The summer is flying by and every day is a headlong rush of fruit picking, fruit-packing, fruit-drying, fruit-freezing, jam-making, pastry-baking, truck-loading, sales calls, and accounting reports. All of these productive activities are on a daily basis viewed by visitors who want a tour. Seems like a tour-a-day around here!
Meanwhile, the process of actually “farming” also continues at a fast and furious pace, as orchards must be irrigated, fertilized, weed controlled, gophers gunned down, squirrels scuttled, birds abated, and worms befuddled. Is it war? Or is it an elaborately choreographed dance, or a Greek Comedy?
I really enjoy checking in with my “tree team”….the picking crew. The team leader, Antonio, a man of few words, always knows exactly what’s going on with each variety of fruit. Together we look at fruit in picking totes as it’s coming off the trees to evaluate ripeness, sizes, defects, and quantities. Then we discuss which block of trees needs to be picked next, based mostly on stages of ripeness. It is such a pleasure to work with someone who is passionate about his work and who knows the fruit so intimately. As we examine the fruit together the sounds of a happy picking crew bring a smile to my face as I listen to them singing and joking with one another! Fruit picked for us with lots of laughter and good cheer!
The ground team’s work is grimmer….grinding roots and branches in a wood shredder is not for the faint hearted! The wood is heavy and hard to handle…gloves required! The work is noisy, dusty, and dangerous. I am very grateful to these guys for what they do to help make compost happen for us. The rodent control work is in stark contrast to the teamwork of the ground and tree teams. It’s the work of a single man, done in stealth and solitude. It’s mostly quiet work, occasionally punctuated by the sharp crack of a shotgun, signifying a successful kill. Another dead gopher, another tree saved. This part of farming is probably in the “war” category.
At the end of the day, I feel like the maestro having creatively conducted another dramatic performance of Mother Nature’s opera!
About Antonio Magnana, Frog Hollow Farm's Picking Crew Leader:
Antonio Magana is a very important guy at Frog Hollow Farm. He has been with the farm for 24 years and has been the fearless leader of our Tree Team for the last 16 years. His team of 23 works year round on our trees. They handle planting, pruning, thinning, tagging our trees with pheromone confusion tags for pest management, and of course, harvesting. Under Antonio’s careful management, our orchard thrives and produces the delicious fruits you receive in your boxes.
Farmer Al fondly remembers “fruit flying off the tree” the first time he watched Antonio thin a peach tree. Initially hired as a temporary employee when Farmer Al was still a beginning farmer, Antonio was quickly hired full-time when Al recognized his skill as a thinner.
Thinning the trees is an important job. Many trees produce too much fruit. If all the fruit is left on the tree to ripen, the fruit will be small and of poor quality. A good thinner requires balance and strength to perch atop a tall ladder, as well as evaluative skills and decisiveness. Anyone can learn to thin a tree, but an excellent thinner like Antonio has a special ability to recognize which fruit is best left on the tree to ripen and which fruit should be removed. Farmer Al refers to his work as pure genius.
Antonio, also warmly referred to as “Magana” on the farm, is father to four children - three boys and one girl, all of who have worked on the farm at some time. His daughter Angelica is one of our packing specialists and handles all of our VIP shipments. His favorite fruit is the Ranier cherry. Antonio and his crew were busy picking his favorite variety of cherry for your boxes this week. We hope you will enjoy them as much as he does.