Did you know that California is America’s #1 food producer and the sole producer of 99% of America’s specialty crops like almonds and artichokes? Read on to discover six interesting facts about growing and harvesting fruit in America.
1. California Growers Are Continuing an 8000-Year-Old Tradition
If you dedicate your life to growing and harvesting fruit, you are continuing a tradition that started 8000 years ago. Fruit growing is estimated to have begun between 6000 and 3000 B.C.E. with figs being one of the earliest crops (1). In California, figs are still grown in the Fresno, Madera, and Kern counties. How’s that for making history?
2. Harvesting Fruit is a Family Affair
According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, most farms in the United States are owned and run by families. Rather than agriculture being a corporate affair, the statistics reveal that 87% of U.S. farms are owned by families and individuals, 8% are partnerships, 4% are owned by corporations, and 1% are run by cooperatives, estates, trusts, and other similar kinds of entities.
If you grew up harvesting fruit in an orchard, you’ll be pleased to know that your role in society is extremely special. Surveys show that farming families make up only 2% of the U.S. population and that large and very large family farms are some of the most lucrative kinds of growing operations.
3. Retirees Are Still Harvesting Fruit
Along with a reduction in the number of farming families during the past century, America has seen a rise in the average age of producers overall. In 1997, the average age of a principal growing operator was 54. In 2007, this had increased to 57 (USDA, 2007 Census of Agriculture). Currently, around 60% of U.S. growers are 55 years of age or older and the percentage of primary operators who are at least 65 years old (14 months from retirement age) has increased by nearly 10% since 1969.
With twice as much food expected to be consumed around the world by the year 2050 (1), it might be time for the younger generations to put growing and harvesting back on the menu!
4. Food Production Has Become More Efficient
The number of growers in America has decreased since 1935. However, the efficiency of growing and harvesting fruit has increased dramatically. In 1890, one worker could operate 27.5 acres of productive land. By 1990, this number had increased to 740 acres per worker. Put another way, growers in 1940 produced enough food for themselves and 19 other people. By 2006, a typical grower was producing enough food for 144 other people (2). Today, one-third of the productive land in America is cultivated for export.
The increase in production and reduction of manpower has been mostly due to mass mechanization, cultivated crop varieties, artificial fertilizers, and commercial pesticides. Organic growing methods and regenerative farming techniques typically require a larger human workforce than a chemical approach to growing and harvesting fruit.
5. Bees Are A Grower’s Best Friend
If you grow citrus, nuts, or stone fruit, you will be intimately acquainted with the need for pollination. In fact, over 100 commercial crops in America and one out of every three bites of the food that we eat need to be pollinated by bees to produce fruit (3).
Keeping these impressive statistics in mind, there are a few things you can do to boost your profits from harvesting fruit by providing for these essential workers in your groves:
- Plant species that attract pollinators.
- Provide bodies of water with floating planks of wood for bees to perch on.
- Use only pesticides and insecticides that are safe for bees.
- Consider renting two to four bee hives per acre to ensure a healthy bee population.
- Keep sources of cell-phone radiation (and wifi) away from the hives as these disturbances can cause bees to become more aggressive and agitated.
6. Trees Can Provide Much More than Crops
Most of the trees we grow are for harvesting fruit — including stone fruit, avocados, nuts, and citrus. However, fruit growers use trees in a variety of ways to help to maintain a healthy ecosystem:
- A row of tall, dense trees planted on the edge of a citrus grove helps to prevent soil erosion and protect the grove (1).
- The stabilizing effects of tree roots help to maintain soil fertility and prevent flooding.
- Planting citrus trees and other pollinator plants near avocados increase bee activity on the avocado trees.
- Planting diverse forest gardens with 20 different species can increase growers’ incomes by up to 400%.
Fruit Growers Supply — Helping Fruit Growers Since 1907
For over 100 years, Fruit Growers Supply Company has been helping people just like you with harvesting fruit and getting fresh produce safely to market. We’ve been around through the growing and harvesting boom of the 1930s and the Green Revolution of the 1960s. Now, we are here and ready to support you to tackle the sustainability challenges of the twenty-first century.
Contact our friendly customer service team today to find out how we can help with customized corrugated, citrus wax, and commercial irrigation solutions for a thriving farm that you’ll be proud to pass on to the next generation.