You may be aware that there’s a heat wave happening this 4th of July week, and some of you may be wondering and worrying how Terra Firma’s Team Members are dealing with it. Over the last few years we have dedicated a lot of time and energy to making sure that everyone here stays safe in the heat. Hot weather is an unavoidable reality of farming in the Central Valley. It’s both a blessing and a curse: the crops we grow love it (up to a point), but most human beings don’t.
Of course, the definition of “hot weather” is quite different here than in the Bay Area. Most days during the summer the temperature hits the mid-90s for an hour or two in the afternoon, but the mornings are in the 60s and 70s. It’s fairly common to see everyone on the farm working in sweatshirts in the morning — we start work as early as 5:30 to take advantage of the cool. And on a normal summer day, we are done with work by the time temperatures peak in the afternoon. The National Weather Service in Sacramento refers to these days as “warm” or “very warm”.
Still, our state government a few years back decided that “hot” means 85 degrees — which is what we consider “cool” around here in the summer. So every morning around 9 a.m., we set up shade structures around the fields where folks are working. We also have many fields bordered by trees. And we keep coolers full of cold water within walking distance and top them off all day. We do all of our packing in an insulated building with a swamp cooler that keeps the temperature around 80 degrees.
Everyone on the farm is trained to recognize heat illness and injury, and what to do if it happens. Thankfully, we have never had an incident at Terra Firma.
The biggest change we made in the way we deal with heat, though, is planning for extreme weather events like the one we’re having right now. It was 105 yesterday, and over night it didn’t cool off much — it was still 75 degrees at 5:30 this morning. Today it could hit 110 easily. Working in these conditions is exhausting and potentially dangerous.
When this happens, we start slashing items of the “To-Do” list, eliminating any non-essential work. Yesterday we sent everyone home when the thermometer hit 100 at 1 pm, and today folks will probably go home even earlier. Everyone gets sent to harvest the most perishable items: tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, etc. These vegetables actually ripen even faster when it’s very hot, and so timely harvest is critical. We are all motivated to get it all done and get out of the heat.
So you can enjoy your summer produce this week and every week knowing that the folks who picked and packed it are staying safe in the heat.
Have a Great 4th of July,