 40% more precipitation than last year, but unfortunately our state does not have the infrastructure to capture all the water that is rapidly falling upon us. On average, a “normal” rain day in California is 0.25″-0.75″, but these atmospheric river storms are bringing 2″+ of water at a time. While our vineyards and orchards are equipped to handle the weather, many places are not. The reservoirs are currently at half capacity and snowpack is already up to 200% of average, and we still have several months of weather ahead of us. Even though a lot of water will be lost to the ocean rather than being captured, the reservoirs and groundwater will get a much-needed recharge which is a big positive.

 

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Pruning continues in our California vineyards. All acreage is pre-pruned with a machine that removes top half of the last season’s growth mechanically. The final pruning cuts are then made by hand with crews that have been trained to leave the precise amount of wood to ensure the optimal health of the vine and growth for future crops. These cuts form “spurs” (the positions on the vine from which this year’s growth will come) along the “cordons” (the main lateral limbs coming from the trunk). Because grapes are a vine, the growth each year is rapid. A fully
mature vine will be pruned back to essentially the same place every season.

Grape shipments from Peru have resumed at normal levels. Last month’s social unrest created a delay in shipments, which caused tight supply conditions this month. As we move into February, we should see the situation change, with ample supply of both Peruvian and Chilean grapes.

 

The storms have ended for the time being and bloom is right around the corner. Things here are wet, but the fields need it and the sandier soils in our area are draining nicely. The charts above show that while we received a historic amount of rainfall, a lot of the water was unable to be captured in reservoirs and instead drained into the ocean. In 2014 Proposition 1: The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act, a $7.5 billion bond dedicated $2.7 billion for the public benefits of new water storage projects, was passed. Since then, nothing has been built to improve our water infrastructure. The drought combined with the floods are shedding a new light on the legislative issues that have contributed to our current water crisis.

 

The conditions this winter have been ideal for growing tree fruit. Our orchards are currently tracking at 963 chill hours for the season. This is a 190-hour increase from this time last season. Chill hours can have different definitions, but we calculate our hours by measuring the time the temperature is 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Fruit trees need a specific number of chill hours each winter to regulate their growth. If a tree doesn’t experience enough chill hours in the winter the flower buds might not open at all in spring, or they might open unevenly Fortunately, we have already received plenty of chill hours for the season and any cold weather is appreciated until the buds break and blossoms emerge.

Plumsicle™ BBQ Sauce Recipe

This recipe was created by The Produce Moms.
You can’t have a summer barbeque without the right sauce to go with it! A good BBQ sauce
brings warm weather and backyard fun to mind, no matter what time of year you enjoy it. There
are as wide a range of flavors of BBQ sauce as there are ways to use it – but nothing beats a
homemade sauce filled with fresh ingredients! Mix up this Plumsicle™ BBQ Sauce and give a
sweet new taste to a classic flavor.

How to Make Plumsicle BBQ Sauce
Sure, you can buy all kinds of BBQ sauce varieties in the store. But you won’t get the exact
flavor you’re looking for unless you make it yourself! Fortunately, this cookout essential is easy
to make in your own kitchen – and Plumsicle BBQ Sauce is no exception.

Featuring deliciously sweet Plumsicle along with garlic, red pepper, and other flavorful
ingredients, this BBQ sauce is a treat for the taste buds. Ketchup and brown sugar provide a
simple base for this sauce, but it’s the Plumsicles that give it a standout flavor.
Plumsicle BBQ Sauce starts in the blender. Chop the plums into smaller, blendable pieces
and add them to your food processor or blender along with the rest of the ingredients.
Homemade BBQ sauce has a bit more texture than the typical store-bought variety, but your
blender will make it smooth enough to slather on ribs, burgers, or pizza. Then just reduce it on
the stove, store it in a container (we used a canning jar), and serve it with your favorite summer
dish!

Overhead photo of a food processor containing chopped plums, brown sugar, and other ingredients for Plumsicle BBQ sauce

Ingredients
● 3 HMC Farms Plumsicles, pitted and chopped (skin stays on)
● 2 garlic cloves, minced
● 1/2 cup ketchup
● 1/4 cup brown sugar*
● 2 T Apple cider vinegars
● 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
● 1 tsp red pepper flakes
● Salt and pepper to taste

*Plumsicle is naturally very sweet. You may want to adjust the amount of brown sugar up or down, depending on how sweet you like your BBQ sauce.

Directions
1. Chop plums.
2. Put all ingredients in food processor or blender. Blend until smooth
3. Put in a cast iron skillet, reduce over medium heat. It should take about 10 minutes.

Cast iron skillet half full of Plumsicle BBQ sauce, surrounded by a kitchen towel and several pieces of Plumsicle fruit

Savoring the Sweetness of Plumsicle
Want a new way to celebrate summer flavor? Plumsicle is just what
you need! This incredible plum variety is bursting with sweetness! It’s the perfect plum for
making tasty treats like these Wine Pops and Ice Pops or for blending into delicious sauces to
complement all of your favorite barbeque foods.

Jar of Plumsicle BBQ sauce, kitchen towel, 2 pieces of Plumsicle fruit, and wooden spoon full of sauce

How will you know a Plumsicle when you see one? It’s one of the most eye-catching plums
around! Look for a yellow starburst of speckles dotting a deep, rich skin. Bite into one and you’ll
find juicy reddish-purple flesh that’s ideal for adding vibrant color to your recipes. And of course,
look for the HMC Farms logo! Look for Plumsicle at your local grocery store between
mid-June and late-July in one pound clamshells and two pound stand-up bags.
What did you think of this Plumsicle BBQ Sauce? Did it impress the neighborhood grilling
gourmand or your family’s cookout connoisseur? Leave a comment below, follow us on Facebook, or tag us in your plum-perfect photos on Instagram @HMCfarms and @theproducemoms.

 

Jar of Plumsicle BBQ sauce with kitchen towel and 2 pieces of Plumsicle fruit. Header with The Produce Moms logo and text reading Plumsicle BBQ Sauce