August 29, 2015
By: Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
Crop diversification is the key to California’s agricultural success. Our climate and soils enable farmers to grow different crops year-round throughout the state. Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch Inc. in Helm, Fresno County, oversees the farming of cannery tomatoes, onions, carrots, bell peppers, almonds, walnuts, winegrapes, and even seeds for many other crops.
CalAgToday interviewed Cameron while he was riding a carrot harvester in the midst of harvesting for Grimmway Farms. He observed,“Our crop diversification at Terranova Ranch has really changed over the years. We used to farm cotton, alfalfa, barley and wheat, and that was about it.”
“Now,” said Cameron, “we grow between 20 and 30 different crops, both conventional and organic. There are times when one crop might not do as well as another, so diversification adds stability to our operation.”
And, of course, stability is a good thing on the farm. “We like to have stability,” Cameron commented, “and our workers love the stability because they know they are going to have work long-term, summer and winter. It is a lot more work for us, but in the long-run, it will be valuable for our operation here.”
Crop diversity and the stability it has brought to Terranova Ranch, according to Cameron, have enabled the ranch to retain its employees despite these rough times with fallow fields. “We’ve actually been able to hire some good employees from other farms where they’ve had severe cutbacks in water this year.”
Terranova uses only groundwater, and fortunately the ranch’s wells have held up over the last few years. Terranova is working on a major recharge program across 250 acres of land with water from potential Kings River floods and the James Bypass that crosses the Valley close to the ranch. Although regulations prevent implementation this year, “when the flood water comes,” said Cameron, “those fields will be flooded for recharge and they will have low berms around them. The water may only be 2-3 feet deep, but the goal is to keep the water continuously on those fields so the recharge persists. The water doesn’t have to be 10 feet deep; it can be merely 6 inches deep as long as it is continually refilled so the recharge holds.”