My three-year-old niece takes a sip from her paper water cup and stops mid-gulp. Her pink Minnie Mouse ears are slipping. She purses her lips intently, tilts her head back and looks skyward as she tries with one hand to adjust the strap that holds the pink princess beanie onto her head. Finally satisfied that all is right in the world of Disney fashion, she flicks the crinoline veil from back to front over her eyes, smiles, and bobbles over to me. “Cwiss?” she says. “Want som wadder?” She holds up a paper cup. I lean down and say softly “No thank you, but maybe the plant over there might like some.” She thinks for a moment and then turns and walks to the plant. She tilts her head to one side and leans her Minnie Mouse ears into the leaves. She pulls her head out, blinks loudly and looks disappointed. “The pwant sez no Cwiss.” She calls to me. “But maybwe dis’ won wants swome.” She starts walking around interviewing plants to see if they are thirsty.
What my niece doesn’t know is that stone fruit farmers, much like her except without the pink mouse ears, are doing the same thing with their summer fruit trees as they prepare for the fall and winter’s sleep. They are asking them if they would like a little water.
One of the farmers watering and pruning his summer fruit trees is our friend Ronnie at Cruz Farms. Ronnie told us a few months ago that many small family orchards in Fresno are having a hard time keeping their farms in the fruit business. One in particular was located in an area where many orchards are being pulled out and planted with corn because of government subsidies for corn for ethanol and cattle feed. This 25-acre plot was owned by a family friend who wanted to keep his 40-year-old plum orchard going but was having a hard time. Ronnie, FruitGuys COO Erik, and I sat down and came up with a plan: we would get into farming. Part of The FruitGuys mission is to support and sustain small family farmers and his next phase-going beyond just buying product from them-but investing in their farms, is exciting. We’re looking forward to becoming more involved in issues like preserving small family farmland, sustainability, water conservation, reduction of pesticide use, and increasing organic and natural farm practices. Plus we’ll have some wonderful unique plum varieties in our boxes next season. So, like my niece, we’ll be asking our trees what they might need, just without the Minnie Mouse ears.