Annual Alfalfa and Forage Field Day Sept. 19

Mark Your Calendars for the Annual Alfalfa and Forage Field Day

By Mikenzi Meyers, Contributing Editor

The Annual Alfalfa and Forage Field Day is fast approaching, and it’s one you won’t want to miss! The field day will be held on Thursday, September 19th at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, and cover a variety of topics from forages to crops.

Nicholas Clark, certified Crop and Farm Advisor in Agronomy and Nutrient Management for the University of California Cooperative Extension (Kings, Tulare and Fresno), is eager to spread the word and increase attendance for what is sure to be an educational day for all attendees.

“We try to make it a very comprehensive program in terms of covering the bases of different forages that are popular or emerging in popularity in the southern portion of the San Joaquin Valley,” Clark explained.

Although alfalfa and other forages are on the forefront of the event, Clark added that management practices, silage crops, and possibly also sugar beets are up for discussion.

Make sure to mark your calendars for the Annual Alfalfa and Forage Field Day on Thursday, September 19th at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

2019-07-23T16:59:43-07:00July 23rd, 2019|

Doug Mederos to be Named Tulare’s 57th Farmer of the Year

Doug Mederos to be Tulare’s Farmer of the Year

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

On March 29, the Kiwanis Club of Tulare County will recognize Doug Mederos as the 57th Farmer of the Year. Mederos – a diversified farmer and owner of Doug Les Farms in Tulare County – grows almonds, pistachios, cotton, silage corn and black-eyed peas. Mederos farms 600 acres and manages another 300 acres for his brother.

Mederos told California Ag Today the award caught him by surprise. “It is pretty humbling,” he said, “especially when you see the list of growers they picked [in prior years], and you always wonder, ‘Do I fit in this list or not?’”

Mederos’ family has been farming for several generations. “My grandfather came over in 1920 and started a dairy, P & M Farms, with his brother. When my father got out of the military, he joined the partnership with my grandfather and my uncle and my uncle’s son, Larry Pires.

“Along the way, my two brothers and my cousin’s sister, Loretta, all worked at the farm. My cousin Larry and I eventually became partners in the Pires and Mederos Dairy operation after we graduated from college.

The partners decided to move the dairy out of California and chose South Dakota. Mederos explained, “I stayed here farming in California, and I’ve been pretty fortunate over the years. We’ve had good years and bad years, but the majority of them have been good. Hopefully continuing on so that at some point I get to retire.”

Mederos’ children may continue their family’s legacy of farming in the Central Valley. “Probably my son or somebody will take over,” Mederos said. “He’s going to go off to Fresno State and to major in Ag business, so hopefully in a few years, he’ll be back here. Who knows, maybe it will be my daughter who comes around and ends up running the farm. You never know.”

2017-04-20T13:11:02-07:00March 27th, 2017|

Keeping the California Dairy Industry Afloat

The Necessity of Keeping the California Dairy Industry Competitive


By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster



Anthony Raimondo, an attorney with 15 years of experience working with farmers and farm labor contractors, is concerned the California government is placing the state’s agricultural industry at an economic disadvantage compared to other states. Raimondo used the California dairy industry as a prime example in which arbitrary in-state legislation is giving other states an advantage.
dairy cows


“The state government tells the dairy farmer how much they get to charge for milk,” explained Raimondo. “They have now raised minimum wage and overtime, with AB-1066 becoming law, but they do not tie any of that [added cost] to the milk price. Farmers will lose money,” he said.


“The California dairy industry is still fighting to be a part of the USDA’s Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO),” Raimondo continued. “But until that happens, the added costs are causing many California dairymen to weigh their options.”


Increasing government regulation is making it difficult for California dairies to compete with other states, Wisconsin in particular. Raimondo elaborated, “For many years, Wisconsin’s milk production was on the decline and California’s milk production was on the rise; that trend has now reversed. Wisconsin is now on the rise again and California is on the decline because our dairies can’t make it with the level of regulation and the level of cost,” he said.


“Some dairies have reduced hours to keep costs low,” said Raimondo. “Other dairies are closing either because they are going out of business or because they are moving to places like Idaho and Texas where the milk price is better and the cost profile is more favorable.”


The move to a FMMO would help even the playing field for California dairies. Raimondo warned there is a lot at stake if nothing is done to lower milk production costs in the number one Ag state. “We are going to lose a segment of agriculture that is 100% family farms. Family farming is one of those things that is precious to our state, and it can’t be brought back once it’s gone,” Raimondo said.

2021-05-12T11:17:12-07:00September 16th, 2016|

Tulare County Ag is Down But Strong

Tulare County Annual Crop Report is Down But Still Strong


By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


The numbers are in for the 2015 Tulare County Annual Crop and Livestock Report.  Marilyn Kinoshita, Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Tulare County, reported, “We had an overall value of $6.9 billion, compared to last year, which was more than $8 billion,” which means the County led the nation in total crop value and dairy production, despite a decrease of nearly 14% in one year.

Tulare County’s top ten crops [crop value] in 2015 were:

  1. Milk
  2. Cattle & Calves
  3. Oranges- Navels & Valencias
  4. Grapes
  5. Almonds Meats & Hulls
  6. Tangerines – Fresh
  7. Corn – Grain & Silage
  8. Silage – Small Grain
  9. Pistachio Nuts
  10. Walnuts

Kinoshita explained, “Dairy is our number one industry here. Our milk production was off a little bit. We have fewer dairies in business now because of the low milk prices. Anytime your fresh market milk is off, that’s going to affect our overall value. A good 2/3 of that billion-dollar decrease came from the dairy industry. The price was low the entire year, as opposed to the year before.”

Marilyn Kinoshita, agricultural commissioner, Tulare County

Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County Ag Commissioner


Thus far, the reported 2015 county crop reports in the Central Valley are down this year. “Fresno County, for instance, was down 6.5% off its record $7 billion in 2014,” Kinoshita said.


“It has a lot to do with low water deliveries in Fresno and Tulare Counties,” she continued. “The smaller the water deliveries, the more efficient those growers have to be with that water. Anytime you’re pumping water out of the ground, it’s terribly expensive,” she noted.


“Some of our growers have had to decide, ‘All right, I’ve got this much water; I’m going to keep those blocks alive and I’m going to push an older block that isn’t producing as well.’ The returns aren’t as good as some of the newer plantings,” said Kinoshita.


Despite all of that, Kinoshita said agriculture does sit at the head of the table in Tulare County. “Yes, and we need a successful Ag industry to thrive here,” she said.


To view a video of the interview, click HERE.


Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, noted the crop report demonstrates the strength of the agricultural industry. “I think every year when this crop report comes out, it is always a testament to the resiliency of this industry. This industry takes hard knocks, gets knocked down, then steps right back up to the plate and keeps swinging,” Blattler said. “The agricultural sector has a lot of outside challenges that impact the number that we see reported every year.”


Tricia Stever Blattler

Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director , Tulare County Farm Bureau

Blattler acknowledged the crop value numbers do not reflect net revenue for growers. “It’s always really important for our listeners to know that the crop value is a gross revenue number. When our Ag Commissioner steps to the microphone and speaks to our Board of Supervisors about this report each year, she’s reflecting values that are attributed to all of the gross revenue, and it’s not only the field value,” Blattler said.


“That gross number reported each year also represents our packing houses, our milk processing facilities—the creameries, the butter plants—the packing shedsall those other parts of our industry that [create] value in our industry,” said Blattler.


Blattler noted up or down, it’s all about the resiliency of farmers. “The industry has its years that are really blockbuster and it has its years when it falls back and we see a reduction acreage. We see reductions in surface water deliveries. The drought is still certainly playing a significant role in the numbers we’re seeing,” she explained.


With regard to surface water, Tulare County is in a bit of a unique position. “As an Eastside county, some of our water deliveries are not as subject to the situation that the Westside is in. In the same sense, we have some significant cutbacks that have been attributed to the San Joaquin River’s restoration and the biological opinions in the Delta—all have had an impact on the Central San Joaquin Valley [water] deliveries regardless of whether you’re Eastside or Westside.


“Also, as the exchange contractors either take greater deliveries of water or give up water, that also impacts the amount available to Eastside growers here in Tulare County,” she said.


In summary, 2015 Tulare Crop Report covers more than 120 different commodities, 45 of which have a gross value in excess of $1 million. Although individual commodities may experience difficulties from year to year, Tulare County continues to produce high quality crops that provide food and fiber to more than 90 countries worldwide.

Featured photo: Tulare County 2015 Crop Report

2021-05-12T11:17:12-07:00August 31st, 2016|

RAIN Damages Alfalfa; Benefits Wheat

Above-Average California Rain Affects Larry Hunn’s Crops

by Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

For fourth-generation farmer Larry Hunn of Hunn & Merwin & Merwin, Inc., based out of Clarksburg, Calif., the price of alfalfa is low this year due to water damage from late rains. Nevertheless, cannery tomatoes, cucumbers, safflower and wheat are looking pretty hopeful.

Larry Hunn

Larry Hunn

Mold from rainfall is a big issue in growing alfalfa; it not only reduces the quality of the perennial grass, but it reduces the nutritional value as well. Dairy farmers won’t buy it. “It has really depressed our alfalfa prices.” said Hunn.

On the bright side, rainfall has been beneficial for Hunn’s above-average winter wheat and safflower crops this year. “We had nice rainfall spread out through the whole winter,” he said. “It didn’t come all at one time and flood us out, so that was good.”

Hunn’s hard red winter wheat is drying down in the field, and will be harvested mid-June and sent mainly to flour mills for bread making. The safflower is still growing and looking healthy on a few hundred acres—acres that have been in his family for four generations—and won’t “come off” until late August or September.

Beginning in South Sacramento on 47th Avenue, Larry Hunn’s great-grandfather started farming in the late 1800s, and his grandfather moved to the Delta in the early 1920s, where they’ve been farming ever since. Hunn & Merwin & Merwin Inc. now operates on close to 3,000 acres in Yolo and Sacramento Counties.

Hunn’s other crops have already been contracted with a buyer. “All the cannery tomatoes are in the ground growing, and they look pretty good. We’re in the process of planting cucumbers, that’s just a continuous until the first of August,” mentioned Hunn.

The only disadvantage are the cool breezes from snow atop the Sierra Mountain range that is keeping temperatures low on the cucumbers and tomatoes. Hunn remarked, “I wish it would warm up a little bit. We’re only in the mid-seventies, low eighties, and it would be nice to be up in the mid-eighties or low nineties.”

Overall it’s been a decent year for the veteran Clarksburg grower.

(Featured photo: Alfalfa on edge of field of Larry Hunn, Hunn & Merwin & Merwin, California Ag Today)

2021-05-12T11:03:02-07:00June 6th, 2016|

Crop Diversification at Terranova Ranch

Crop Diversification at Terranova Ranch Provides Stability

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor


Don Cameron

Don Cameron, Terranova Ranch Inc.

Crop diversification is the key to California’s agricultural success. Our climate and soils enable farmers to grow different crops year-round throughout the state. Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch Inc. in Helm, Fresno County, oversees the farming of cannery tomatoes, onions, carrots, bell peppers, almonds, walnuts, winegrapes, and even seeds for many other crops.

CalAgToday interviewed Cameron while he was riding a carrot harvester in the midst of harvesting for Grimmway Farms. He observed,“Our crop diversification at Terranova Ranch has really changed over the years. We used to farm cotton, alfalfa, barley and wheat, and that was about it.”

“Now,” said Cameron, “we grow between 20 and 30 different crops, both conventional and organic. There are times when one crop might not do as well as another, so diversification adds stability to our operation.”

And, of course, stability is a good thing on the farm. “We like to have stability,” Cameron commented, “and our workers love the stability because they know they are going to have work long-term, summer and winter. It is a lot more work for us, but in the long-run, it will be valuable for our operation here.”

Crop diversity and the stability it has brought to Terranova Ranch, according to Cameron, have enabled the ranch to retain its employees despite these rough times with fallow fields. “We’ve actually been able to hire some good employees from other farms where they’ve had severe cutbacks in water this year.”

Terranova uses only groundwater, and fortunately the ranch’s wells have held up over the last few years. Terranova is working on a major recharge program across 250 acres of land with water from potential Kings River floods and the James Bypass that crosses the Valley close to the ranch.  Although regulations prevent implementation this year, “when the flood water comes,” said Cameron, “those fields will be flooded for recharge and they will have low berms around them. The water may only be 2-3 feet deep, but the goal is to keep the water continuously on those fields so the recharge persists. The water doesn’t have to be 10 feet deep; it can be merely 6 inches deep as long as it is continually refilled so the recharge holds.”

2016-05-31T19:28:06-07:00August 29th, 2015|

Chew on This Tour

Kyle Olguin and Sarah Weber on Chew On This Tour


By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

To counter the abounding misconceptions surrounding agriculture, companies are fighting back through education. Kyle Olguin, assistant operations manager for Nutra Blend LLC, a company that specializes in manufacturing nutrients for the feed industry, said that Nutra Blend began a program called “Chew On This Tour” to educate consumers about common farming misconceptions.

For the tour, Olguin said, “we drive trucks around the country, trucks turned into movie theatres, and educate people on where their food comes from, the misconceptions about farming, what we [farmers] do in America, and how we have one of the safest food supplies in the world.”

Olguin said that the perception of agriculture among the masses is that Ag is unnecessary because of the existence of grocery stores.

“We are constantly being attacked by non-ag promoting groups that agriculture is bad,” Olguin said, “and now the perception is out there that agriculture doesn’t really provide anything good or that agriculture doesn’t really need to exist. We have grocery stores, and the general public does not understand the link between agriculture and farmers and those grocery stores.”

“So we decided to start a campaign, and we kicked it off in Oregon driving this truck around the U.S. and showing people one simple video.” Olguin said, “We ask people questions, like: How many eggs does a chicken lay? How many pounds of bacon do you get from one cow?”

Sarah Weber, a sales representative for Nutra Blend, said the next step for the program was to raise money for backpack programs linked with food banks.

“The second movement is ‘Drive to Feed Kids’,” Weber said, “a nonprofit program with our suppliers and vendors to work with our customers, in their own communities, to raise money for student backpack programs that are linked in with the food banks.”

Weber said, “Our third stage in this movement is the ‘Ivy League Farmer’,” Weber said, “which is a movie that has been produced and will air on network TV pending this fall. It is a reflection on a dairy farm and the positive influence the farm has on the community. It is a way for us to reach out to the public with an emotionally positive connection to educate them.”


2016-05-31T19:28:06-07:00August 24th, 2015|

Subsurface Drip in Alfalfa

Subsurface Drip in Alfalfa–A Growing Interest

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Dan Putnam is a faculty member and Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Davis with a statewide responsibility for alfalfa and forage crops. He said there has been an increased interest in subsurface drip irrigation in alfalfa, which is usually flood-irrigated. Alfalfa is a key forage source for the state’s top agricultural product, dairy, to the tune of more than $7 billion per year.

“It does come with some challenges,” but he said, “the growers who have really treated this as an educational experience are continually learning how to manage this system; not only the gophers, but the irrigation management component as well. To establish a crop with drip irrigation, growers need to plant in early fall and use sprinklers to germinate the seeds. A lot of growers fail on agronomic issues, like not planting at the right time of year rather than on drip irrigation issues,” Putnam said.

Putnam noted that growers are more interested in learning about subsurface drip irrigation because of increased yields. “I think over time, we are going to see a greater adaptation of this technology in California,” Putnam explained, “particularly in areas that have very high yield potential. For example, in the San Joaquin Valley and the Imperial low desert areas where the crop is actually capable of 12-16 ton yields, our yields average about 7-8 tons per acre. And so,” he added, “we do have a yield potential that we are unable to achieve, and part of that is in the limitation of surface irrigation.”

Putnam also noted one advantage of drip irrigation is efficient nutrient delivery, which in turn fosters increased uniformity across the system. “Growers can ‘spoon-feed’ the crop rather than inefficiently apply it on the surface,” stated Putnam. “I think a lot of growers have figured this out, although alfalfa does not have a nitrogen issue. Nevertheless, we have to apply significant phosphorous, potassium and several other nutrients in some deficient soils.”

As with most things, there are drawbacks, and Putnam outlined two. “One is an increased cost of the drip line and filtration system,” Putnam said. “Growers who are considering subsurface drip need to wrestle with the cost to be sure they can increase yields enough to justify the cost. In most cases, growers have been able to substantially increase yields in their systems to pay for the $1500-2500 per acre upfront investment in the technology,” he said.

“The other drawback is maintenance,” Putnam continued, “particularly with regard to rodent infestations. We’ve seen gophers, in particular, ground squirrels and meadow voles absolutely devastate drip-irrigation fields. As our vertebrate pest specialist at UC Davis says, ‘It is essentially an ideal habitat for gophers as they have plenty of food, plenty of shelter, plenty of water, and they are able to reproduce pretty readily.’ ”

“You should consider this system only if you are willing to accept a very high level of maintenance and no tolerance for rodent infestation because, if left unchecked, they will chew on the tapes and ruin the system,” he said.

Putnam reported there are strategies to get around gophers and other rodent issues, “You have start clean and do some deep tillage. We also recommend  retaining the capability of flood irrigation in those fields to use once in a while because it reaches the furrows very effectively,” he noted.

For those gophers, Putnam recommends every trick in the book. “There are traps organic farmers are able to use, flood irrigation, and boxes to help control the population,” Putnam said. “There are products available for baiting and other types of control measures that should be used. It is really too expensive a system to allow the gophers to have their way with it, so we need to have a high level of management,” he concluded.

2016-07-30T21:43:15-07:00August 3rd, 2015|

AFT Research Shows Farmland Conservation can Reduce Greenhouse Gases

A new study from American Farmland Trust’s California Office, titled A New Comparison of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from California Agricultural and Urban Land Use [PDF], shows that urban land uses generate an average of 58 times more greenhouse gases per acre than the production of California’s leading crops.

This means that conserving farmland by preventing its development is an effective strategy for alleviating climate change. The AFT research, spearheaded by Steve Shaffer, AFT’s principal environmental consultant in California, found that emissions from seven crops grown on four million acres of the state’s farmland – including rice, tomatoes, lettuce, almonds, winegrapes, corn and alfalfa – averaged 0.89 tons of CO2 equivalent per acre, while those from residential, commercial and industrial land uses in 13 California cities averaged 51 tons per acre.

“If California farmland conversion could be reduced by half (from 39,500 to 19,750 acres per year), within a decade we would avoid the emission of 55 million metric tons of greenhouse gases,” said Shaffer, “That’s equivalent to taking almost 200,000 cars off the road or driving around the Earth’s equator 5 million times,” he added, noting, “Of course, AFT would like to do even better than that.”

2016-05-31T19:30:29-07:00February 25th, 2015|
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