Fresh Facts Week 15: Seasonal Gold

By December 7, 2014Fresh Facts, Newsletter

We’re called the “Golden State” because of that mineral’s discovery at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 (if I remember my 5th grade state history), but right now around here, we have the most beautiful golden peach orchards and orchard floors I ever remember. Amy Beth and Jessica I’m sure will get out some pictures over this week’s communications but my oh my what a beautiful fall we’re having; drop dead gorgeous!

SEASONS. As long as you paid the bank back, fall is the best, most relaxed, grateful season of the year as a stone fruit farmer. The jobs consist of getting orchards “laid-by”—manure, gypsum, soil sulfur and lime spread, orchard floors cleaned up and worked up and fairly flat, ready for the pruners—all the equipment brought in, cleaned up and stored for the winter. It gets light later, so you don’t have to start till 7:00, and everything moves at a much relaxed pace.

Poultry manure spreading is a Peterson Family tradition every fall here on our farm for the last 120 plus years. We’ve always had poultry as part of our portfolio since the beginning, and used their manure as the fertility base in our orchards, so we’ve always been organic in our fertility. By spreading it in the fall, and immediately incorporating it into the soil, it has all winter to nourish the soil microbes, and this microbial activity breaks down the manure and makes it available to our trees so when they’re ready to bloom next spring, everything’s in place for success. This same microbial activity also destroys any pathogens that might be found in the manure.

So how do you know how much to put out Uncle Vern? Well, I could dazzle you with the fact that we take tissue samples in the spring, and soil samples in the fall—perhaps like taking blood samples during your annual physical—and adjust our applications based off this scientific analysis. This is required by the organic standards, and is part of our protocol. But the truth is, these fancy-schmantzy tools just back up what we already know; which is: a tree needs to have between 15 and 30 inches of top sucker growth on May 1st. More than 30 inches and you will have weak fruit and spend too much on labor to cut out shade. Less than 15 inches and your production will suffer. If you know how to listen, your crops and flocks will always tell you what you need to be doing.

And sure enough, when we’re outside these parameters, the analysis will say the same thing.

I love biology, because it’s just common sense. And this biological fertility base is also so amazing. All the major and minor nutrients and minerals are in the manure. It’s like the tree is being fed a balanced diet. We just don’t get analysis back showing deficiencies in our orchards. And now, after a dozen years of organic farming, (sans synthetic pesticides) we see less and less pest pressure as the pest/predator balance equalizes. It’s really quite nifty when the things we believe and practice actually work in the real world, who’da thought!

Hey, to finish-up on the Thanksgiving thought from a couple weeks ago, I read a quote from Cicero (the Roman guy from 100 bc-ish)  that said “Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all others.” The guy was pretty right on.

We are living at a time and place where complaints about everything have become the background noise of our society and I think it’s time we, the AHO community, change that; each of us, each day living gratefully.

Author Uncle Vern

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