Celebrating California Avocado Farmers

It’s June and time to celebrate California Avocado Month – the signal that it’s peak season! And we couldn’t celebrate this California native without tipping our hats to around 3,000 growers who are committed to building and maintaining a sustainable California Avocado industry.

Every step—from nurturing the avocado trees to caring for the land—is a labor of love.

Hilary Kitzman Wilkie – Morro Bay (San Luis Obispo County)

Hilary Kitzman Wilkie was introduced to growing avocados on her parents’ beautiful avocado grove in Morro Bay, California. When Hilary’s father Arby Kitzman decided he was ready to retire, Hilary and her husband Andrew, who love the farm and had looked forward to assuming responsibility for it, stepped in to manage day-to-day operations. Hilary manages finances and the business end while Andrew handles the avocado grove operations.

The Wilkies take very seriously their responsibility to be good stewards of the land. The family avocado farm (Kitzman Fair Haven) utilizes a variety of environmentally responsible practices, including solar energy and water conservation methods like drip irrigation. They use natural leaf mulch and chipping from their own orchard that results in better soil health.

Gene Bianchi – De Luz, CA

Gene Bianchi spent the early part of his career as a math and physics teacher and later worked as educational counselor. He also dabbled in real estate and construction before becoming an avocado grower years ago. His grove is organic and is a certified wildlife habitat. Gene is a natural born problem solver and prides himself in the fact that he personally inspects every bin of avocados that leaves his grove. He is also one of three growers in the U.S. participating in a water efficiency experiment utilizing a satellite-based irrigation system.

Bill Steed – Pauma Valley, CA (San Diego County)

Bill Steed and his late wife Carol both had successful careers, he as a self-described “corporate guy” in finance and she in real estate. For years they used to drive through the Pauma Valley, expressing their desire to act on their passion for farming, and eventually they took the plunge. On Fairfield Farms the Steed’s realized their dreams, growing avocados and blueberries. They taught their sons how to grow avocados and at a young age their oldest son Spencer designed many of the systems still in place on their ranch. After becoming a mechanical engineer and working outside of farming, Spencer joined his father as a proud California Avocado grower too.

The Steed’s use high density planting in their avocado grove. California avocado growers traditionally have planted one tree in a 20-feet by 20-feet space or 30 by 30-feet space. With high density planting growers reduce space per tree to smaller layouts, like 12-feet by 12-feet or 10-feet by 15-feet, to have more trees and yield more avocados on the same amount of land. Fairfield Farms is part of an irrigated lands management group. They practice water conservation methods and have a sophisticated system to ensure the water used for their California avocados has just the right pH level and properties to yield the best avocado quality. The Steed’s use solar power for all their energy needs on the farm and have buffer zones in place to protect local biodiversity.

Learn more about these farmers and many others at: californiaavocado.com and be sure to pick up some locally grown, sustainably farmed California Avocados today at your local Mollie Stone’s Markets! Click HERE to find a market near you!

Photo(s) courtesy of California Avocados.