After spending Sunday touring San Joaquin Valley’s broad array of crops with her host, Huberty said she already had gained a better understanding of the state’s ag industry.
“We never talk about water (out East), but it’s a huge issue here,” she said. “I’ve never been to the Central Valley, and it was amazing to me coming and seeing all of the agriculture and the sheer size of it.”
The hands-on introduction to fruit harvest at McClarty Farms was one of many stops, which also included Dresick Farms Inc./DFI Marketing, Sun World, Oceano Breeze Farms and Pismo Ocean Vegetable Exchange.
Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape and Tree Fruit League who joined owner Harold McClarty in addressing the rookie picking crew, said he supports these types of programs.
“I think it can be a very positive experience, and I think it’s very important that we consider the term balance,” he said. “And what we’re trying to do is present a balanced point of view to these regulators.”
Bedwell took the opportunity to talk to exchange participants about the need for immigration reform, pending legislation and how workers — like the picking crews seen in the orchard — can’t be replaced by just anybody walking in off the street.
“We’re talking about some of the most labor-intensive crops, and I think, as you can see, it’s not unskilled labor,” he said of stone fruit.
Bedwell also pointed out that family growers, such as McClarty, contribute to both domestic and international trade.
In addition to shipping to numerous U.S. retailers, McClarty was the first U.S. stone fruit grower-shipper to export peaches into Australia, culminating three years of efforts to crack that market.