San Joaquin Valley Overview
San Joaquin Valley
The San Joaquin Valley is the most productive agricultural region in the world, cultivating more than 250 crops.
To help prevent early plantings of warm-season vegetables such as cucumbers, zucchini squash, and fresh tomatoes from frost damage, individual plants of small acreage plantings are covered with "hot" caps made from wax paper. The cap has twofold purpose: first in raising the daytime temperature to get a faster growth response and second for some frost protection due to the heat it retains. It has been estimated that the cap gives an additional 2º F of protection to the plant growing underneath.
Approximately 15,000 acres of fresh tomatoes and 110,000 acres of processing tomatoes are grown annually in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Fresno County leads the state in tomatto production. Tomato culture is similar for fresh and processed tomatoes, although varieties and harvest practices are distinctly different.
Gondola of Green Tomatoes
Fresh tomato harvest commences in early June and continues through November. Fresh tomatoes are hand haravested at a mature green stage, transported to a packing shed where they are washed, sorted, graded, boxed and exposed to ethylene (a natural ripening hormone found in many fruits such as tomato) to provide uniform ripening conditions.
Processing Tomato Harvest
Processing tomatoes are machine harvested when they are red ripe and trucked to the processing plant in large trucks and trailers.
CDFA Inspection Station
Every truckload of tomatoes is sampled and inspected prior to processing by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to insure a standard of tomato quality for the state.
Lettuce is grown year round in California and accounts for 20% of the total value of vegetable production. The San Joaquin Valley is a major lettuce supplier two seasons per year. Iceberg and specialty lettuces are planted in midsummer for a late fall harvest and planted in late fall for a midspring harvest.
Skilled labor crews travel to production areas around the state with sophisticated harvest aid and packing equipment to maintain efficiency in the highly competitive lettuce industry.
California is the major supplier of carrots for the US, and Kern County in the San Joaquin Valley is the major producer in California. Green-top bunch carrots are extremely field labor intensive at harvest, whereas cello and value-added carrot packs require labor and machinery in a processing facility.
Pesticide Application of Garlic Field
Garlic (pictured here), onions, melons, peppers and broccoli are some of the other vegetables with substantial acreage and production value in the San Joaquin Valley. Commercial fields are rarely less than 40 acres in size, typically averaging 80 acres, and in rare instances, are as much as 640 acres planted to a single commodity.
Strawberry Harvest and Young Corn Field
Also prevalent in the San Joaquin Valley is the small-scale vegetable and/or strawberry grower. Twenty-acre parcels are often subdivided among producers for the cultivation of miscellaneous vegetables, such as sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, summer and winter squashs, asian vegetables and herbs.