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From the Fields® - March 2, 2022

By Nick Short, Stanislaus County almond farmer

Here in the Central Valley, we have seen a beautiful almond bloom period minus some very cold temperatures last week. With the cold temperatures, all of us that could run water to help with frost protection had pumps running all last week. We have our fingers crossed that we were able to mitigate as much damage as we possibly could.

We also applied crop-protection materials to the trees that have shown a 1- to 2-degree bump in temperature protection. Almonds and some stone fruits are the only things blooming right now. The forecast is looking good, and we are all praying for a little more snow in the mountains to help us avoid a catastrophic summer irrigation season.

As far as the markets are concerned, we have not seen much shipped out as we are all dealing with the port issues, just like everyone else. Prices for most, if not all, of our supplies, have gone up over the last few months, which has caused us to be very creative in how we focus on completing our day-to-day tasks. Luckily, all of us as farmers are very resilient and efficient in how we tackle these challenges.

By Colby Pereira, Monterey County vegetable farmer

After a winter break, the patchwork of Salinas Valley fields are beginning to reflect a diverse color palette of various shades of green, as growers have been busy planting crops for spring harvest.

With a handful of rain events, the hills on both sides of the valley have held onto their green grasses as long as possible, but with the recent lack of rain, that is now starting to fade. We're still hoping for some additional rain, before the end of the rainy season, for an additional boost to our water supply.

The last couple of months, while most production and harvest has transitioned to other regions, have been ideal for special projects such as ranch projects, equipment inventory and maintenance, and establishment of soil-health-boosting cover crops.

Early planting for spring lettuce started back in late December and has been increasing steadily since. Recent cold weather snaps have slowed down crop growth and development, but everything is still looking on track for timely transitions back to the Salinas Valley for crops during the usual March/April timeframe.

By Frank Hilliker, San Diego County egg farmer

Supply-chain issues have been a big problem on the farm. Feed costs have pretty much doubled over the last couple of years. Material costs have gone up—huge issues just trying to get material. Trucking is a big problem right now. Nothing good. I don't mean to sound like that, (but) egg prices aren't keeping up with all the increased costs, and it's getting real tough.

Egg cartons, egg boxes, you name it—any of the packaging material that we use has been a real problem. Seems like everything just takes longer to get, or you can't get it anymore. I've been waiting on an egg carton order for four months.

You just make it work. You change some stuff around, you talk to the customers, you tell them you have supply-chain issues and you hope they understand—which a lot of them do, because they're under the same issues. We'll do our best to get things back the way they were as soon as we can. There's no secret sauce; there's no magic bullet. Unfortunately, it is what it is. Fuel's killing us. If they turned on that Keystone pipeline, it'd probably help us a little bit. We can't use a Prius to deliver eggs.

We also have labor issues. The cost of labor is through the roof. You can't get anybody that wants to work, and if you do, they want too much money, so you can't afford to pay them. I'm just doing a lot more myself. I should be in Hawaii right now, at the Pacific Egg and Poultry convention. It changes around every year; this year, it's in Hawaii. And I'm here working on packing eggs.

I hate to make everything sound so doom and gloom. That's not my point. It's just right now, here in California, it's a pretty dire situation.

By Tessa Henry, Napa County farmer

I feel like it's been a big pruning month. I started with plums and pluots. I needed to get those pruned by early February; they started blooming then. We moved right to pruning peaches because those were starting to bloom. Now I've got to get through pruning the apples and pears, because they're just about to bud out.

I hate to say it, but I'm a little bit thankful for the dry weather because it's great pruning weather. That's maybe the only good thing about getting these dry weeks in early spring, because you can feel good about making cuts on trees and not worry as much about disease issues.

I'm on a hillside, and we got some frost (last week). I think it's too early to tell if it affected the fruit set on the plums and pluots. It's hard to tell if there was damage on the orchard. I'm hoping the cold wasn't hard enough to have a huge effect. We just picked the last of our Meyer lemons and navel oranges, and they were fine. The mandarins were a light crop this year. The Meyer lemons were a little bit on the light side.

Vegetable-wise, I have broccoli, collard greens, parsley, gem lettuces, tatsoi, butter peas and garlic. I also have beets and fava beans growing, but I'm not harvesting them yet. The fava beans might have had a little bit of frost damage on some of the leaves, but I think they'll bounce back fine. I have a lot of little microgreens too, calendula blossoms, chives and borage flowers.

With this warm weather, I have to keep an eye on aphid control. Because aphid pressure can be so strong with the little gem lettuces and tatsois, I like keeping those in a quick rotation because I can cut them before the pest pressure is really bad.

Peppers are the first summer vegetables to get seeded in the greenhouse. I'm making crop rotation plans and calculating bed space and what goes where, so that I can have a better seeding plan for the next month.

It's never fun to have to go around and turn on your water so early. You just cringe a little bit. I hope we have another opportunity where I can turn them off again.

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