According to the March 18th, 2006 San Francisco Chronicle article “Apricots fall from favor,” in 1980 24,900 acres of California farmland was devoted to apricots while only 14,500 are today. The article reminded me of a conversation I had about a month ago with a stone fruit grower of ours in Reedley. “Land out here,” he said, “is now going for nearly $50,000 per acre. We’re one of the fastest growing housing markets in California. On a good year, a farmer makes less than $1,000 per acre. It’s tough for a lot of us to look away from making over 50 years of profit in one transaction- with no threat of bad weather or crummy pricing. A lot of us weigh the thought of never having to worry again about sending kids to college or retiring against the loyalty of being a multi-generational family farm.”
I’ve mentioned before that in the short time I’ve been in business I’ve seen older varieties of fruit, like the Regina peach, not just fall out of favor but disappear as farmers sell their land. We are losing interesting varieties of fruit. It’s a trend that concerns me on several levels from fruit variety nostalgia, to the ethics of land stewardship, to food security amid a growing population. It brings to mind “guns or butter,” that college 101-macroeconomic theory that attempts to explain what combination of things a society values and spends its resources on. Today in California, that model could easily be “farms or houses.” In the summer of 2005, a peach grower near Fresno told me: “If I sold my farm, my grandfather would roll over in his grave.” He smiled half-heartedly after saying this, but his puzzled look spoke more than his words. Guns, butter, or fruit – I’m sure he, and many other family farmers are wrestling with this daily. We’ll be watching this and continuing to look for farmers to support who are growing exotic and excellent fruit.
Refrigerate those apples!
I mentioned before that during the transition from winter to spring, we change apple growers quite often. I would also like to recommend that you put your apples in the refrigerator to get the best “crisp-snap” that you can. The gold blush apple is a favorite of mine. It is a slightly softer apple (like a golden delicious) with a red blush. I think it has a refreshing vanilla finish to its flavor.
Enjoy and be fruitful! – Chris Mittelstaedt firstname.lastname@example.org