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From the Fields® - October 21, 2015

By Ron Macedo, Stanislaus County diversified grower

With Halloween fast approaching, right now we are in the middle of pumpkin harvest. It is a very good harvest for me. We made it through the drought and the growing season was ideal.

We have had OK surface water supplies and adequate groundwater to raise a pretty good pumpkin crop. We have over 50 varieties of pumpkins, everything from little munchkins all the way to 200-pound prize winners. We have every color in the rainbow, from dark pumpkins to white, red, blue, striped etc. You name it, we have it.

I sell a lot of orange pumpkins and varieties at our patch here in Turlock and ship a couple tons to a broker for sale along the West Coast. I was concerned because I planted a little earlier than I wanted, but with the dry weather it turned out to be perfect timing. I am fortunate where I am with the soil that I have. Everything is on drip irrigation, including our corn maze.

Prices seem to be very good. My crop has excellent quality. We are hosting 1,700 kindergarten and first-grade kids at our pumpkin patch and maze. We are teaching them a little bit about farming, which is something we really enjoy. All in all, we will have upwards of 30,000 to 40,000 people.

I still manage 700 acres of corn and oats for dairymen and farm 100 acres of my own. I do a lot of custom work. In the winter, I sell Christmas trees and have my ice rink.

By Mark Watte, Tulare County diversified grower

What little cotton we have is all being picked. This was a good growing season for cotton and the crop looks excellent. There just wasn't much of it. In a week or 10 days, the cotton will be gone; it will all be picked.

The pistachios and almonds are finished. Pistachios are very disappointing, but where I am at it seems that we did better than growers on the eastern and western sides of the valley. It is all tied into chilling hours, and in the eastern and western parts of the valley it is slightly warmer, so they got fewer chilling hours.

There are some real horror stories on some of those farms. The last I heard was that the projected production for this year would come in at about 275 million pounds, which is extremely low. Given all of the new acreage that is coming into production, we would have expected 500 to 600 million pounds. The problems were twofold: there was a lot of blanking, but also a lack of crop. The quality of pistachios was good.

This is the year that we are anxious to be done with, to have in the rearview mirror. I'm looking forward to better days ahead.

By Steve McShane, Monterey County nursery operator

Seasons change and so do the fields here in the Salinas Valley. Equipment is on the move and as a result, I'm predicting an early desert season.

The anticipated rain is going to be a great shot in the arm when it comes to the cost of doing business. Let's just hope the rain is steady and controlled, as the Salinas River can only handle so much.

To be frank, quite a few growers remember the floods of 1995 and 1998 and as a result, equipment, pipe and other treasures are safer away from the Salinas River.

Of course, berry growers are thankful for an epic season. It started early and has not lost steam. That is, unless you're dealing with exceptional pest or disease. The good growers have been happy.

Nursery crops remain one of the strongest in the county. While growers have slimmed back, movement and prices have been steady. There is no question that consumers are making different choices due to the drought.

While this year was better for cattle than last, it's still been a tough ride.

By Greg Wegis, Kern County diversified grower

Almonds are on the ground and we received about a half-inch of rain about two weeks ago. Now, we’re looking at another rain event ready to occur.

We’re trying to get the nuts dried down to about 5 percent moisture so we can pick them up, but it’s hard right now.

We’re a little nervous because another rain event will stretch the drying out. We’re concerned about having the nuts on the ground.

Also, there’s higher insect damage the longer the nuts are in the field. The other concern is that, if we can’t dry the nuts on the ground, we’ll have to pick them up wet and get them artificially dried, which costs about 5 cents a pound.

The pistachios are finished for the year and we’re applying amendments and getting ready to shut the trees down. We’ve shut water off and the sap is exiting the branches. If we get a freeze, they won’t have limb damage.

Blanking in pistachios was a problem this year. Blocks that were lower and got more chill had better yields than blocks in warmer areas. Blocks on good ground yielded better than trees on the higher-sodium ground.

Blanking was a problem. We had a lot. In one block, 10 percent. In the other block, 50 percent. Our yields overall were less than average.

We’re currently planting wheat, triticale and alfalfa. We’d rather plant those crops dry, but we’ve been receiving so much moisture this fall. My goodness. I can’t believe I’m saying that!

I guess we’ll take any moisture we can get, but in the short term it sometimes makes it difficult to prep ground and plant. It would be better if we got that done and then the rains came.

It helps that most of our crops finished early this year, so we have some extra time to prepare for El Niño. We’re trying to get the groundwork done. When the rains finally come, we’ll be ready for it.

By Tony Toso, Mariposa County beef producer

We’re almost calved out. Most of the calves are on the ground, but we’ll stretch a little bit more to come.

Feed is short in our neck of the woods for those who run cattle year round. We’ve been having to feed supplemental hay since August.

The cattle still looks pretty good, considering how short the feed has been. But the market has taken a significant downturn the past month or so. We’re hoping for better market prospects in the next few months.

Overall, everything is going along OK. We’re getting the new calves ready so they can enjoy the El Niño we’re supposed to get.

To prepare, we’re checking to make sure the roof is good on the barn and brush is cleared from the ditches and checking the creeks for debris. We’re hoping it’s going to be worthwhile.

To tell the truth, I don’t want to jinx the rain forecasts. We need the water so we can look forward to a payday in the spring.

By Jim Spinetta, Amador County winegrape producer

Amador County Vintage 2015 is currently safe and secure in the tanks. I will quietly say that the drought was beneficial (to the consumer) for Italian varietals providing maximum color, flavor and longevity. If the indicators are correct this looks like another 1997: the year of the decade!

On the contrary, the drought was quite quite harmful to the barbera crop across this region. Yields were down between 50 and 90 percent.

The walnut trees are loaded with a copious harvest just waiting for the first rain to crack the hulls so they can fall to the ground. The water table still continues to fall even in our fractured granite, and we're praying for the El Niño rains.

We're looking forward to getting reacquainted with our friends and Farm Bureau family reviewing policies and procedures at our December meeting in Reno. Hope to see you there.

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