Today we learned about growing oranges. Sue booked us an appointment to tour the Seven Sycamores Farm east of Visalia.
When we arrived at the farm we were greeted by Brittany and joined by a young couple from Austin, TX who had also signed up for the tour. We were soon joined by our tour guide and the owner of the farm, Farmer Bob. Bob’s mother and father had started the farm in the late 1920s. Bob started a public relations firm in Oregon than he ran for fifty years. When his dad died in 1979 he took on the additional responsibility of assisting his mother in running the farm. For 23 years he commuted to the farm from Oregon for about a week out of each month. Upon his mother’s death he retired from his firm and assumed full-time responsibility for the farm.
In addition to raising oranges and giving tours the farm has developed a side business of hosting weddings in their picturesque courtyard. They average about seventy weddings a year.
We began our tour by learning about Navel and Valencia oranges. Each navel orange tree produces two crops a year while the Valencia tree requires twelve months for its oranges to ripen. Although the peak periods for navels are April and November and Valencias ripen in April, the farm harvests oranges throughout the year. Bob said that the fruit is maintained best on the tree.
We crossed the street and took a look at the house where Bob had grown up. His dad had moved the house intact from Visalia to its current location in 1927. Bob was born in 1931. Bob’s parents had started a nursery next to the house that later evolved into growing camellias. That area has now been redone into a courtyard where weddings are held. Nearby was a refurbished observation tower that the family had used during World War II to aid in guarding against a Japanese attack coming down the Joaquin Valley toward Los Angeles.
As a hobby the farm has a number of high end chickens and xxx that are mostly for the enjoyment of visitors. After spending some time with the birds we went to the orchard and learned that the trees are trimmed top, side and bottom for ease of harvest and access to sunlight. They are also sprayed to prevent bug infestations and to fertilize. Water is provided by a highly efficient irrigation system where the dispensing rate of each nozzle can be individually set.
The current drought has exacerbated the fight over water that has gone on for years between environmentalists and the farmers. Bob said that 400,000 acres of farmland went fallow this year due to lack of water. Seven Sycamore Farms is divided into a 100 acre plot and a separate 82 acre plot both relying on wells drilled into the aquifer a couple of hundred feet down. They are experiencing a water shortage on the 82-acre site but do not currently have a problem on the site where we visited.
We learned a great deal on our tour and finished up with some orange slices and orange juice. We left more knowledgeable and carrying a gratis bag of oranges.