From the Fields - August 3, 2022

By Mel Resendiz, San Diego County flower grower 

The proteas are just starting. We start the proteas season by the middle of August all the way up to Mother’s Day. We start to harvest the proteas, leucadendrons and greens like eucalyptus in about two weeks. Right now, there’s a little bit of harvesting, but it’s mostly irrigating, replanting and taking care of the plants that are going to be in production for the rest of the year. We need to make sure all those flowers get water. When we get over 100 degrees and strong wind, we not only lose the flower, but two years ago we lost plants, so we irrigate them.

This has been a really good season. It’s very good for all flower farmers in California because prices have been very good with a lot of demand the last two years. I guess there’s a shortage of imports because of no flights—limited flowers from South America and South Africa because of COVID. Now the fuel is very expensive, so there’s not enough flights.

We have the best market in the world right now. Even if we have a problem with shorter labor, we manage to survive. I think all (California) flower growers did pretty good last year and this year because they were able to move everything.

We do wholesale and we do online. We ship mostly on trucks to other states. We harvest today for shipping tomorrow. The only export we do is to Canada, and so far, (trucking there) has been very smooth. The busiest time for Canada is from Valentine’s through Mother’s Day. After that, they start getting (flowers) from South America and South Africa.

By Joe Avila, Stanislaus County chestnut farmer

The trees look healthy. They’re in a transition cleanup where they thin themselves. The burrs that are blanks are falling right now. They’ve been falling for about three weeks. It’s something they do every year. I have to mow all of those burrs that fall. I like to keep the field clean so when it’s harvest time, we don’t have a bunch of stuff to deal with.

Harvest would be about Sept. 8, 9 or 10. It’s going to be about the same as last year, possibly a little bit early. Once they start falling, we start picking them up by hand with pickers. They take a month to harvest. They don’t all come down at one time; they ripen in stages. Then they start to drop a lot, and then we use mechanical sweepers like with walnuts. We get them in a barn, and we sort them and get them in cold storage as quickly as possible, so they stay nice and fresh, because they’re susceptible to mildew, so you have to keep them cold.

The crop was light last year. I’m hopeful we’ll make up for last year. It looks good. It’s alternate bearing. They’re wind pollinated—and bees and butterflies, but mostly wind, from the male trees to the female trees. I like what I see this year. The trees are starting to weep a little bit, which means the nuts are getting a little bigger and its weight is coming on. By the middle of August, that’s when they start to weep really heavy. They break some branches once in a while.

By Ed Sills, Sutter County organic field crops grower

This year has been another challenging year for irrigation, but better than last year, when an unexpected cutoff of surface water supplies caused us to search for any unused wells uphill of our farmlands. With good neighbors, persistence and some luck, we made it through to harvest in 2021.

With last year in mind and no rain January through March this year, we started planning for continued drought when deciding what and how much to plant. With only about a 50% allocation of surface water for 2022, we improved a few wells and changed our crop mix to match our water supplies. We planted less rice, popcorn, corn and beans. We replaced some of those acres with grain sorghum (milo), safflower and sunflower seed, which need less water.

The dry weather in February and March allowed us to plant the safflower, which isn’t irrigated but requires good soil with deep moisture, which we have on one of the ranches we lease. Prices have risen for these organic crops, but the question remains whether these increased prices will compensate for the unprecedented high prices of fuel, parts and repairs.

As far as irrigation, the sunflowers are finished and the milo nearly so. The corn and popcorn will have made their crop soon and will need no further irrigation, depending on planting date. The rice will need water until early September.

Relative to growers on the west side of the northern valley who have little or no water, I am counting my blessings. 1976-77 remains the driest year on record. We survived that, but then we were flooded in 1986, so I have seen both extremes. I am hoping that soon we will have some wet years, so that reservoirs are filled, aquifers are recharged, and abundant crops can again fill the valley’s acres.

By Jake Samuel, San Joaquin County farmer

The walnut crop looks heavier than last year. The trees look pretty stressed because the crop is larger, and we’ve had some consecutive hot days. Some varieties, we are putting on sunscreen, the white material that goes on the trees. Guys are conscientious about price, so they’re not spending the extra money, so the sunburn protection isn’t as prominent. We just got our second-flight codling moth spray out. Mite pressure looks pretty decent. We’re waiting to see what the outlook is going to be to figure out what else is going to be needed to get the walnut crop to harvest, which usually begins in late September.

Almonds are a little finicky. Some hull-split sprays got started in our area, but we don’t expect to start harvest until the middle of August. It’s about five or seven days later this year compared to last year.

For cherries, we’re starting our summer sanitation, cleaning out dead wood and doing some minor pruning. Some of our custom guys that we do spraying for do a full pruning, and others wait to prune in the winter, but many are going through and doing their summer hedging, topping and pruning. We’ve had some hot days in the valley, but it hasn’t been too bad. Last summer was a nightmare of mites in cherries, and we were battling it all summer. If we can get through the next two months, we’ll be OK. We are applying some miticides to keep it knocked down and clean.

Cherry harvest was a difficult one as usual. It was a lighter-than-average crop. Some orchards were good, and some orchards were worse. We didn’t pick one because of hail, and one was too light to even put a ladder in it. There was rain in March and April, and the hail that came through in April devastated some fields. It was a very odd season.

Permission for use is granted. However, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation