Last June, Manuel Jiminez a long-time farm adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension Service in Tulare, Central California retired. We are always reading about the great ones i this business who retire or pass. But this one hit home to me, as I am a Californian. I met Manuel decades ago at the Parlier Research station where i wandered into his experiment area. It was a wonderland of all sorts of fruits and nuts that were supposed to be commercially impossible in our Mediterranean-climate state. He had bananas, mangos and yes blueberries.
Blueberries have been around for a long time in California, in far reaches of the Golden State I had seen them in Sonoma, up in the foothills and always heard that “someone” was growing them “somewhere.” In the spirit of the great blueberry researchers before him, Manuel was testing old varieties, soil types, and many other variables. A few years later, I attended one of his field days. A carload of strawberry growers from up the road showed up and started picking his test marked test plots. There were a lot of comments from the growers in the area — “looks good…but…”
These early experiments and Manuel’s dedication brought together the critical mass that has sped the rapid growth of the California blueberry industry. In 2013, the state produced more than 50 million lbs! I have not seen Manuel for some time and am sure I will run into him on a sortie to the Central Valley. I am sure he is up to something interesting–and impossible!