Posts Tagged With: agblog. agchat

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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Categories: Agchat, agriculture, family farm, farming, history, photos, small farm | 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

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.

Categories: agblog, Agchat, Food choice, small farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

Jack Frost Visited

Nature's Tinsel

Nature’s Tinsel

December 20, 2012 Freeze
We woke up this morning to a winter wonderland, but not of snow. We rarely get snow in the central San Joaquin Valley. Frost, on the other hand, is not uncommon this time of year. About every three to five years we get a hard frost (low 20s to high teens F.). This is NOT good. Tulare County, where we live, is a large citrus growing area with over 111,ooo acres of trees. A hard frost can cause severe damage, not only to the fruit, but to the local economy as well.

We only have a few trees in our family orchard in the front of the house. We set up a sprinkler to protect the orange, lemon, and pummelo trees.

Freeze Protection

Freeze Protection

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Young Plum Tree

Young stone fruit trees are also susceptible to frost damage. According to our thermometer, it got down to 28 degrees last night.  This could be a problem.  Potential damage also depends upon how long it stays cold, however. Kind of like frostbite in humans. The longer it stays below freezing, the greater the chance of damage.

Some larger growers have wind machines to protect the fruit. Others run irrigation water or sprinklers. The purpose of the wind is to create turbulence that mixes warm from higher in the air with cold air so that the air around the tree stays warmer. The water or sprinklers create a freezing fog or ice covering so that the temperature stays at 32 degrees. Lemon trees are more delicate than orange trees. The problem with using sprinklers is that sometimes the limbs break because of the weight of the ice.

Pummelo and Lemon Trees

Pummelo and Lemon Trees

Fresh Non-frozen Orange Slice

Fresh Non-frozen Orange Slice

The fruit damage may not show up right away, though. What causes damage is when the little juice cells freeze, they expand, like ice cubes, and the tiny walls or membranes break down. This makes them dry out so that the citrus is not as juicy, and, thus not as sweet.  Learn more about frost protection for citrus here.  See more of Jack Frost’s Handiwork here.

Jack Frost's Handiwork

Jack Frost’s Handiwork

What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods?

Categories: agblog, Education, family farm, farming, oranges, organic farm, photos, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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