Winegrape harvest is under way along the Central Coast. Trucks of every size can be seen up and down the roadways of San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties, delivering their precious cargo to waiting presses at the wineries.
Most of the chardonnay crop has been picked, which is a good thing after the half-inch of rain we received during the first week of this month.
For about three weeks during harvest, time moves quickly; days blend into nights and nights to days. The daylight hours find our crews picking from early morning to midafternoon.
Just about the time you think you might take a short nap before the mechanical harvesters begin their evening shift, a winery calls and the schedule changes. That triggers more calls to the folks who haul the fruit.
About the time everything is resolved, the night drivers begin arriving, along with the first of 10 or 12 trucks for the evening pick.
As the machines make their way to the field, I go by the house and pick up Kathleen, Clayton and their mom, if she wants to go with us.
Kathleen gets her notepad ready so she can begin writing down the license-plate numbers for the field tickets that accompany each truck as they leave the vineyard.
Clayton writes down a couple of numbers, and then his attention turns to the machines, as he monitors the grapes going into the gondolas.
Pretty soon they are both outside my pickup, walking through the vines sampling the fruit. Pretty soon, 8 o’clock rolls around and I take my helpers home.
When things are going smoothly and the trucks are all parked, I take a quick nap. I feel more comfortable when the last truck begins to get loaded and I head for home around 2 or 3 a.m. After a few hours of sleep, we start all over again.
I kind of shift into another gear for harvest. After all, it’s only for two or three weeks.
Just before harvest began, the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and its GAATE Foundation held their annual Celebrate Harvest event at Joe and Phyllis Carrari’s beautiful ranch, just south of Los Alamos.
This year, the Farm Bureau honored six people who understand the importance of agriculture and use their talents to promote our dynamic agricultural operations here in our county.
Jo Ann Brown, the director of the Vista de Las Cruces school garden, received the Agvocate of the Year Award; California Women for Agriculture received the Agricultural Education Award.
Eric Cardenas of the Orfalea Foundation and Alain Pincot from Betteravia Farms shared the School Lunches Farm-to-Fork Award for promoting locally grown produce in our schools.
Andy Caldwell received the Agricultural Promotion Award for advocating for agriculture in both his daily radio show and weekly newspaper column.
Joe and Phyllis Carrari were honored as Friends of Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, celebrating Joe’s colorful lifetime in agriculture.
Last but not least is Joni Gray, who received the President’s Award for promoting Santa Barbara County agriculture through her leadership in producing a series of videos showcasing the diversity of agriculture here in our county.
The evening culminated with auctioneer Jim Glines, from Community Bank of Santa Maria, raising money for local FFA students who need assistance buying their coveted blue jackets.
The Farm Bureau is proud to sponsor the Blue Jacket Project. We need the next generation of agriculturalists to perpetuate our rich agricultural heritage.
Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is president of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a board member of the Central Coast Wine Growers’ Association Foundation. He can be reached at email@example.com.