This summer, I am embracing the good in life around me. By doing that, I am spending more time on the things I enjoy and that make me happy. July is an absolute favorite. I have narrowed down my top 5 reasons I love this month and why you might too.
I like sweets. A lot. If there is a reasonable amount of sugar in it, odds are, I will enjoy it. One type of food I really love is fruit. On a visit to Kingsburg Orchards in Kingsburg, Calif., I discovered a new favorite: the pluot.
No, I am not making this up. Kingsburg Orchards grows nearly 3,000 varieties of fruits. These include apricots, kiwis, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums and pluots. The pluot is a hybrid of a plum and apricot. There are different variations of this fruit, depending on the parent varieties used. The ones I tasted were incredible! Very sweet and juicy. One thing that intrigued the group was the way they were grown.
Tutor trellis’ grow the fruit in a v-shaped formation to allow full of sunlight to leaves. This creates an even distribution of sugar making the fruit at the bottom of the plant just as sweet as the top fruit.
Apple 1, a machine specifically designed for Kingsburg Orchards, is used to chop the tops and sides of the plants to best utilize trellis design (see in second image). Apple 1 eliminates the need of 40 workers. Each wheel is independently driven. Maintenance is performed twice each day.
I’ve been told I have a quirky personality. And, I might be a little nuts. But, as I continue my internship and exploring the world around me, I’m not just nuts. I’m nuts about agriculture.
While in California, the whole “being nuts” got to my head when we learning more about nut production in the industry. Almonds and pistachios were the two kinds we focused on — and California is the only state in the U.S. that grows them! In the past 10 years, almonds and pistachios increased in production from 500,000 tons to 2 billion tons. That is quite a jump in the market!
To help you understand a bit more, I will share some facts I learned about nuts. Most of this information was learned while at Terranova Ranch (check out my previous blog post to learn more) and Horizon Nut, a pistachio huller and processer.
|Learning about almonds at
- Trees begin producing nuts at 3-4 years
- Plants fully mature by age 8
- Almonds are replacing cotton on Terranova Ranch because a four-fold revenue acquired
- Trees begin producing nuts at age 7
- Plants fully mature by age 12
- Every 5th row of trees is male
- Peak seasons are October/November and June
- In 2012, 40 million pounds of pistachios processed
- In 2013, expected to process 65 million pounds
- All pistachios are pasteurized and roasted before leaving the plant
- Pistachios take 24 hours to dry after being harvested
- All nuts are hand sorted
- Nuts fall into diamond-plated bowl where they are slightly cracked
- Mixture of chlorine and alcohol used to sanitize facilities
- Recently purchased new facility to expand to almond processing
When you enjoy some protein-rich nuts like pistachios or almonds, remember they were California grown and processed. If this doesn’t make you nuts about agriculture, what does?
|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:
- Grapes (raisin, wine, and table varieties)
- Olives for olive oil
- Bell peppers
- 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!
Yesterday signified a day where many people honor their fathers. These are the men who not only helped bring us into the world, but hold an important role in the development of our lives. For me, it has taken more time to truly understand the sacrifices my own father makes to provide for my family. But after spending the weekend at home and reflecting on my trip to California, this next post is dedicated to the work by fathers in agriculture.
My dad is a man who works more than he should and receives less pay and recognition for it. Whether he is out in the field planting his crops or in the barn caring for our cattle and goats, he is constantly seeking ways to provide for our family. He is the true definition of a farming father.
This photo was from 2008 at our county fair Shorthorn open class show. The term “daddy’s little girl” definitely applies to me, from my relentless need to work and complete tasks, hatred of coconut, and a passion for the agriculture industry.
In California, the AFA team was able to see more fathers taking roles in the agriculture industry. At Diepersloot Dairy Farm, Bob is the head of the farm. He sees the needs of his 9,500-head dairy and also the needs of his family. His son, Adrian, has become involved and formed a partnership on their farm. They have developed a strong father-son relationship that continues the success of their farm.
The photo on the left is of Bob when he invited us into his home to enjoy breakfast! He was telling us about the chocolate milk his friend’s dairy produced. The image on the right is of Adrian when he was giving us a tour around the dairy farm. You could clearly see the passion each of the them had as they showed us around the farm. They prove that collaboration is the key to a working family.
I will discuss details about the dairy in a later post, but I wanted to share how important the father is in a farming operation.I know on our operation, it would not be the same without my dad there. Just as when he was growing up, my grandfather was the head of the farm and still farms today. I know many other farms are successful without a father figure, but I feel blessed to have an experience with one in my life.
In my eyes, farming families rely on fathers.
This past week was very exciting! Because it was so exciting, I will be splitting up my adventures into more than one post. I had the privilege to travel with the AFA Student Advisory Team to Fresno, Calif. for our June meeting and industry visits from June 8-11. Not only was this my first time in California, but it was our team’s first traveling meeting to learn about different methods of agricultural production and to mingle with supporters of our organization.
|Each of us enjoyed learning more about California’s diverse agriculture practices, like pistachios!
I am pictured second in from the left.
Every evening after our meetings, we share our “word of the day” to compile our thoughts and share it with the group. Unfortunately, we were unable to express our last word of the day on Tuesday because some of the team had to catch early flights across the country. Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to share my word of the day and introduce a string of different posts about my California experiences.
My word of the day is cluster.
- It symbolizes a united group. This reference not only refers to the tightened relationship among the Student Advisory Team (SAT), but also the cluster found throughout the agriculture industry.
- At our last stop on the tour to International Center for Water Technology at Fresno State University, our speaker discussed how there are different “clusters” of agricultural organizations and supporters in the state.
- We toured and saw vineyards (which have clusters of grapes).
- This trip revealed a deeper need for tight-knit clusters for the agriculture industry in future years.
Simple concept, right? Who doesn’t like a cool, refreshing cone or bowl of ice cream in the warming spring and summer months? If you are lactose intolerant, I extend my deepest sympathy. Especially because June is National Dairy Month! Seeing that I am in Wisconsin, the state of cheeseheads and dairy enthusiasts, I only find it fitting to partake in the bountiful festivities throughout this month.
Starting off, Becca, my roommate, fellow Bader Rutter intern and dairy enthusiast from Pennsylvania, persuaded me to go with her after work one day to Lee’s Dairy Treat. Even though I have been on a health kick and avoiding sweets at all costs, this food option was one I could not turn down and it didn’t take much prodding to get me to join her.
This family-owned ice cream shop is celebrating its 43rd year and takes claim as the best soft serve shop in Milwaukee. My taste buds were not deceived by this claim.
Even though we are already six days in to June and I have only celebrated National Dairy Month once so far, I have found plenty of opportunities to meet my need for cheese and other dairy delicacies. The Dairy Days of Summer have just begun and I plan to take full advantage of them. After all, life is about the little things like enjoying ice cream on a glorious spring day. In addition to enjoying the little things, it important to know where they come from. I am proud to see increased advocacy and education about dairy production and the agriculture industry at these events and through social media.
How are you celebrating National Dairy Month and all of the wonderful goodies our hard-working dairy farmers and cows provide to us? I encourage you to find out more about dairy production to whole-heartedly appreciate the milk, yogurt and ice cream you are eating.