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From the Fields® - October 11, 2017

By Ron Macedo, Stanislaus County pumpkin grower

We are swamped here at our pumpkin patch, but we are doing well. We are glad to have the cool weather come in. We had to harvest some of our pumpkins early this year.

We shipped some overseas to Singapore and we shipped some to Southern California in September. This is the first time we shipped overseas, and we sell a lot of pumpkins here at our pumpkin patch.

We opened the pumpkin patch and corn maze last week and that is going very well. We plant about 50 different varieties of pumpkins. People are coming out, and it gives us a chance to interact with urban people and tell them about pumpkins and how they can be used for much more than just decorations.

We are really glad to be out of the extremely hot weather, and fortunately we had plenty of water. It was the toughest year to grow pumpkins that I ever experienced. So, we are glad to see the cool weather come in here.

This year, the corn maze design is kind of a dinosaur theme. We have a couple different dinosaurs and a palm tree. It looks really good. My kids design it and cut it out, so it is a lot of fun. Then on Nov. 1, we will harvest the corn for silage.

We went from a really wet winter and spring to an extremely hot summer, so farming had its challenges. But it is all good now.

By Steve Bontadelli, Santa Cruz County Brussels sprout grower

We're still waiting for the Brussels sprouts to grow. We're three to three and a half weeks behind normal, because of all the rain we had in the spring. So we're just winding up the hand-picking up north in the Santa Cruz area. The volume is decreasing; it's been a low volume since we started.

The market is still astronomical. It's $50 a box, which is a record high that it's been at for the last two months. There just hasn't been enough volume for the amount of demand.

We anticipate starting middle of October with our machines; that'll increase the volume to at least come closer to meeting the demand, but as we move closer to the season, the demand is also going to increase. They were actually flying in product from Holland to the west coast of Canada because they could get a better price for it there flying it on an airplane than they could selling it in Holland.

Acreage is up again. There's pretty good harvest going on in Oxnard right now, but it'll move its way up. So every area was a little bit behind where they were before.

Mexico has already started. There's some actual year-round growers now coming out of Mexico, which is another new thing. Typically, Mexico would start in December-January and go until May-June, but Mexican sprouts were available pretty much all year this year. So the overall amount of sprouts has increased dramatically over the last few years. It appears that they're planting more this year.

They've been having some issues with the diamondback moth. There was some acreage lost down in Oxnard earlier in the season. There was some acreage in the Castroville area that recently had some issues with the same thing. And it's a constant issue with Mexican Brussels sprouts because of the warmer weather down there—it's very hard to keep them under control. They're one of the biggest pests for Brussels sprouts.

The crop that we have here on the Central Coast is looking very good. The quality, to date, of what we've been picking by hand has been excellent. Yields have been good and quality has been great, so it's been a cakewalk to get rid of them.

Labor is going to be an issue. The strawberry guys have been struggling all season long, and we're fortunate in that our season starts so late we get a lot of the strawberry guys that, once they start winding down, they're looking for something else to do for the next three or four months. I don't have any extra guys, but it looks like we'll be able to field a crew. But the level of available labor is much lower than it's ever been.

Water hasn't been an issue—thank you, God—this year because of all those early rains that actually washed a lot of the salts out of the soils, made a lot of the crops grow better and filled up a lot of reservoirs. There's been no shortage of water this year.

By Joe Valente, San Joaquin County winegrape grower

Harvest was closer to normal than what it had been the last couple years, when it was extremely early. This year it is closer to what is typically considered normal.

We do mostly all machine harvest. We did kind of struggle at the beginning to find enough people for the harvesters, but when it was all said and done, we were able to get it taken care of.

Overall, the crop was average. Some varieties were a little bit lighter and some were about average. The quality of the grapes seems to be very good.

We have planted a few acres of almonds. Not as much this year; more last year. Looking down the road, looking at the availability and cost of labor, we put in the almonds. But our main focus is still on winegrapes. We did plant a little bit this year: more of the typical varieties, pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon.

Everyone I've talked to tells me it has been a challenging year. For us, the floodwaters in the spring covered some of our vineyards. And because of all the water, we got a late start getting onto the fields. There is a common word this year that a lot of people are using: The "flow" hasn't been there this year.

We are getting things done, but it just seems like we weren't ahead of the game the way we like. The flow was just not there, for whatever reason. Talking to other guys—the truck drivers, other farmers—it has just been a different flow this year. When it is all said and done, we are getting the work done, it's just been a different kind of challenge.

By Tony Toso, Mariposa County beef producer

It is full-swing harvest in this area with almonds coming off and other crops. As far as what we do, we are just about calved out. We started calving around the first part of August. That was just after the fire that destroyed about 660 acres of our feed sources, or about 55 percent. We didn’t lose any houses or livestock and all the people were saved, so we are thankful for that.

We are probably 90 percent calved out right now and we are getting bull semen tested. We will turn out bulls on Nov. 1. It is a little different year for guys like me because we did go through the fire. We are probably feeding a little more hay because of that. The calves look good.

We will be changing pastures soon. It is pretty much the normal routine except for the fire and having to work around the edges of that thing.

We are actually going into the cow herd to look at the heifers. We are staying steady and slightly growing on our cow numbers. We keep a handful to put back into the herd each year. We are not a big operation, 125 mother cows, so we don’t grow too rapidly. Our cows are Angus-based and we use Angus bulls and Simangus bulls (a combination of Angus and Simmental breeds). We turn out about six bulls for our cows.

Right now, it is about managing feed and keeping these cows moved around to keep them fed.

We will be branding in early December and then we will be getting ready for springtime.

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