Monday, October 24, 2016

You Won’t Find Cotton Growing in Your Backyard Garden; Tour Takes Visitors to the Heart of SJ Valley Cotton Country

 Every summer, home gardeners reap a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, potatoes, beans, melons, squash, corn and the like in their backyards and patios.

Whether you live in a big city or a tiny town, gardening allows everyone to share the experience of nature. Of course, there are some crops you won’t find growing in backyards.

Getting a first-hand look at cotton being harvested.
If you want to see cotton grow, for example, you’ll have to head to the Central Valley.  For more than a decade, hundreds of people have done just that, attending the annual Cotton Farm Tour sponsored by the Sustainable Cotton Project (SCP), a California nonprofit.

Indeed, nowhere else in the country can one spend an entire day learning about good bugs and bad bugs, watch a harvester rumble through a cotton field, pick colored cotton, talk to cotton farmers, watch lint and seed get separated, dried and baled up at a cotton gin.

“For most people it’s like a different world. People don’t get to see a cotton gin up close,” says SCP field scout Carlos Silva.

Over the years, visitors travel from across California and even Japan to the great Valley to learn about cotton production and sustainable cotton practices aimed at protecting the health of the community, land and air.

Last Friday (October 21), more than four dozen men and women, including fashion industry representatives, once again boarded a bus to tour the region’s cotton industry as well as learn about innovative practices to produce a cleaner fiber called Cleaner Cotton™ grown by farmers enrolled in the Sustainable Cotton Project.

Getting a close up look at colored cotton.
They learned about cotton production and water management from Dan Munk, a cotton production and water management expert and farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Fresno County. 

Visiting a perennial hedgerow in the west side of the Valley.
They saw rows of trees, shrubs and perennial grasses that surround farm fields and learned about the benefits of a perennial hedgerow from Dr. Pete Goodell of UC Integrated Pest Management. He explained hedgerows provide shelter and nectar for insects, mammals and birds and offer air and water quality protection, weed control, protection against soil erosion, increased biodiversity and beneficial insect activity.

Cotton farmer John Pucheu talked about the harvester working his field during this warm fall day. Participants saw cotton modules being made in the field and got to step up on to a harvester to see just what its like to ride in one of those big machines.
Watching gin machinery.
Frank Williams of Windfall Farms, a second generation farmer in the area, invited folks to pick a few bolls of his specialized colored cotton – naturally brown and green lint popping out of the bolls. This year the exciting news is that the colored fiber has all been sold to specialty yarn producer Quince and Co.

For years, Windfall Farms have reduced their pesticide use by implementing more biologically-based practices in cotton. These innovative growers have grown colored cotton for year and even given organic cotton a try. Frank described the colored cotton and how they make selections from plants and how they are working on a longer, stronger colored fiber.

The first stop on this year's tour was Pacific Pima Gin. Plant manager Matt Toste, assisted by former manger Louie Colombini, led everyone through the noisy gin operations, describing the ginning process. Certainly, cotton production has come a long way since the days of Eli Whitney and the invention of the cotton gin.
ALMOND FIELD DAY: Attention almond growers. Don’t forget to save October 28 on your calendar for a morning-long field day in Fresno. You will receive valuable tips about almond tree pruning, salinity management and controlling navel orangeworm during the fall and winter months, The free field day will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Rushing Ranch, 11599 West Shaw Ave. The featured speakers are: University of California Cooperative Extension pomologist and almond specialist David Doll of Merced County; UCCE Fresno County farm advisor Mae Culumber ; and UCCE farm advisor Kris Tollerup. You can contact Marcia for more information about the field day. Continuing education credits have been applied for.


No comments:

Post a Comment