California Dates Being Bagged for Protection
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Tucked into the southeastern
corner of Imperial County alongside the Arizona border and Mexico border is
the Bard Valley where high quality dates are grown.
|Ranch Managers Ron Hill, left |
and Steve McCollum
This week, workers are on 60-foot
high reach lifts, putting protected bags around
the date-fruiting branches.
“The dates are ripening up,
turning from green to yellow, and that’s when the birds start coming in. So we
protect our dates with the bags,” said Ron Hill, farm manager of Royal Medjool
Date Garden in Winter Haven, Calif. “It also protects the fruit from harsh wind
storms, which could knock the dates off their fruiting branches,” said Hill,
who has been managing the 400 acre operation since Jan. 1997.
Workers will come back in 7-10 days before harvest and close the bottom of the bags to catch any ripe
fruit that may detach from the branches.
“The bags stay completely
closed as we get to harvest,” said Hill. “It takes 3 to 4 trips through the
date gardens to harvest all the ripe fruit.”
Hill noted that currently
labor supply is decent. “We have about 60 employees getting the job done, but we will
ramp up to about 175 around August 20, which is harvest time,” he said.
He explained that a thinning operation in May is the peak season
for labor. “We need about 260 farm employees, and we were okay this year,” he
Hill said the fresh date
market is good. About 95 percent of the dates go to the fresh market. That last five percent are for those delicious date rolls enjoyed by many!
|Pictured are bagged date palms on trees significantly younger than the tall trees found in the Bard Valley.|
Labels: Bard Valley, California Dates, Imperial County, Ron Hill