#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The time I met Miss America

A few month ago now, I attended the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference. Among the attendees were your usual Mid Western corn and soybean farmers, Texan cattle ranchers, cotton growers from the South and Miss America. Yes, you read that right, Miss America came to the Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) conference. Miss America and YF&R don't usually go together. You don't generally think Miss America would have anything to do with farmers. But this year, Miss America, Betty Cantrell is a girl quite familiar with agriculture. She grew up raising livestock through her local 4-H and grew up immersed in Georgia agriculture.

As a country girl she sees the importance of agriculture education and awareness. And that's why she has decided to partner with American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture in the First Peas to the Table  contest. The contest challenges Kindergarten to 5th grade classes to grow peas and learn about school gardens, history of farming and test their science methods. The team that grows the most amount of peas using only 20 pea seeds, wins a visit by Miss America herself.
The thing I love about this contest is not that fact that is a national pea growing contest, but that it is raising awareness of growing delicious and nutritious food. We live in a country with obese and overweight children and adults with bad eating habits. We also live in a country containing food deserts and children that suffer from hunger and are malnourished because they don't have access to healthy food. If more children and adults knew about growing food and how to have access to healthy food, our country would be better off. This contest is a way to help educate children how easy it can be for them to create a school or home garden. With more awareness of programs like these it can help to broaden  our children's eyes of connecting farming and food.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What does a March RAIN mean to an almond farmer?

For the past few weeks the state of California has been receiving some much needed rain.  The quantity of rain is quite variable throughout the state. As usual the North State is receiving much more than the southern valley. While some parts of the state are receiving 3-5 inches over a few days, the other end of the valley is still only receiving 1/10 to a 1/4 of an inch at a time. We need the rain and especially the snow in the mountains so we can't be picky and we take what we can get.

This rings true for timing as well. Almond growers are very happy we didn't get any down pours of rain during the February bloom time frame. That could cause serious problems for the almond crops and potentially wipe out an entire crop. We had a few weeks in the beginning of the month that were quite wet and just a little clouds and sprinkles expected for the balance of the month.  But just what does a March RAIN mean for an almond farmer?



Well, the blooms are for the most part gone and now the nuts are forming. The flowers fade away and the little jackets are forming which make a gap in the flower base and the forming nut-let. So farmers typically spray before a big rain storm to protect that area from jacket rot. If this jacket area gets too saturated it will cause the nut to start to develop fungus that will decay the nut. You can imagine the nut will not develop properly and it will not be viable for harvest. To protect the forming nuts, almond farmers spray to give the nut a protective layer against rot.
 

There is always something in farming that we have to look out for and watch. Our crops are very temperamental and we have to protect them against anything that could harm their development. Farming is always a gamble and we are at the hands of mother nature. We take what we get and we hope for a good year.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Future of Biomass

Tree and orchard removal seem to have been on the rise over the last couple years. With the lack of water, farmers are having to remove orchards that they can't irrigate. Farmers are down sizing their planted acreage and prioritizing what water they do have. Many farmers are removing older, less productive orchards sooner than they would normally. In it's place, sometimes the land is being fallowed and times they plant a new orchard which requires less water. All of this means more and more trees are being torn out and orchards are being removed. But what do farmers do with these trees once they are removed from the ground?

Piles and piles of dead trees are all over the Central Valley
Until recently, a common use was co-generation. Farmers would pay for their trees to be removed and hauled to co-generation plants. These facilities would burn removed trees and make energy to be transferred into the grid. In the 1980's biomass plants and the utility companies created 20-30 year contracts for these facilities to be built and to use agriculture by-products to create energy. Well, now these contracts are expiring and the utility companies are not renewing these contracts. It is now cheaper for the utility companies to use natural gas and solar than to use tree biomass.

The problem is now that these biomass facilities were utilizing a large majority of the trees being removed in California. Of the 30 biomass plants throughout the state most of them will be closing by July 2016, the majority of which closed January 2016. There are currently no public facilities excepting material in the Central Valley.  All the facilities have reached their maximum capacity of material they need until their contracts expire.
Mounds of wood chips waiting to be hauled away
The question is now what do farmers do with their trees? Because of Valley Air Control Board standards and requirements, farmers can only burn certain material on certain days. Burning a whole orchard would take much more time than allocated. And what a waste of an energy resource. The biomass facilities would burn our trees and create energy and now farmers are going to have to burn the trees anyways without the great energy source being utilized.

There have been some studies done by the University Extension that say farmers can return those trees back into the soil. But grinding a whole orchard and ripping it into the soil has not been studied long enough to know if it would be beneficial for the life of the new orchard. Plus the economic impact of such a venture would be quite costly. Some growers are investing into new and innovative ways though. There was recently an Iron Wolf Demo where growers, media and researchers came out to see just how to think outside the box. The massive Iron Wolf machine will grind 4 acres in a day and return the tree into the soil in chunks that can be ripped into the new field. This machine comes with a hefty $1 million price tag, making it only affordable for a small percentage of growers.

So what are farmers to do now? Well there is an initiative on the Governor's desk to use Cap and Trade funds to keep the co-generation facilities open. He has been sitting on it for quite some time, making some farmers skeptical if he will allocate the funds. We can also hope that the utility companies will renew their contracts and keep these facilities open. Farmers, like always, will have to be innovative and creative in coming up with new ideas and uses for their products.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Beauty of Bloom

The beauty of bloom really can't be discussed in words. So here are a few of my favorite bloom pictures from the 2016 almond bloom. Enjoy!

bud swell

Up close and personal

Rows and rows of bee boxes

Busy bee

Almond bloom branch

Afternoon sun shining through 

Nuts already starting to form
Until Next Time,
Almond Girl