Posts Tagged With: family farm

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

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

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

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

Pets are Family, Too

Penney

Penney

Our Penney
Our dog, Penney, is very afraid of strange (to her) noises. We first noticed it when she was just a puppy and we took her with us to San Luis Obispo where our son lived at the time. In the morning, the sanitation truck came by and she reacted by shivering and running around looking for a safe place to hide. Mike’s hopes of training her to retrieve dove and quail were dashed by her fear of the sound of gun shots. She is very sensitive to discipline, also. The trainer we took her to thought she might be a good show dog, but he found she could not handle the usual discipline that accompanies the training. She is a wonderful companion dog and loves people, though. Everyone who meets her soon falls in love with her as well. Even people who are afraid of dogs.

Thunderstorms are the Worst
The night before Easter Sunday there was a doosey. It lasted for a couple hours. The parting lightning strike was close and the thunder rumbled on for several seconds. I remember thinking that Penney must be trembling in her pen. Mike slept through the whole thing except the last big boom. We overslept for Easter Sunrise Service, so we quickly got ready and dashed out the door so we wouldn’t be too late. After the service we went out to eat breakfast at Perko’s. Then, we returned home to change clothes and pick up the snacks I had made for coffee hour. After worship, I helped serve the snacks and cleaned up. We didn’t get home until almost noon. My parents were coming over for lunch, so I got busy in the kitchen. Mike went out to let Penney out of the pen.

I Lost My Dog
When Mike came back in the house, his face was pale. He said, “I lost my dog.” “What do you mean?” I asked. He told me that the pen was open and Penney was gone. He rode a bike around the farm calling and looking for her. Then he got in his Suzuki and combed the roads within a few miles’ radius. No Penney. She has a collar that says she needs medicine and has our phone number, but that phone has been disconnected. She also has a microchip with our contact information and address, also outdated we learned. I got busy making Lost Dog posters and spreading the word for people to pray for Penney’s safe return.

Penney is Found!
Another storm came in Sunday evening. We shed a few tears before getting ready for bed wondering where Penney was and if she was alright. At 9:00 pm the phone rang. It was the pet tracking company. Someone had picked Penney up and had her chip read. They gave us the number of the person and Mike immediately called. He arranged to pick her up from the rescuer right away.

Home Safe and Sound

Home Safe and Sound

Easter Miracle
The woman who had picked Penney up found her 3/4 mile from home due west of our farm. She works as a dog rescuer. She asked Mike if we had two missing dogs. She had seen two red dogs running across the yard. She called and Penney came to her. The other dog disappeared. We’ve never seen another red dog around. We do have many coyotes, though. I like to think that God sent an angel, in the form of a red dog, to protect our precious Penney.

Categories: family farm, photos, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Our 2012 in Pictures

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    Cheers!

    For those following this blog, and for all our new friends, here’s our year in photos.  You will notice that Mike’s arm is in a sling in one photo.  He had shoulder replacement surgery in August.  He is now sling free and ready to greet the New Year with two functioning arms.  Needless to say, he’s very happy about that.  We hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season and a great 2013.  Please click on the following link to view the pictures on Smilebox.  Enjoy!

    A Naylor Christmas Card

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

Family-farmed or Family-owned?

Fascination with Family Farms

According to the American Farm Bureau, over 90% of farms in the U.S. are family-owned.  President Obama and politicians often espouse their support of Family Farms.  Are family-farmed and family-owned farms synonymous?  Well, it depends.

Green Acres Poster

The idea of the family farm has deep symbolic roots in American culture.  The term itself conjures up images of cows grazing in grassy fields, overalls and plaid shirts, pitchforks, vintage tractors, rustic barns, bushels of red apples and the like.  Nostalgic feelings are aroused in those that may have had the fortune of growing up on or near a farm.  Yet, the majority of the population is three generations removed from the people and the land that produce their daily bread.  Why such a fascination with family farms?

A Disappearing Life-style?

Only a small percentage of the 90+% family-owned farms actually live the mythic, idyllic life-style that comes to mind with the words Family Farm, and that percentage is now aging and shrinking.  This fact was alarming enough for the House of Representatives to include funding in the updated 2012 Farm Bill to enable young, new farmers to enter the field (pun intended).  We are mentoring a young woman, who happens to also be an ethnic minority (subject for a later post), to possibly take over our farm someday.  In fact, there is a renewed interest among young people to own “a bit o’ earth” like Mary Lennox in the Secret Garden.  This is encouraging to say the least.

What IS a Family Farm?

So, do family-owned and family-farmed mean the same thing?  Large farms tend to be owned by family members and managed by someone else.  Family members are in charge of the day-to-day business of the farm and may or may not spend much time in the fields.  Small farms are owned, managed and farmed by the family members.  Depending upon the size of the farm, there may be outside employees or not.  We have no year-round employees, other family farms we know do employ people year-round to do field work and/or sell produce at farmer’s markets.

Washington: wheat fields in eastern Washington

Wheat fields in eastern Washington, U.S.
Paul Stover—Stone/Getty Images

Whether family-farmed and family-owned are synonymous depends on how you picture a family farm.  What is your definition of a family farm?  Does it include whether or not the farmer smells of diesel and dirt at the end of the day?  Do you picture a well-dressed couple sampling a glass of wine they produced from their vineyard?  Do you see endless fields of grain being harvested by a huge combine?

I’d love to hear your idea of what a Family Farm means.

Categories: agblog, family farm, farming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Vote for White-fleshed Peaches and Nectarines

      “I like mine crunchy like an apple.” “I prefer mine soft and juicy.” ” I love the unique flavor and texture.” “I’m diabetic, so I can’t wait for the Babcocks because they have less sugar, but are still sweet.” These are a few of the comments we have heard about the white-fleshed peaches and nectarines we grow.  We actually have 3 varieties of white peaches and 4 varieties of white nectarines on our farm.  When it comes to white peaches, it is probably the Babcock that most people recognize by name.

Babcock peach

Babcock Peach
photo credit: Dave Wilson Nursery

Fond Memories

I remember sitting at my grandma Carlson’s kitchen table eating freshly-picked Babcock peaches.  I like them on the green side and crunchy because that’s the way I ate them as a child.  Sliced on top of cereal with milk poured over them, yum!  My grandparents bought their farm near Dinuba, CA in 1942 and planted a family orchard as a barrier between the house and the road. The Babcocks were the favorite of many of my cousins who visited the farm regularly.   According to an article titled, “White as Snow, Sweet as Honey,” by Ed Laivo, http://www.davewilson.com/homegrown/gardencompass/gc04_sept_oct_01.html the Babcock variety was introduced in 1933.  It became a West Coast favorite and is still popular today.

History of White Peaches and Nectarines

According to Laivo, the white peaches that frequently resulted from cross-breeding were discarded by hybridizers because the market only wanted firm, yellow-fleshed fruit.  The white peaches were easily bruised and considered useless for commercial sales.  That changed in the 1980s when the Asian markets opened and demanded sub-acid white-fleshed fruits and were willing to pay a premium price.  Mike’s dad planted Babcocks in the 60s and we planted some after we bought Mike’s grandparent’s place in 1979.  At one time we were the third largest white-flesh peach growers in the state of CA with 9 acres.

Early varieties of white peaches were grown in France and England in the 1600s.  The flat variety of white peaches (so-called Donut peach) came from China in the 1800s.  Peaches and nectarines are nearly identical, genetically.  Many peaches and nectarines have both peach and nectarine ancestors, according to Laivo.  The first of the newer firm, sweet-tasting nectarines was a Babcock descendant, Arctic Rose, developed in the 1990s.  We grow the Arctic Star, Arctic Sweet, and Arctic Jay varieties as well as our newest variety, Polar Lite.

Flat of Goldline Peaches

The Finest White Peach of All Time

Mike’s grandfather took pride in growing the best-tasting fruit available.  He decided to plant the Nectar white peach, considered by some to be the finest white peach of all time (See Naylor Organics:  Our Farm Story page for more).  We have continued that tradition with our Goldline peach.  Mike was introduced to the variety by Burchell Nurseries in the late 1980s.  Nobody else wanted it because it was so delicate and was not deemed suitable for commercial sales (sound familiar?).  The flavor reminded Mike of the old Nectar peach, so he thought it might have potential.  Initially he planted 1 acre of trees (150) as a test plot.  The fruit grew large and was a true “sink” or “water” peach like the Nectar.  The flavor was unparalleled.  They required extra care in picking and packing, though.  We even made a special-sized wooden gift box one year for marketing them.  They also required close communication with the produce managers so that they would not be ruined by rough handling.  This extra time and care was rewarded every time someone tasted a Goldline for the first time and we watched their eyes roll back as they bit into the flesh and the juices dribbled down their chins.  The Goldline is the last fruit we pick each year and ripens in late July to early August.

So, why do YOU like white peaches and nectarines?

Categories: agblog, family farm, farming, history, organic farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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