Friday, May 29, 2009

Patterson's Blossom Hill Orchard

We may no longer be the true apricot capital of the world... but before we grew tract homes, we grew multitudes upon multitudes of the tart orange fruit that helped give us the title that we base Patterson's biggest party around... the Apricot Fiesta.

We here at the Irrigator have been anticipating it as one of our busiest times of the year. Taking photos and writing stories in preparation. One of my pre-fiesta duties each year, is to photograph the many different processes that the apricot goes through each year here in Patterson.

Dave Santos, from the Santos-Lucich Blossom Hill farms off of Rogers Rd., has been extremely kind enough to allow me to follow along those who work to process the fruit from start to finish, and while we don't have the chance to publish all these photos in the newspaper or the Fiesta Issue, I'm glad that I get to share them here.

Above, Modesto's Jose Castillo carefully pours a bucket of Poppy Apricots into a bin that will be transported to the Lucich-Santos farms packing shed.
A Poppy Apricot tree, full of apricots in an orchard off of Zacharias rd. just west of Patterson.
Pickers carefully pour the apricots into bins that will be carted back to the packing shed for processing.
Absolutely beautiful, I love this assignment every year. I can't wait to walk through those orchards and smell the distinctive smell of the ripening apricots... the smell I and many others grew up with walking to or from our destinations around town. I used to love walking down 9th street on a warm summer evening, passing Mike Mahaffey's orchards and saving an apricot or two that may have fallen off the tree or rolled into the street. While those days are definitely over, I still hope I can buy some apricots that aren't from Turkey or Argentina from the Walgreens that will be going on his property.
3:00, quitting time in the orchard, but back at the packing shed, things are just about ready to get under way.
Here, a tractor is backing up the filled bins of Poppy Apricots at the packing shed, while stacks of organic Apriums (75% apricot, 25% plum) are first in line to go through the packing shed conveyors. According to Dave Santos, the organics have to be processed first because they have to go through the clean system, before any other non-organic fruits touch the conveyors.

The stacks of organic apriums are ready and waiting to go on the first day of operations at the Lucich-Santos farms on Thursday May 7th.

These two supervisors from the shed are so nice, they remember me every year I go back there, and I remember them.
Everything's just about prepped and ready.
Everybody's in their proper place and the only thing left to do is to flip the switch.

And here it goes.

The main switches and operations of the shed are controlled from this central elevated point, and the whole process can be stopped from here if it needs to be.
Here go the first organic apriums, poured into the system where they are rinsed and sent to the first conveyor.
Here's that first main line and the workers that begin hand sorting them based on quality.
Such a serious face from a seriously hard worker.
Sorting through the first organic apriums on the conveyor.

Some of them go onto these red plastic trays.
There's always some sort of glitch when starting things up again.
But, the kinks are worked out and things are up and rolling again.
After the fruit is sorted, some end up pouring into these boxes.
Gotta keep the boxes ready to be fed into the machine.
Some boxes are filled with the apriums on the sheet of plastic.
While the loose ones in the boxes are weighed out, then sent along to be shipped away somewhere.
Rolling along.
There's Dave Santos making sure that everything's running smoothly.
It's the end of the line for the organic apriums. They've been sorted, weighed, boxed, stacked on pallets and ready to be sent to their new owners.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fiesta Issue Photos

The 39th annual Patterson Apricot Fiesta is nearing and is right around the corner.

Our annual Fiesta special issue is out and available at the Patterson Irrigator.

I'll have to say, that with all of the changes going on around the Irrigator here, sometimes changing on a day to day basis, the anticipation of the Fiesta that normally builds for me has been a little befuddled. I got a chance to go out treasure hunting with some of my friends one evening only once. My friends briefly checked the Carnegie building across the street from where the treasure was found next to the downtown fire department. I had no idea, but once again the treasure was hidden within view of my front porch. It was a complete change of mood to see Wendy Lopez and son Corey come into the Irrigator office Tuesday afternoon with beaming smiles from ear to ear, shaking as they told us where they found the treasure.

It hasn't quite hit me yet, but as soon as some of the booths start getting dropped off down town next week, and the stage begins to be assembled for the downtown pageants on Friday, then the fiesta fever will probably hit.

I can't wait to see what old friends will return this year to the fiesta, and which new ones I will make.

Anywho... the Fiesta special issue is out and here are this year's Miss Patterson contestants. The 14 finalists, photographed along the historic row of Canary Island Date Palms off of Old Las Palmas ave.

Alejandra Gonzalez-Hernandez

Andrea Silva

Breana White

Brittany McDermott

Catarina Lam

Chelsea Taylor

Chelsea White

Darlene Ruiz

Jessica Carranza

Kelly Cox

Kiana Weinzheimer

Lacey Nicholson

Stephanie Camacho

and Valeria Nunez
The judges are going to have a hard time choosing this year, good luck to all the finalists.
Check back within the next week for another blog posting on the start-to-finish process of one of Patterson's most famous crops.