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Pictured left to right, Lance, wife Tamara, and son Alex
If you were to meet a member of the Jackson family in Kingsburg, chances are that they’d be in the agriculture business. A third-generation grower, Lance grows certified organic peaches (clingstone and freestone varieties), cherries and raisin grapes near the original ranch that his grandfather bought in 1942. His father started farming in 1968 on a 40-acre vineyard, which is now planted entirely with organic peaches. As long as he can remember, Lance has been working on the farm or working his way back to farming.
“I was helping my grandfather grade cling peaches in the field when I was about 5 years old and helping my older cousins chop cotton and dig out Johnson Grass. At 10, I was starting to help our irrigator and found out about Jalapeño peppers and began learning Spanish. During college, I worked whenever I could… I left school and took over management of the farming operation in the late 80’s until 2000, when I left to spend about 10 years in the construction business. After realizing that agriculture was a much more rewarding field for me, I returned to farming in 2010 and am here to stay.”
Lance, like his fellow growers, takes sustainability and his stewardship of California’s orchards to heart. And because Lance farms organic peaches, he is acutely aware of the biodynamics necessary to produce a great tasting peach year in and year out.
“The ‘grower’ is the heart and engine of agriculture. Growers are managers, scientists, mechanics, weather forecasters, and must be effective and creative problem solvers. Ultimately, though, we Growers are ‘stewards of the land’ because there is no way to stay in business if you are not 100% aware of what you are taking out of your land, and what you are putting back. One cornerstone of organic systems is a ‘needs-based’ approach to fertility and pest control. This approach encourages growers to evaluate their practices and adjust them to fit the demands of their crop without doing things unnecessarily. Not only is it ecologically responsible, it is economically responsible.”
Yet ultimately, Lance sees his responsibility, and that of all US growers, ranchers and farmers, as extending far beyond what happens on his land in Kingsburg, California.
“American agriculture is not simply tradition… it is a foundation of our national security. A nation that cannot feed itself is a nation subject to the whims of others. Something as simple as a blockade would be able to bring a country that is not self-reliant to its knees in very short order. Already we see what happens across the country when ‘out of season’ fruits and vegetables come from outside our borders; contamination recalls upset the food supply of the entire nation, and these are isolated incidents – imagine if the US had to rely on these outside sources for even 25% of our food.”
Today, Lance and the California Cling Peach Board are advocating for changes to the peach industry that will benefit growers and consumers alike. “Specifically, I would like to see the peach industry get to a point where we can profitably (grower and processor) supply 100% of our domestic market needs,” he argues. “I would like to see the end of tax dollars going to imported peaches throughout our institutional systems (schools, etc.), and a leveled playing field for products that land on our shores.”
The Jackson family has their goals set. Luckily Lance’s youngest brother is an aspiring agriculture teacher and can help spread the sustainability, Buy American message. Additionally, his son Alex is currently enrolled at CSU, Fresno as a Plant Science major and continues to work on the family’s farm. A grower’s work is never done, so the more hands on deck the better.
When not on the land, you can find Lance in a garage or on a racetrack. An avid gear-head, Lance races and restores racecars, designs cars and builds engines in his “free” time.