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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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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

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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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

Winds of Change on the Farm

It is an incredibly windy day today (April 22, 2014). Yesterday it was nearly 90 degrees and sunny. The high is expected to be in the 70s. No rain was expected this far south and certainly no hail, but the neighbor’s hail cannons are going off intermittently. The unpredictable weather makes me think of how quickly farming can change as well. In one day crops can change from smooth and beautiful to battered and full of scars from the wind. Not so quickly, farmers change from strong and youthful to stooped and marked with scars. The years of hard work take their toll. Yet resilience is the core of nature and the nature of farmers.

Farmer Mike

Farmer Mike

We have been watching the small family-owned farms disappear in our area over the past 15 years. The next generation has decided not to follow in their fathers’ and mothers’ footsteps. They are building their lives around other pursuits, which is fine, but it is also sad. The loss of small family farms means the loss of a way of life that cannot be replicated, nor will it be resurrected in the future. Why? Because there is only so much land available for farming in the U.S.

Similar to the way the economy is shrinking the middle class, farming is changing into either very small permaculture type farms or very large operations.

Photo courtesy of yourfamilyhomestead.com

Photo courtesy of homestead.com

 

Father Time keeps showing up and we cannot turn back the clock. This is why it is so important to remember that nothing is permanent and our lives are but a moment in the light of eternity. Our hope is to keep farming as long as we are able. We would love to pass our legacy on to a young, strong person or family who would love the land as we do and be willing to carry on the way of life we so enjoy. Wendell Barry said it best.
 
 
“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.”

― Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

Categories: agblog, Agchat, family farm, organic farm, photos, small farm, Uncategorized, weather | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

December Travels and Memories

Our December was extra full this year. Our oldest son was married on December 7th. We decided to drive to Texas and squeeze in a vacation along with the wedding. Here is a photo slideshow of our travels and the wedding.

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We made a stop at Juicy’s River Cafe in Needles, CA on our way home.  Great food and service.

Peach Pie at Juicy's River Cafe

Peach Pie for Mike

Apple Pie for Nori

Apple Pie for Nori

Of course there’s no place like home.

Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas

Categories: camping, family, holidays, photos, travel, Uncategorized, weather | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I Learned From My Dad

This post is very personal. This is a disclaimer. It is always difficult to decide what to share and what not to share publicly in a blog. Yet, life experiences such as birth and death are common to all of us. If you prefer not to continue reading, that is fine with me. If you do decide to continue, perhaps you will find something you can relate to. In either case, many blessings and peace to you and your loved ones in the coming holiday season.

First Holidays Without Dad

My (Nori’s) dad passed away on June 16th this year, Father’s Day, after suffering a stroke.  My dad was a doer.  He rarely sat still except to read the newspaper or watch football on TV from his favorite recliner.  He worked as a lawyer for many years and then felt drawn to the ministry in his fifties.  He wholeheartedly devoted himself to whatever task was before him whether it was settling a court case or leading a flock of believers.  In fact, he continued to work as a lawyer throughout his life.  He was working on a case in the courthouse law library when he had a major stroke.  My dad was 81 years young when he left his earthly body for his heavenly one.

Dad on Christmas 2012

Dad on Christmas 2012

Life Lessons from Dad

As I think of my dad, these are a few of the things I learned from him.

1.  Passion:  Find something you are passionate about and work wholeheartedly to accomplish your goals.  This philosophy applies to work and play.  My dad loved the outdoors and nature and was an avid fly fisherman.  Although he never taught me to fly fish, I caught my first fish with a worm at age 4 and I learned my love of nature from him.  I also gained a life-long love of learning from my dad.  He was very proud when I started my doctorate in education.  I will be dedicating my dissertation to him when I graduate next year.

2.  Persistence:  I remember Dad taking me to the school yard after he finished work or on the weekends and having me throw a softball over and over and over again.  That was when there was a presidential physical fitness award children could earn by performing at a certain level in running, jumping, strength (pull ups), etc.  My weakness was throwing.  I don’t remember if I finally met the goal, but I do remember trying my hardest and Dad not letting me give up.

3.  Patience:  My dad was not always patient himself, but he taught me patience when he would sit me on a rock by the lake with a can of worms and my fishing rod and tell me to stay there while he went fly fishing along the shore.  I caught an 18 inch German Brown trout that way.  Watching him start a campfire by carefully arranging the pine needles and sticks in a little tent and blowing on them to get the fire started while I sat shivering in the cold also taught me patience.

4.  Prayer:  After my dad had a near-death experience, he submitted to God’s call to become a minister.  My oldest son was about 4 years old at the time.  He told people his grandpa was going to the “cemetery” (seminary) to study the Bible.  I teased Dad that he was having a midlife crisis when he turned from being a lawyer to being a preacher.  Seriously, though, he believed in the power of prayer and so do I.

Adventures with Dad

Not Perfect, but Forgiven

Notice I did not choose the word “perfectionism” to describe what I learned from Dad.  He was not perfect, just as we all have our faults.  Even physicians are not perfect.  In fact, my dad would likely still be with us if it were not for the poor judgement of his doctors.  While this was angering, my mom decided to let it go rather than pursue legal action.  Forgiveness brings peace.  As we approach the time of year when we remember a baby born over 2,000 years ago, “Peace on Earth, good will toward [all people]” has an even greater meaning this year.  I miss my dad deeply, but am thankful he did not suffer long and that he left a lasting legacy that I hope to pass on to my children and grandchildren.  ‘Til we meet again, Dad, and catch the biggest fish in heaven.

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Dirt is Smaller Than You Think

@NaylorOrganics Mike (center). Appreciate your participation on grower panel at Tulare Sustainable/Organic Seminar

Mike Naylor (center)

Mike had the opportunity to sit on a growers’ panel at a sustainable/organic production seminar recently. The other panel members were from a smaller and a much larger farming operation. During the day several researchers shared their findings on studies of pest management and farming practices. Mike learned a lot of new information some of which he will try to apply to our farm.

For instance, the importance of keeping the soil healthy. Mike knew the benefits of good soil conservation methods and amendments, but he did not know how alive the soil is with microscopic organisms. As Mike puts it, “Dirt is smaller than you think.”  For more about dirt see Stop and Smell the Dirt.

How does YOUR dirt smell?

Living Soil

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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

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