Will AB-1066 End Sunup to Sundown Farming?

Will Overtime Bill Kill Sunup to Sundown Way of Farming?

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

Newly approved by the California Assembly, AB-1066, which would effectively extend the payment of overtime compensation to agricultural employees after 8 hours of work in a day or 40 hours per week, instead of 10 hours per day or 50 to 60 hours per week, awaits Governor Jerry Brown‘s final decision this month. The theory behind the bill is understandable, but according to Bryan Van Groningen, field manager for Van Groningen & Sons, Inc.a California family farming business begun in 1922, agriculture works within a different timetable than other industries.

 

Because agricultural production is fundamentally nature-based, Van Groningen said there is an underlying need for non-traditional workdays. “Our crews, more or less, work from sunup to sundown,” he said. “That is what is required to get our harvest finished.”

 

Van Groningen & Sons employs different types of laborers, some who already work 8-hour days and others who work on a schedule that AB-1066 would  eliminate. “Our field workers—everybody is accustomed to a 10-hour per day and 50-hour per week system,” explained Van Groningen.

 

For Van Groningen & Sons, one of the largest producers of pumpkins for the West Coast, the period leading up to Halloween is naturally one of their busiest times of year. They have a short window of time to get their produce ready for its final destination, so putting an 8-hour limit on their employees would cause problems in meeting their deadline. “We have to get all of our crop in, harvested, transported, packed and shipped by a certain date. If we don’t,” he said, “the date comes and we’re pretty much finished.”

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Van Groningen & Sons Adopts Solar

Van Groningen & Sons Becomes Early Adopter of Solar Meter Aggregation

Family owned and operated since 1922, Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. has just completed construction of a 1 Megawatt PV Solar Energy System at their packing, cooling and processing facility located at their company headquarters in Manteca. Designed and installed by Renewable Technologies, Inc. (RTI) of Stockton, CA., the solar system is one of the first to take advantage of the Net Meter Aggregation Policy recently approved by the California Public Utility Commission, allowing for multiple meters to be offset by the production of a single PV solar production system.

RTI worked closely with Paul Hiemstra, warehouse manager at the facility to aggregate 26 electric meters, satisfying the electrical demand of the facility and numerous irrigation pumps across several hundreds of acres of farmland.

The system will generate over 1.4 million kilowatt hours of clean, reliable energy annually and sits atop two large processing buildings. The solar kilowatt hour production will offset approximately 1,034 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions produced by 218 passenger cars, the electricity usage of 142 homes or the carbon sequestered by 848 acres of U.S. forest in one year. This project marks yet another step forward in Van Groningen’s efforts toward sustainability, helping to ensure the continuance of the family farming tradition for many years to come.

Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. is closely linked to the growing, shipping and distribution of melons, sweet corn, nuts, pumpkins and fall décor. Their formula is to offer the highest quality products while conducting business with honesty, integrity and responsibility, a recipe that’s certain to last long into the future.

__________________

Links: Van Groningen & Sons

Photo Source:  Renewable Technologies, Inc., Ryan Van Groningen

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Average Almond Crop for Van Groningen

Van Groningen: Almond Crop Looks Average; Misleading Math on Watermelon Water Use

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Assistant Editor, California Ag Today

Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. farming has been operating in California since 1922. Field Manager Bryan Van Groningen updated California Ag Today, “The almond crop looks pretty average, ‘nothing that looks well over norm. It just depends on which field site you enter in; some of the younger blocks look a little better than the older blocks. So, right now the crop looks pretty old, but it is all across the board.”

Bryan Van Groningen
Bryan Van Groningen

Yosemite-Fresh-WatermelonBased in Manteca, Von Groningen & Sons has a diversified operation growing melons, sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, almonds and walnuts, and livestock feed. Noting recent negative press on almond water usage, Bryan said, “Almonds obviously have gotten a lot of bad press lately, as has ag in general. In looking at some of the water usage figures, I tend not to agree with them. I think a lot of the water usage figures are outdated and incorrect.” He explained, “For example, we grow watermelons, and one of the articles that I read reported that 160 gallons of water was needed to produce a single watermelon. On our farm, it is closer to 35-40 gallons.”

As the state continues to deal with water restrictions, Van Groningen says a lot of fingers are unfairly pointing at the agriculture industry. “I think there is a lot of misinformation being spread around and used to throw agriculture under the bus,” he stated, “making us look like we are the bad guys, when we are actually producing the nutritious food that consumers in our state and the nation eat and enjoy. The agricultural industry has made so many advances in water efficiency that we should actually be labelled as ‘water conservationists’, and not ‘water wasters’.”

Van Groningen says he sees firsthand, every day, exactly how much water is used per crop, because he actively manages the farm’s water. “I sat down and ran the numbers 3, 4, 5 times — just to make sure that I did the math correctly. So, some of this usage is being misrepresented and therefore does not shed a good light on what ag is actually doing.”

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Van Groningen & Sons In Full Harvest Mode

Bryan Van Groningen, with Van Groningen & Sons, a farming operation in Manteca, in San Joaquin County says the operation  is in full harvest mode, rounding out what has been a good year.

“Right now we’re still in peak season of the watermelon harvest. We’re also getting geared up for the pumpkin season. We are going to be harvesting some of our ornamental gourds pretty soon, and that’s going to lead into our normal-sized pumpkins of all types of varieties. That’s going to get underway soon, probably in another week, and will continue all the way until the end of October. We are just completing our sweet corn harvest, and almond harvest has begun as well,” said Van Groningen.

Van Groningen thinks the drought has affected pricing this year. “I think the lack of water up and down the state has affected the pricing because it has been pretty strong. We haven’t had those valleys in some of the pricing throughout the season, but I think, further down south, guys are irrigating only their permanent crops and going into more of their higher-dollar crops. For crops like sweet corn, there are not a lot of acres growing in California, and that has kept the price high,” said Van Groningen.

The farm’s water supply was sufficient this year, but Van Groningen is guarded about the future. “We’re fortunate in our areas because we are irrigating most of our land with a deep well, and we don’t have to rely on district water so much, so we are kind of lucky. We are in control of our own water supply,” he said.

Van Groningen notes that the operation has had well issues.  “We did have one well collapse on us, so that tells me the water table continues to drop. We irrigate from probably 60 different deep wells, and I’d say one out of sixty–that isn’t  too big of a problem at this point. But if it continues this way, and we remain in a drought, and we don’t get enough rainfall to recharge some of that groundwater, it’s going to get pretty dicey, I think,” he said.

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