When Sean first came onboard, he learned that there were several soil-borne diseases that were affecting productivity, and that the whole orchard was compromised. "I need a long relationship with this orchard." He did his research and explored the limited alternatives for organic control."Basically, the more I uncovered, the more I realized that the best tool an organic farmer has is soil health, which leads to plant health, vigor, and resilience to diseases." One example of how Sean's approach has evolved differently than his dad's is how Sean plans to remove and replace the trees in the older orchards."That put us in a financial situation where I could come back to the farm, get paid a salary, and take on new projects with the backing—both emotional and financial—from my dad," he says."If we had not gotten out of debt, maybe the opportunity wouldn't have been there." Freedom from a mortgage has also allowed them to invest in innovative practices and a few pieces of new equipment.He converted to a certified organic walnut orchard 22 years ago and has always held a long-term commitment to the land.
Craig Mc Namara has worked Sierra Orchards near Putah Creek for 35 years.
That way they knew that the farm could never be subdivided or developed.
Instead, the farm could evolve as an agricultural business with new ideas and new farming practices, an evolution that suited Sean when he came home and committed to the land.
There wasn't a clear path for the farm's future until Sean stepped forward last year.
Craig and Julie's youngest son Sean was a contractor building houses until he decided to commit to the family farm and "give back to the land that gives to us." Unlike many farm families who wonder if their land will stay in agriculture once they stop farming, Craig and Julie ensured their land would stay in agriculture by selling the development rights on a large portion of their farm and entering into a conservation agreement.
Craig was trained to bring in big equipment, rip out the trees, take them away, apply fumigation, and plant a few grasses before setting new walnut trees.