Spotlight on Ventura Farmers: Alana King
King & King Ranch operates out of Fillmore, California and has been growing citrus and avocados since 1913. Alana King, fourth generation of the King family, grew up visiting their grandparents on the ranch and four years ago returned with their partner to steward the family land. The face of the next generation of farming, Alana embraces practices that build soil health, keeps an eye on the economics of the operation, and looks forward to integrating conservation management practices to care for the land into the future. In the interview below, Alana shares with us a bit about the family farm.
1. What do you grow?
Mainly avocados and citrus and love diversity in our farm. We grow 9 varieties of avocados, almost 30 varieties of citrus, and a smattering of other crops such as pomegranates, persimmons, figs, culinary herbs, mangos, bananas, olives, and soon-hops.
2. What has worked on your land to improve soil health?
We have entirely stopped using Roundup on weeds. Instead, we are weed whacking and mowing in an effort to control them and give the soil microbes a chance to get healthy. In some areas we have been able to apply mulch under the trees which is excellent at suppressing weeds. The mulch also results in some beautiful soil once it has time to break down so we view this as a great soil health practice for our ranch.
We're also experimenting with cover crops to build soil organic matter, provide pollinator habitat, control weeds, and improve nutrient cycling. The cover crops in between trees is a really nice alternative to the weeds. We see bees all over the clover and it has out-competed the grasses and other weeds that were there before.
3. What has not worked?
The clover can grow right around the height of our irrigation sprinklers so we still have to weed whack to clear irrigation for the trees.
4. What current issues are you facing as a farmer?
In Ventura County we face extreme heat waves that are intensifying and becoming more frequent with climate change. As a farmer, there is always ongoing weed management, pest control, and time constraints to deal with. Additionally, we are figuring out the balance of direct marketing that generate better prices versus working with packing houses that result in lower prices, but a quick turnaround.
5. What opportunities do you see in farming in Ventura County?
It's incredible that we can grow just about anything in Ventura County. I wish I saw more restaurants showcasing the bounty that is grown all around them. There are a couple who do a great job, but by and large most places don't make the effort. Or if they do, they don't mention it on their menus. There's huge opportunity here for growing the local food movement.
6. Have you used the University Cooperative Extension as a resource? If so, how?
Absolutely!! From advising on farm operations, to attending educational events, there have been great resources within the UC Cooperative Extension system. We have had help in applying for both the Healthy Soils Grant Program and the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program.
Support your local farmers! To learn more about King & King Ranch and where to find their delicious produce, visit: https://www.kingandkingranch.com/