Guns, Butter and Fruit - March 27, 2006

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According to the 3/18/06 San Francisco Chronicle article "Apricots fall from favor," in 1980 24,900 acres of California farm land 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 are weighing 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 eight short years 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 a number of levels from fruit variety nostalgia, to the ethics of land stewardship, to food security in the midst of a growing population. It brings to mind "guns or butter," that college101-macro-economic 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." Last summer 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 troubled 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 interesting and great fruit.
Refrigerate those apples!
I mentioned last week that this is the time of year that we change apple growers quite often. I would also like to recommend that you put your apples in the refrigerator in order to get the best "crisp-snap" that you can. This week we have Fuji's, pink lady's and gold blush apples - all are organic and all are from family farms. The pink lady grower we are buying from gave us a mix of sizes so don't be surprised if they range from an apple that fits in the palm of your hand to one that is as big as a large fist. 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!"


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