Visalia Times Delta
After banking on walnuts and pecans to shore up finances and create value on city-owned land, Visalia reported net losses in its farming operations totaling nearly $2 million since 2019.
Jeb Headrick, a Hanford-based grower who was contracted to manage the orchards, said those costs are inflated because it took a lot of resources to bring the orchards back to a healthy state.
In 2019, the city’s long-term farming contracts expired, and some of the orchards were allowed to become overrun with weeds, some as high as six feet.
The mismanagement occurred at a disastrous time, as the trees were entering maturity and set to produce their highest yields. Headrick was hired in part to return the orchards to good condition.
“It’s expensive to farm,” he told councilmembers by way of explanation. He added that the market for tree nuts is “more wild than the stock market.”
Most council members questioned the wisdom of continuing farming in light of the ongoing deficit. “We’re losing a million dollars every year. I think we need to take a serious look to see if this is worth it,” Councilman Brian Poochigian said. “Because if we were a private entity, we’d be out of business right now.”
But Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen voiced support for the urban orchards, saying the city’s farming operation “is now on the right track and I think this can be a profitable venture.”