Episcopal Priest Becomes Farmer

Following His Heart to a Second Calling, Suburban Detroit Priest Becomes California Farmer

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

People change careers for a variety of reasons, but Ken Erickson took that notion to an extreme. Erickson, who had grown up in the Detroit suburbs and who was serving as an Episcopal priest in Detroit, received a phone call from relatives who had been farming in Sutter and Colusa Counties for 25 years.

 

“My aunt and uncle asked if I would be interested in coming to California to learn how to farm and help manage their orchards, which included walnuts, pecans, and olives for oil,” said Erickson. “So my family and I eventually made a decision to do just that, and it has been a big adventure for us.”

walnut orchard

 

Currently living in Meridian, Sutter County and working side by side with his cousin, Lars Jerkins, Erickson took stock, “We are enjoying living and working in the country. It’s great to work outside,” he said.

 

People often ask Erickson about the difference between farming and pastoring. “I tell people trees are like people; they need lots of nurture and care, but they don’t talk back,” he quipped.

 

But, of course, giving up his career as an Episcopal priest required a great deal of thought. “It was a hard decision,” Erickson explained. “It was a big change, but we decided to go for it. Here we are and learning from lots of people, especially from my aunt, uncle and cousin. And I have come to respect and appreciate the fact that the farming community is supportive. They want to help in any way. My family and I are here to stay.”

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Weedy Rice Challenges Some Rice Growers

Weedy Rice Crops Ups Again in Northern Calif. Rice Fields

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

In Northern California, rice growers typically prepare to start harvesting in mid-September, but some growers have endured a lot of weed pressure from weedy rice (Oryza), also known as red rice, according to Whitney Brim-DeForest, a UC Cooperative Extension Rice Farm Advisor in Sutter, Yuba, Placer, and Sacramento Counties who focuses particularly on weeds. Red rice is actually the same species as cultivated rice, but it produces far fewer grains per plant and is therefore considered a pest.

 

Brim-DeForest said weedy rice is common in the Southeast, but not in California. “We’ve been pretty lucky in California in that we actually don’t have a big problem with it,” she said. “It’s a big problem down in the southern U.S. and they have been dealing with it in for a long time; but we have had it crop up. I think the last time was in 2006, and we managed to deal with it. It somehow popped up again in the last couple of years, so we’re dealing with it again.”

 

How weedy rice reached California is apparently a mystery. “We don’t really know the source of it, to be honest,” said Brim-DeForest. “We’re investigating that through research, hopefully starting this fall,” she said.

 

Brim-DeForest said growers have few choices to control weedy rice. “Growers that have it will either have to rogue¹ it out, pull it out by hand or sacrifice that field and spray it with Roundup,” she said, “which would kill the rice as well. And, if the rice grower doesn’t know he has weedy rice in the field, it could hurt him later at the rice mill,” explained Brim-DeForest.

 

“Once harvested, the rice goes to the mill. If a certain amount of red rice bran (the outer layer surrounding the rice grain) is discovered, the mill will not accept it and could reject the entire load,” she said.


¹rogue (verb) to remove inferior or unwanted plants

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Record Walnut Crop Harvest

By Colby Tibbet, California Ag Today Reporter

With a predicted record 545,000 tons to be harvested, the walnut industry is getting very busy this time of year.

Janine Hasey is a UC Cooperative Extension Tree Crops Farm Advisor and County Director for Sutter-Yuba Counties. She also assists growers in Colusa County.

“We started early up here, but the hot weather we’ve had has slowed things down again. So we’re working on early varieties, a lot of Serrs are in; Vinas are in, and Tulares are being harvested, and we are trying to get the Howards harvested.”

“Right now it sounds like we’re on track for that record production prediction to come true,” said Hasey. “Growers are now harvesting early varieties; I have just talked to a grower who doubled Serr production from last year, and her Ashley production has tripled or more,” Hasey commented.

Growers have used a lot of Ethrel, a common late-season spray, to help speed up harvest and trigger a more even harvest period. “Some growers are saying it has worked, while others say maybe not so well,” said Hasey.

In addition to the hot temperatures and dryness, Hasey said, “we’ve had a little bit of dew last week. We are expecting some possible rain showers on Thursday…which would be really good to get the walnut hulls splitting, and get things moving again.”

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AG CRIME ALERT

AG CRIME ALERT:

antiCrime

A 2005 Ford F150 was stolen in the South Sutter Basin near Ensley Road, sometime between Friday evening, April 4 and Saturday morning, April 5.
The truck is charcoal in color, with license plate number 8A25808.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sutter County Sheriff’s Department at (530) 822-7307, or the California Highway Patrol at 1-800-TELL-CHP (1-800-835-5247).

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AG CRIME ALERT

antiCrimeAG CRIME ALERT!Tisdale Irrigation has been hit by copper thieves twice in the last 30 days at two pumps along the Sacramento River south of Meridian.

Damage was also caused to the pump motors and it is believed the same party is responsible for both instances.

Growers in the area should check their pumps, be on the lookout for suspicious activity and report any information to the Sutter County Sheriff’s Department at (530) 822-7307.

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