RAIN Damages Alfalfa; Benefits Wheat
June 6, 2016
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.
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)