Jutta and Cynthia had the privilege of being featured on the California Report last week, talking about dry farming in the face of drought. Check out the article and hear the radio interview in its entirety by clicking here. Or listen to the interview below.
A couple of month ago, shortly after I was a panel speaker at the climate conference in Sacramento, I received a call from Lisa, an independent radio reporter who had heard my bit on dry farming. She was curious, how does one dry farm in a severe drought? And by the way what is dry farming, how does it work, can she come to the farm and interview us. See the ponies working, watch some Walnuts being cracked…. We said yes, and I started by giving the ponies a 4 week spring tune up. Go to our face book page to see a short video of them working the orchard, and yes that is Lisa riding shot-gun.
I explained the history of dry farming to her, just 60-70 years ago crops, tree, grain and grapes all were dry farmed. Several factors are needed: a loamy soil, average winter rain fall of 25 inches plus and of course soil preparation. Disking under the green manure (winter crop of legumes) and then creating a dust mulch is essential to preserve and “seal in” soil moisture. Unfortunately we never got out of the low teens with the rain fall these past years, so the moisture in the soil is not enough to sustain our trees through a 6 month dry season.
Lisa’s questions got me thinking that many of you don’t know what this drought means for our farm, for the trees.
Since year 2 of the drought our Walnut crop is down, now in year 4 by 30%. I lost 25 trees as in “they died”, last year, 20 dead trees this year so far and it is only June. The trees have large areas in their canopy with no green leaves, the branches have died back. My Walnuts are smaller each year, the shells thicker, the Nuts are harder to crack and instead of halves I get lots of pieces, which I have to sell for less. Lisa asked why we keep going? Why are we planting a new tree right next to the stump of the dead tree?
We really love the farm, the surrounding CA Wood land un touched for hundreds of years. Our customers appreciation for the products, the letters, e mails keep us going. We believe farming organically, sustainably is the right thing to do.
It is the end of October and we are in the midst of our Walnut Harvest. This is the busiest time of the year and also the time when we get the most requests for bulk orders. In case you are not sure; bulk Walnuts means that there is no “extra Packaging” the Walnuts are in boxes lined with Food grade plastic bags. Look at my photos on our Face book page or Website. This is a great option if you want to freeze the Walnuts for continued use and are not interested in a fancy bag and labels. In the past shipping charges for bulk required : you giving me your address up front, I researching shipping options: Post office, Fed Ex,Ups, Gso. Then after the charge was determined you snail mailed me a check and once check arrived and cleared, I ship the Walnuts . The only request for improvement I hear is : how can we reduce shipping charges? So this season we are trying free shipping for our 100 % organic new crop Walnuts for 7 lb bulk, 11 lb bulk, 25 lb bulk. We are shipping in the “it fits it ships” boxes from the post office for the 7 lb and 11 lb parcels. These are priority shipping rates to all states in the USA. For the 25 lb we are using 4 day ground Fed Ex for all states except CA, AZ, NV those have a overnight shipper GSO. Until my order page is changed, use the coupon code during check out. After Nov I will have a proper shopping cart and things will be even easier and speeder when ordering.
We hope that this will put big smile on your face now.
Last night we had the pleasure attending a fundraiser for the non profit: Project Hope and Fairness an organization started by Eve and Tom Neuhaus the owners of Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates which provides MMOrganics with Organic and Fair Trade Chocolates for the Chocolate Covered Walnuts we sell here in Paso Robles on our Farm stand and website. It was very important to us as a family to support Fair Trade in the coco industry, but I realize now that there is some confusion on what Fair Trade means and why it is necessary for all of us to support it when ever possible. You might not know that the coco industry is sliding toward a supply crisis because of the simple truth that it is not profitable to be a coco farmer. They net less than 1 % of the value of the coco beans they grow. The coco trees are aging and the replants are often rubber trees. The farmers are aging too, the young people migrate to cities looking for better wages. 90% of all the coco grown in the world comes from small family orchards. Because of their physical isolation and fragmentation they have no bargaining power when it comes to selling their products. The fair trade program aims to put things right. Farmers get paid a fair price for their products, they get access to healthcare, education for family members is available and clean water projects are implemented. Farmers who join this program have to do their part, many requirements on their end need to be full- filled before they are accepted into the program. For example: No child labor is allowed on Farms that participate. The Project Hope and Fairness goes a step further.Tom travels to Africa and is setting up small chocolate kitchens, bringing over the machines and teaching skills so that farmers are learning to turn the coco bean into chocolate. This value add process creates many jobs and ensures a sustainable income for the farmer. Go to www.projecthopeandfairness.org to read their story and make a donation if you can. We @ mmorganics are doing our part by donating part of the proceeds of the sale for our 4 oz and 8 oz bags of chocolate covered Walnuts to this non profit and we hope to be able to enjoy many more years of Fair Trade Chocolate.
Many of my customers ask me, “Why are you calling your organic Port wine a dessert wine or Port ‘style’ wine?” I generally have to take a deep breath first before I calmly explain that I would love to call my Port just Port, but the term Port is now copyright protected as of 2005. Only wine that comes from the region of Portugal can now be labeled as Port. If your vineyard/label existed before the 2005 date, then you are “grandfathered” into the usage of the name Port. Officially I have to call my organic Port wine, Port style wine.
Our organic Port wine is made from 3 Portuguese grape varietals, fortified with organic grape brandy and has an alcohol content of about 18%. Still, I must call it Port style. A big disadvantage, when it comes to introducing the wine to customers. Who “googles” Port style wine or dessert wine? Even several of my vendors do not display my Port in their Port section in their store.
So, it has been my quest to go to as many tastings, open houses, and fundraisers as possible that are willing to feature our wine. Doing a wine tasting is so fun! I especially love it when people approach me and then say, “Oh, I don’t normally drink Port.” Once coached, they have this big facial transformation once they sip/taste/drink our organic Port wine. My favorite comments from the tastings are: “Berry, chocolate, plummy,” “Smooth, goes down nice,” “Lingers, balanced, not too sweet,” “Delicious,” “Yummy,” and “Gimme more!”