06 Feb Grower Profile: Schultz Ranch
The Schultz’ family may be first-timer farmers when it comes to tree nuts, but the family ranch in Riverdale has been in operation since 1886. Although new to pistachios, they have a 125 year-old family history of sheep, dairy, wheat, cotton, and alfalfa production. The family harvested their inaugural pistachio crop in 2015 with much success.
Schultz Ranch’s California roots goes back in time well beyond most in the Central Valley. It was recognized as one of the oldest family farms in the Central San Joaquin Valley, and was the first to make it onto the Fresno County Centennial Farm list, recognizing farms that have existed for more than 100 years. The Schultz’ have recently switched their focus and fields to permanent crops and currently have 300 acres of almonds, 1,100 acres of wine grapes and 100 acres of pistachios in Riverdale. In addition to produce, they have 2.6 acres dedicated to solar panels in an effort to reduce electricity costs and become more sustainable.
Dick and Bonnie Schultz spearhead the main operations, while their grown children, Lorna, Ric and Steve all contribute to the farm in one way or another. It was Dick’s great, great grandfather that first came from Germany and bought ground in California in the late 1800’s. When he passed away in 1895, his wife Mary took the reins of the family farm, continuing on with her children and passing it on to generations to come.
Dick and Bonnie’s daughter Lorna is a graduate of the Fresno County Farm Bureau FAACT Class VII and APG LeadOn program. They are proud of their family farming, noting that the grandchildren are actively involved in 4H and FFA, including one who took the 2012 Fresno Fair Supreme Crown.
Continuing to learn about new advances in agriculture while keeping a pulse on industry trends and changes allows the Schultz’ to constantly evolve with the market. Their business strategy focuses heavily on crop diversification — they don’t put all their nuts in one basket. In the midst of a close-knit farming community willing to help each other have a successful crop, the Schultz’ say that neighbors join together to share best practices rather than be strict competitors.
Their biggest challenge, as with most growers, is water. They currently use drip irrigation and continue to learn tips to conserve, reuse and save water. Although the majority of pistachio growers saw a tough season due to significant lack of chill hours in 2015, the Schultz’ only saw 7% blanking in their crop. Blank nuts result when there is fruit set and ovary growth, but the embryo fails to grow, leaving the nut shell empty or blank (no kernel inside). Blanking can occur during two different phases of pistachio nut development, nut setting and nut filling. The Schultz’ believe they had a more productive yield than most pistachio growers because of richer, heavier soil in Riverdale.
The Schultz’ involvement with Horizon Nut Company began in 2011. Attracted to the list of current growers already involved, the Schultz’s felt at home joining the organization. They are appreciative of all the relationships they have formed and the support they have received at Horizon Nut Company and within the industry. They may be new to the pistachio game, but they seem to have quickly figured out how to be successful growers in challenging times.