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En Divina Luz or “In Divine Light” California Avocados and Citrus

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California avocado season is off to a great start!  If you haven’t made the change now is the time! The season starts off in San Diego County and moves north. It will take longer for the California avocado to ripen at the beginning of the season. We continue to pre-condition avocados but buyer beware that it is our experience that it is taking about a week for the California avocados to ripen up this time of year.

En Divina Luz Avocado and Citrus Ranch 
Sheryl and Jason Kunkle grew up in L.A. and never imagined one day they would become organic avocado and citrus growers. Sheryl put her background in chemistry and biology to use working for a company that sold silicone products to the movie industry for special effects. “It was a wonderfully fun business and it fueled my passion for science and learning,” said Sheryl.

Jason and Sheryl Kunkle

In 1990 they decided to move out of the city and bought a parcel of land 7 miles from Fallbrook. Their passion for preserving the beautiful scenery and wildlife surrounding their property led them to gradually buy up more parcels of land, including 64 acres of avocado trees. Although Sheryl didn’t grow up on a farm, she came from a line of farmers and was always fascinated by farming. They decided to name their avocado farm En Divina Luz or “In Divine Light, chosen for their close proximity to the ocean which brings very clean air and no smog. The ranch is located in a unique area covered with natural chaparral, native plants and insects and wildlife that you don’t usually find in farming communities. Sycamore and Oak trees cover the cool valley floor while avocado trees populate the warmer, lush green hillsides. Year round creeks run through the valley and artisanal springs come from the mountains. This is the Kunkle’s paradise.

En Divina Luz pic

“We are all about flavor here and we chose citrus varieties that grow well in this moist climate,” says Sheryl. They focus on developing their soil to produce a more flavorful piece of fruit. “Farming is quite a technical field and I love learning and keeping up with technical research about organic farming, “said Sheryl.

Under a rigorous composting program, everything trimmed from the prunings on the farm is chipped, mulched and goes through a heat cycle reaching 140 degrees. The compost piles are turned a minimum of once a week in order to keep the temperature even throughout the whole pile. After 4 to 5 months the finished compost is applied to soil. Part of their healthy soil program includes growing cover crops that produce nitrogen, putting mulch both above and below the soil surface to help protect soil moisture and with weed suppression, and all of their trees receive a mycorrhizal inoculant at planting time and in times of stress. “We feel this creates better flavor in our fruit as well as healthier trees,” said Sheryl.

Production is down this year because they were devastated by the 2016 heat storm that reached as high as 117 degrees for over 8 hours. All the fruit fell off the tree and there was no fruit again in 2017. Acres of old trees were pulled out and new trees were planted. The trees that survived were reconditioned by applying mulch around the trees to prevent moisture from evaporating and trimming the dead branches off the top and “giving the trees a real good haircut and shape,” said Sheryl. “The trees are very resilient and it’s amazing they came back”. They have a good 15 acres of healthy avocado trees that are full of fruit for this season and the new trees will have fruit next year.

Young avocado trees in bloom with Lana Vetch, rye, and oats cover crop below the trees.

Young avocado trees in bloom with lana vetch, rye, and oats cover crop below the trees.

It takes a really athletic person to climb up the trees on 40 foot ladders. They use a pole to pick 2-3 avocados at a time and put them in a bag. Once it is full, at about 80 pounds, they climb down the ladder, go down the hill, deposit the avocados in bins and then start all over again. A 4 wheel drive tractor takes the avocados to a packing house on the ranch where they are packed into boxes. When asked about her plans for the future she said, “We are determined to keep the trees shorter. The taller trees were devastated in the heat storm.” In addition to protection from extreme heat, trimming the trees shorter means the workers won’t have to climb to dangerous heights and the overall harvest process will be easier.

2018 Avocado Forecast
En Divina Luz expects to have avocados through mid-July unless there is another heat wave that sweeps through.

Sweet California Citrus 
Don’t miss their Tangos and Gold Nugget Mandarins now available at Earl’s. Tangos are very sweet, easy to peel, completely seedless and they have beautiful smooth skin. Gold Nuggets are high in flavor and relatively easy to peel. Don’t be discouraged by their rough appearance. “We want to provide the best flavor to the customer by having it the freshest. All fruit is left on the tree until the last minute. That is why I think our flavor is so good, “said Sheryl.

En Divina Luz picks to order and it is never more than a day before the truck is on its way to Earl’s in San Francisco and then out to local retailers. Check back for updates as the California avocado season moves from south to north.

Gold Nugget Mandarins (2)

Gold Nugget Mandarins

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