agriculture

What Retired Farmers Do

As you may have discovered, retired farmers do NOT keep up with posting blogs, at least these retired farmers. This does not mean that we sit back and watch the weeds grow, however. We do still have our U-pick orchard and farm stay to keep us busy. In addition, Mike has numerous projects he is working on, some of which have been waiting years to be completed.

Retired farmers also still attend Ag-related events such as the World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA. The difference is that we are not on a hunt to find specific vendors, but are able to wander the grounds and enjoy visiting with vendors we know and meeting new ones just to chat. We were surprised to find a booth for Ag Data which we have been doing business with since the 1980s. We spoke with the founders and loved seeing their display of the old and the new technology they are using. Remember floppy disks?

Of course, like many retired people, we have done some traveling. Mike’s brother moved to New Zealand a year ago to practice medicine. He is only there temporarily, so we just had to visit. The farming there is mostly sheep and cattle ranching.

Train ride from Wellington to Masterton, NZ

Train ride from Wellington to Masterton, NZ

We fly fish, so we couldn’t go to New Zealand and not try our luck. We took a rafting trip on New Year’s Day. The scenery was amazing, but the catching was poor.

We rented a car and explored the South Island. We stayed on several farms with Airbnb spaces. Much to our astonishment, we found another Naylor’s Farm Stay during our travels. We met with the adopted son of the original owners and had a nice chat.

The owners of one of our accommodations recommended a place to eat where the owner was the hotel bellhop, bartender, and waiter. He mentioned that many of his guests come to fly fish. He showed us photos of the large trout he recently caught and recommended an outfitter to us. We called and surprisingly (since it was holiday season there) they had an opening the next day. It was a bit of an upgrade from the rafting trip we took earlier. It was also much more productive as you can see.

One other unexpected treat on our trip was discovering a stone fruit farm. It was summer time there, so we had to stop at a farm and try their peaches. They even had the Springcrest variety that we grow. Naturally, we had to taste them. They were juicy and had good flavor, but were small and not organically grown.

Although we thoroughly enjoyed our vacation to New Zealand. There’s no place like home. The view from our farm is just as spectacular to us. We have had a much needed wet winter with a near record snow pack. This is good news since we have had drought conditions for the past 5 years. Our irrigation water comes from the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains. The blossoms are popping. The birds are courting. Life goes on, even after retirement.

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Categories: agriculture, agritourism, Pick Your own, small farm, travel | Leave a comment

A Walk Around the Farm

Categories: ag water, agblog, agriculture, family farm, organic farm, Peaches, photos | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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?

Categories: Agchat, agriculture, family farm, farming, history, photos, small farm | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Where Has All the Water Gone?

The drought in California has been persisting for three years. This is what the orchard by our house looked like last year around this time. Notice how much green there is in the orchard. Those are weeds. Weeds take up water.

Here is what that same orchard looks like this year. We had to irrigate the trees in January for the first time in our 35 years of farming. Early spring on the Farm

Weeds waiting to be flamed.

Weeds waiting to be flamed.

The green is mostly nettle which seems rather drought tolerant. This year we are flaming the weeds instead of disking them. Here is the contraption Mike uses to flame the weeds.

The Flamer

The Flamer

Thankfully we had a few inches of rain recently, but the warm weather has returned and the trees are already blooming. This means that the fruit may be 3-4 weeks early this year. Last year we started picking in early May.

Early Plum Blossoms

Early Plum Blossoms

Farmers are continually adapting to the weather conditions. We have to adjust our farming methods and practices the best we can to continue to do what we love. However, water is essential and it is becoming increasingly challenging to farm here in California due to the drought. We are wondering where the water has gone. This summer consumers may be wondering were the produce has gone.

Categories: agblog, Agchat, agriculture, photos, weather | Tags: , | Leave a comment

It’s Fair Time!

Setting the Stance

Setting the Stance

The Big Fresno Fair started this week. Fair time brings back memories of 4-H and FFA that we participated in as kids and with our kids. This year “kids” took on a whole new meaning when our step-granddaughter showed her pygmy goat, King Titan, at the fair. This was Katie’s first year in 4-H and she only had a month to prepare. There was some drama just before she showed because her cousin’s goat, Mad Mad, got frisky and head-butted King Titan and caused some bleeding. Despite the drama, Katie placed second out of nine junior exhibitors in showmanship. We’re so proud!

Junior 4-H’ers Preparing to Judge

They had the parents show the goats, too and the juniors judged them. Our son, who had a bad experience showing his dog for 4-H when he was 10 years old, did the honors. He was incredibly nervous, but got 6th place.

Matt and Katie with King Titan

Agricultural Displays

What a Bounty!

What a Bounty!

We always tour the agricultural displays when we go to the fair. The amazing variety of produce grown her in the central San Joaquin Valley always impresses us. Various cities in the area set up booths with bleachers-full of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Some areas specialize in a particular crop such as garlic, grapes or citrus. Others offer a wide range of produce from peaches to peanuts.

The Big Fresno Fair is celebrating its 130 year anniversary with a look at the past theme. Photographs of past fairs peppered the exhibits. The city of Reedley is celebrating its 100th anniversary also. We live only 7.5 miles from Reedley. My grandparents farmed just outside of this agricultural town and my great-aunt and uncle’s former farm is now covered with streets and houses. The rich history of this region is a sight to behold!

Orange Cove Booth

City of Orange Cove Booth

Reedley, CA Booth

Reedley, CA Booth

Categories: 4-H, agblog, agriculture, photos | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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