The ninth annual Organic Stone Fruit Jubilee in Clovis is a celebration of what farmers in the central San Joaquin Valley do best: grow some of the most flavorful fruit in the world.
From 5 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25, 13 organic farmers, including Blossom Bluff Orchards, Peterson Farm and Sweet Home Ranch, will offer visitors samples of their treasured fruit. Heirloom varieties, prized for their sweet nectar and soft flesh, will be available to taste and to buy.
Mike Naylor of Dinuba is one of the 13 farmers who will bring his well-tended fruit to the event. A third-generation farmer, Naylor prides himself on producing fruit that will satisfy your appetite.
He grows some of the oldest varieties around, including several that were developed by Walter Krause, a longtime farmer and fruit breeder.
One of the vintage varieties he will share at the Jubilee is School’s Out, a big peach with speckled red and yellow skin and plenty of sweet juice. Take a bite of its bright yellow flesh and get ready to grab a napkin.
Naylor likes to say he doesn’t grow fruit with a generic taste.
“It isn’t just that the fruit is sweet, each piece of fruit has a different flavor,” he says. “And every year, it can be different.”
One of his all-time favorites is the white-flesh Goldline peach. It’s aromatic with a classic peach taste and a sweet-tasting skin.
“It is just so stinkin’ good,” he says.
Naylor gets excited when talking about his fruit, but he is also a bit melancholy when thinking about the future. Like many aging farmers in the Valley, the 63-year-old Naylor has whittled back his production.
At one time, he farmed 120 acres and his fruit was sold in many high-end grocery stores. Those days are behind him. Regulation, paperwork and rising labor costs have all taken their toll. He is down to 40 acres that he leases to nearby neighbor Debi Qualls of Fruit Fairy Farms.
He has hung onto 3 acres that he uses for a you-pick farm. For $7.50 a bucket (about 5 pounds worth) you can harvest your own peaches and apricots. Plums are $5 a bucket.
Naylor’s you-pick farm attracts all types of customers, from those who know very little about tree fruit to those who can appreciate heirloom varieties of peaches, plums and nectarines.
“It’s like when you go to a museum, you want to see a van Gogh or a Rembrandt,” Naylor says. “When some people come out to the farm, they are interested in specific varieties and they want to learn about them.”
The Stone Fruit Jubilee will be held at the Mokichi Okada Association Oasis Gardens, a 10-acre farm at 5790 Indianola Ave. in Clovis. Tickets are $5 and children under 12 are free. Tickets are sold at the gate and parking is available on Browning Avenue.
Along with sampling fruit, several vendors, including Dusty Buns, Casa de Tamales, Mattie’s Pizza, Ampersand Ice Cream and La Boulangerie, will have fruit-related food for sale.
This year’s jubilee is dedicated to the memory of Jim Belcher, founder of Kristina’s Natural Ranch Market and longtime supporter of local, organic farmers. Belcher died in March.