Eldon Thiesen is the fourth generation to farm in the Central Valley, though he spent most of his life away from the farm serving in the Air Force and working as an accountant. He and his wife Yukari, a former professional ballerina met while he was stationed in Japan. The two now live in Kingsburg, California where they grow peaches, pluots and nectarines.
In the field, Eldon has the opportunity to use his affinity for paying close attention to detail daily, as close observation and prevention of disease or pest infestation is key in organic farming. Eldon began converting his fields to organic on the advice of a friend. Discovering the right ways to manage his farm in his particular microclimate has taken time, but he feels the effort has been worth it.
“It’s an amazing experience trying to farm, there’s a lot of learning and every year is different. It’s a great challenge,” Eldon said. “There are a lot of people to help you, but every farm is different. We’ve learned a lot and so we see the results of that learning curve, and we’ve been able to produce lots and lots of very, very good fruit, but it’s taken five or six years at least to get it to where it is today.”
Eldon enjoys the challenge of problem solving and the gamble involved in waiting on the weather and the changes each season brings. It’s finding a way around the challenges, he says, that makes it fun.
Yukari, who now runs two ballet schools in the Central Valley, sees the orchards through her artist’s lens.
“I see a similarity between organic farming and arts. In organic farming you keep close watch of how the crops grow, how the vegetation grows, and you have to be quickly treating the fruits certain ways,” Yukari said. “He spends so much time watching his trees, it’s like art, he’s judging how to create beautiful fruit. I see that as a similarity to my occupation.”
Eldon and Yukari have three children and five grandchildren. Though they each have their busy season—summer harvest for Eldon, and spring and winter ballet productions for Yukari—they do hope to someday soon be able to take a nice long vacation.
As for favorite crops, Eldon prefers the flavor-packed punch of the Flavarosa red-fleshed pluot, and Yukari, the picturesque, beautifully colored, and aptly named Ice Princess peach.