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From the Fields® - May 2, 2012

By John Vevoda, Humboldt County dairy and beef rancher

We've got cows out on pastures now, with the open heifers moved onto pastures for the summer. We've had to move the cattle up from the lowlands because of the flood risk.

It has been too wet for them to stay lower. We're running above normal in rainfall now. Because it has been freezing cold and wet, the grass is just starting to come on. With warmer weather the past two weeks, the grass has really taken off.This is the first year we've been stable since the problems with Humboldt Creamery. We've gone completely organic and now belong to two different co-ops—Organic Valley and Humboldt Creamery.

I'm starting to have a little more fun with the business this year because I can pay some bills. Things are looking better.

By Darin Titus, Glenn County diversified farmer

The North State went straight from winter this last month right into summer with 90-plus degree weather this past weekend, then did an about face and fell right back into early spring this week. It has been slightly challenging, to say the least.

The almond crop is sizing nicely with the recent warm weather we've had, and it's getting easier to tell what nuts are going to set and what's going to drop. Our scab pressure has been by far the most prevalent disease we're combating at this stage. Our frost season ended well after several nights of running water and flying helicopters. There doesn't appear to be any damage associated with the cold down on the valley floor, but I did hear that some isolated west side areas got nipped a bit.

Walnuts have started pushing out of dormancy and growers are getting the first of several blight sprays on to beat the intermittent rains that have been forecast.

Hay growers have started to silage fields the past seven to 10 days, but none have been brave enough to tempt baling with all the unsettled weather. Cattlemen were pleasantly surprised with the late rains.What was starting out as a poor rangeland grazing year is going to end relatively strong.

By Bill Pauli, Mendocino County winegrape grower

We are a week to 10 days behind, it appears. That is pretty much across the board with everything. But it isn't critically late and it is early enough that we should catch up. It shouldn't be a big problem, assuming that we get some good weather.

It looks like at least here in Mendocino and northern Sonoma that the bunches appear to be there. It is a little early to see how big they really are and whether they are going to be as big as they need to be. At least it appears that the bunches are there, which is a good start. It is just a matter of getting some more good weather.

It has been pretty uneventful in the vineyards because we have had zero frost and virtually zero hail. Things are just behind a little bit, so nobody is really pushing and really active. It will pick up in the next couple weeks. The grape market is just like everything else, it is red hot right now. Everyone is in a good, solid peace of mind because they are getting grape contracts with good prices and the weather hasn't had any frost.

We have a new planting that we've started on that is keeping us very busy. A new, 160-acre vineyard is a big deal for us, and of course we are doing it all ourselves. It isn't the actual planting that is difficult, it is all of the infrastructure that you have to do before you even plant the vines.

By Ron Macedo, Stanislaus County diversified grower

We are right in the middle of oat harvest, getting off all the forage crops. Once we get that off, we will follow with a double crop of corn for silage. Earlier, because it was such a dry winter, the forage crops were looking kind of tough, but the spring rains helped quite a bit in bringing on their development. So it isn't a banner year but it isn't too bad, as it turned out. These forage crops go to dairies and feed prices are still strong, so it has been pretty good. The corn will be a fall harvest for silage.

Almonds are progressing nicely and receiving their scheduled irrigations and fertilizer. The crop looks very good and the market has responded well. The crop looks strong and I just hope to make it all the way through harvest. Hail hit around us; it didn't hit in my area but there was some nearby.

We will plant 40 varieties of pumpkins in June. There are hundreds of varieties of pumpkins, but I try to get a good mix of colors, shapes and sizes. I just stopped at an estate sale near the pumpkin patch and there was an old kitchen stove there that I bought for $70 and I will use it as a prop at my pumpkin patch. I am having a blast with the pumpkin patch. I am having a lot of fun and doing really well.

By Marvin Meyers, Fresno County diversified farmer

We're spraying our trees for mites and the pressure this year seems about normal. We found some early mites and took care of it. We're spraying to help prevent another mite explosion.

We're irrigating and foliar feeding, doing some weed management. Everything is going strong and we planted some cherries. The cherries are a new venture by my son. All our trees look really good, and we're hoping for a good-looking crop. We also grow olives for olive oil and the trees had a nice bloom.

The water situation looks tough for a lot of us guys. We get bureau water and purchase from outside the district, and we have a groundwater banking project. We're working with a 40 percent allocation, but that hasn't affected us because we prepared for this situation. Our district, San Luis Water District, has been able to secure supplemental water supplies from willing sellers.

We've been down the low-water-allocation road many times, but I'd say we're better prepared for it this time. I've had a lot of practice at this. It's amazing the troubles we've gone through in dry years. In the 1970s, some of those years were bloody, but then we had some El NiƱo years and had to wear hip waders.

But we've had a good spring and, even with low water allocations, we're looking forward to a good summer.

By Tom Ikeda, San Luis Obispo County vegetable farmer

With the rains of the past few weeks, we're just now getting into the field to get the ground worked up for planting. Everything is going in right now. This is our busy season. We're putting in head lettuce, spinach, cilantro, bok choy, broccoli. Before we're done, we will have planted eight to 10 different vegetable crops.

It takes a lot of planning because different crops have different intervals to harvest. In some cases we use transplants, but most of the crops we produce are from seeds.

We have been planting periodically since January, but as the days get longer and the soil heats up, the intervals between planting and harvest will get shorter. We'll be planting seed and transplants into September; a few vegetables will be planted as late as November. We plant on a schedule every week, almost all year long, but this is a peak planting time for us.

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