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From the Fields® - July 8, 2020

By Tyler Nelson, Mendocino County winegrape and pear grower

I think it's important that we do safety training for our employees and that we provide a mask when needed. I give constant updates on what the latest information is; how to help alleviate fear is really important.

Harvest is right around the corner for pears, which is going to start in the beginning of August, and it's critical that my crew is up and running and healthy, so all the work that we've been doing for the last year pays off. If a crew is sick and they remain quarantined at home, then we won't be able to pick our fruit.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is another tailgate topic that we've integrated into our safety program. So, telling the crew, "It is going to be hot, drink lots of water and remember to wear a mask, wash your hands," and so on. Because we have been an essential service, it's incredibly important to safeguard our community by training our employees.

Our grape crop is looking average to light this year. We do a little bit of everything—cabernet, zinfandel, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, etc. Last year, there were a lot of grapes left on the vine, so I'm hoping this year is different.

Our pear crop is looking to be on the lighter side, but the pear economy has improved since last year, so I'm optimistic.

By Chris Lange, Tulare County beef, olive and citrus grower

We are having a much better farming year. We had a very good hay crop, even though we were in fear that we were going to have a failure because of the drought, and we had all this extra rain and the hay pushed up and harvest was pretty outstanding.

Because of the issues with the meat packing industry, prices have not been what we would normally expect. We're hanging onto all the steers, cull cows and everything else. Since we had such a good hay crop, we can easily feed them. I'm just going to wait a few more months and see what happens in that market.

The trees look good across the board. Our citrus trees look as good as they've ever looked. Sometimes when you get to this point of the season, there's a lot of fruit drop and trees start to a little look a little water-stressed, but I don't see that this year.

We finished harvesting the navel oranges and we ended the season with a very strong finish. Quality stayed up surprisingly well and the market increased every week, so the returns got better and better. Maybe that's a benefit from the coronavirus, where people are at home and they know the benefits of citrus. The domestic market has been very good.

We also finished lemons and grapefruit. A lot of that goes directly to food service, which are big consumers of lemons. This year, they're probably 25% lower than what they've been in the five-year average. The market just wasn't as strong.

By Jenny Holtermann, Kern County almond grower

It's been a roller coaster of weather this summer, with only a few weeks of 100 degrees. The trees seem to be enjoying the cooler-than-normal temperatures and are slightly behind their normal timing for hull split.

We just finished our first round of hull split sprays for the nonpareil variety before the July 4 weekend. The next hull split spray will be for the pollinator and nonpareil varieties, in roughly 10-14 days after the first spray.

Harvest is roughly a month away and projected to start the beginning of August. Orchard floor preparation will begin soon. Growers will begin mowing their fields to ensure a clean floor for sweeping.

By Chris Capaul, Sutter County rice and dry bean farmer

Everything's growing good and it looks good. Last year, we were five weeks behind on all the crops, and this year we're pretty much on time. We met our goals of when we wanted things planted.

The only issue we had was that the Bureau of Reclamation had cut the water to 75%. I had good contracts for all my rice, but I had to not plant about 100 acres because I wouldn't have had enough water. In June, they announced that we could have the water, but it was too late.

I had to plant baby lima beans (for the rice I didn't plant). It looks like with the virus, Japan just isn't buying right now and we don't know how that's going to turn out. In Japan, baby limas go more to the confectionary market. They just don't know what the demand is going to be with some of those industries. I just know they're not inquiring for the beans like they usually do.

I also grow a few of the colored beans for the local market, selling small quantities locally. There was a lot of hoarding going on (early in the pandemic), and part of it was for beans.

Back in March, I sold out my inventory in five days. That would have probably taken me a year and a half to sell under normal conditions. Everybody panicked and called me. I had messages on my phone every five minutes until midnight, every night for five nights. It's something that I don't think I'll ever see again.

You'd think, "Oh, these beans are going to be worth a lot. Let's plant more." But I didn't change anything, because you still don't know how people are going to react later, if they're going to still buy a large quantity. So we didn't grow more.

By Gino Pedretti III, Merced County farmer

Summertime is starting on the dairy, so we're getting a little less production with the heat and the breeding has gone down a tick, which is normal summertime activity.

Our beef cattle operation, our Herefords, our bull sales are going good. A few steers and heifer calves we're marketing as stockers, and we sent them to market. They brought a decent price. The price has come up in the last couple of weeks, so that's helped out.

On the farming side, we're now on our fourth cutting of alfalfa. The price on hay has gone down. Our corn, we planted in early June. We strip-till corn and it's got a first irrigation.

For cotton, we have about 70% of the ranch in acala and 30% of the ranch in pima. We're in between our second and third irrigations. Bloom is looking good right now. We had flowers before the 1st of July, so this is positive and early development. Except for some lygus pressure, the crops look pretty good right now.

By Domenic Carinalli, Sonoma County winegrape and dairy farmer

With the grapes, we're in weed control and we're getting ready to start pulling leaves and getting ready to start hedging. I've actually seen a couple of pinot noirs with a little bit of veraison—that's when they change colors. The pinot starts to turn black and they look like they're starting to ripen. I've seen just a very little start of that, so we're just barely getting started.

We've had a real nice summer so far. We haven't had much fog or rain or anything, so it's been doing well that way on the grapes. I'd say it's a moderate crop to maybe a little bit on the lighter side.

On the dairy side, it's pretty quiet. Everything is moving along. We ship to a creamery in Petaluma, and we haven't had any issues with people dumping milk. They just got the amount of milk that they need and haven't overcommitted themselves, so that part has been good. I'm organic, and that's been pretty stable.

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