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John Ceteras runs the Blue Heron Farm in Capay Valley, California, a rural area northwest of Sacramento. When they were starting out, Blue Heron Farm used conventional fertilizers and chemicals, which nearly all of Ceteras’ neighbors were also working with. At the time, it seemed nearly impossible to use all-natural methods to grow produce on a large scale. When his wife Gretchen had their first child, however, Ceteras decided that it might be better to go back to an organic farming approach.

Though he had previous experience with organic gardening, he wasn’t sure if he could maintain an entire farm using those methods. By getting closer with his farmer friends and neighbors in Yolo County — which has a large percentage of organic farmland — Blue Heron was eventually able to sustain their soil without toxic insecticides like DDT.

In this video segment, Ceteras explains that all farms have problems with pests, but a major issue for Blue Heron Farm is the California red scale. This tiny insect seeks out a plant or fruit, settles down, mates, and then spreads its offspring. Infested with red scales, a citrus tree will produce less fruit at lower quality, which is problematic for a small farm like Blue Heron.

To combat them in an organic way, Ceteras releases tiny wasps into the orchard that parasitize the red scales and keep their population down. This natural pest control for farms does not rely on harmful chemicals, so it gives Ceteras the freedom to grow fruit that is healthier for people and the environment.

To deal with weeds on the farm, Ceteras employs natural Weed Eaters, a tractor, and a mower, instead of spraying the weeds down. This approach takes hard work and more manual labor, resulting in a higher-priced product, but it’s worth it. The extra premium on fruit pays for farmers like Ceteras to take care of the land correctly, so that delicious, natural fruit can continue to grow. These farmers are “stewards of the land,” maintaining the soil for our future generations. Blue Heron utilizes compost, gypsum, feather meal, cover crops, and other natural materials to replenish the soil year after year.

Together with the FruitGuys, Ceteras’ family farm can help deliver the freshest oranges to happy customers all around California. Sustainable and organic materials, hand labor, and natural pest control for farms will lead us to a brighter agricultural future.

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