Fresh Facts: El Super Niño and Growin’ Blackberries for AHO

By October 4, 2015Fresh Facts, Newsletter

My born in Tennessee, dust bowl Okie, raisin farming grandfather told me when I was picking my first raisin crop that it either rains or threatens to rain at the Fall Equinox and the weather will change into a fall pattern (more dew, cooler days) along with it. Pretty observant for a man with only a 6th grade education, no?

Raisins were a significant part of our farm the first 30 years of my career. The way you traditionally make raisins is to slope the soil between the rows south towards the sun and then lay the grapes on 2 X 3 foot kraft paper—like what’s in your box except bigger—until they brown and dehydrate into what you find in the red boxes with the smiling Sun-Maid on the side.

You better believe that when a farmer puts his entire years work plus the money he borrowed to get there out under the sky; he is very interested in the weather. Rain will either damage or destroy a raisin crop during this period depending on how wet the raisins get and how long they stay wet. My very first crop out of high school it rained so much the grapes were under water on the down-hill side but what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.

That event triggered a new term in Californian’s weather vocabulary: the El Niño effect. If you have to get your clock cleaned in your first year by an abnormal weather event, it’s nice they at least come-up with a term for it. And El Niño sounds a lot nicer than what we would have called it.

This time last year, the weather prophets were calling for an El Niño winter. To redeem themselves; this year they say will be a gully washing “Super El Niño.”

I pray they’re correct, because another year of this and America’s going to have to look elsewhere for her produce. But from where I sit, this is the first time in the 40 years I’ve been paying very close attention that it didn’t rain, or threaten to rain and there’s absolutely no change in the weather pattern; not good.

On a happier note, guess what I did this week?! We pulled a few apricot and plum trees and planted 1/3 of an acre of some incredibly delicious black berries. Uncle Vern’s a black berry farmer! I heard that question and the answer is no, I have no idea how to grow black berries but how hard can it be?

When I was little we had a little row of boysenberries at home just for the family. I despised that row. Dad would prune it, and it was us brothers who had to clean up the bramble canes and haul em off. They had these little fine thorns that would get stuck in your fingers, but you couldn’t see ‘em to pull ’em out, they just hurt. In those days, good parents whooped their kids and we had excellent parents. Many’s the encouraging discipline we received owing to our lack of diligence removing those most beloved boysenberry canes. I was glad to see that these little black berry plants have courser thorns.

The challenge with black berries is how delicate they are; it’s hard to get ’em from the farm through the retail system in acceptable condition. But I’m guessing if we pick ‘em today and you have ‘em tomorrow–like the rest of this produce–we’re going to have a lot of happy, black berry smiling Abundant Harvesters in 2017; ain’t nobody don’t like blackberries

Author Uncle Vern

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