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As part of our 4-part series with California Cling Peaches, we thought it would be fun to sit down with an actual grower whose juicy peaches will ultimately end up on your grocery shelves.
Anthony Laney from Twin Peaks has been growing California Cling Peaches since 2003. His orchard is located in Yuba City, California and he is one of 700 growers providing the flavours of Summer in a can of peaches all-year round.
FBC - Hi Anthony, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. Can you tell us a bit about your orchard?
AL - I'm a fourth-generation farmer with a 52-acre orchard and doing this has always been in my DNA. I worked for a while in the Bay Area (San Francisco) but the opportunity presented itself to come back "home" and do this. I have fond memories of being a young boy and walking the orchard with my grandfather and eating a peach off a tree with him. It's pretty special to be able to share that experience with my children nowadays.
FBC - I think we can all picture that image! How many workers (seasonal and full-time) do you employ?
AL - My family employs approximately 12 full time employees and close to 80 employees during harvest.
FBC - That's pretty incredible. Sounds like a very coordinated effort takes place to put those peaches in a can. With it being a family business, it must have its challenges but also has many rewarding benefits?
AL - There are challenges in any workplace but in my case, the positives far outweigh anything else. I'm lucky to have the opportunity to work closely with my family. For instance, I work with my cousin, Justin Micheli. But he is not just a relative, but I consider him a trusted member of the team and a colleague who I work closely with and can depend on 365/24/7 for the success of the family business.
FBC - What does a typical day look like on the orchard?
AL - We are up very early every morning. My day usually starts at 5 AM. Some of the daily tasks we tackle are...
- Walking the orchards daily for fruit size, maturity and color so we can deliver the very best peach
- Ensuring moisture levels are adequate and can support the fruit load
- Monitoring pests to ensure protection
- Checking for any other damage, like mildew or brown rot
- Making sure fruit bins are delivered and are stationed in the field
- Keeping an eye on tree support, and making sure wiring and tree props are sufficient to support the tree as the fruit mature
FBC - Sounds like a there is a ton of work that goes into preparing for the harvest period. What does the orchard operation look like during that time of year?
AL - During harvest time, we are working with our pickers, our machine operators, truckers and processors. We are making sure field conditions are set, ladders and employee support systems are in place and fruit bins are in the field. We will pick the entire orchard in a day or two or even three. As we move through the block, our eyes are on the next block of peaches to pick and we are constantly deliberating with our farm managers on where to go next so we can prepare that orchard for picking. It’s a constant buzz of activity staying ahead of the picking crew.
FBC - How would the harvest period compare to the work you do during the rest of the year?
AL - Harvest is an incredibly busy time of year but it is also one of the most rewarding times. This is when we take a year’s worth of hard work and deliver our crop to the processor. There is nothing like the smell of a peach orchard at harvest.
FBC - You mentioned a team of 80 during the harvest. What is happening during that period of time?
AL - Yes, we bring in a huge team for the harvest. They work in the field, picking and sorting the fruit. Once the fruit is in the bin, we pull those bins out of the field and transport the fruit to my family’s receiving station. It’s a delicate balance between being in the field helping our employees and being at the grading table seeing how your fruit is being graded. From there, you try to make the appropriate adjustments should you run into any issues. Then it’s back to the field to make those adjustments.
It’s a whirlwind of events and filled with anxiety and pride; a lot of hard work comes down to these harvest days.
FBC - What major changes in the peach growing process have you seen over the decades?
AL - We are starting to see some changes in how we structure the tree. Our industry has trial orchards looking at high density plantings, like what the olive oil industry has leveraged here in California ten years ago. There are more trees per acre, however they’re trained to grow smaller. The theory is that we can potentially use machine harvesters or more practically, we will need smaller amounts of laborers to pick the crop since we won’t need ladders to pick these trees. As such, the theory is that we can pick the same number of acres with less people.
FBC - What are some of the farming practices and conservation methods do you use?
AL - We converted our ranch from flood irrigation to micro-jet irrigation a few years ago. This helps conserve water while also focusing nutrient applications to the tree, decreased the number of tractor passes, helps to reduce the amount of fertilizer we need to use and allows us to spoon feed the tree.
We work with a Pest Control Advisor, and we walk the orchard on a weekly basis to check for any problems. In addition, we monitor soil moisture with soil probes. We also monitor evapotranspiration along with how the trees look and the fruit-load on the trees.
FBC - This was really terrific. I think we all have a greater understanding and appreciation of what goes into growing the very best peaches! Would you be able to share a recipe? You must have a favourite way to enjoy the fruits of your labour!
AL - Of course! Nothing beats enjoying it right off the tree or right out of the can but adding them to a sandwich is a personal favourite of mine. That burst of flavour and juiciness never lets me down.
FBC - Great, thanks so much for your time Anthony. It was peachy to sit down with you and have a chat (sorry, I couldn't help myself)
AL - My pleasure, always fun to share what what goes on around the orchard. And I've never heard that one before 😉
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, for grilling
- 4 slices thick-cut rustic bread
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) basil pesto
- 4 oz (115 g) brie cheese, cut into 8 equal slices
- 2 small handfuls of fresh arugula
- 1 chicken breast, cut lengthwise into two slices, and grilled
- ½ can (7oz / 200 mL) California cling sliced peaches, drained and patted dry, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 tsp (10 mL) fresh thyme leaves
- Lightly butter all flour slices of bread and place butter side down on a cutting board or platter. Spread two slices of the bread with pesto, and layer on top each; half of the brie cheese, arugula, grilled chicken breast, sliced peaches, thyme leaves, and remaining brie cheese. Top with remaining slices of bread, butter side out.
- Heat skillet over medium-low heat.
- Place the sandwiches, butter side down in the skillet and cover with a lid. Grill until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip sandwiches over and grill another 4 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sandwich is warmed through.
- Remove from skillet, slice in half, and serve immediately.
For more peachy recipes, check out this Peach Barley Salad with Asparagus and Feta, go savoury with a Chipotle Peach Chili or start your morning off right with Make Ahead Peach and Muesli Smoothie Jars. And here are four easy ways to add peaches to any meal.
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