Meeting market needs 7,000 acres at a time

Don is showing us an onion he pulled out of the field.

Many consumers underestimate the demands that agriculturalists meet on a daily basis. It isn’t just a matter of making the highest dollar.

Farmers and ranchers must meet the market needs while providing the best care for their crops and animals. They typically choose between production methods like organic or inorganic, conventionally stalled or free range and other variations. However, one farmer in Helm, Calif. isn’t just picking one way to grow his crops. He has chosen to follow the market demands when planting his 7,000 acres.

These are some grapes used in making Gallo wine.

Don Cameron is the general manager at Terranova Ranch, Inc. This ranch is run with 75 employees and 150 laborers to gross $20 million a year. That is not accomplished by pure size. Don is savvy about agricultural production. He doesn’t just know how to grow crops, but he has the brains of a businessman when selecting his markets.

Helm is within the San Joaquin Valley — dry, arid lands with little water to be found. On average, California receives 7 inches of rain per year. That is a tough opponent for any farmer! However, because of irrigation practices, the state is powerful in agricultural production.

These are some organic cherry tomatoes.
Lots of almond trees!

For 31 years, Don has worked to refine this operation to utilize the natural resources provided and grow nearly 200 different varieties of crops.

“Living out here, there is always something going on,” Don said while showing us around the different crop varieties.

We saw many different plants on the ranch including:

  • Pistachios
  • Almonds
  • Grapes (raisin, wine, and table varieties)
  • Cotton
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Olives for olive oil
  • Bell peppers
  • Alfalfa
  • Kale
  • Broccoli seed
  • Custom lettuce seeds

The majority of his crops are contracted, but Don is focused on providing for the needs of many companies. Ten percent of the ranch is organic. Don does not believe he needs to produce simply one or the other, but grow each efficiently to meet market demands.

At this first visit, I was in awe by the diversity of the ranch and the success Don has seen from the operation. There are many opportunities ahead for farmers. However, they are not always easy to achieve. Terranova Ranch proved to me that there is no road block for success to provide for a growing world.

What do you think? Are his market-driven tactics a good way to run his business and feed the world?

Please share your comments and look forward to more posts about California!