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From the Fields® - April 27, 2011

By Burt Bundy, Tehama County diversified farmer

The water temperatures are warming up, so the fish are becoming more active. They are taking feed better and so we are increasing the feeding program. We are starting to get ready for our harvest period. We are cleaning things up, sorting trays and getting fish tanks cleaned up and ready to go.

We don't usually start marketing the fish until almost the first of June. We do have spawning that will start earlier than that. If we are going to raise little ones, we start that. We use old milk cans for the fish to spawn in, so we will be putting those into the ponds as soon as the temperatures get up a little bit more. Then we will spawn and start raising fingerlings. That will start first before we start harvesting our bigger fish.

The excess rain didn't make that much difference with our ponds. It has been pretty good. What we do get this time of year though is a stratification of pond water and so we have to be very careful with that. We have to start pumping water into the ponds and re-circulating it quite a bit more to keep the temperatures constant and keep the water from getting stagnant at the bottom of the ponds. That creates a problem; we have to aerate more and pump water more. The rain will help for later in the year because we rely not only on well water, but some water from irrigation systems. That's all snow melt, so that will help us.

Our beef cattle are doing great. I was up checking the winter range and we had a big rain the other night. That topped off the stockponds and the grass is growing good, so they are looking good and the prices are great. Everything there seems to be doing well.

We are not sure when we will move the cattle to the summer range. This rain will probably extend it another week or so. We are probably looking at mid- to late May before we make a move. We actually bring our cattle down to irrigated pasture for summer. Lots of ranchers do take them up to the mountain range for summer. We do ours a little backwards. We keep ours in the foothills on the east side of the valley in the winter and on irrigated pasture for summer.

We will sell our calves as soon as we bring them down. We'll wean them and take them to market shortly after that. Our calving program is a little different than most others. Frankly, it is because of the predators in the foothills. We calve out down in the valley. I don't take calves to the foothills until they are about 250 pounds. We winter them up there and as soon as we break, we take them to market.

The market is great right now. It's probably almost a month away before our calves will hit market, so we are kind of holding our breath hoping it will hold. I was watching the video markets the other day and was astounded at the prices they were getting.

By Kenny Watkins, San Joaquin County diversified farmer

We have the ground ready and are just about ready to plant tomatoes. We have some safflower planted. The rain came and that worked out well. They are starting to cut hay in our area. Dairies are doing a lot of green chop, and some of the green hay is getting into bales. Grass is growing still and the cows are happy.

In this area, the beef cattle are doing well. We do not have to do any supplemental feeding as the cattle have plenty of forage on the ground in those green grasses. We have an abundance of grasses right now. How long it lasts depends on how long we keep getting these showers. So far they've been coming through every week or so and that would help keep the grass growing. But at some point it will dry up and when it gets down, it's gone. Our stockponds are full and the water situation is really good. There is a lot of surface water available to us. We have not had to start irrigating any of the orchards yet. Moisture is still good in all the permanent crops.

Walnuts are starting to bloom. They are pushing pretty well. The early varieties are out and even the later ones are starting to move. The grapes have leaves on them now.

So far, so good, and it looks like it will be a good year. The commodity prices are good, grain crops look like they are going to be pretty good. I didn't plant any wheat; I just have forage hay. Some of the guys around here are getting ready to start irrigating wheat that was planted late. So the late crop still has a lot of growing to do. Those early rains kept them from planting until late this year.

By Benny Jefferson, Monterey County vegetable grower

Right now in the Salinas Valley we are starting to get into the swing of production. The desert is basically ending. Some growers finished up last week, some moved to Huron and some companies just moved up here. Some will be finishing in Huron in another week or two at the most, and then it will be full swing in the Salinas Valley on your lettuces.

We will continue to plant all season, so there will always be something to harvest. Right now broccoli is kind of on the slide. There seems to be too much bunched together and the market is a little depressed. There is a lot of broccoli sitting in fields waiting for better demand.

Artichokes are hitting their peak and they are basically a month behind schedule. We like to be done with a majority of it by Easter but that did not happen. We grow both annual and perennial types of artichokes. Cauliflower is moving right along. Asparagus production is moving right along. This valley is just rocking and rolling. We are trying to get over the wet winter.

We have no water concerns this year. Our concern this year is that we have too much water. However, that is a good kind of water concern. Lots of people are still trying to get ground ready for this year from the wet winter. That has raised a little bit of havoc with the early lettuces. Hopefully, there will be a couple of windows here and there.

We were very fortunate in that we had very little ground under water from the Salinas River flooding. Not enough to complain personally, but some people got hit pretty hard. Nacimiento is very full. Thank God the voters of the Salinas Valley voted to install a dam near the spillway to save more water. The rubber dam was able to hold back quite a bit of water when we had this large, heavy amount of downpours about three weeks ago. We were able to contain another 83,000 acre-feet of water. Another good rain and things in this valley would be a heck of a lot worse than they are. Our other reservoir, San Antonio, is about 80 percent full, which is also wonderful. We can meet all our requirements for water conservation and percolation along with all the requirements for Fish and Game and NOAA to get the water to the Salinas lagoon at the mouth of the river. Everything is looking pretty good this year.

By David Dumars, Yolo County rice grower

Right now we are working ground, opening it up and drying it out. Some guys are going to start putting fertilizer in pretty soon. There is still some ground with water on it. Out in the causeway and bypass, there is still quite a bit of water. There is still quite a ways to go before it dries out.

We plan to plant about as many acres this year as we did last year. This year, water availability will not be a problem. It is a problem in the opposite way, as there is still water on some ground.

Most of our ground is dry, but we still have some fields with some standing water. That is mostly in the ruts from last year's harvest. It is drying out pretty good right now; even though it's been cold we've had a steady breeze most days and so it is drying out pretty well.

I've not noticed any planes planting rice yet, not down in our area. Guys have to put fertilizer on and maybe soon some guys up north might be ready to plant. They are typically the first to do so, up in the Maxwell area.

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