Erik Peterson

Recipe for Success: Hard Work and Sweat

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Erik Peterson Riding his tractor

Picture the all-American boy: tow-headed, husky and strong, an energetic 6 year old, riding tractor with father, Vernon, through peach orchards. Fast-forward 24 years and you have the all-American man: farmer Erik Peterson, the 5th generation to farm the Kingsburg land he calls home. Since the summer after his kindergarten year, Erik has felt at home working on the ranch. In the beginning, I worked in the packing shed grading fruit and stacking palettes 3 or 4 high. That was a big job for a little guy. The little guy has become a big man, with an even bigger heart, a heart that has a passion for farming. “I love what I do!”, he smiles.

Why does he do it? “It’s in my blood. I know farming is the best thing for me to do; where else can I walk out my back door and instantly be at work, getting my hands dirty and spend the day in the sunshine?” he says with a quick grin. “My Dad farms, and so did my grandpa, and on back, this is right for me.”

Erik grows peaches and several varieties of plums. I am a hands-on learner. I can read a book, but if I do something once, I’ll always remember it. He currently farms 30 acres and dreams to buy more land, slowly so as not to get so busy that he doesn’t have time to be in the fields, checking the fruit himself. I can’t stand the thought of missing anything. I want to look at my trees with my own two eyes and say, “This orchard is three days away from harvest. What’s the point of farming if you can’t be in touch with your crop?”

Why did I decide to go organic? Well, it’s a challenge I enjoy; it’s hard. Erik pauses to reflect on past hot summer days. Harder to kill insects and keep the trees healthy, but I’d rather do it this way. It’s much better to disk the field and take care of the problem, then and there, than spray a bunch of Gramoxone all over the place. I take the direct approach and as far as I know, weeds haven’t built up a tolerance to metal. Erik’s face breaks into a generous smile.ep2

Erik has spent his farming career in transitioning between conventional to organic farming, and has only seen the tough side: a 25% loss in yield production while being paid at a conventional price. Therefore, the change to organic with a price to match will be a big boost. You know, I have a lot of time to think out there on the tractor. If I were a genius, I’d have figured out a way to cure cancer, he says looking up with a smile, but I have come to this conclusion about working the ranch: I like to rely on myself. If the work is done, it’s because of my own two hands, and if it’s not, there is no one else to blame. I have to make daily goals of what I need to get done; that’s the way I work best. His recipe for success: “All there is to it, he says, is hard work and sweat!”