How We Grow

2021 Sept/Oct How We Grow

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Sustainability Pays for Almond Grower/Handler in Many Ways The Violich family, owners of Orland-based Capay Farms, are industry leaders in energy efficiency and sustainable farming. They have a straightforward message for growers who may be considering sustainable projects of their own: It pays off. "I'd like to say that we're super- altruistic, but like everyone else, we can't do anything without a return on the investment," said Julia Violich, chief operating officer and "Jill of All Trades," as she calls her job at Capay Farms. "A lot of our decisions are pure economics." In short, as the saying goes, they are doing good by doing well. "We want to do the right thing with all our programs," Violich said, "but when we started looking into solar energy, we also needed to be sure there was a payback in less than four years. The great thing is that after four or five years, our savings on energy costs became the goose that laid the golden egg." Violich's moderate praise for their altruistic intentions understates their impact. Yes, all their sustainable programs make good business sense, but the company is also widely regarded as impressive stewards of both their land and their community. And they have become major advocates for sustainable farming as well as sources of information and guidance for neighbors and other growers. Capay Farms is the orchard management organization for Violich Farms. With approximately 12,000 acres in Glenn, Butte and Tehama counties, they're one of the largest almond and walnut operations in the industry. For all their size, they continue to infuse sustainability into all their farming and properties. "We've found that once you start, it's much easier to expand," said Mackey Violich, Capay Farm's sustainability manager and Julia's sister. "Every time you solve one issue, you find there's always another opportunity." Key opportunities they have taken advantage of include: Expansive use of solar arrays. Across their properties, they have 23 solar systems that produce nearly 4 megawatts of power. Now, 88% of their irrigation pumps use either solar energy or natural gas. They also use solar power to run their walnut hulling operation, while one ranch runs completely on solar-powered batteries and is entirely off the power grid. An aggressive, high-tech water monitoring program. They use strategically placed soil moisture probes and weather monitoring technology, tied together by a state-of-the-art radio frequency network. That means they can track and adjust remotely and quickly without spending extra time and gas driving around the ranches. The result is more efficient water use, lower operating costs and higher quality crops ALMOND COMMUNITY A solar array on one of the almond blocks at Capay Farms. that season. While mating disruption may not eliminate the need for hull split treatments, it may allow for a reduction in the total number of NOW treatments needed. Overall, integrating harvest sampling into your management program allows for increased knowledge regarding your orchard's key pest and infestation patterns. This in turn allows for the development of sound monitoring and prevention programs along with insight that will help guide when, where and how intervention may be needed. While these control options are used at different stages of crop production to prevent, reduce or treat NOW infestations – each of them may provide a certain level of control, but their additive effect can be significant in preventing yield losses. True bug feeding damage causes black necrotic tissue on the kernel that appears sunken. Photo courtesy of David Haviland Figure 4 Continued from page 8 DUST 9

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