Cary Blake

Associate Editor,
Western Farm Press

Cary Blake, associate editor with Western Farm Press, has 32 years experience as an agricultural journalist. Blake covered Midwest agriculture for 25 years on a statewide farm radio network and through television stories that blanketed the nation.
Blake travelled West in 2003. Today he reports on production agriculture in Arizona and California. He also covers New Mexico and West Texas agriculture for Southwest Farm Press.
Blake is a native Mississippian, graduate of Mississippi State University, and a former Christmas tree grower.

Sean Doherty credits teamwork for rice farm’s success

Rice grower Sean Doherty believes the success of his northern California farm is based on a “we” attitude, rather than “I” – calling the operation a successful team effort including his wife Melissa and their dedicated, hard-working employees.

“We have a great crew,” Sean says. “They are really good people, work hard, and I’m thankful for them. They make the reason for working hard easy.”

California rice’s priorities - water, regulations, politics 1

The California rice industry is pleased as punch with the rainfall this past fall, winter, and the ‘Miracle March’ in the Sacramento Valley where the majority of the state’s crop is grown.

The rice industry is glowing over the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s decision this spring to provide a 100 percent surface water allocation for agriculture to the area.

California grape acreage falls 10,000 acres to 918,000 1
According to a government survey of California grape growers, 2015 total crop acreage fell 10,000 acres from the previous year - about a 1 percent reduction.
Hopes widespread for ‘normal’ California pistachio crop 1

For the California pistachio industry, 2015 will long remembered as the year Mother Nature delivered an estimated 42 percent smaller yields, largely due to lower winter chilling hours which resulted in an uneven bloom and prolonged drought.

Yet despite last year’s crop disaster, several California pistachio growers and leaders are bullish that 2016 could deliver a much needed normal crop.

TPP would increase demand, consumption for walnuts

The California walnut industry supports the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement which would reduce or eliminate trade barriers in the Asia Pacific region.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement between the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, tariffs on walnuts would be reduced or eliminated in Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and New Zealand.

Constant evolution keeps Calif. wine industry on its toes

The mantras to succeed, excel, and prosper continue to spark the $3 billion California wine industry as a world leader in production and sales, amid the challenges of potentially more frequent and severe drought patterns, plus increasing foreign and domestic product competition.

A stabilizing factor for the California industry is that baseline wine grape production appears cemented in the four-million-ton-plus range moving forward, barring a major weather malady, with visions of a 4.5 million ton crop on the horizon.

$800,000 in specialty crop grants available in Arizona

More than $800,000 is available to help educate, promote, and research specialty crops in Arizona.

Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops. The Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA) uses money from the federal Specialty Crop Block grants to improve Arizona’s industry.

“We have a rich combination of farmers and producers in our state, and many people don’t realize it,” said Mark Killian, ADA director.

Fernandez tapped Calif. Wheat Commission director

The California Wheat Commission (CWC) has hired Deanna Fernandez as its executive director, effective March 22, 2016.

Fernandez comes to the CWC from the Raisin Administrative Committee in Fresno, Calif. where she served as its international program director.

According to the CWC, Fernandez has good leadership skills with strategic and analytical thinking plus innovative skills to help plan, develop, and implement successful programs for wheat export markets.

El Niño heads back to California this week after hiatus 1

El Niño storms could blanket central and northern California this week following a mostly February dry spell, according to meteorologist Terry Snow of the Weather Advisory Service.

“El Niño rain has a good chance to return and not be the dud it has been for the month of February,” Snow says in his Feb. 27 report.

The return to wet weather could start Thursday, March 3 with a dose of light rain in central and northern California.

This should be followed by a series of wet storms expected to start Sunday, March 6.  

Water experts discuss Colorado River issues in desert agriculture

The phrase “Don’t Mess with Texas” suggests leaving the good things associated with the Lone Star State alone.

The same could be said in the low desert farming regions in Arizona and California where Colorado River surface water irrigated in vegetable fields allows growers to produce about 95 percent of the nation’s supply of winter veggies.

Like their Texas counterparts, desert vegetable growers have a good thing going with senior water rights on the Colorado River. They know it and aim to protect it.

Growing macadamia nuts in lava on Hawaii’s Big Island 2

Dateline – Captain Hook, Big Island, Hawaii: With his seat belt and shoulder harness snug across his waist and shoulder, Larry Nixon shifted the Chevrolet truck into four-wheel drive for the steep uphill climb up the hill of lava rock to check on his hard-working field crew in the macadamia tree orchard picking up nuts off the ground.  

Nixon complimented the workers on their work while checking on the harvest progress on the 4,000-acre MacFarms of Hawaii, located in the Kona district on the southeast side of the Big Island.

Lava base

Opening night - American Pistachio Industry Conference

About 800 pistachio enthusiasts are gathered this week (Feb. 17-19) for the 2016 American Pistachio Industry Conference in Palm Springs, Calif. The opening reception on Feb. 17 was a great opportunity to see fellow pistachio industry friends, make new ones, and taste pistachio-enhanced snacks.

Enjoy these photos of the Opening Night reception courtesy of Western Farm Press -



Photos: Dennis Palmer - 2016 Western Farm Press High Cotton Award winner

For the Dennis Palmer family of Thatcher, Ariz., cotton farming is at his family’s core.

“I love to plant cotton,” says Dennis, whose physical size mimics a defensive linebacker in the National Football League. Like a pro football player, Palmer is unafraid to tackle the many challenges in cotton production.

“My favorite time during the cotton season is picking cotton - it’s white and beautiful. It represents the payoff at the end of the year.”

Dennis Palmer: Top-notch producer earns Far West High Cotton Award 3

As cotton grower Dennis Palmer drives his truck through his fields in Thatcher, Ariz., he grabs a paper towel to blow his nose. He is actually allergic to cotton yet the malady has not sneezed or sniffled away his ability to succeed in fiber production.

For Palmer, cotton farming is at his family’s core.

“I love to plant cotton,” said Dennis, whose physical size mimics a defensive linebacker in the National Football League. Like a pro football player, Palmer is unafraid to tackle the many challenges in cotton production.

Louie Colombini tapped national Ginner of the Year 1

Louie Colombini, manager of the Westside Farmers Co-op Gin at San Joaquin, Calif. has won the 2015 Horace Hayden National Cotton Ginner of the Year from the National Cotton Ginners Association (NCCA).

The prestigious NCCA award was presented to Colombini during the National Cotton Council annual meeting held in Dallas, Texas in February. 

According to the California Cotton Ginners Association (CCGA), Colombini served as the group’s 2000-2001 chairman and was selected as the CCGA’s 2002 Ginner of the Year.

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