First Friday of the month at 5p.m.
KFCF, 88.1 FM Fresno
Listen to our podcast.
A focus on chemical-free pest management, once centered at UC’s famed Division of Biological Control, spawned a cadre of independent advisors on California’s farms, most of whom are now retired. Pete Goodell PhD, UC Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Specialist and former president of the Association of Applied Insect Ecologists, recently ended a 35-year career in the field. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Pete Goodell discuss the present state and future of pest management under a new generation of practitioners.
A featured reward of “self-independent” farmers is durable associations made with fellow cultivators. Just out of high school, Easton farmer Kenny Lucero soon mastered the rare art of growing Japanese eggplant. He also loved greenhouse work, making T&D Willey Farm’s annual vegetable transplants over three decades. Plant management skill ushered Kenny into his second career as a table grape grower. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with Kenny Lucero.
Madera’s Daulton Ranch, once encompassing 17,000 acres, hearkens to California’s Gold Rush era. On half that spread, neighbor Clay Daulton today grazes his own breeding stock, Yosemite’s mules and horses, and overwintering cattle from the Pacific Northwest. This significant agricultural enterprise has never relied on irrigation over its 170 years of operation, thriving on natural rainfall. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Clay Daulton engage in a resource management conversation focused on Madera’s past and present.
“Biostimulant” joins the lexicon of crop fertility inputs as we begin to appreciate complex interplays between plants and soil microbes in delivering nutrition. How do biostimulants differ from familiar N-P-K fertilizers, do they work, or just more “snake oil” to pick a farmer’s pocket? Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with pioneering agronomist Peter Aleman, owner of Bio-Gro Inc., Mabton, WA.
Author Liz Carlisle revisits our “Down on the Farm” front porch to discuss her just-published Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming. Liz argues that climate change demands not just playing number games with soil carbon but reembracing ancestral relationships with the land. One connection to such tradition is environmental scientist Aidee Guzman, whose research on San Joaquin Valley immigrant farmers’ soils and cropping systems features in the book. They join host Tom Willey in conversation.
UC Davis hydrogeologist Graham Fogg’s ‘Paleo Valleys’, buried along the base of our Sierra Nevada’s western slope, are a potential godsend to groundwater recharge-obsessed Central Valley communities. These ancient, buried riverbeds, dating from the last ice age, are cobble and gravel-filled to depths of 100 feet, can extend for miles underground, and have been proven by Fogg’s team to guzzle flood water as much as 100 times faster than surrounding land. Join Graham and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey.
Veteran Fresno Bee and Bakersfield Californian journalist Lois Henry, now CEO and Editor of ‘SJV Water’, gets the drop on all South Valley water happenings. Our Sierra’s modest southern streams can flip from trickle to torrent from year to year. Waterscape scarcity compels California’s wily agricultural titans to sometimes collaborate, and sometimes clash. Join Lois Henry and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey exploring mysterious machinations down yonder.
California law will soon transform all our kitchen scraps into black gold. Tulare’s New Era Farm Service, founded by a half-dozen maverick farmers in 1974, may be the state’s first and most enduring commercial compost operation, producing 100,000 tons of dairy manure compost annually. New Era’s just-retired President and CEO Doug Graham shares three decades of composting knowhow with “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey.
“First Time Home” is filmed and directed by Maderans Esmeralda and Heriberto Ventura with Washington State cousins, all second-generation Indigenous Triqui immigrant youth. Deputized to visit an ailing Oaxacan grandfather, the foursome traveled 3,000 miles overland, through an unknown country, ambassadors to an ancestral homeland and extended family they had never met. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with Esmeralda, Heriberto, and film producer Seth Holmes.
Chez Panisse restaurateur Alice Waters once described the plein air structure sheltering Fresno’s Vineyard Farmers Market as a ‘cathedral’. Why would a profit-minded developer dedicate acres of a major California city’s most valuable commercial property to fruit and vegetable vendors – for over 40 years? “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey will ask that question of Vineyard Farmers Market founder and owner Richard Erganian.
Nash Huber, reared on a 1940s Illinois family farm, found his way to the Pacific Northwest during the turbulent 1960s. Over the next half-century, reborn farmer Nash won a stellar reputation as a pioneering organic produce grower, seedsman and plant breeder, while driving permanent protection of thousands of farmland acres threatened by urban development. Join Nash Huber and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation.
Every hard-working produce farmer loves to cuss the “middleman” for siphoning off potential profits, while supposedly doing “nothing”. However, our organic movement’s early days proved wholesaler-farmer relationships could be more symbiotic than predatory. Does harmony yet reign now that organic produce performs on the marketplace main stage? Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and legacy organic wholesaler Heath & Lejeune’s David Weinstein in conversation.
A California farmer harvesting 50 tons of tomatoes from an acre is a happy farmer. But a farmer in Holland grows 450 tons on that same acre, under glass. Is that possible, and just how is it done? Formerly known as greenhouse growing, Controlled Environment Agriculture or ‘CEA’, heaps more food on tables daily. Jessica Vaughan shares her near-decade of CEA experience with “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey.
Dan O’Connell and Scott Peters’ newly published In the Struggle chronicles the stories of eight scholar-activists who, over nearly a century, have championed the cause of agrarian democracy against industrial-scale agribusiness in our San Joaquin Valley. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation with authors O’Connell and Peters.
John Diener’s Five Points Red Rock Ranch is recognized among the most innovative farming enterprises in California’s Central Valley. Red Rock grows nearly 1,000 acres of certified organic processing tomatoes, pioneers vastly reduced tillage, dials water use efficiency to the gallon over 4,000 acres, and innovates on-farm drainage issues common to westside saline soils. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and John Diener in conversation.
Raised on a Santa Cruz County apple orchard that great-grandfather Bella planted around 1900, Gina Colfer’s passion for agriculture burns unabated. Agronomist Colfer’s career witnessed Central Coast organic vegetables scale-up from hundred-acre farms to operations of thousands. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Gina discuss what industrial-scale organic operations do well, and where they fall short of the biological systems management Colfer advocates at agribusiness supplier Wilbur-Ellis.
Matt Angell fixes ailing wells for a living. His Madera Pump Co. chases a plunging water table to depths of a thousand feet trying to keep desperate farmers’ orchards and vineyards alive. Matt warns that end days are near if agriculture doesn’t drastically mend its ways. Is anybody listening? Join Matt Angell and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey in conversation.
Monte Bottens, a Central Illinois generational family farmer, is throwing off industrial corn and soybean shackles to reembrace self-independent crop and animal diversity common to his recent ancestors. During a stint selling tractors in our San Joaquin Valley, Monte imagined that farmers hereabouts might benefit from some midwestern regenerative knowhow. Join farmer Bottens and “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey to learn how he’s doing just that.
Gerald Haslam’s pen came to final rest this April 13th. Over a fifty-year career, he wrote deeply authentic stories depicting California’s Central Valley, its diversity of people, places, and rural culture. He excelled at yarns from his South Valley Okie and oil patch upbringing. “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Tulare County agrarian advocate Trudy Wischemann celebrate the life and times, most certainly the words of a singular Valley author.
As our San Joaquin Valley confronts its first drought under Sustainable Groundwater Management Act rules, just pulling harder on deep wells isn’t an option anymore. UC Merced watershed scientist Joshua Viers encores on “Down on the Farm” to critique proposed infrastructure techno-fixes vs. reimagining an agriculture that will reap more value from less production. Several collaborative skunkworks grapple with action plans but could consensus ever emerge? Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and watershed scientist Joshua Viers in conversation.