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Old 09-24-2019, 06:08 PM
 
3 posts, read 1,073 times
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I am writing a story about two friends and part of it takes place on a family farm in San Joaquin Valley. The farm was in their family for generations, and the children are expected to take over when they grow up. The family grow oranges, maybe they grow other stuff too (idk how running a farm works). They have friends/neighbors who live the same life as they do.


So, my questions are:


1. What does the average “family farm” in the SJV look like? How big are they? I don’t think “family farm” in itself means much anymore. An industrial sized farm can be considered a “family farm” and sell products for a stupid amount at whole foods, for example. I am trying to paint a portrait of the family and how the parents run their farm and family, how the kids help, how the grandparents help. It’s three generations living on the same farm - 2 maternal grandparents, the parents, a maternal aunt, 6 kids.

2. How do these farms make money? I heard it’s getting harder and harder for independent farmers to get by these days, especially in the age of industrial farming. Do they use coops to transport goods to the stores? I have no idea. Where do I even find this out, what key words do I research? Even if I don’t put the details of it in the story, it will help if I have an idea of how the parents will get by.

3. How do the kids help out at the orchard farms? What kind of jobs do they do? The 12-year-old boy whose parents own the farm help out, is tall and strong from the work, and knows how to drive his grandfather’s truck from a young age. I heard that at ranches and animal farms, the kids milk and feed the animals, know how to drive tractors - same with kids from cornfields. I am totally not a farm kid, so I wouldn’t know.

4. The main protagonist of the story, a town kid, helps out at his friend’s family farm with some physical labor himself, and the parents appreciate it and dote on him, he has dinner with them and they give him some oranges to take home. What are the chances of friends (non-family members) helping out, especially children? They don’t give him anything particularly hard, but something easy that a 9-year-old can do.

I tried googling these but nothing goes in depth. Where do I find info on this? If there are any documentaries, articles, or books I could look into, I would appreciate that too. I’ve thought of visiting SJV sometime but I think it’s better if I research beforehand and know what to look for.


Also, there is a part where the valley gets gentrified. As time goes by, the affluent and the industries creep into the region. The regulations of the place changes, favoring the mega corps and their wealthy owners who can afford them. The place starts becoming more polluted, which is even worse because it’s a valley, and the families get pushed out of their own land they had for generations and into the already-polluted town nearby. I've heard of things like this happening to other areas of the country, and probably already happening in California as well. If you can recommend any documentaries or biographies for this, do let me know as well.


I want my story to be realistic, not kitsch or full of ****. I don’t want my story to be overly political, in fact I want things like this to be understated, but this dilemma is what causes the farm boy to leave the state of California and join the military in my story.
Thanks in advance for reading this and let me know if you have any questions.



- Know What You Write
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Old 09-24-2019, 09:11 PM
 
Location: I'm around town...
759 posts, read 1,783,045 times
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Is it set in the present day?

I highly recommend doing some research by reading some books or articles by Mas Masumoto. He writes beautifully about farm life in the San Joaquin Valley. Here's a link to his work: Mas’ Writing

For farm size, 80 acres would be the minimum. Usually specialty farms (i.e. organic) tend to be a bit smaller. I would put the average more at 160-200 acres for a family operation. Corporate farms easily go into thousands of acres.

With most fruit, it is grown and picked at the farm and then sent to a packing house. Sometimes you will find a company who grows, packs, and ships all from the same facility. It's not likely that a family-run farm would have that, though.
Packing house examples:
https://fowlerpacking.com
Sunnyside Packing Company / A third generation family owned and operated grower, packer and shipper of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in and around the greater Fresno area.

For many smaller, family farms, farmer's markets are a big part of their work. Many farmers from the SJV drive to San Francisco or Los Angeles to sell at farmer's markets there. They participate in local ones, too.
Take a thorough look at this site for good examples of a smaller family organic farm: BENZLER FARMS

Totally possible for a family friend child to help out at a farm.

Things to think about:
Oranges are from trees, not fields. Tractors might be used at an orchard, but not like they would for corn (a field crop).
While an orange producer might have some farm animals around, they also might not. Just because they grow oranges doesn't necessarily mean they have a cow/pig/sheep/etc. If it's an actual dairy, then they use machines for milking.

Since the farm-to-fork movement is big now, some farms make good money by being direct suppliers to restaurants.

You'll need to pay particular attention to the function that weather plays, especially drought, and pests that are common to the specific crop.

You'll need to be precise about which varieties of fruit are being grown.

Once you pick specific varieties, you can find the state or local commission dedicated to that fruit. Another good starting point for research.
Such as: https://www.calcitrusgrowers.com/Default.aspx?Page=Home
https://www.cacitrusmutual.com
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Old 09-25-2019, 10:33 AM
 
3 posts, read 1,073 times
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Hello, thanks for the extensive response. It is set around 30 years in the future.

Thanks for mentioning Masumoto, stuff like this helps too. I will look into his stuff.

Speaking of tractors, yeah I doubted they’d use tractors for orchards. What other tools do they use instead? I’ve met people who manually picked walnuts in the walnut farms up in NorCal, but not sure if it’s the same process for fruits. They probably use trucks for general purpose though, right? The kids often drive them around the orchard and up the mountains to hunt.

The family grows oranges, but how common is it for families to grow other stuff? I thought monocultural is better, at least for corporate farms. Regarding animals, The family has goats and chickens for personal use because they have the space for it, not to sell. They have a family dog running about.

Speaking of pests, are most small family farms organic? How successful is organic produce anyway? I can’t imagine parents sending their kids out to work with pesticides unless it’s not as harmful as they’re made out to be by the media.
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Old 09-25-2019, 06:03 PM
 
Location: I'm around town...
759 posts, read 1,783,045 times
Reputation: 968
Trucks would be around, yes. Or 4-wheeler/ATV vehicles that can have a trailer attached. Large farms would have mechanical harvesters, but not a smaller farm. They would pick by hand. And of course you only harvest during specific months of the year.

Citrus growers generally stick with citrus only.

Many smaller farms have gone organic and they are very successful.
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Old 09-25-2019, 06:10 PM
 
Location: NC
7,777 posts, read 10,163,365 times
Reputation: 16444
Just wondering why you pick farming in the Central Valley as a centerpiece of your story when you know nothing about it. That means you would miss out on how that affected the characters too. Your screen name suggests you would be more successful with a somewhat different venue.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:22 PM
 
3 posts, read 1,073 times
Reputation: 10
Thanks Adriatica, now my story will be more believable due to your help!

Quote:
Originally Posted by luv4horses View Post
Just wondering why you pick farming in the Central Valley as a centerpiece of your story when you know nothing about it. That means you would miss out on how that affected the characters too. Your screen name suggests you would be more successful with a somewhat different venue.


My screen name suggests that I should get to know what I write and that means asking questions. If everyone stayed in their comfort zones and only wrote what they knew, there’d only be like 5 novels in this world.
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Old 09-30-2019, 06:09 PM
 
Location: Mountains of Oregon
16,235 posts, read 19,326,030 times
Reputation: 12028
Years ago, we did a lot of fishing around The San Joaquin Valley. Many times catch & release.
We fished in San Luis O'Neill Forebay
California Aqueduct (concrete canal)
Delta/Mendota) (concrete canal)
San Joaquin River.
Pajaro River.
We fished & camped between the California Delta & Firebaugh catching mostly Striped Bass & catfish. We caught some big fish.

Many of the valley Orchards/Farms got water from the concrete canals through gates which had valves. Sometimes small fish got through the gates & thrived/grew in the dirt canals on farm/orchard land.
There were a lot of beehives around.
What we noticed growing around the SJ valley was,
almonds
walnuts
pistachios
apricots
plums
pomegranates
cantaloupe
honey dew melons
watermelons
pears
other fruit
We have had many wonderful times & lasting memories of camping, fishing, exploring, taking photos around the valley.
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