I read a recent blog entry by our neighbor in which she talked about the beauty of the fruit orchards in our local area. Whenever we drive to Fresno we cross the bridges over the San Joaquin River. To the east of the northernmost bridge are some recently planted orchards in the river bottom. Since the bridge is high above the ground, it’s easy to see the precision of the trees’ spacing and geographic orientation.
Recently I discovered that if an orchard or vineyard isn’t planted a certain way, current commercial harvesting methods can’t be used. Some of Karla’s relatives have a hundred-year-old vineyard that can’t be economically harvested because the rows of vines are too close together for a harvesting machine to be used. The spacing of the rows of grape vines was perfectly appropriate for when they were planted. “Now we would have to uproot every other row of vines to do machine harvesting, and it simply isn’t feasible because we would end up with half a vineyard,” Karla’s cousin explained. “And hand labor costs are too high to make it pay.”
What a dichotomy. Old vines produce some of the best grapes. Hand labor for picking is too expensive. So the vineyard lies fallow, waiting for the monetary investment to change the situation. And the banks aren’t lending.