Sweet Home Ranch – A Model for Farms Surviving the Drought
There’s no taste that describes summer better than a fragrant, juicy peach or nectarine. And with summer nearly upon us, Sigona’s customers are in for a treat! We think you’ll love the stone fruit from Sweet Home Ranch in Dinuba, near Fresno.
Carefully tended by third-generation farmers Paul & Ruth Buxman, Sweet Home Ranch grows some of the most succulent tree-ripened peaches, nectarines, and Santa Rosa plums you’ll find this – or any – season.
Once picked, fruit from Sweet Home Ranch is delivered directly by Paul to a select handful of retail stores. Because it comes here directly, the fruit has been picked at a riper stage, and has a closer to just-picked flavor.
All Sweet Home Ranch produce is certified California Clean – a growing method the Buxmans started using in the 1980s, and one in use by many small family-owned farms. According to Buxman, although not 100% organic, California Clean’s holistic approach to farming allows for the best of man and nature with the goal of becoming completely natural and balanced. UC Extension experts in biological pest control look for active biological and balanced ecology (birds, bees, bugs and butterflies) when certifying a farm.
Buxman uses integrated pest management (IPM), a rotation of beneficial insects to help eliminate harmful pests and the need for pesticides.
“For us, farming is a matter of being good neighbors and good stewards of the land entrusted to us,” Buxman said. “Our fruit grows in a natural environment, surrounded by songbirds, ladybugs, grassy undergrowth and snow-melt irrigation, making for a great farm, great soil and great food.”
Grass is left to grow between the trees; later it will be mowed for mulch. “It looks like a fluffy nest around each tree,” Buxman said. “More moisture is retained in the soil, so less watering (is needed).
Given the current California drought, the Buxmans’ growing methods take on even greater significance. Most commercial orchards use drip lines to water their trees, giving each tree about a foot’s depth of water. It keeps the trees’ root systems shallow and dependent. Because Buxman’s orchards rely on groundwater, tree roots go as much as 24 feet deep and 30 feet wide in search of moisture. In the process, the roots soak up valuable nutrients from well-tended soil.
To be certified, each farm must be family-owned, and the family must live on the farm. Buxman said free babysitting is available on-site for employees’ children; every year each worker gets a vacation to visit families in Mexico, with Buxman footing the transportation bill. This enables workers to become neighbors to Sweet Home Ranch, living nearby year-round, rather than being seasonal workers.
Buxman sets aside a portion of his land for workers to grow their own crops, providing the necessary water, equipment and fertilizers. In exchange, he says he was won extreme loyalty from his employees.
Here at Sigona’s, we’ll carry Sweet Home Ranch fruit throughout most of the summer. Look for the California Clean signs around the store.