Forever Grateful Ranch is in Chowchilla, CA, 150 miles east-southeast of San Francisco, CA, where owner Jim Chew grows pistachios using dual-line drip micro-irrigation, and utilizes a no-till grass cover crop.
Nov 19, 2018.
Additional support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS), includes incentive funding toward irrigation water management, soil moisture monitoring, a no-till grass cover crop, nutrient budgeting, and compost applications.
Mr. Chew grew up 20 miles north in Stevenson, CA where his father raised beef-cows. He then attended Modesto Junior College. After receiving an associate degree, he joined the Peace Corps who sent him to Africa. While there Chew developed a 4-H program in Lobatse, Botswana, where he taught and supervised modern swineherd management, and subsistence family farming plots. In the suburbs, about 90 miles northwest of Johannesburg, he operated a feeding program that provided meals and soap for those in need.
He returned to California and Fresno State University to study plant and animal sciences. But, before long he headed to Richmond, CA to be with his future wife, Maryam. While there he graduated with an engineering degree. For the next 15-years, he was an engineer in the San Francisco Bay area. Throughout that time he was a single foster parent to 15 children. Saving money from his civil service employment allowed him to move back to the Merced County area and purchase this home and orchard.
Now disabled with a prosthetic leg, he receives some help from USDA AgrAbility. AgrAbility seeks to enhance the quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities.
Work on the pistachio farm varies through the seasons. This week he is using a soil moisture monitoring station to help determine how much irrigation water his trees need. He also applies compost (at a rate of 10 tons per acre) in the fall to hold on to soil moisture and deliver nutrients to the trees over the winter.
However, first, he and his son Sonny will prepare his tractor for the task of pulling a large blower that is used to remove debris and “mummy nuts” from the berms, a pest control practice. “Mummy nuts” are nuts that fail to come off with the harvest. They harbor pests for next season, so they are removed from the trees, blown to the aisles and shredded. These tasks and just getting around the farm are a challenge for Jim.
Jim’s grandfather, a Texas farmer, started the tradition of farming that Sonny hopes to carry on. For now, he works long hours to learn all he can from his father and his realtor mother, Maryam, who handles the accounting.
Chew’s advice to would-be farmers is to get up in the morning and get going; work for it; expect long hard hours of work; read up on the latest farming technologies and ways the government can help you, and you can help the country.
Mr. Chew says a good day is when harvest trucks leave with loads of his pistachios.
He works closely with his local NRCS soil conservationist Priscilla Baker on his conservation plan that includes the cover crop of brome grasses between the rows of trees.
Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) is the Department’s focal point for the nation’s farmers and ranchers and other stewards of private agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest lands. FPAC agencies implement programs designed to mitigate the significant risks of farming through crop insurance services, conservation programs, and technical assistance, and commodity, lending, and disaster programs.
The agencies and services supporting FPAC are Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Risk Management Agency (RMA).
Natural Resources Conservation Service has a proud history of supporting America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners for more than 80 years. USDA helps people make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the quality of our air, water, soil, and habitat.
USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
. Original public domain image from Flickr