Monday, October 8, 2012

A tour of Baker Farming Co.

This past Friday I had the opportunity to visit Baker Farming Co. in Firebaugh, CA. Baker Farming Co. is a family farm and is managed by Sergio O. who has worked for on their farm for almost 28 years. Sergio was my tour guide and a great one at that! The farm is in the midst of harvesting grapes and almonds, their two main crops.

We started off by driving through a small portion of their 11,000 acres until we reached rows and rows of grapes. Baker Farming Co. grows 7 different varieties of grapes including Merlot, Muscat and Cabernet Sauvignon. The farm has about 2,600 acres of grapes. Baker Farming Co. sells their grapes to local company The Wine Group who then makes the wine and bottles it under a variety of labels. Here are some pictures of the grape harvest:
Grape Harvester

Harvesting in progress
Grapes on the vine
Then it was off to a quick stop to check out some pomegranates. They had already completed the first pomegranate harvest of the season and are awaiting the second. Sergio explained that the first harvest is used for the fresh market which means those are the pomegranates sold in stores. This second harvest is used for pomegranate juice.

After enjoying a pomegranate fresh off the vine, we headed over to see the almond harvest. Baker Farming Co. has about 6,500 acres of almonds. Last year they produced 16 million pounds of almonds and are on track to produce about 12-13 million pounds this year. Having never seen an almond harvest before I was amazed at the process. First, a machine called an almond shaker grasps the trunk of the tree and literally shakes the almonds off the tree. From there they are “swept” into a nice line, called a window, down the center of the tree row and then another machine comes by and collects them. Baker Farming Co. has a processing facility on site so once collected the almonds are taken there where they are hulled and shelled and eventually ready to send to stores. Sergio told me that nothing is wasted at Baker Farming Co., so the shells the almonds are in are ground and sold to ranchers for feed.  And now, pictures from the almond harvest:

Recently shaken almonds
Almonds collected in a field cart
As we all know, without water these crops would not grow. According to Sergio, water is one of their largest expenses on the farm. Baker Farming Co. pays anywhere from $300-$450/acre foot. Sergio says Baker Farming Co. finds that it is just as cost efficient for them to buy their water than to run wells because of the cost of diesel and electricity.

I’d like to thank Baker Farming Co. and Sergio for being such great hosts and for teaching me about their farm and for providing me with a first hand look at harvesting. It was a morning well spent! 

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