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From the Fields® - June 5, 2019

By Mike Jani, Mendocino County forester

The wet spring has created some challenges. Lumber sales are down, and we wonder if this is a result of building projects slow to come out of the ground due to weather or if home costs have been driven so high in California that we are moving into a downturn in construction.

Log pricing has followed as a result of this and the fact that most mills in the redwood region went into winter with high log inventories. The wet ground conditions also have delayed the start of our logging season as well so crews are available, but the late rains have stymied job starts and log deliveries.

By John Moore, Kern County diversified grower

We are in the process of harvesting potatoes. The rains that came in the past few weeks were substantial out in the south valley. Where we are in Arvin, we received 4 1/2 inches within two and a half weeks. Our ranch is located at the base of Bear Mountain, so rain clouds sort of sit. I know other areas in Kern County received substantial amounts of rainfall as well. I think we set a couple of different records and we've gotten over two-thirds of our annual rainfall in two and a half weeks in May.

That has slowed down some of our harvesting. It has created a couple of different issues within potatoes. Crops are a little bit behind on almonds, pistachios and potatoes. It's looking like almonds and pistachios may be at least a week to two and a half weeks late. With this nicer weather we're receiving, things are getting back on track.

Potato quality and yield look good. Because it's been a cold and wet year, our crop development was behind a week to two weeks, so when we started harvest, the crop was a little bit behind in size. But with the rains, it gave us an opportunity to wait and a little bit of time to catch up, and now we have a good yield and crop. We didn't have any big frost this year. We just had a lot of moisture and a lot of rain. That didn't promote plant growth quite as much as that nice, sunny weather, but everything looks really good.

The pistachio crop looks decent, but with pistachios, you're not really sure until after July if you're getting any nut set. With almonds, so far with what I've seen it looks to be a big crop, in terms of my crop and what I've seen in the area.

We're thankful for all the water that we have down here. I know in our area we're trying to bank as much water as we possibly can. It's another wild year in California farming.

By Ken Mitchell, Sacramento County diversified grower

Like dad said, there would be days like this. I just didn't think there would be this many of them.

The walnuts were slow to come out this spring. We unexpectedly had a lot of frost damage on the east side. There were big swings in temperatures last fall, and we really didn't have a very good dormant season. It makes for some interesting challenges.

Turkeys are doing well. I have a flock of big birds that are growing well and close to processing. Still, protein markets are slow and there is a lot of protein sources on the market. Getting poults is a little slower than I would like. Considering where we are, the demand is just not there. It is too soon to see how USMCA will play out. Maybe the demand will pick up a little bit. And of course, the China deal hasn't been resolved yet.

On the sheep side, we are ready to breed up for the next fair cycle with lambs in November for next year.

The rain has caused an increase in weeds. There have been late plantings as well. We will see what fall brings, but we definitely need some heat so we can get some of those growing days that we desperately need. It has been relatively cool and mild. It's nice not being out in the heat, but we better have a summer here before long. We have springs and falls, but no summers. It's all over the board.

But I guess it doesn't do any good to complain. It is what it is in this industry. I don't want to be pessimistic all the time, and we will prevail.

By Aaron Lange, San Joaquin County winegrape grower

Even though budbreak came a little later than normal, a warmer than average April pushed vines to grow very quickly, and chardonnay was already at 50% bloom in some places in Lodi in the first week of May. For perspective, our weather station recorded almost 20% more degree-day hours in April compared to the same time period in 2018.

Vineyard labor supply generally met demand in April, but supply decreased significantly in May with cherry harvest coming into full swing and lots of chatter circulating through crews by word-of-mouth and Facebook videos. Labor is going to be very competitive and job quality increasingly difficult to enforce, making many labor-intensive varieties like old-vine zinfandel economically unsustainable, even at district average pricing.

The winegrape market has been quiet for contract renewals, as wineries digest the 2018 crop and the recent purchases and acquisitions among large wineries in our area; however, we expect a positive uptick in activity once all Farm Bureau members open a bottle of Lodi wine at their dinner table tonight.

By Nick Short, Stanislaus County orchardist

Well, what a crazy month of May. Here in the Central Valley, the weather has been one for the record books. We experienced a very wet month, which has made things very interesting.

The almond trees are loving the weather, minus the ones we can’t seem to keep vertical. Orchard tasks have been rescheduled around weather patterns; that has made things very challenging. We have been focusing on removing the downed trees throughout all our orchards.

The main focus this time of year is field maintenance, with mowing and weed spraying at the top of our list. With the forecast looking clear and hot for the next few weeks, we will be watching our irrigation needs to help minimize any stress to our trees.

The cherry farmers in our area are facing some rough days. The rain has made the cherry harvest very difficult. Dairy farmers are working on planting their corn crops for this year after wrapping up their winter oat cutting.

By Hannah Gbeh, San Diego County organic grower

It's been a good year for garlic. We planted in December and snow hit the San Diego mountains in late February, which happens about every five years. It's been an extremely cold and wet season, and our technique of planting in raised beds has helped with drainage.

The weather has allowed us to water only two times this season. We have focused on elephant garlic, and it has thrived under the conditions. The garlic scapes are starting to emerge, which sell for a high value in the city. Scapes will be harvested in late June. Bulbs will be pulled in August. Our goal this year is to build our seed bank.

Our farm is located 40 minutes from the heart of downtown San Diego, the eighth-largest city in the nation. The value of land in our area has skyrocketed, making it difficult for friends who want to find a space to farm. We are in a solid position and exploring the option of relocating so we can cash out on the land craze near the urban areas.

There is a voracious appetite for locally grown organic garlic in the city, and we cannot keep up with the demand for our products. Not a bad problem to have.

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