Manteca Almond Grower Showcases Environmentally Friendly Farming for Regulators


April, 2007 San Joaquin County Farm Bureau News


Dave Phippen of Travaille and Phippen Inc. in Manteca is proud to welcome regulators to his almond orchard. Phippen, an almond grower and chairman of the Almond Board of California, has good news to share about the integrated pest management and sustainable farming, harvesting and hulling/shelling practices underway at Travaille and Phippen.


Phippen in March hosted some 20 regulators from various local, state and federal agencies during the Almond Board of California’s 3rd Annual Environmental Stewardship Tour to showcase what he and other almond growers are doing to address air quality, water quality, endangered species, pesticide use and other environmental issues.


Phippen said the operation has been practicing Integrated Pest Management for more than a decade, relying on monitoring and sampling, biological control and orchard sanitation to control pests with reduced reliance on broad-spectrum insecticides.


Nick Gatzman, PCA and ranch manager for Travaille and Phippen, led the tour through an orchard of blooming almond trees to view those environmentally sensitive farming practices firsthand.


“We try to achieve environmental responsibility with our pest management and cultural operations,” Gatzman said. “We manage our pests with biological, chemical and cultural controls on a systems basis to be environmentally sensitive and also economically viable.”


Nick Gatzman, PCA and ranch manager for Travaille and Phippen, and Dave Phippen, share the growing operations’ IPM strategies with regulators, media and other invited guests at the Almond Board’s 3rd Annual Environmental Stewardship Tour in March. (Photo by Marni Katz)


Gatzman said he applies pesticides and herbicides based on recommendations compiled by the Almond Board and UC Cooperative Extension in the Seasonal Guide to Environmentally Responsible Pest Management Practices. In addition to relying on detailed monitoring to time applications, high tech equipment and best management practices minimize impacts of those applications to air and water quality.


“We don’t spray where we don’t have a tree,” he said.


Several equipment manufacturers also displayed improved harvesting systems that help reduce dust emissions from almond harvest operations, as well as advancements in chipping and shredding equipment that provide growers a viable alternative to burning their orchard prunings.


Today in San Joaquin County about 80 percent of orchard prunings are now shredded or chipped for use either as landscape material, co-generation fuel, dairy bedding or to decompose and provide organic matter to the soil. This reduces the pollutants released into the air by burning.


In the hulling operation, Phippen also shared how improvements in hulling equipment now allow Travaille and Phippen to reduce the dust emitted in that operation. However, he also pointed out how the increased use of chipping of prunings in the orchard is reducing the quality of the almond hulls he sells to dairies. He commented that “dairies love the nutrition of the hulls, but do not like paying for wood”.


These are the types of advancements that Phippen and other almond farmers are happy to share first hand with those regulators on the tour.


Phippen said the opportunity to meet face-to-face with regulators helps open dialogue about voluntary steps the ag industry can take to pre-empt mounting environmental regulations. And regulators appreciate the opportunity to meet with growers and see first hand what is happening in those industries impacted by the rules they enact.


“We are too often chained to our desk, so it’s good to get our boots dirty and see what is going on in the real world,” said Steve Shaffer, director of CDFA’s Office of Agriculture and Environmental Stewardship.


“It’s fabulous for our organization to go out and understand the industries we are regulating,” added Mary-Ann Warmerdam, director of the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation. “There is an opportunity for the industry to give input into what the solutions to the environmental challenges are. It’s with a collective identity that we can do a better job of implementing those solutions.”


Phippen noted that environmentally friendly practices are an integrated part of Travaille and Phippen’s operation.


“Environmental stewardship isn’t just something we hang on our wall in the almond industry, it’s something where the rubber hits the road at the growing level, harvesting level, and processing level,” Phippen said. “It runs throughout our operation.”


San Joaquin County almond grower Dave Phippen discusses improvements in almond harvesting and chipping/shredding equipment with regulators and media. (Photo by Marni Katz)