In July of 2013, the irrigation well failed in one of our bigger and nicer citrus orchards. The trees wilted and died before a new well could be drilled. We did not own the orchard, which was several acres of Minneola Tangelos and Navel oranges, but we had farmed it for over ten years and TFF subscribers had enjoyed the fruit. During that time the orchard changed owners, and our relationship with the new owner was never great. When the trees died, our lease ended and we vacated the property.
In the wake of this loss, however, several new opportunities came up. First, friends of mine in Winters purchased a beautiful grove of mature navel orange trees just down the road from the dead orchard. They are not farmers, and asked us to help them manage and harvest the orchard. The oranges are not organic, but we have begun the three-year process to transition them.
As a result of the drought and the December 2014 freeze, the new orchard had a very light crop this year. However, the trees are large and healthy, and we anticipate that by next year there will be more than enough fruit to make up for the loss of the other orchard.
The fruit in your boxes today comes from the new orchard. It is very rare that include any produce in our CSA boxes that is not certified organic. In this situation, however, we are doing so in order to achieve a long-term goal of securing a new source of organic citrus for you. The fruit has not been sprayed with any pesticides, however, the trees were fertilized in early spring 2014 with a conventional fertilizer. Next year’s crop will be fertilized organically; in fact, we have already applied compost.
Replacing the lost Tangelos will be a much longer term project. Later this year we will be planting an orchard of spring-ripening mandarins just across the street from the “new”navel orange orchard. Planting a new citrus orchard is a giant risk, especially given how erratic the weather has become. A freeze can kill or severely damage the young trees before they even start to bear fruit. However, the new location for the orchard has the right combination of water and location (a south-facing slope) so we are cautiously optimistic.
We are always looking for ways to grow more crops locally for your CSA boxes. Unfortunately, most of our efforts take years to come to fruition (pun intended) and success is not guaranteed. We appreciate your support and understanding in helping us achieve this goal.