Family Tree Farm Sees Good Season Despite Labor Laws

Family Tree Farm Rising to Meet Challenges

By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor

New state labor regulations continue to make daily operations more difficult for California farmers. With these increasing costs, it is difficult to stay competitive in a global market. Family Tree Farms is a family owned operation out of Reedley. Daniel Jackson of Family Tree Farms said that they’re doing well even, with the new labor laws that are making business more difficult for California farmers.

“The regulations grip us around the throat a little bit, and they’re getting tighter and tighter every year. We’re just trying to keep air in our lungs. To get creative, we have to find ways to be better farmers. To produce more yield and to do it more affordably with less labor. We have to be creative on our cultural practices and how we do that so that we can survive in the marketplace. We’re trying to make it work, but at the end of the day, it seems like every time you solve an obstacle three more pop up,” Jackson said.

Even with these new regulations, Family Tree Farms has been doing well. They have risen up to meet these new challenges, and the year ahead looks promising.

“The labor has been better this year, and I can’t really give the reason why. It wasn’t a great pollenization year, so crops are a little bit lighter as far as the fruits that are on the tree or actually having workers available. That could change as more crops start to come on as the blueberry harvest continues. Cherry seems like they’ll be wrapping up around here as grapes kick into gear later on in another few weeks, so we may run into those challenges as the season goes on, but right now, so far so good,” Jackson said.

Family Tree Farms Enjoys Exceptional Tree Fruit Year

Tree Fruits and Hybrids Are Bountiful and Delicious This Season

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

Tree fruits this year for Daniel Jackson, a seventh-generation farmer and partner, Reedley-based Family Tree Farms, are thriving and delicious. “The quality is just exceptional right now,” Jackson said. “I think the industry is taking a little bit of a lull in volume right now for the last two days, but it looks like it’s going to pick up again. The fruit coming off late season is going to be exceptional from an eating quality standpoint,” he indicated.

Family Tree grows various tree fruit hybrids, as well as blueberries and grapes—everything from plumquats (a hybrid between an apricot and a plum) and apriums (a similar hybrid that is more apricot than plum) to fresh white peaches and nectarines, yellow flesh peaches and nectarines, and apricots.

Daniel 1
Daniel Jackson, seventh-generation farmer and partner of Family Tree Farms in Reedley, Calif.

Although hot weather can be challenging to growers, trees in the Central
Valley have evolved to adapt to the heat. “Tree fruit genetics here in the Valley are used to that heat,” Jackson elaborated. “Other than a mid-season apricot that may get some tip burn, we’re not seeing too much damage,” he explained. “We may see some sunburn here and there; but for the most part, as long as you have a good leaf ratio on your tree, everything seems to be looking good. We’re happy with the way things are turning out.”

Jackson also reported some minor labor shortages, but their numbers are staying pretty strong. “It was short early on; now we’re pretty stout,” he commented. “I think our crews are up 25 guys, which is a good full crew. We may run into some challenges as we enter the table grape season, but right now things are looking good. We’re staying positive.”

Family Tree Farms has an optimistic attitude about their labor crews. “We just want to be able to provide a consistency of work out there so that people are happy and can stick around with us. I think most farmers are trying to do that same thing,” he said.

Springtime, this year, gave them an early bloom but a cool and mild spring, conditions that can impact the size of produce, come harvest season. “I don’t think we gathered enough heat units to grab the size that we typically have,” Jackson explained, “but I think we’re catching up now. A lot of times, that’s what happens in a season; the size may be a little bit off [early on], but it catches up and becomes more of a normal year,” he said, and other growers have experienced the same problem with their commodities,

“We were probably about a half size to a size off early on in the season, but are seeing sizing come back a little bit and we’re happy about that,” Jackson described. He attributed this impact on fruit size experienced by most California fruit growers, “because we lost a couple of early season growing days that are so important in the early-season varieties.”

The Family Tree crew remains positive; they take pride in the exceptional color of their fruit and picking has stayed consistent. “I think color has been one of the best years we’ve had. Especially with plumcot varieties, we see the ripening happening a little bit more evenly, so are able to pick more consistently as well.”

Jackson handles the fluctuating challenges in farming with stride. “There are a lot of positive things going on,” he commented. “There will always be challenges every year but we don’t let those slow us down. Farmers are more resilient than that.”