Timing the harvest of #avocados

Unlike many crops, avocados can be held on the tree for some time, as much as 5 or 6 months. This gives a farmer choices, but like all choices, there are consequences and risks.

Waiting to harvest may bring a better return. More time on the tree may result in larger fruit and more pounds to send to market. It may mean less competition from foreign fruit.

On the other hand, an avocado on the tree is an avocado at risk. It is in danger of being knocked to the ground by Santa Ana winds, damaged by a rodent, or even stolen by a thief. Picking early allows the trees to direct their energy to next year’s crop, or get a head start on pruning.

As a smaller grower, I have one advantage over larger neighbors. They need to be harvesting on a near perpetual basis during the season. They must spread their picking out over time, and by default will see returns close to the industry average. But those of us whose daily harvest is measured in the tens of bins have the opportunity to place the bulk of our fruit during the best market windows.

I wish there was a Magic 8 Ball to consult, but there isn’t. So harvest season is spent watching the weather for oncoming heat waves. Looking at inventory data to gauge supply and demand. Talking to the packing house and picking contractors to know when crews will be available. Trying ignore the greedy or fearful voice in my gut to focus on facts that I can use.

As I write this, I am watching the price decline as the next wave of Mexican fruit come to market. Prices are still very good by historical standards. Do I pick our Lamb-Hass as soon as the smaller sizes are deemed mature later this week? Gamble on stronger pricing and a little more size by waiting into August? Split the difference by picking the largest fruit now, and waiting for the rest to size?

Tell me Magic 8 Ball. Tell me.

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