Pick Your own

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

Why Do You Do This?

The most frequent question we hear on our farm is, “Why do you do this?”  The question might refer to our farming methods such as how we pick and pack our fruit or in regards to our organic agricultural practices.  We also get that question whenever people hear about our farm stay.  Invariably, our guests ask why we decided to open, not only our farm, but our own home to strangers.  This blog post offers an explanation.

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Smile

Agritourism looms large on the radar screen of tour companies worldwide and convention and visitor’s bureaus of rural counties nowadays. Everyone assumes this is because of the power of the almighty dollar. Why else would someone give up the privacy of their idyllic, rural lifestyle and invite perfect strangers onto their farms? SCRREEEK!!! (I hear the screech of chalk across a chalkboard or, for you younger folks, the sound of a microphone when it’s too hot.) Point number one: Farms do not always match up to the mythic image of jolly farmers who whistle while they work and rosy-cheeked farm wives who spend hours slaving over the stove preparing meals and putting up colorful jars of fruits and vegetables to help feed their families through the winter months. We want people to experience what it’s really like on a farm today.

Enjoying the View

Enjoying the View

Having said that; we do expect our guests to enjoy their time with us as much as possible. Which brings us to point two: We hope our guests will be able to get away from their busy lives and relax or “get off the treadmill” as a recent guest described it. While farming is not the mythic lifestyle people imagine, it is also very different than the bustling, hectic urban lifestyle many experience today. Also, farms differ from each other depending upon the crops grown, animals raised and the region of the country. Farm stays offer people the chance to experience life on various farms. Farm stays differ, too. Not all, in fact very few in the U.S., have guest rooms in the same house as the farmers like ours does. In California, the regulations stipulate that an “agricultural homestay,” as the code calls them, are to be located on a farm and are limited to 15 total guests.  We have two rooms available for guests with a maximum occupancy of 4 people each.  This means we can give our guests as much individual attention as possible.  In fact, we want each one to feel pampered and well cared for.

Warm Muffins and Fresh Fruit

Warm Muffins and Fresh Fruit

Family Fun

Recent studies have concluded that the majority of people in the U.S. today are two or three  generations away from the farm and many have never stepped foot on a farm in their lives. In other words, they have never actually seen a cow in a pasture, or a peach tree, or lettuce growing in the field. This disconnect between people and the land and farmers that grow their food has led to many misconceptions about what farmers do to produce their food and the effort and expense that goes into producing it. This brings us to our third point as to why we do this, and the last to be mentioned here. We do this so that parents who may or may not have been on a farm themselves, will have a place to bring their children and show them a real farm and and introduce them to a real farmer. Perhaps this experience will create lasting memories and a deeper appreciation for why we farmers do this.

Happy Customer

Happy Customer

Categories: agblog, Agchat, agritourism, organic farm, photos, Pick Your own, travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spring is Just Around the Corner

First Blossom

First Blossom

Happy Groundhog Day!

These are our early nectarines showing off their colors. Thankfully we have had a good cold winter so the trees can go dormant. This usually means a good set for the fruit. Just after I took these photos, Mike disked the field to prepare for frost. The ground is now a rich brown color beneath the trees.

Elbow Branch

Elbow Branch

Nature's Picture Frame

Nature’s Picture Frame

We’re Open for Business

This is a view of our farm stay from behind the house.  We are open from February to August.  Check out our website here. These young trees are for our U-pick. We have apricots, peaches, plums, and nectarines for your picking pleasure beginning in late May.

Categories: agblog, family farm, Nectarines, organic farm, Peaches, photos, Pick Your own, Spring, travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Tastes “Amazing!”

Good to the last bite.

Dripping with Juice

Mouth Watering?

We recently had several families come and pick their own fruit.  One group was visiting from the San Jose, CA area.  This group consisted of two families with a total of five children.  The other group also had two families with three children among them.  One of these families was moving to Colorado from Hawaii and using the travel time to sight-see.  They found us online http://www.naylorsorganicfarmstay.com.  I always offer samples of the fruit visitors are about to pick.  Golden Sweet apricots and Black Splendor plums were the offerings that day.  A 10-year-old girl from Hawaii tasted the plum and immediately said, “That was amazing!”  The samples disappeared quickly.

Why is the Dirt so Sandy?

People want to know how we grow such luscious fruit, so we offer farm tours.  Mike loves sharing about what he does and answering people’s questions.  One person asked why our dirt was so sandy.  “You’re not near an ocean,” she declared.  Mike explained that there are different types of soil.  Ours is called “sandy loam.”  One parent noticed the different leaves, e.g. plum, peach, apricot, nectarine.  She gathered some leaves and tested Mike.  He even got the peach and nectarine leaves correct, not easy to do.  “Is your water expensive?”  “How come you dozed those trees?”  “Why do you call this a cling?”  “Are these good for baking or canning?” Etc. ….

Lost Memories

Have a bite.

Freestone Peach

The majority of people in the U.S. are three generations away from the farm.  Mas Masumoto, fellow family farmer and author, writes about how many people have no idea how delicious peaches can taste.  They have no memory of biting into a juicy, sweet piece of fruit just picked from the tree.  Farmers and those who have access to truly tree-ripened fruit take flavor for granted.  We are trying to remedy that with our new U-pick venture.

We are thinking about planting some of the old varieties of peaches that were best for baking and canning.  The Coronet was one of those.  Mike’s mom would take bushels of peaches to the local cannery where they would pack them in cans and seal them for her to bring home to the family.  I remember her serving a half peach floating in its own syrupy juices to everyone at the table for dessert.  My mouth IS watering as I type.  Mike has been looking for a nursery that still carries the Coronet peach.  So far he has not been able to find it.  Mas explains why the older varieties are so hard to find in his book, Epitaph for a Peach:

I’m told these peaches have a problem.  When ripe, they turn an amber gold rather than the lipstick red that seduces the public.  Every year the fruit brokers advise me to get rid of those old Sun Crests.  “Better peaches have come along,” they assure me.  “Peaches that are fuller in color and can last for weeks in storage.”

Many of the older varieties did not have the rosy blush that customers look for in a peach, but they DID have good flavor and the freestone (see photo) peaches had the firmness needed for making pies and canning.

Where to Find a Good Peach

Of course, farmer’s markets are one place.  Supermarkets are responsive to their customers (or they should be).  Ask to speak to your grocery store’s produce manager.  Ask him or her where the peaches were grown (if it’s not on the sticker).  The closer to the store location is usually a good indicator of how long the fruit had to travel and, therefore, how recently it was picked.  You can also ask for the freshest fruit available.  There may be fruit that has just arrived and is not on the shelves, yet.  Ask when they usually get their shipments and plan to shop on those days.  Color is a good indicator of ripeness with most varieties today.  Look for consistent color on all sides of the fruit (this also may vary with variety).  The smell test usually works, too.  Always check the stem area on nectarines. The skin should be yellow for yellow nectarines and white for white ones with no green.  The squeeze test is the last resort because it bruises the fruit and some varieties of peaches taste better firm than soft, so squeezing is not helpful.  Also, placing firm fruit in a paper bag to ripen may work for some varieties, but not for others.  If the fruit was picked too green, the flavor will improve little, if at all, by placing it in a paper bag or letting it sit on the windowsill for a few days.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you eat any fruit this summer that tastes “amazing.”

Categories: agblog, family farm, organic farm, Pick Your own, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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