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OPPOSITE PAGE TOP, mulch gives the farmer a hand by conserving water, suppressing weeds, and adding nutrients to the soil.


OPPOSITE PAGE BELOW, on the Abbott ranch there are two to three mulch passes a year. The mulch is a combination and rotation of horse manure, green waste, and chipped prunings. Ranch foreman Ernesto Solis spreads the mulch.


THIS PAGE, from left, Robert and Duncan Abbott survey their avocado operation. Faithful farm dog, Leo, looks on.


in going organic, then the grower will probably convert back to conventional farming. The premium does not offset the cost of organic fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide. Labor costs are also higher with more hands-on organic production. “A few have gone back to conventional,” Carleton says. “They didn’t have the reli- gious fervor.” Carelton became an organic grower 15 years ago in his retirement from a tech


career in Silicon Valley. More growers were converting to organic, and to meet the demand, Carleton built a packinghouse at his Las Palmalitas Ranch that deals strictly in organic avocados, lemons, and oranges. “Why did I do it?” Carelton pon- ders and laughs, “because I was stupid.” It’s not a huge moneymaker, he says, but it’s a place that can pack avocados to supply a local niche market. The warehouse-looking Las Palmalitas packing house on Upson Road sits in the


middle of a 70-acre orchard. Carleton and his son Billy, who has worked the ranch SUMMER2011 41


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