Our Growers and Prune Cultivation
One of the world’s most successful agricultural cooperatives, Sunsweet Growers Inc. is owned by approximately 300 farmer members. By sharing information about the latest developments in planting, cultivation, integrated pest control and harvesting, the expertise of our grower members informs every facet of production.
After planting a prune plum tree, the grower must wait four to six-years before the tree bears fruit. From that point, they can look forward to around three decades of commercial productivity from the tree. Being deciduous, the prune plum tree becomes dormant during the winter months, this gives the grower a chance to regulate the tree’s shape, control fruit size and maintain a healthy growth pattern by pruning.
When spring arrives, Californian orchards become covered in a fragrant blanket of white prune plum blossoms. This bloom period is very short, sometimes lasting less than a week. As the blossoms drift to the ground, the orchard’s colour palette shifts to deep chartreuse (somewhere between green and yellow) as new fruit forms and leaf buds burst.
During the summer, California gets very little rain and growers must irrigate the orchards using water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The water is collected in the springtime using an extensive network of reservoirs. By using irrigation - instead of relying on rainfall - growers have more control over the quality of the fruit because the trees are given precisely the amount of water that they need. The dry conditions minimise insect and pest activity, providing a cultivation environment that requires few chemicals.
By late summer, the orchards are ready for harvest. Prune plums are tree-ripened and growers – using their years of experience - determine the optimum time for harvesting, assessing the fruit’s firmness and sugar content. Harvesting, helped by a machine that gently shakes each tree trunk, ensures that the tree-ripened plums never touch the ground, and this marks the end of the crop cycle for our growers.
"Farmers need to use a little bit of science, use a little bit of common sense and thirdly some intuition that they have developed over the years and they combine all those attributes and that’s really the craft."- Joe Turkovich, a Sunsweet 2nd generation grower
Visit our video library to watch our video on growing prunes in California