So how’s the lemon year?

It’s been a very unusual year in the lemon business. Is it a good one? That still remains to be seen.

We started off well… last fall saw some nice rainfall. But the winter was cool and dry. I saw 4% humidity reported one day in January! These conditions contributed to very poor size on our first harvest of lemons, even though we waited a bit longer than usual to pick. We even elected to leave some smaller fruit that was still a bit green on the tree to gain size before the second harvest. That meant about a third less fruit being picked early, with the expected cash-flow squeeze as a result.

Size was slow in coming since no spring rains arrived to give us a boost. A new wrinkle that emerged was a shortage of labor. Manpower is scarce this year, even with higher wages. We had to delay our second harvest for a couple of weeks… there simply wasn’t the available workforce to harvest. Meanwhile some of that fruit we had left “banked” was getting very ripe and began to drop. It was a very uncomfortable feeling to walk the grove every day and see more and more fruit on the ground.

Eventually we were able to get a crew started, and even though some fruit had dropped, we ended up harvesting more than forecast. Prices are also looking strong, so with any luck we will offset the higher labor costs, lost fruit, and smaller sizes.

Off course the year isn’t over yet. We will have enough fruit on the trees for a third harvest, possibly in September which will add a bit to our totals. The same conditions that gave us small fruit also held the trees back in terms of growth. The good news is that we won’t need to prune much this year… the bad news is that this year’s young growth is where we will get next year’s lemons. But that’s another blog…if it is too early to tell how 2013 will end up, it is certainly way too early to make predictions for 2014.

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