Date Farming, Grounded by the Farm, Episode 321 Transcript

August 24, 2022

This transcript is for Growing Dates:  Coachella’s Longest Running Jam Session,  episode 321 of Grounded by the Farm. It was created via AI.



dates, grow, crop, fruit, tree, people, farmer, flowers, pollen, eat, farm, varieties, palms, industry, palm tree, valley, orchards, rainfall, ripening, workers


Albert Keck, Grounded by the Farm


Janice Person Grounded by the Farm  00:03

Food is more than just what’s on our plate. It’s the places where it’s grown. It’s the people who grow it and so much more. Join me, Janice person, your host on grounded by the farm every other week as we talk about the foods we love. Hey everybody, this is Janice and today I have gone somewhere. Wow. Different from most of my adventures. We’re in the Coachella Valley. Yeah, that like Coachella from the music. Beyonce is not around. We are talking about dates, and not the kind that go to music festivals. We’re talking about dates, the fruit that grows on beautiful palms. And so today we’re here with our kick. He’s with Hadley’s and their whole operation is focused on dates. We have looked at so many trees today. I feel like I learned so much. You’re gonna see some of it in the video. But I asked Albert, if we could then sit down and really talk about dates. I’m gonna just start with an easy question. What’s your favorite way to eat dates?


Albert Keck  01:03

Just hold fruit form?


Grounded by the Farm  01:05

This like a pitted date?


Albert Keck  01:07

Yeah, yeah. Are off the tree. Yeah, yeah. I love it. Yeah.


Grounded by the Farm  01:10

How does your family fix them? Otherwise? Because I understand that maybe. Do some of the stuffed and bacon wrapped in?


Albert Keck  01:18

Well, the the bacon wrapped? Is that’s more of a culinary where you’ll you can find that at restaurants for making the home. But yeah, most of most of the way we eat dates as a family is just as a whole piece of fruit, love putting them in cookies or smoothies. But I think by far, we deceived them as whole fruits. Yeah. So


Grounded by the Farm  01:40

dates are one of those things. They’re not grown everywhere. They’re grown just sort of in this part of the desert. Is that right?


Albert Keck  01:47

Yes. They’re just in this little corner of the country, southeastern California and very Southwestern Arizona, this little corner of the country. The interior of the Southwest, is probably the hottest, driest climate in North America. And we get very little rainfall. But we do have good agricultural soils, and a lot of water available to us. Right now. We’re very concerned about that. But it does take a lot of water to grow these crops in this climate, obviously. And it doesn’t matter if it’s dates or citrus or vegetables.


Grounded by the Farm  02:25

You know, we saw all kinds of stuff. We saw okra, we saw lemons, driving around, there’s a lot of stuff.


Albert Keck  02:32

It doesn’t matter what crops you grow in this climate in these soils, you need water to grow them. It’s not in the form of rainfall. One thing that is important for fruits is that there is very little rainfall during ripening, right. California’s water patterns are typically rains in the wintertime, and drought in the summertime. And we have droughts, it’s usually associated with winter rainfall, because we usually don’t get summer rain or snow packs. So that winter rainfall brings the snow packs into the mountains, which fills the reservoirs which then allow which we capture and then we allows us to grow these crops through irrigation during the growing season. We don’t like rain when fruit is ripe. So that’s dates they need that dry hot desert climate but


Grounded by the Farm  03:27

you guys are really specific on where you put water on a lot of things right like you at the precise times you need it or the ways you need to put it on there are different ways to put water on.


Albert Keck  03:40

Yeah, on the farm. It’s it’s everything is very coordinated. And so as you saw earlier dates require a lot of labor, tillage and whatnot and all those things need to be scheduled around irrigation. Some of our orchards we use flood, we have basins that are dead level and then we also have drip on on most of our orchards. So it’s it’s we have to water you can’t grow a crop without water. A lot of times you have to schedule the application on water so you could do the other jobs. It’s not


Grounded by the Farm  04:14

like given to me juicy like a lemon right? So if I’m eating table grapes, I feel the water. Yeah, grapes. Dates do they do do they naturally dry or


Albert Keck  04:26

so dates are? Technically they’re not considered a dried fruit in the sense they were a fresh grape that then got dried down to a raisin, okay? Dates actually ripen in the form that we know them as, okay, so they’re they’re not laden with active water. Like a lemon would be your tangerines or Mandarin. The form that we know them in the way we eat them. That’s how they write.


Grounded by the Farm  04:51

Okay, it’s a little more dried down than a lot of fruit. It’s


Albert Keck  04:54

low moisture.


Grounded by the Farm  04:55

Yeah. What kind of nutritionally What does a date offers Am I like me fiber?


Albert Keck  05:01

Yeah, fiber. And they’re, they’re probably one of the highest sources of potassium of the fruits.


Grounded by the Farm  05:07

Forget those bananas that everybody’s eating for their leg cramps.


Albert Keck  05:10

Yeah, they’re higher and potassium of bananas. And so those are those are the fiber and potassium are probably the two most beneficial aspects of daily nutrition. But yeah, they’ve got natural sugars. And, you know, a lot of other minor elements of iron and you know, a little bit of protein, but they’re no salt, no carbs, no, no cholesterol. So they’re, they’re considered a very healthy heart healthy food. Yeah. And that that’s, that’s good for us. People are interested in eating healthier. Yeah. And that’s helping us.


Grounded by the Farm  05:45

And I think dates are one of those things that you can find a lot of places to put dates in recipes and stuff. It’d be like to cook or bake or something, you know, their state breads or cookies or something. And if you’ve come in with some chocolate chips, your kids may not even notice.


Albert Keck  05:59

So I’ve, you know, one of my favorite homemade recipes that we use, I guess, date pieces in is, it’s an oatmeal pecan cookie. Oh, this is so good. It’s just and so a friend of mine shared that with our fish, she actually shared some batches with our families that I got her out of me. So good. But yes, dates are very versatile. Yeah. And like I said, in our family, we mostly eat them as whole fruits. But, you know, from, from a culinary perspective, they’re they’re extremely versatile. They maintain their form, through Cooked Dishes, you can put them in rice dishes and whatnot. They’re popular in salads, you know, obviously baking, so they’re, they’re very versatile in that regard.


Grounded by the Farm  06:46

So there are several different varieties. And you showed me them as we went through. How How would you describe the differences to somebody who’s not sure they, they maybe haven’t bought a lot of dates themselves?


Albert Keck  06:59

Yeah, the date palms. It’s interesting, the different varieties that we grow. The palms actually look different to me, but to most people, they would probably all say


Grounded by the Farm  07:12

they all look like palm trees or at the beach to me, except they’ve got fruit hanging off of them. Yeah, so


Albert Keck  07:17

they have they have these just, you know, I guess unique details that I notice but I think most people passing by would never notice.


Grounded by the Farm  07:25

It’s like parents with identical twins usually find something that makes a difference is


Albert Keck  07:30

they’re very similar. They look very similar. So they’re, but once you you know, exactly, that’s a great analogy. So the the main varieties we grow are Deglet Noor module, but we also have a few Palaui and Zahidi varieties, most of the our main varieties deglet Norman jewel, they’re they originated from North Africa. The other varieties believe are from Iraq, okay. And there’s also a bar he variety, which is a very unique date, and that’s grown. That’s actually harvested in the unripe conditions actually, it’s actually yellow like a yellow apple, and you actually it is crunchy, you actually eat it like an apple. It’s like, I don’t know, it’s it’s very sweet. But it’s crunchy. It’s not it’s not soft and chewy, like a ripe date. They do ripen in that form, but but they’re edible in a in a non ripen. Yeah. Which is very unique. So that’s also an Iraqi date variety. So Iraq, and then North Africa, Tunisia,


Grounded by the Farm  08:33

and they date back like, can we are saying Iraq, but they date back to like math at the time. Yeah, I mean, yeah, dates are like one of the oldest foods in the world.


Albert Keck  08:43

Probably. It’s, I think it’s one of the oldest cultivated fruit crops in the world. Yeah. Yeah. And I think a lot of the references in the Bible, I think, when they talk about certain trees that are referencing date palms, but they might not say date palms. Yeah. But yeah, it’s it’s obviously very central to Middle Eastern culture.


Grounded by the Farm  09:04

Yeah. So do the do the dates appear different. So the Medjool and the Deglet Noor are the biggest ones. In terms of percentages for you, US market. Even I noticed some of the ones look so much bigger on the tree.


Albert Keck  09:21

The modules are noted for their size, but that’s also a result of hand Vinny. Okay, and so, if you can imagine the flowers have days that the female flower on a date on it basically is a bunch with a bunch of with several strands on it and with a lot of berries that when they’re pollinated, they grow into dates. Well, those those modules, we go up with the workers and have been each strand, okay, which means twisting off the berries and keeping about an inch of space between the berries on the WoW strands is extremely labor intensive. So that results obviously in a much larger piece of fruit. Yeah, but a very expensive piece. So it’s laborious. It’s time consuming. It’s expensive,


Grounded by the Farm  10:09

right? Those more used in restaurants and culinary, then I,


Albert Keck  10:14

I’m not sure. I think in the US State market, I would say, I would say both the module and Douglas are about evenly split. And I’ve seen their application in both both culinary and whole fruit form and whatnot. Yeah.


Grounded by the Farm  10:28

Neat. I do like the idea that there are these magic golden ones out there that I might be able to find someday, but I don’t I didn’t see them today.


Albert Keck  10:36

bar here, you’re probably very seasonal. But for them in late August, find something very Specialty Produce market or so


Grounded by the Farm  10:47

yeah, I would say having lived in various parts of the country dates weren’t something I always saw in the typical grocery store in my neighborhood, I might see a more in the Mediterranean market, or some of those kinds of things that would at least be more plentiful, like you would have a larger package, or something of them. Whereas in some of the smaller grocery stores dates only came out sort of around the holidays with Datanet breads and some of those kinds of things. But it seems like they’ve gotten a little bit larger market share and a little more attention, probably because of the health properties. And


Albert Keck  11:25

I think I think in general produce in America has become a year round thing. You know, for all of us. We go to our supermarkets and the variety and quantity that’s available to us all year long.


Grounded by the Farm  11:39

Amazing is incredible. Yeah,


Albert Keck  11:41

yeah. And so that’s, we’ve become accustomed to that. I think in the old days, these fruits would come into season, and we would expect them we’d like you’ve just mentioned, in our mind, culturally, it’s like, oh, this is day season, and this is Grape season or watermelon season. Well, now we don’t have that anymore in our, in our in our own personal lives, cultures. But the other thing that and so there’s more competition year round for that, for that produce space in the supermarkets. And so there’s just it’s almost like too much choice almost, you know, it’s like, if I go somewhere, there’s too much choice I shut down. But the one thing we are enjoying, in produce in dates, especially fit into this is I think the American diet is, is more health conscious and conscious than it used to be. Yeah. You know, when I was a kid, it was like Cheetos and Doritos and get out of my way. And, and I noticed now the younger and the younger generations, the young adults and even the teens, that they’re aware of what they eat from a nutritional or dietetic perspective is really interesting. Yeah, that that’s, that that’s established itself in the, in our culture and the younger generations that they’re, they’re aware of those issues. And when I was young, just starting back from college, and we were struggling in the market with the data industry, and a lot of the people here were lamenting that it’s just old people that are eating dates, and they’re all dying, and we have no future. And and I


Grounded by the Farm  13:10

thought that was Prince. Yeah, totally different.


Albert Keck  13:13

Well, trends are very different than dates. And they still have that, that, I guess the laxative effect. But they’re high in fiber. But anyway, there. And so I remember that this there was this concern over the Yeah, it was it was a pessimism that was over the trade in that regard. And then I started thinking, oh, people are living longer to us, too. Right. So that could be an expansion of a market. But I didn’t expect the younger generations to latch on. Yeah. And that in the past 10 or 15 years, the per capita consumption of dates in this in the United States has gone from about a quarter a pound per person to about a half pound per person. Wow, that doesn’t seem like a lot. That’s a lie. But but a lot of your listeners might not think that’s a lot doubling, but that’s doubling the per capita consumption and to an industry like ours, when you go from one quarter pound to a half pound, that’s 10s of millions of pounds. And then you really need to plant more dates in the United States. A lot of that has resulted in a lot of important dates, which is a concern for me as a farmer, but I’m I am happy that people are eating dates whether they’re grown here are important I’m happy that they’re eating more dates and I want them to eat more yet but but it’s it’s it’s it’s good nutritious food and all natural and, and so yeah, we want to we want to keep increasing that per capita consumption we need to and so I’m optimistic even though we’re facing some stuff, some tough times right now I’m often asked


Grounded by the Farm  14:49

Well, how did you become a date farmer? Like what is your background path to


Albert Keck  14:53

get here? My grandparents they actually moved out from Los Angeles right before World War Two mm. My parents followed. And then me and my sister and brother in law succeeded. When I was in college, I realized I did not want to live on the coast in an urban area. Growing up here in India, this was when I was interior agricultural valleys that a lot of kids grew up in that their first thought is leaving and not coming back. And that was my plan. That’s like, Okay, I went to school here and going off to college. And thank you, Mom and Dad. And now I’m out of here. And I never thought I’d come back. Well, when I was in college, our nation when the recession, jobs weren’t plentiful. The data industry was in a tough spot as well. My, like I said, grew up in this grew up in this business, parents worked hard, I saw that I had that instilled in me growing up. But what I didn’t realize is that I also loved it. And it took me going to college to realize that I don’t want to work in an urban coastal information age, tech age environment. I’m getting out of here, I don’t know where I’m going, it’s going to be in agriculture. And I thought I might be in Missouri. I don’t know where it’s gonna be Kansas, Missouri. I don’t know, Ohio, I don’t know where it’s gonna take me. But I know I’m not going to be in coastal California. And then the date industry was in trouble. My dad was growing dates for what became dole food company, and they were getting out of the business, they were canceling his long term contract. That’s when having deep gardens was offered to him for sale. And my dad’s also a cattle ranch in New Mexico. And he was, I think, looking forward to finally retiring from the date business when this opportunity came up. And he he talked to me about it. He said, you know, Albert, you know, these guys are in trouble. It’s not a good time in our industry. I thought I was done. But they really want to get out of it. And if we want to accept their offer of this business, we can make that happen. Make it work. Yeah. But you have to want to come back and do this. If you don’t, that’s cool. He wasn’t pressuring. He was happy an option. He was happy with his plan. Yeah, not coming back or not continuing in the industry. And it was tough times. And I don’t blame him for that. And again, you know, farming has got that legacy aspect to it. Blood farming, it’s in my blood. But it’s also business. Yeah, makes no sense in doing it, if you’re gonna go broke and lose what you have, and that those are the 80s. And I think most people today don’t realize how much of a crisis farmers were in in the 1980s in this country. Yeah. I grew up in that. So my parents struggling and interest rates were pushing 20% recession helped me make a decision. And I said, Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. Let’s do it, and came back. And my sister and brother in law followed me shortly thereafter. And I forgot to get the approval of my fiancee.


Grounded by the Farm  18:18

When you agreed to come back,


Albert Keck  18:19

yes. And she grew up in New York City in Manhattan. And I was, I was really worried that she would not agree to live in India, and said, Oh, I’m not I don’t know if I did this. I did not do it. Right. I know that much. But she, she was getting your teaching credential in LA. And thank goodness, she was loved being here. Yeah. She loved being here. So we made a go of it. We started having kids raised a family and, and turned out to be a wonderful life decision. Yeah, I love farming. It’s what I do. It’s natural to me. It’s, it’s it’s in my blood. We got in it was a tough row very long time of just the industry is in a bad spot. Yeah. And again, like I said, a lot. A lot of my colleagues in the industry were lamenting, being in this industries and you know, our consumers are dying is no future and nothing else. Yeah. And our the industry is twice as big as it was back then.


Grounded by the Farm  19:26

Yeah, it’s amazing. And I’m sure this area has changed like immensely, right. So I grew up in Memphis. Memphis hasn’t changed that much. I would say Indio, the Coachella Valley is probably changed like, at least culturally like people know this area just because of music festivals and Palm Springs. Yes. And


Albert Keck  19:47

well, one thing we we enjoy is that this is a resort Valley. You know, not many farmers get to farm in a resort community. There’s there’s that dichotomy to our community. It’s nothing you could show value. He was always an escape for LA. And we talked about Memphis with Elvis Elvis honeymooned here in Palm Springs, Sinatra and Dean Martin. They all hung out here. Yeah, it was their little.


Grounded by the Farm  20:12

Just like, Yeah, let’s let’s go up hope has his own.


Albert Keck  20:15

Yeah. And so all those Hollywood celebrities back in the day, Palm Springs was their playground and it became a resort, obviously, as a result of all that, and our beautiful climate, you know, half the year.


Grounded by the Farm  20:28

I’m in here in the worst time of year. Yes. It’s like so freakin hot. Yeah,


Albert Keck  20:32

you’re dedicated that let all your listeners know just how committed you are to yeah, this getting them that information. But but it’s also been agricultural, because of its climate and in the water and is soils and whatnot. The valley kind of developed along both those two lines, hospitality resorts and agriculture. Many people in this valley don’t realize how your cultural This valley is. Yeah, they just think of it for Coachella Palm Springs, but the main connector in the valley is called high we went a lovin. And when I was a child, I remember that 111 was lined by date orchards. Those they’re just remnants of those days. And day palms are also used as a landscape specimen. So a lot of those developments have date palms from the old date orchards. And most people don’t realize that those one Levin’s wind by date origins, and we also call them date gardens. And I remember that people are a lot of times they’re very concerned because they see farmland being taken over by urban development, but most of coastal California was farmland. Orange County was named Orange County because of



oranges. Yeah.


Albert Keck  21:44

I think


Grounded by the Farm  21:45

we talked to an avocado farmer who had moved further and further out. They used to grow other things. They were in Orange County, and then they moved


Albert Keck  21:53

so Human civilization has, you know, obviously happened in


Grounded by the Farm  21:57

New York at LaGuardia had friends that used to farm in that area their family did


Albert Keck  22:01

so is civilization has always revolved around agriculture. And it’s in the cities have grown, where the farms were in the farms getting pushed further out and probably go to lower quality soils and whatnot. But anyway, there’s, you know, we always adapt. And so this valley is no different. The farms were long 111 and Urban Development, push those farms further southeast in our valley. Today, there might be more land and agriculture in our valley than was 50 years ago.


Grounded by the Farm  22:29

Let’s walk through you gave me a really good explanation while we’re driving around have the two months two months, like six different seasons that you have on a date farm because of that your farm is a little different than some like some farms really need seasonal labor. But yours has so much work being done throughout the year. So would you mind going through that


Albert Keck  22:49

it’s a year round endeavor. We have a year round climate here. The the growing of the, of the actual fruit is about a six months six to seven month process, okay? But the work in the orchards all year, it flows along a calendar year, very, very conveniently, in January and February we we have to go up the tree this is harvest is in the fall. So by the end of the year, we’re done harvesting. And then as we round out the new year, we start the work all over again. And that requires a cleanup of the trees. And so keep in mind every single tree has to be worked by hand. And so the palm tree workers we call them palmettos. And That’s Spanish for a man who goes into palm tree or something. So the Palmetto will go up the tree in January and February each and every tree, clean off the thorns that come with the new flush of fronds and cut off the old bunch stocks in the previous crop so that we’re cleaning up the tree it takes about two months.


Grounded by the Farm  23:50

So now if you don’t mind me stepping back. So people have seen palm trees, almost all of us have seen palm trees but may not have seen how they get trimmed out and that’s what you’re talking about is so the stock that had the dates on it to cut that off and the new ones that have come out from the center. That’s thorns on it, you’re getting neutrons.


Albert Keck  24:09

So the palm tree is most people know palm tree. It’s a long, skinny trunk with the fluffy head


Grounded by the Farm  24:18

and you have all sizes heights. Yeah, cuz some are the higher trees.


Albert Keck  24:22

The height of a palm tree is typically related to his age. So the older it is taller it gets. So a palm is basically a plant with a long skinny trunk and a fluffy head that fluffy head or the palm fronds, the leaves. They ate palm leaves have very severe thorns on and they’re about four to six inches long. Very, very thick. They


Grounded by the Farm  24:45

rip through flesh very rigid.


Albert Keck  24:47

Yeah, they’ll go through boots and tires and everything else. And so workers have to go into the crown of those deep pumps to work the crop, but they have to shave the thorns off of them before they can do that. So of the new flush of fronds, the leafs will come out with those meat thorns. So the first job in January February is D Thorning off those thorns and then cutting off the old bunch stocks and basically cleaning up the tree. And then that’s followed by pollination. So day palms are fruit producing trees, which means their flowers will develop into fruit. And the, the varieties that we grow here, they they typically bloom in March and April. Day palms are not insect pollinated, they’re wind pollinated, which means in a natural Oasis setting where they originate from. They also come in male and female, half the trees would be male, half of them would be female. The male flowers, male trees grow flowers, just like the female trees. The male flowers are instead of tight, compact berries on the stem, excuse me, they’ll have pods along their stem that are hollow and full of and full of pollen, okay. And as those flowers grow in them, and then open and bloom, as the pods drive out, pollen is then released into the air. And so in a natural setting, the wind would just dust that pollen all throughout the air and the female flowers, they bloom and open and and those female flowers have pollen land on them, and then that creates pollination, which creates fruit and the date industry.


Grounded by the Farm  26:31

Things open to happenstance. Yes, exactly. The wind goes


Albert Keck  26:36

the right way. Right, you can write you can have one strong windstorm, take away all the male pollen for the rest of the season, that kind of thing. And so we actually intentionally cultivate and harvest the male flowers, bring them in, we dry them, we dust the pollen out of the pods, collected, filter them. And then we allocate the pollen to the workers, very measured basis, because it’s very expensive. And we know how much we need for for each acre female palms. And then the workers will then go and work the female palm by load, climb up the tree, get into the crown, open the flower, and then the flower by hand. And then we typically put a paper bag over the flower over the female flower. So we tie the female flower back up after we open and finish it, then put a bag over and then poke a hole through the bag with the hand duster. And then puff a couple puffs of pollen into that female flower. And the bag serves a purpose it contains the pollen but it also improves the local climate of that flower raises at probably a couple degrees, which if we’re if we’re above 65 degrees for four hours, we’ll get a successful pollination. And so that time of year in March and April, it could be cooler than that. So just you know, every little degree helps. And so that’s, that takes two trips up the tree because the female flowers don’t bloom all at once. And we have to go back up and capture the second flush and and so by the end of April, the workers have been up the tree three times. Those flowers that are now pollinated, will grow into bunches of fruit. And now keep in mind that they’re they’re artificially pollinated so that the heavier crops and then you would have just one pollination, well, those bunches would kick grow upwards of 100 pounds and break off the tree. Yeah, when they’re green and wet. And so in order to support the developing ripening bunch, we have to go allocate the bunches around the tree to balance the crop load and also support the bunch by tying each bunch to frond so as to support the weight of that bunch. And then at that point, that would be the fourth trip up the tree. And we’re usually done by That’s May and June. Yeah. So two months cycles for each of these. And then in July and August we go and now the crop is now pollinated set and then balanced around the tree and now it’s them now the fruit is growing. And you saw the bunches and they’re green at this point of the year in July and August. Those workers will then go back up each tree again. They’ll do a second pruning because palm fronds on all palm trees ACNs from the bottom of the crown so the oldest fronds would be on the bottom of the head of the crown. They will start to dry out later in the summer. So we prune those off the tree to keep the tree clean. And then we put the bags over the bunches that are now set and and basically ripening of course of the summer to protect them from birds and insect insects and also from rainfall.


Grounded by the Farm  29:47

I got some video of Rodolfo doing Yeah, yeah. And


Albert Keck  29:51

so it’ll protect them from so protects the ripening fruit and then in September we start harvesting the early varieties and then usually by Christmas We’re done with later varieties. The other thing that helps us because it’s a very skilled labor force, as you saw, it allows us to employ a permanent labor force year round. That’s highly skilled that takes years to develop these abilities. Within the valley, this small little tiny valley that Coachella Valley, we have microclimates, which also regulate the flesh of the flowers and the ripening of the crop right at different times throughout that season. And so they all diagram is spaced out a little bit. So geographically there are farms are spaced out across the valley. And so the other thing that helps regulate that, that pace of production is the age of the date, orchard and a variety of the date palms. So different varieties flush out earlier and ripen earlier than others, different age palms to the same thing, different locations in the valley, all those things. So a lot of details to keep track of all those things combined to help us regulate the labor force required to keep up with the crop. Yeah, and so it all it all works very nicely in the sense that it allows the workers more time to reach all those trees before, let’s say the flowers no longer receptive to pollen or before the crop is, is damaged by not being harvested. I think that works nicely for both the farmer and the worker in the sense that we’re able to manage these very highly skilled workers and they’re able to make a lot of money and work around. And you know, as far as the global economy, we’re, you know, we’re we’re fighting for consumer dollars for value. Consumers are demanding they want quality, you know, we have to meet that market. And the cost per unit is very important. So how do you operate in a very high cost environment like California, the United States in general, and you have to be productive, you have to, you have to mind your cost, you know, we win, especially in this environment. Nowadays, with fertilizer being crazy, you do trim corners, sometimes it’s just not worth it. To put that extra pound of nitrogen on with the cost of nitrogen. We’re always striving to keep costs contained. But you know, before we get so caught up on cost, we do have to have good production, we need yield and quality. And so it’s that yield and quality that that does pay for this high skilled labor and does pay for these inputs and you know, the water until and everything else. But again, we’re in a global environment, the economy, and it’s tough because we’re very expensive area to, to farm in especially for these produce crops.


Grounded by the Farm  32:41

Life isn’t always easy and catchy.


Albert Keck  32:43

No, no, no. Yeah. I’m sure the people that put on a concert ever. You are right. Yeah. Like people put on the conscious work hard. And they have to keep their costs under control to put on a good show. But yeah, like you say, we don’t see other people’s, you know, the details of their of their trades. Yeah. But yeah, this is this is how I actually think despite the specialization of our day crop being in this industry, yeah. Throughout agriculture and produce, especially, there’s so many things that are similar.


Grounded by the Farm  33:19

It’s wild. Yeah, yeah. And, and, you know, I think people get to know once you’re in farming, you get to know other farmers. So you get to have a line of sight on other things. We identify so closely, and so much that relates over,


Albert Keck  33:34

we saw a new orchard that’s not quite yet in production, right? It takes us about five years before we start getting crops off of these. I


Grounded by the Farm  33:43

asked you that question while we’re writing. But I didn’t ask it now.


Albert Keck  33:46

But the date palms don’t come into full bearing until about 10 to 12


Grounded by the Farm  33:50

years. Yeah. And you said the trees can last?


Albert Keck  33:53

Yeah, they can last seven or eight years. And then they start to fall over in the orchards thinned out. And then we finally bite the bullet and spend money to get rid of the orchard and replant it. But, um, but yeah, it’s a it’s a it’s a really long, long, long term endeavor. Yeah. And so


Grounded by the Farm  34:11

the oldest trees, maybe your dad or granddad?


Albert Keck  34:16

Those are going out now? Yeah. Yeah. And, and the trees that I’m planting today, I will see the end of Yeah, it’s kind of strange to think of it like that. But it’s a long


Grounded by the Farm  34:25

you’ll see I’m productive, but you won’t see


Albert Keck  34:28

see them and I don’t even see them leave the prime of their production, which is probably they’re typically prime producers through their 50s It’s almost like a human life cycle. You know, there’s a lot of jokes you can make you want to talk about dates.


Grounded by the Farm  34:47

But all the puns lined up, I mean, all the puns


Albert Keck  34:51

we talked about, see the the male palms and the female palms, so the male palms are are short, fat and lazy and And then once they do their job, which is one time per year, the female palms bear the load and work the rest of the year. And it’s one male for 50 female. So there’s a lot of fun things about days. And now Now, first the word date goes. Date, I think in the English language, I think it’s its origin is related to maybe in Latin with digit. So, Spanish, they call them Dotty. And I think that’s related to like, like a finger like a digit because they’re kind of like a digit, like,


Grounded by the Farm  35:36

a napkin. And the benches Yeah,


Albert Keck  35:38

and, and so I guess that that became date in the English language. And one of the things we do have the California date Commission, which is our Industry Association, to try to promote dates and research and all that. And, you know, one thing that we struggle with is how do you do a search for dates on our industry? Because, you know, you arrive at all the wrong ones, right? And even have a calendar date. That’s another difficult and so the thought crossed my mind and there’s something else we can call these things because you can’t do internet searches on them. But anyway, we, you know, it’s it. It’s it is what it is, we are California dates and that’s that’s what we tout but no I enjoy I love them. I enjoy this industry and and I enjoy that a lot of people are more and more people are enjoying


Grounded by the Farm  36:31

this nice. Oh, I’ll make sure we give people your website. We don’t


Albert Keck  36:34

sell to the retail trade. Now we’re just the farmer now but have the fruit orchards are cousins down the road, they are at retail. And there are other retail outlets in here in the valley. There’s a couple more large farm stands sell days in particular. And


Grounded by the Farm  36:53

they saw your dates were being loaded up in it look like I can find them in my local Costco.


Albert Keck  36:58

Yeah, they’re they’re available on the trade and we shipped to retailers and we also on our byproduct grades they’ll skip those go into energy bars are very popular for for that ingredient use large a lot of the large energy bar companies use dates as is their one of their base ingredients. And of course, dates have sugar and they have fiber and potassium. They’re just they’re just loaded with things. That profile nicely to the energy bar segment.


Grounded by the Farm  37:23

Yeah, yeah. Well, we’ll make sure they see your logo and stuff we when we came through, because it’s always fun to me to find somebody that you know, I have a friend that grows for Andy boy lettuce and like them when I see that lettuce in the store. I know like it’s from a farmer, like John. Yeah, these are real companies and real families. We need people who can grow it so that people like me can continue to do that they


Albert Keck  37:45

all go to the joy we all go to the produce aisle. Yeah, farmers do. And Assist is a nation of 350 million people and even more in the world will not get fed without commercial farming. And that’s, but I think those family farming operations, which by and large are commercial operations. We hold those values and I think people admire, yeah, that’s hard work, care for the land care for the workers care for the consumers. You know, my, my suppliers, and my customers are also part of what I feel responsible for. Right? I think, and I don’t think I’m unique in farming,


Grounded by the Farm  38:28

I think, I think pretty standard.


Albert Keck  38:30

I wholeheartedly agree with that.


Grounded by the Farm  38:33

Thanks so much for coming, we will have this video up on grounded by the farm, you guys are gonna really enjoy it so many odd things I’ve never even seen. So I really appreciate Albert, thank you so much for having me.


Albert Keck  38:46

So Janice, thanks for the time you took and all the all the preparation that went into this as well. I really admire that. I


Grounded by the Farm  38:52

had a great time. It was enjoyable for me too. I’m not sure why, but I had never given much thought to date. And wow, did I learn a lot, especially getting out and seeing it. So I tried to capture a lot of that in the video. And I think you ought to find it interesting. It’s on grounded by the or the grounded by the farm YouTube channel. Go ahead and take a look at that. We’ll share it on our Facebook page too. But I really am blown away and got myself some dates through Amazon. So Hadleys also has retail partners, one of whom actually offers their dates on Amazon. So I’ll leave a link for that here too. And we’ll talk to you guys again in two weeks. Thanks so much.

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