Disclosure: I was invited down to the Central Valley with the California Farm Water Coalition to explore the San Joaquin Valley, Meet some of the farmers, and learn about California’s Water Processes for Farmers along the way. Here’s a little bit of what we explored!
White Nectarines from Hudson Farms
I don’t know about you, but I love the summer. The beginning of May and June for Berry Season! The beginning of July for Fresh Corn, and of course, the middle of July when those fresh Stone Fruits start appearing (peaches, nectarines, plums, etc!)
A few little facts about the San Joaquin Valley:
Did you know they GROW over 350 Crops in the San Joaquin Valley? And California grows well over 400 crops across the state?
Did you also know that Fresno accounts for 20% of jobs in Agriculture? When, across the US, just 2% of jobs go towards Agriculture?
There’s more Turkeys than people in Fresno!
Fresno is the #3 County in Farming in State of CA
California Produces 2/3 of US Fruit!
Wawona Frozen Foods:
Our first stop on our tour was to Wawona Frozen Foods! Wawona Frozen Foods specializes in the growing and freezing of fresh fruits. Beginning as a small farm over fifty years ago, we continue today as a grower, processor and major supplier of fruit and fruit products.
Wawona Frozen Foods began in 1945 as peach growers and as Wawona Packing. They began with Stone Fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines).
In 1963, they turned their Stonefruit Packing into Wawona Frozen Foods with their first pound of peaches! Throughout the years, there were over 15 Packing Houses in the area, now, Wawona Frozen Foods is the ONLY one left and produces 70-75 billion pounds of frozen peaches!
Today, Wawona Frozen Foods works with 40-45 outside growers! They hand deliver the bins, trucks then pick up the bins, and deliver back to the processing plant. The Peaches get picked 4-5 days later than fresh houses for a more mature, ripe fruit.
90% of Peaches being produced are freestones while 10% are the clingstone varieties (used for canning!) There are over 60 varieties of Freestone Peaches available, at Wawona, they work with about 40-45 varieties!
In 1 Shift, during peak season, they can process around 45,000 pounds of peaches! That’s about 80,000-90,000 pounds per day!
They even have their own lab for inspecting the fruit quality, and for food safety! Their fruit goes to suppliers like Costco, and they are a huge supplier for local, school programs! (You know those fruit cups?) Guess where they come from?
The Peach Tree Fruit Stand:
After touring Wawona Frozen Fruits, we drove a few blocks over to their little Peach Tree Fruit Stand! Trust me, it’s worth a visit:
At the Fruit Stand, they have both fresh and frozen peaches available for purchase, along with their well known Peach Jewels, a frozen mini peach pie that you bake in the oven as you dust them in sugar.
Probably one of the most adorable Peach Stands I’ve ever seen! Their Peach Stand is apart of the Fresno Fruit Trail, an entire trail around Fresno County of the fresh bounty produce you can find in the area! Spend an afternoon exploring the Fruit Stands, talking with Farmers of the Area, and stocking up on the fresh produce, direct from the farmers of the area!
Our next stop was a few towns over in Sanger, California to the adorable Fruit Stand of Hudson Farms, which sits right on their farm property.
Hudson Farms are huge producers of Peaches, Nectarines, and Plums! They also provide Fresh Corn, Armenian Cucumbers, Red Onions, Fresh Cut Flowers, Jams, and more at their fruit stand. They are 5th and 6th Generation Farmers.
Liz Hudson greeted us in a very kind way upon our arrival with a plethora of food offerings: Fresh Peaches, Nectarines, Peach Cobbler, Fresh Jams, and more!
She even pulled out a Corn Cob, and had us try FRESH, RAW Corn! Which was the best:
But, let’s be serious for a moment: The drought the past 4 years was really rough for the San Joaquin Valley, and especially for Hudson Farms. Last year, their well dried up completely!
In the past 3 years, they’ve added 3 new wells to their property! And, guess what? Adding a well to your property doesn’t always guaranteed that there will be a water supply waiting for you on the other end! Imagine putting in a 130,000 dollar investment to not find water on the other end? This is just one of the risks that farmers take! A well can cost anywhere from 75,000 to 125,000! Not only that, but there’s a huge waitlist for putting a well in, it can take up to a year or more!
Luckily, this year, has been a good one for Hudson Farms!
Liz even showed us the difference in sized fruits, and how some customers are looking for the “bonus size”, and they’re willing to pay a little more if you have that for them:
Notice the nectarine in the bottom left corner? She showed us that is what you want to look for when picking a nectarine out at a Farmer’s Market or in a store, look for the yellowish color inside, near the stem! This will help tell you that the Nectarine is ripe and ready to go.
While we were there, they were in the process of harvesting fruit for Wawona Frozen Foods! So we actually got to sneak a peek of the harvesters:
Stone Fruit Harvesting is a very labor intensive job! To this day, they still climb up ladders and hand pick all of the fruit being harvested. They can harvest a tree up to 4 different times.
Upon arriving back to Liz’s Fruit Stand, we noticed the herb garden and flowers right behind it! We asked her if we could walk through. I was instantly drawn to the Sunflowers that were in full bloom season:
And yes, you can buy Sunflowers right out of her fruit stand! And guess what? Her fruit stand is a part of the Fresno County Fruit Trail also!
I really wanted to showcase these 2 places on our first day of the tour! Future posts will talk about Olive Oil, Melon Growing, and Grapes that Turn to Raisins! Stay tuned.