Learn About Avocados Here
When we purchased our farm I knew very little about farming and just as much about avocados. In 1996 the avocado industry was still doing quite well in spite of a huge spike in water cost historically speaking. I noticed trends that consistently indictated an ever increasing demand for the fruit. So I felt that our purchase was not only a great investment as a home but also as an agricultural side income. Things have changed quite a bit since then, most noticably imports, and again water increases. The future for the California avocado is now at great risk. Sure we'll still have trees, but as for a driving force in the avocado industry this remains to be answered.
Our grove wasn't really being taken care of prior to us taking ownership. Due to the sale of the property no money was being invested into the care of the grove. We were presented with various problems in different sections of the farm, ranging from irrigation issues to root rot. Trying to understand what we needed to do took a little bit of research but eventually we came to understand some basic principles.
- Avocados need a lot of water
More specifically the problem is in the uptake of water in their roots.
- Avocados need sun.
Again maybe a bit misleading statement as really the problem is the rapid growth. The trees can grow up to six feet or more a year which can crowd a grove real quick. So avocado trees need to be pruned often. Thanks to coastal California's micro-climate, California avocados are available year-round. Avocados are harvested from November through October on 60,000 acres in southern and central California, between San Luis Obispo and the Mexican border.
Avocados require top soil with good drainage.
This requirement eliminates many growing areas.
- Avocados can not handle frost.
This further complicates where these trees can grow.
- Avocados are harvest by hand.
The job of picking avocados is one of the most difficult harvesting jobs in farming. Avocados are harvested by hand with the help of special shears called clippers. Using ladders up to 40 feet high and poles up to 14 feet long to reach the fruit in tall trees, pickers place the harvested fruit in large nylon bags fastened around their shoulders. Each bag holds 30-50 pounds of fruit.
The picking bins are transferred by forklift, tractor or trailer from the grove to the main road where a large boom truck picks up the fruit, hauling several bins at a time to the packing house. At the packing house, avocados are immediately put into cold storage for about 24 hours to remove the field heat and preserve their quality. Then the pre-cooled fruit is ready for packing. Each bin of avocados is carefully placed on a conveyor belt, which gently tips over the bin, allowing the fruit to roll onto a grading belt, where graders hand check and sort the avocados by size. Once sorted, the avocados are brushed and washed as they roll into packing tubs where they are gently placed into single layer or double layer cartons called lugs. The lug size indicates the number of avocados it holds. Before the lugs are sealed, the avocados are checked one more time for quality. The sealed lugs are then organized by size and stacked onto pallets of 60 lugs each.
Our first harvest.
A new bud
The bud begins to blossom
History and fun facts