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Ag Beat: Most Tulare Co Crops Look Good

click to enlarge – 1926 pic shows giant milk bottle at Hyde Ranch where Kmart is today in Visalia. See reference below.Photo courtesy Terry Ommen

The Valley’s ‘King Cotton’ acreage was up in recent years but now it’s down again. California farmers intend to plant 90 thousand acres of Upland cotton in 2013, down 37 percent from the acreage seeded in 2012. In addition, growers expect to seed 190 thousand acres of American Pima cotton in 2013, down 16 percent from last year. Tulare County cotton acreage is expected to be down 11,000 acres in 2013 from 30,500 acres in 2012 says a state survey.

Meanwhile tangerine production is way up – 24 % compared to last year as more trees planted in the past few years come into production in Tulare and Kern counties. “The fruit is sweet and the quality is awesome “gushes Tulare County ag commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita.

Regards tree fruit this year Kinoshita says drought aside,our stone fruit crop has enjoyed perfect weather with no freeze or hail damage.

Speaking of good weather. this year’s cherry crop is only weeks away now and industry sources say it could be a record crop. Last year  the industry packed 8.5 million boxes. Tulare County has about 2000 acre of cherries and more 320 acres of non bearing trees as of 2011.

The recovering ornamental nursery business is looking up as the state’s housing sector rebounds has but Kinoshita says it has a way to go yet. Still nurseries here have shipped out more product inspected by the county each year. In 2008/09 Tulare County nurseries recorded 4500 shipments, in 2009/10 – 5700 shipments and in 2011/12 – 6760. The latest year’s numbers will be totaled after June 2013.

The Harvest-Tulare composting facility near Tulare currently holds operating permits to compost green material, food, and dairy manure and the company wants to increase and shift types of materials and quantities accepted at the facility. Both a high solids digester (processing food and green material) and low solids digester (processing primarily food material) alternatives will be studied. They seek a permit to allow a maximum tonnage to increase from 156,000 tons per year to a potential 216,000 tons per year. An additional 60,000 tons will be allowed at the proposed anaerobic digester facility. The facility will produce transportation fuel through a compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling station. Public hearing  will be held April 24, 2012 at 9:00 A.M. at the Board of Supervisors Chambers.

Good news for dairy farmers this week as block cheese prices in Chicago have jumped to $1.87 a pound this week.That’s up from a low $1.55/lb in early March. If dairy prices are up – there is more good news – feed prices are down.Corn for May delivery sits at $6.48 to down from $7.35 a bushel in late March.

Farmers Could Catch a Break on Diesel Prices this spring that are already below $4 at some stations with the drop in oil prices promising a further drop. It’s down to $3.77 in Bakersfield. The California average was $4.30 in mid-March.

Tulare County and the City of Visalia plan to offer a version of the PACE program later this years offering financing for  businesses to get into solar without a big upfront cost.The amount borrowed through the program is paid back through your property tax bill .The board is scheduled to adopt the program April 23. Staffer Mike Washam says he is hopeful dairies will use the program allowing them to improve cash flow with no upfront cost or impacting their credit .

The City of Visalia has supported the PACE effort but seeks changes that would allow use for residential properties.


click to enlarge

Tulare Dairy Family Opens 2nd Drive-Thru Store .The drive-thru milk store is back. Top O’ The Morn Farms of Tulare set out on a new way to offer fresh milk to the consumer last fall beginning to do home deliveries in Tulare,Visalia and Exeter. Then they took the next step opening a retail drive-thru retail outlet in Tulare in December on Prosperity Avenue. The store is near Evolutions fitness.

This week they opened a second drive-thru dairy store on Caldwell in Visalia just east of Mooney bringing back a tradition popular in the 1950s in California and Visalia too; you used to be able to drive into the Hyde Ranch in Visalia where a giant milk bottle greeted you where Kmart is today.

Top O’ The Morn fresh milk is offered in glass bottles that seem to say farm fresh and good ol’ days all in one. ””People have such a long history with drive-thru dairies and home delivery that we want to bring some of those good feelings back” says owner Ron Locke.

Locke says the new 700 sf store in the Stonebrook Plaza at 1103 W Caldwell is next to Gozen restaurant. The store offers not just fresh milk but a variety of locally produced foods.”We have fresh brewed and packaged coffees,all your favorite coffee drinks “ using locally-made Mavericks’ Coffee – also located on Caldwell Ave.

In addition the new store offers smoothies, local cheeses from a variety of Valley cheesemakers, Sam Cookseys eggs,food products from Simonian Farms and more.

Blueberry production is up in California – now more than 7000 acres harvested.Farm advisor Manuel Jimenez who helped push growers to plant heat tolerant varieties  in the Central Valley says the berry’s popularity is tied to its health benefits. Key to  growing blueberries here is to use drip irrigation and acidify the soil he says, enabling the berry to be grown away from the traditional cool climate growing areas. One of the world’s largest blueberry farmer is Munger Farms with a ranch near Richgrove in Tulare County. Local berries are being picked right now.

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