Farmers enjoy rain, but stall harvest


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Standing water could still be found in almond orchards Wednesday afternoon after more than an inch of rain fell earlier this week. The rain caused some farmers to halt harvest for a few days, but they all welcome the wet weather.

 

Madera County received more than an inch of rain last week and farmers were happy about it, but a little perturbed.


The inch of rain is much needed during these years of drought. However, it came right in the middle of harvest season for Madera County’s grape and almond growers.


Nick Davis, past president of the Madera County Farm Bureau, had to halt harvest on his wine grapes because so much rain fell that it was too muddy to get his equipment through the vineyards.


“The rain is good, but it’s bad,” he said. “It’s good because it’s so much. It’s bad because it stops us from harvesting our grapes.”


Davis’s family farm — Davis Vineyards — has 550 acres of almonds and 750 acres of wine grapes.


“We are on the tail end of almond harvesting,” he said. “The almonds have been shook and are on the ground. They are in the drying process. Then, we sweep them up and take them to the huller. We also have almonds ready for pick-up.”


The September rain is rare for Madera County. Davis isn’t sure when the last September rain was and isn’t sure how to react.


“I haven’t experienced what a September rain is going to do,” he said. “This is pretty unusual. You have to ask an old-timer that has been through one of these a long time ago to tell us what is going to happen. We’re all curious to what it’s going to do about the crop. We are calling our insurance company to tell them we had a significant amount of rain.”


What also helped in Davis’ decision to halt harvest was that the wineries closed and stopped accepting grapes.


“There’s some solace knowing the winery is closed so you feel you don’t have to do what it takes to get the fruit off,” he said. “You don’t have try to get the grape harvested from the field to get the truck stuck. Someone has to tell you to quit.


“There’s this strong urge, at least with me as a farmer, to get the crop off. I want to get it off and get it safe and sound. I want to get it out of Mother Nature’s way. Yet, it rained so much that we can’t do anything about it. It’s out of our control.”


Another reason Davis really wanted to get his harvest done was for his workers. By stopping harvest, that meant he had to tell his employees there was no work for them that day.


“That’s hard to hear,” Davis said. “They’ve got bills to pay and make their ends meet. We feel bad on that front. What can we do to keep them busy? It hurts all around.”


In the end, Davis was happy for the rain and also happy he waited to harvest his grapes so his equipment wouldn’t get stuck in the mud like it did the week before. At least now, he knows what it takes to get his equipment out of the mud.


“We got stuck in the mud last week,” Davis said. “That was our fault. We were irrigating prior to harvest to keep the roots wet. We had a drip irrigation hose that was cut in half. The previous day, we had been irrigating, but ran into a wet spot. That is the reason why we don’t want to risk harvesting in the rain/mud. We don’t want any more headaches at two in the morning.”