My name is Darin Pantaleoni, and I’m a fourth-generation peach farmer in Gridley, Calif.
I’ve been working in my family’s peach orchards since I was eight-years-old…I started by picking peaches from the bottoms of the trees as high as I could reach. As time went on, I moved up to tractor driving, irrigating, spraying and more. Eventually, my dad gave me more management responsibilities, until I ultimately ended up running the family business.
We farm around 600 acres of orchards, growing cling peaches, plums and walnuts. My family has been farming peaches here for about a 100-years. Both my parents come from farming families who emigrated here from Europe around 1900. Growing peaches requires hard work and perseverance, and this was instilled in me from my forefathers.
For me growing peaches is not a job, it’s a way of life—it’s also a great way to raise a family. And there’s nothing like eating a peach fresh from the tree.
My mission as a peach farmer is to use the best available farming practices and grow the safest and highest quality cling peaches especially because a lot of our peaches are used for baby food. In fact, cling peaches work especially well for baby food since the peaches have a naturally high brix to acid ratio.
In 2004, we started farming our first organic peach block. We were one of the first organic cling peach growers in California and one of the first organic cling peach growers for baby food. Today roughly 50 percent of our peach acreage is farmed organically.
We grow early, late and extra-late cling peach varieties. One variety of extra-late peaches I grow is called Rand; this variety was first cultivated by my grandfather, George Koehler.
I think the most important part of farming is producing healthful, high-quality, tasty fruit —while caring for the land, which needs to be sustainable for future generations.
That is why our family is committed to making a positive impact on our environment, and why we use sustainable farming practices. Our industry continues to evolve and improve land management techniques. The advancement of integrated pest management within our industry has been a huge success — and in many cases has eliminated the need to add pesticides to our trees. An example of this program would be pheromone traps, as simple as they look – they contain scents that attract and trap unwanted insects…by planting bee-attracting shrubs near our orchards, we invite native, wild bees to our fields, ultimately creating a more natural way to pollinate our crops. And to keep rodents at bay, we have installed raptor perches around the orchards.
As good stewards of our land, monitoring the health of the soil is crucial. In our fields, we use compost to replace nutrients in the soil, and we use soil moisture sensors to indicate when our trees require water.
With the addition of solar panels to our orchard, we now power lights, water pumps and equipment. This power source is not only more economical; it reduces our reliance on other forms of energy.
Sustainable business partners might seem like a strange phrase, but without these reliable relationships, it would be difficult for us to maintain a highly successful business.
We’ve been supplying high-quality peaches to Tree Top for many years and appreciate that they treat us as a “true” partner. We’re happy knowing that both of our companies have similar values, and we like the fact Tree Top is a grower-owned cooperative with a well-established brand. The Tree Top label is a sign of quality, and like us, has been around for a long time. The partnership we’ve formed works well for both of us…Tree Top and their field representatives are a true asset to our farm.