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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ask the expert: Matthew Haddon, Sierra Gold

Over the years, I have received numerous questions of how almond trees grow. Do I plant seeds for the trees or buy from a nursery? How long does it take an almond tree to grow? Well, it was time to pull in the experts for some of these questions.


Ask the experts is a series I am introducing to get some of these hard to answer questions answered. I opened the discussion up to you guys and asked your input on questions pertaining to production agriculture in the almond or tree fruit industries. These are just a few of the questions I have been asked. Have more? Ask away and I will try my best to find an expert for your questions!


For the first round of questions, I called on a friend of mine. Matthew Haddon has been a Sales Representative with Sierra Gold Nurseries since 2012. He serves the Kern County area. I asked him to get to the root of your almond tree questions.




Almond Girl Jenny (AG): Can you give us a brief introduction of your company and how it relates to agriculture?
Matthew Haddon (MH): Sierra Gold Nurseries has been producing fruit and nut trees for orchardists since 1951. The mother blocks of source material for propagation as well as the finished nursery trees are all produced on about 1,000 contiguous acres of fields and greenhouse/shade house facilities just outside of Yuba City, CA along the Feather River. Sierra Gold is a family owned and operated company with very rich heritage of fascinating agricultural roots.


AG: How long have you been in operation?
MH: The founder, Walter Berg began growing trees in 1951 with his father-in-law CE Sullivan who was one of the largest cling peach growers in the world at the time. Sullivan was also a soil scientist who had helped generate the original USDA-SCS soil maps in the Sacramento Valley that the industry still uses at the present time. That knowledge base of where the best soil could be found enabled him to acquire some wonderful farm properties, which still serve Sierra Gold Nurseries today. In fact, the headquarters property now has a historic landmark at the front gate as it is known as the "Hock Farm" property– the very first commercial farm in the Sacramento Valley which was founded by John Sutter in 1841.
AG: How is the family involved today?
MH: Today, the nursery is owned and operated by Walter Berg's son Brian Berg and son-in-law Jack Poukish


AG: So just how is a tree grown at your nursery?

MH: The production methods for the different types of trees vary according to the cultivar that is produced as well as customer preferences for certain things such as potted vs. bare root, finished (budded) tree vs. rootstock only, etc. Some trees can be grown well from a seed, a cutting, or from tissue culture…some can only be grown reliably from 1 or 2 of those methods. The typical turnaround time for most trees sold is about 14 months.



Tree Training photo courtesy of Sierra Gold Nurseries
AG: What is rootstock?
MH: Rootstock is the part of the finished tree below the graft union. The part above the graft union (or bud union) is called the scion wood or the "variety". For example Nonpareil is an almond variety and Hansen or Nemaguard are 2 commonly used rootstocks in the San Joaquin Valley. The rootstock is usually a cultivar within the same genus but a different species from the variety and thus has the ability to have desirable growing traits and is compatible with the variety though it may not produce any crop on its own.
Field grafting or budding photo courtesy of Sierra Gold Nurseries
AG: Why do almond farmers use grafted trees?
MH: Nonpareil planted on its own root stock would not grow or produce consistently for any length of time before being overcome by nematodes, diseases, or less than ideal soil chemistry such has high boron, salts, or a myriad of other agronomic issues. However, a rootstock on its own would not be able to produce a crop that is even remotely like the crops that we eat if it could even produce anything at all since it is a different species. Having an almond variety budded onto a rootstock enables consistent production of a valuable food product for many years and is thus the best of both worlds in that by using this propagation method we are "harvesting" the positive traits in a rootstock such as salinity and nematode tolerance while at the same time keeping the size, shape, color, and taste of the Nonpareil kernel that makes it so desirable around the world.

AG: How do farmers pick the best rootstock for their farm?
MH: As a general rule of thumb, it is wise to choose a rootstock when possible that will counter act those "every year" kind of problems or diseases that are a concern to a grower on a certain property. Overall, it is possible to choose a wrong rootstock but not possible to choose a perfect one. In other words there is usually one you should stay away from but 2 or 3 that are pretty comparable for most sites. For example, in Kern county you would never plant an entire orchard on Lovell rootstock but instead would do well with either Hansen, Bright’s Hybrid 5 or Nemaguard.

AG: What are the biggest challenges affecting your business today?
MH: The top 3 biggest challenges affecting the industry today are 1. Regulations 2. Regulations and 3. Regulations. The current and future constraints on water and labor have drastically increased the relative risk assessment for Ag production in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. Over the next 10-20 years the way we farm and harvest our fruits and nuts will certainly change due to less water, expensive labor, and air regulations to name a few. As a nursery we are very cognizant of the fact that a great deal of our business has been and continues to be in the south valley. Naturally, we are concerned about the future growth potential of the industry while at the same time remaining vigilant about staying informed and providing a product that will reduce farming risks as much as possible by making a strong start to each and every orchard of trees that we ship.

Hope this answers your almond tree questions and helped you understand why farmers make some of the decisions we make. Have more questions? Shoot me an email, comment below or hit me up on social media. I will find an expert for your tough questions!

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny








Thursday, January 19, 2017

The art of a thank you

Thank you. Two simple words that carry so much meaning. Webster Dictionary defines the words as: a polite expression of one's gratitude. Expressing gratitude and showing thanks has become a thing of the past though it seems.




Growing up my parents raised me to right thank you notes after birthdays, Christmas and any time we were given gifts. It was a way for me to show thanks and appreciation for their thoughtfulness. I continued this sentiment with me as I grew up.


After job interviews, when college professors went beyond to help me, and even after staying over at my in laws, I always took time to write thank you notes. After staying over with my in laws a half a dozen times, my mother in law told me I could stop writing her thank you notes. It was just a little something I liked to do to show my appreciation.


There is just something about receiving a note in the mail saying thank you that can brighten your day.  Earlier this week, as I was opening the mail I had two pieces marked for 'Almond Girl Jenny'. Surprised, I opened the letters to read two very nice, sincere thank you notes from readers who had received my Christmas giveaways. It was so refreshing and encouraging to receive these. It gives me a little hope to know I am not alone in the thank you writing world.






Showing appreciation and gratitude is so easy and simple to do these days. A hand written note takes 2 minutes to write. Even faster, in today's world it could be a simple email to say thanks. It is the thought that counts. Email, text, phone calls, and hand written letters are all great ways to say thanks.


The real art of a thank you though is just saying it. In our fast paced world we live in, we are often too busy or too distracted to just stop and say thank you. It really doesn't take that long to do. I challenge you all if you haven't already to take a few minutes and sit down to write a few thank you notes. It really does make you and the receiver just a little bit happier.














Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Storms

A few Wordless Wednesday storm pictures for you....















Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Country Christmas Connection Reveal

As the Christmas season has come to a close, it is always sad to start putting away those Christmas decorations. I always wait until Epiphany to take down my d├ęcor and it helps me drag out the Christmas spirit as long as I can. But I get to relive Christmas one more way today. I get to reveal my Country Christmas Connection secret Santa blogger.
This year I took part in The Country Christmas Connection, where a group of agriculture bloggers across the US linked up to play a little game of secret Santa, blogger style. The Country Christmas Connection was the work of Jenny from The Magic Farmhouse and Darleen from Guernsey Dairy Mama.


I submit my answers to the survey and waited for my email to come in with who I was paired up with. I got my secret Santa name in my email and my homework started; to find the perfect items for Robyn Goddard of The Ranch Wife Chronicles. I politely Facebook stalked her and did some blog reading of hers and then went shopping to buy her gifts. I was excited to see picture of sheep on her page, it reminded me of my childhood. I found the gifts, sent it off and then the real fun started,  I patiently waited for my package to arrive from my secret Santa.


When I did receive my package, I am not sure who was more excited to open the package. My little farmer really enjoyed Christmas this year and he was all over the opportunity to open a gift BEFORE Christmas! After I so gently unwrapped each little package he was right there to play with the tissue paper and roll around in it. He did however, steal one of the items...pork seasoning. He must have thought it was a musical instrument because he just wanted to shake it and run around the house.


My package came from Wanda Patsche from Minnesota Farm Living. I have followed Wanda for some time now, so I was pleasantly surprised to know who my secret Santa was. Wanda sent me a great Minnesota package containing Caribou Coffee straight from Minnesota, adorable coffee mug, great quote magnet and of course that Minnesota pork seasoning. I will admit, once I realized the coffee was made in Minnesota, I went out and got some more to gift for a coffee loving couple I know.


While the pork seasoning was a hit with my little farmer. I enjoyed all the items I received and learning more about Minnesota. The Country Christmas Connection was a great opportunity for me to connect with other agriculture bloggers and learn more from other parts of the country. I can't wait to do it again next year and see what other goodies I get to sample from another state.




Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017, The year to be you!

Happy New Year!  Many people take the new year as a chance to get on a new diet, join a gym, quit smoking, stop drinking soda, or whatever your fancy is. But in all seriousness, most of these people fail at their new years resolutions and end up back to their same old self in a few months.

TV, social media, and magazines all tell us we need to jump on the new fad, try this diet out because it's better, dress this new way because it's trendy. Most of these things don't end up working out because it isn't what makes you happy. If you don't have motivation or drive to do something, then you aren't going to last very long doing it.


So, what makes you happy? Family, friends, faith, farming? Then, that's what you should spend more time dong in 2017. 2017, is the year to be YOU!
You have to hold yourself accountable, you have to love what you are doing, you have to be YOU. That is what is going to make you succeed this year. Try a new diet if you want, but if it is going to make you fall off the deep end worse than you ever have, maybe it's not the one for you. If you are Italian and you grew up eating that way, don't try and give up carbs. Pasta will end up being your late night snack that turns into 4 helpings worth.


My husband always says he is going to give up soda. Every new years, every lent, every summer, he trys. But he ends up giving in with a 64 ounce cup from the gas station and adding 500 calories plus to his daily intake. This year, I told him to start small and try the small 12 ounce can if he feels an urge and don't get mad at yourself for having one once a week. You have to be true to you.


We all need to eat healthy, drink responsibly, and do what is best for our bodies. But we are the only ones who know what that means. Not everyone is going to run a marathon this year. But if you want to start by walking around the block every night after dinner, that might be a big step in the right direction for you.


Don't just sit on the couch all year, watching Netflix and eating fast food. Life is short, it is full of unexpected surprises. You need to do what is best for you. Get up, go for a walk, make yourself a homemade healthy dinner, invite a friend over, call your grandparents just to say hi, hug your parents, tell your kids you love them, kiss your husband, and don't forget to be you!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny