From the Fields® - April 12, 2017

By Celeste Alonzo, Riverside County vegetable grower

The Coachella Valley is back to being sunny and warm after a series of rainstorms. The rain definitely slowed things down on the farm. The rain also took a toll on our green beans—not the best quality we would have hoped for. Unfortunately, some our green beans were also affected by Pythium (fungi) as well.

Potato harvest started and three different varieties are currently being harvested: white rose, red rose and Yukon. Harvest has also begun for green beans, green bell peppers, squash and eggplant. Corn will be harvested in a few weeks. Looking forward to this spring harvest season. Hopefully, the markets work in our favor and our hard work pays off.

Fortunately, we are doing great on labor supply as we are a small operation.

We will be selling fresh grilled corn and baked potatoes at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, as well as at the Stagecoach Country Festival. So, stop by and have a taste of our local produce.

By Rob Miller, Del Norte County nursery producer

The winter here in Del Norte County has been exceedingly wet. We have had well over 100 inches of rain, and therefore there's not a lot of field work happening on Easter lilies planted in the field. However, in the greenhouse, we have finished shipping the last of our dormant hydrangea plants to the east, which was a busy season fundamentally from October through middle of March. We have also finished shipping Easter lily plants for Easter and the other products that we send—finished plants, flowering plants—to the stores in Oregon, Washington and some in California.

The crop looks good coming out of the greenhouse. Timing looks good and sales seem to be pretty strong. I visited customers that consume bulbs along the East Coast. They also say that demand seems to be pretty good. I think the coming season will be good and hopefully, demand from the retail standpoint will also be strong for Easter plants.

Our harvest is usually August through the end of October, sometimes into November. We normally get 4 or 5 inches of rain during the month of October, and this year we got 30, which created a very wet end to our planting season. So that was a little bit miserable. Who knows how that comes out? It could potentially affect the next two crops, because it takes approximately three years to make and grow a salable Easter lily bulb. It was very wet and muddy during the end of our planting season, so that extended into November. We actually ended up finishing just prior to Thanksgiving. Usually by the end of the first week of November we're done.

Wet and muddy is never good to plant any crop. It affects the rooting and growth of the bulb. You could have issues with the size of the crop. It makes the bulb not grow as large. And then if the bulb doesn't grow as large, that carries on because it creates size issues in later years, because we sell lilies based upon the size of the bulb.

The labor situation is difficult at best. There's definitely an overall shortage of labor in this small community.

By Joe Martinez, Solano County tree crop farmer

We've had about 39 inches of rain here in Winters; everything is really wet. We have ground that we want to plant to almond trees, but it is on the wet side. We've been getting in with the ATV sprayers and doing all of our weed control. In our non-tillage orchards, we are able to get in and we've been mowing. We're continuing to prune the walnuts and are hoping to finish between the middle and end of the month. Some of the bloom sprays we had to do by helicopter, because the ground was just so wet. And now they are talking about another storm, so hopefully someday it will dry out.

The prune blossom looked good. We did have some rain during it. It is a little bit early to tell, but I anticipate we're going to have a good prune crop.

Regarding the walnut market, product has moved better and I anticipate that we're going to be looking at certainly higher prices than last year, but not as high as four years ago.

Labor continues to be tight and getting tighter, and it's just a problem we're going to have to put up with until we get some sort of improved guestworker program.

By Chris Lange, Diversified farmer in Tulare and Fresno counties

Local growers are thrilled to have 125 percent of normal rainfall this time of year. It has resulted in our hillsides being green and there's a tremendous flush on our citrus, olives, grapes and from that aspect, we couldn't be happier.

Because of the drought, we reduced our herds by two-thirds, but for the first time since we reduced the herds, we had a 100 percent calf crop this year. It's pretty great for every cow to have a calf.

Our hay crop is going to be a late harvest because of the rainstorms. We usually start cutting the hay in April and I don't know if we are going to be there this year.

For citrus harvest, we finished mandarins, lemons, limes and we are 70 percent complete on navel oranges. We have yet to start on Valencias and grapefruit. All of the harvesters are working, packinghouses are running at 100 percent and prices are far more stable than they have been in the last couple of years. The bottom line might turn out to be more favorable for the grower.

On the negative side, our farming costs are continuing to go up. We have an ever-increasing list of pests—Fuller rose beetles, citrus thrips, soft scale, red scale, olive fruit fly and Asian citrus psyllid—and then we have just the regular pests we always get. This means we spend more on pesticides.

We are pruning citrus and table olives like crazy because if we are going to have big fruit, one of the ways of attaining that is to keep pruning your trees. We had one of our better olive crops that we've had in a number of years last year and the olive trees couldn't look better, but we'll have to see.

On the down side, we've pushed out a large percentage of the Thompson seedless raisin vineyards. Half have been replanted in almonds. Last year, we planted 24,000 replacement citrus trees, so we redeveloped orchards that were old, tired and unproductive. This year, we have 14,000 trees on the list to redevelop. It's what you have to do if you are going to stay in the industry and be progressive.

By John Ellis, Kings County farm commodities sales manager

Cotton planting will be starting soon in Kings County, with the weather forecast calling for warmer temperatures and no rain, making for the perfect opportunity to plant. Growers are turning back to this old favorite crop this year thanks to somewhat better lint prices, continued higher yield potential from improved varieties and larger surface water supplies this year compared to the prior several years.

Processing tomato fields are being planted now, and this will continue for the next several weeks. The outlook is for fewer acres of this crop this year, as the tomato paste market has carryover supplies from last year remaining on hand. The continued strong U.S. dollar is definitely influencing the tomato paste market by reducing our competitiveness in the export market.

Alfalfa hay farmers green-chopped some of their fields during the dry stretch of weather earlier in March, so those fields will be ready for a cutting to bale the hay very soon. This step is always a sure sign of spring. The wheat crop is looking especially good this year, thanks to the steady rains during the past few months. The wheat is now heading out and will be either chopped for silage in April or harvested for grain in June. Walnut growers are finishing up pruning their trees, and soon we'll be seeing leaves appear.

Help out your local Kings County farmer by eating pizza today. The cheese and tomato paste suppliers will happily sell more of their inventory. Think about buying some cotton socks too.