Community shows its support for long-standing local farm stand
TEMPLETON — We are finally on the other side of an extreme heat wave on the Central Coast, but local farmers are still feeling the repercussions of weeks-long temperatures of 110 degrees.
Jack Creek Farms shared the effects of the prolonged heat had on their crops, especially their apples.
“I honestly don’t think I had a single crop that was left unscathed,” said Becky Stemper, who farms, owns, and operates Jack Creek with her family.
Jack Creek Farms is a “u-pick” farm stand that sits just off Highway 46 West. Stemper, along with her mother and sister, do all of the work on the farm from planting to harvesting and all the work that goes in between. They offer seasonal fruits and vegetables from Memorial Day through Christmas.
“We tell everybody we run on God and girl power right now,” says Stemper.
Stemper and her family explained that while farming in California during a drought is hard, adding in the extreme heat is devastating.
With 30 varieties of apples on their farm, Stemper estimates they lost approximately 50 percent of their crop. She explained ten days of 110 degree weather cooked the apples on the tree, turning them into a leather like consistency. Having a farm that is smaller than commercial but larger than a backyard garden presents challenges like the inability to afford high costing equipment and methods to combat the heat.
With trees already stressed from the drought, the heat was an added challenge to the trees which were already set to have a low yielding year. Stemper and her family conserve water as much as they can, relying on dry farm methods and using drip irrigation as a nearly last resort.
Additionally, Stemper and her family lost their second season grow of blackberries and over half of their heirloom tomatoes. Thankfully though, their apple trees are staggered planted, meaning they are planted weeks apart to spread out the harvest window. Some apples were able to be saved before the heat did their damage, and Stemper says she is grateful for their farm being diversified with their crops.
During the heat wave, the farm asked the community to empty out their plants in exchange for a great price on locally grown goods.
“It was cool how folks did come out and make a point of ‘hey, this is a way we can support our family farm and our neighbor,’” said Stemper.
Part of the farm’s goal is to help educate the community and their visitors on the reality of farming and Stemper enjoys sharing their practices with the public.
She says a common misconception she hears about the agriculture industry is that they are not components of conservation.
Stemper explains, “Whenever we can do something that is a good choice that is building up the land, even if we don’t see that benefit for three or four or five years, that is still the choice that we’ll make because that benefits the future.”
She adds, “Every growing decision that we make … is all with the purpose of maintaining the health of the farm.”
Currently, Stemper and her family are preparing for pumpkin patch season at the farm. Just recently, they were named in the top 30 pumpkin patches in the U.S., according to a report on Yelp. And this November will be their second year selling cut-your-own Christmas trees.
Despite the devastating heat, there is still plenty to enjoy and pick at the farm.
Their current farm hours are Friday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
For more information on Jack Creek Farms, visit jackcreekfarms.com/index.html