Come Visit Us

Mike and I have made the transition to semi-retirement. This means that Mike is no longer putting in the long hours on the tractor and getting up every three hours at night to irrigate the orchards. What has not changed is our desire to share the beauty of our farm and Mike’s knowledge of organic farming practices with everyone.

To make it possible for more people to visit our farm, we have opened another space for guests called the Cozy Farm Cottage. Unlike the two rooms in our home, this space is self-contained and includes a full kitchen. This space does not include breakfast, however. A bowl of freshly-picked organic fruit is included, though. During the summer, guests can pick and purchase fruit including blackberries, apricots, peaches, plums, and nectarines. So, come visit us and stay in our farm stay. You can find us at Farmstay US or Airbnb.


Cozy Farm Cottage

Dinuba, CA, United States

This two bedroom mobile home is located on our family farm just behind the farm house. It is newly remodeled and perfect for a family or group. Your stay includes a bowl of fresh organic fruit (in …

https://www.airbnb.com/

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A Walk Around the Farm

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The End of the Season

The 2015 harvest season has come to a close already. It started early on April 24th with our first pick of the season and ended on July 31st with the last load of Goldline peaches delivered to cold storage. Prices were consistently good this year which will help cover the expense of putting in two new wells. The drought here in California is in its fourth year and Tulare County, where we live, has been hit the hardest. Thankfully prices were consistently good this season which will help cover the cost of putting in two new wells.

New Well #1

New Well #1

New Well #2

New Well #2

Mike planned ahead and got on the 6 to 9 month waiting list for drilling in June, 2014. One well was drilled in November and the other in February. (Cool, Clean Water!) The well in November was drilled as an insurance policy in case the drought continued.  The one in February was out of necessity because one existing well went dry.

The pump for Well #1 did not arrive until May, however. By that time, two of our three existing wells had gone dry and the third was on its last trickle of water. This required Mike to be irrigating our 65 acres of fruit trees 24/7 for a couple months. You can liken this to having a newborn baby. He was up every 3 to 4 hours day and night watering the trees during those two months. A sleep-deprived 62 year-old farmer is not a pretty picture. Mike had to cancel his local fruit deliveries because he knew he was not safe behind the wheel. He also had to delegate tractor work and repairs to others, which was an added expense.

Hard-working Farmer Mike

Hard-working Farmer Mike

Well #2 requires work by the electric company which is another major expense. We are considering using a propane system instead of electricity. In the meantime, we have the one producing pump to irrigate all of our farm. Even though the harvesting is done, the trees begin preparing for next year’s crop shortly after they are harvested. Healthy trees require sufficient water to set a good crop, so Mike will be giving them another good irrigating this month. Hopefully we will get much-needed rain soon. Please join us in praying for a wet fall and plenty of snow in the mountains this winter. Here is something to help you visualize what we need.

Our Water Source

Our Water Source

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Does it Belong in a Museum?

Refurbishing Packing Shed

Field Packing Shed

This is one of two field packing sheds we use to pack our fruit. They were originally designed and used in the 1960s. Mike’s dad packed fruit in them and now Mike is carrying on the family tradition.

Mike Fixing Packing Shed

Fixing Packing Shed

As far as we know, we are the only farmers still doing this type of field packing of fruit. We are able to get the fruit from tree to bucket to lug box in minutes.

Naylor Organics Peaches

Box Full of Sweetness

The lug boxes are stacked on a trailer and moved to the pole barn until they are loaded on the truck with a forklift.

Mike Driving Forklift

Our Forklift Driver

From there Mike drives the truck 10 miles to Reedley where it is put in cold storage until shipped to the consumers.

Delivering to Cold Storage

Delivering to Cold Storage

We know whoever takes over our farming operation in the future will not be using these packing sheds. Perhaps we will donate them to a museum to preserve this part of farming history. Do you think it belongs in a museum?

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The Face of the Average American Farmer

"Average" American Farmers

“Average” American Farmers

The average age of American farmers is nearly 60 years old. For every one farmer and rancher under the age of 25, there are five who are 75 or older, according to Agriculture Department statistics (see Huffington Post). This presents a dilemma for the owners of single family farms, particularly if there is not a younger family member interested in continuing the family tradition. Another conundrum is the fact that family farmers rely on the sale of their land to finance their retirement. Most young people do not have the financial resources to purchase land, much less to modernize the equipment. Some older farmers depend upon their own skills to make repairs and their equipment may be quite antiquated.

Our Old Faithful John Deere 2050

Our Old Faithful John Deere Tractor

Thankfully, there is growing interest by the federal government and various other organizations in helping younger farmers overcome these hurdles (Young Farmers Coalition). We recently attended the 2015 Eco Farm Conference and were encouraged by what we heard. There are small grants and training opportunities available to help young people get started in farming (see here). There are also programs to help veterans find connections and resources to begin farming (Farmer Veteran Coalition).

We are in the unenviable position of needing to make the transition to a less-intensive lifestyle otherwise known as retirement. Unenviable because we do not want to do the easy thing and sell our land to a large corporate farming operation like several of our neighbors have recently done (see post). The alfalfa field and small dairy across the road to the west that belonged to our long-time neighbors and friends was sold and is being prepared for planting Almonds. The family farm to the east of us across the ditch was sold and the nectarine and plum trees were removed. At least they are planting more fruit trees – Apricots.

You may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to help. We suggest donating to organizations such as those mentioned above that are dedicated to preserving single family farms and farmland. The American Farmland Trust is another organization you might look into supporting. They are in the beginning stages of helping farmers such as us make the transition to a less-intensive lifestyle. We love what we do, but need to scale-back so that we can enjoy other of life’s pursuits while we still are able to do so.

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Selfie at Coldwater Lake, WA

Categories: agblog, Agchat, agriculture, family farm, photos, small farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hope for the New Year

First Snow of the Season

First Snow of the Season

Those who have been following us through the year know that water, or the lack there of, has been the major topic of 2014. The drought here in California and the southwestern states has made headlines across the nation. The recent rains and flooding have also made the news. Thankfully we have not seen flooding in our area and even more wonderful is the sight of snow on the Sierra Nevada Mountains near our farm.

Saw Tooth Peak

Sawtooth Peak

As 2014 comes to a close, seeing the snow brings us hope for 2015. We know we need many more storms to even make a dent in the drought, but we are hopeful that the snow is just the beginning of a wet winter and spring. We are glad we were able to drill a new well and, as silly as it sounds, we hope we won’t have to use it next year. The unusually warm winter last year that brought an early bloom to our fruit trees may be repeated. Perhaps this is the new normal. We had a good growing season and our U-pick business tripled this year. Our farm stay also saw an increase in guests. All of this means we will be farming for another year.

Persimmons at Sunrise

Persimmons at Sunrise

We end this final post of the year with this picture postcard view from our house.

Sierra Nevada Mountains

Sierra Nevada Mountains

May your New Year be filled with peace, love, and hope.
Mike & Nori Naylor

Categories: ag water, agblog, family farm, photos, small farm, weather, winter | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cool, Clean Water!

In case you hadn’t heard, California is experiencing extreme drought conditions. Our three wells made it through the summer, but we cannot depend upon a wet winter to replenish the groundwater, so, we are drilling a new well now. We will go down about 400 feet to ensure we reach the water table and then some. The San Joaquin Valley water table is like a bowl with cracks in it, so drilling does not guarantee water in some areas. We know of one farmer who tried four locations and came up dry. Farmers to the south and east of us have hit salt water from the ancient seabed that once covered this area. We are fortunate to be situated in a spot where the water table is still relatively accessible and has clean water.  The increased pumping of water from the aquifer is having negative consequences on the land as well. So, no matter where you live, please don’t take having fresh, clean water for granted and practice water conservation because we don’t know what next year may bring much less tomorrow.

One Valve Open

Low Water Flow from the Old Pump

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The Old Pump

Day 1: Valve Where the Pump Water Went

Holds 1000 gallons of water.

Mixer for Water and Materials

Backhoe to Dig Water Pits

Backhoe for Making Water Pits

Mud Pies Anyone?

Water Pits

Water2014(10)

Day 2: Pipes Going Down for Pumping Air into Well

Day 3: Well Casings Going In

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Water and Mud from Well

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More Water Pits

We've Got Water!

Day 4: We’ve Got Water!

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It’s a Gusher!

Once the area around the well dries, they will make a concrete base for the pump and then the pump will be installed. This will take around a month to complete. Photos will be added. Come back to see the progress.

Categories: ag water, agblog, Agchat, photos, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Balance is Important

A good balance is needed in everything in life.  Balance between home and work.  Balance between work and play.  A balanced budget.  Keeping things in balance is not always easy, however.  Especially when emotions become involved.  Lately it seems emotions are running high in politics, the economy, the ebola crisis, the drought, wars across the globe, immigration etc.  Even food choice has become a hot button issue.  When emotions are involved, rational thinking tends to cease and people’s ability to hear the opposite opinion is limited.  Confrontation often ensues.  The fight or flight  instinct takes effect and reaching a reasonable compromise can be very difficult.

Compromise can be a good thing in certain circumstances, though.  Life does not always have to be a zero-sum “game.”  Listening to the opinion of someone else can be beneficial to both parties.  By listening, I mean silencing those internal critical voices and being open to learning from the other person.

I encourage you to read this entire guest post and listen to what the author says and then let me know what you learned that you didn’t know before.     Antibiotics Begone! Food Choices, Farm Choices.

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The Longest Short Summer

If you have been reading my blog, you are aware how challenging farming can be.  Weather, drought, labor shortages, are a few of the difficulties we face as farmers.  When you add health issues to that, life can be almost overwhelming at times.  I (Nori) have been experiencing several physical ailments during the summer which have made it hard to keep up with blogging.  I tried to post a few photos, but was not able to write anything since May.  I am feeling some better now and hope to get back to writing more often.

Windy April Day

Windy April Day

Believe it or not, our harvest season is now officially over.  It started early this year on May 1st which made it seem like we were playing catch-up all season.  The drought made it necessary for Mike to irrigate more days because the flow from the pumps was low, so it took longer.  It also made it necessary for him to get up every three hours during the night to check the water so as not to waste any.  Kind of like nursing a baby, I told him.  This made for a seemingly much longer summer.

Ruth Anne Yellow Peaches

Ruth Anne Yellow Peaches

Just as the season was ending, our precious dog, Penney, came down with Valley Fever.  Mike and Penney are very close, so this is really tough on him.  She is also doing some better, but needs medication 2Xs a day for up to a year to recover.  Didn’t know dogs could get Valley Fever.  She is 10 years old and this has slowed her down quite a bit.

Mike and Penney

Mike and Penney

We have about 20 acres of fallow ground that we had planned to plant with more fruit trees this year.  That had to be put on hold due to the drought.  Young trees require more water to get a good start.  We found that berries need a lot of water as well.  They also don’t do well in 100 plus degree weather.  Despite all of that, we had a good harvest season and will be back at it again next year.  We are hoping for lots of rain this fall and lots of snow on the mountains this winter to end the drought.  Otherwise, we’ll start next year by putting in a new well.

Cup 'O Berries for Breakfast

Cup ‘O Berries for Breakfast

 

 

 

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Why Low Cost Organic Produce is Bad for Small Farmers

Honey May Nectarines

Honey May Nectarines

For years organic farmers ran small-scale operations because of the intense amount of attention and time involved in growing organic produce. Recently, say in the past 10 years, there have been great strides in research on pest control and more efficient organic farming practices (See post Organic is More than What You Eat). This has made it possible for the big guys to get into the market. This has also resulted in lowering the prices of organic produce due to supply and demand.

This creates a conundrum for supporters of small family farms. How so? The big guys can sell their produce for less since they have such large quantities. They can glut the market and bring down prices for all organic farmers. They are less vulnerable to such market changes since they usually grow large acreage of conventional produce as well. The small- to mid-sized family organic farmers cannot weather the price wars so easily.

The larger corporate farms can purchase materials in bulk for less. Small farmers have to pay full price. Add to that the price of labor. Last year there was a labor shortage in our area. The large packinghouses increased their wages to attract workers. For the first time in our 38 years of farming, we could not get enough help. So, we had to raise our wages so as not to lose the employees we had.  This was great for the farm laborers, but tough for the smaller farmers.

Food safety is another conundrum. Who can argue with the need for a safe food supply? The large guys have lawyers and can hire special personnel just to handle the paperwork and training necessary to comply with the new federal food safety regulations (FSMA). Us little guys have to do all the paperwork ourselves which takes us away from the fields which means we can’t keep as close a watch on our crops which means the quality may suffer.  Thankfully there are two of us to shoulder the work load.  Some small farmers are single, though, and this new legislation has caused many to quit farming altogether.

Consumers and growers of organic produce often also support food justice issues. Low cost organic food is essential to helping underprivileged communities gain access to nutritious and safe food. On the other hand, small- to mid-sized family farms, like any business, cannot continue unless the sales price exceeds the cost of putting it in the box. That is why a recent survey found that the majority of small farmers do not have farming as their only source of income. Many work an off farm job just to keep farming.

Here is a list of costs and expenses for us to grow, pick and pack our fruit. Think about what your family spends on some of these items and multiply that by 100 (approximately how many acres of trees we have).

Water is used nearly year-round to irrigate the trees and we are charged both by use and number of acres.
Electricity is used to run the pumps to get the water to irrigate the trees.
Fuel is used for tractors, trucks and forklifts as well as weed eaters.
Labor: We pay 20 workers $9.00 per hour for 10 hours per day 7 days a week during harvest plus overtime.
Farming materials: Compost, other organic soil and tree supplements, organic pest control materials
Farm upkeep: Planting new trees, leveling the fields, spreading compost, removal and grinding of old trees
Maintenance: Oil changes, parts for fixing equipment, labor for fixing equipment, cleaning equipment
Packing materials: boxes, pads, fruit trays, pallets, stickers and sticker guns
Portable Restrooms and maintenance, shade tents and water jugs
Food Safety: Minimum of $200 per hour for annual inspections that take up to 8 hours to complete
Organic Certification
Insurance for workers, farm vehicles and liability
Mortgage Payment

The prices on most of these expenses has increased steadily over the years.

Approximate cost (taking the above expenses into consideration) to put fruit in the box: $16.00 per box
Income: Average of $28.00 per 2 layer lug box (average 56 pieces of fruit per box)
Approximate net income: $12.00 per box

Now consider we have the usual household expenses as well.

Farmers are experts at pinching pennies. Our pennies are getting pretty thin.

Categories: agblog, family farm, Food Safety, Nectarines, photos, small farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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