RIVERDALE, Calif. — Daniel Errotabere and his brothers, Jean and Remi, had an idea when they began working on the family’s San Joaquin Valley farm in the late 1980s — what about garbanzo beans?
“This crop works very well with our buried drip crop beds for crop rotation and improved profit,” he said. “They are getting more popular with consumers. However, the price for the bean is the real driver.”
Planting 640 acres of garbanzo beans — also known as chickpeas — begins either in November and December or early spring, depending on the varieties. Harvest takes place in late June or July.
The brothers also grow a diverse portfolio of other crops such as almonds, pistachios, wine grapes, tomatoes, cotton, garlic and cereals on their 6,500 acres.
This region is especially vital to the state’s agriculture, because it has a Mediterranean climate, and much of the nation’s fruits and vegetables are grown here.
The fresh garbanzos are marketed through Morgan Murray of Califresh in Sanger.
“Garbanzos have been in the Errotabere rotation for three decades, due to their agronomic benefits and return,” Murray said. They are harvested dry for their canning quality and green for the fresh market.
The beans are harvested with a combine and then trucked to the Tracy-based Rhodes-Stockton Bean Co-op processing warehouse for sizing and cleaning.
Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said Dan Errotabere has contributed significantly to the region’s agriculture.
“I have known Dan for more than two decades through his involvement with Fresno County Farm Bureau,” he said. “He served 26 years on our board, which included a two-year stint as president.
“Dan is a well-known and respected agricultural and water leader who has made impactful contributions to Central Valley farmers and ranchers over his many decades of service,” Jacobsen said. “He has been our resident agricultural water expert, being a trusted voice on the issue.”
Errotabere said the drought has definitely impacted his operation, and his main focus is getting the most crop yield from the water that’s available. Garbanzos fit in well because the water used to grow the crop is minimal. Typically, they use only 1.5 to 1.75 acre-feet of water per acre.
High-efficiency drip irrigation is also used on their crops, further saving water.
The ongoing drought has posed a huge challenge to the Errotabere brothers — and many other California farmers and ranchers.
“In fact, 2021 is the driest year I have experienced,” he said. “Everything is so much drier due to the lack of rain, hence more water is applied, and this usually comes with little or no allocation.”
Irrigation water prices are “through the roof,” he said. Combined with higher labor prices, the increased costs will ultimately impact the general food consumer in the form of higher prices, he said.
Water challenges are waiting in the New Year. Next year could also be dry. In addition, many regions are going to implement groundwater restrictions that could mean more farmland has to be fallowed.
But good news may be on the horizon.
The wet winter — 3.4 inches of rain was recorded at the Fresno Yosemite Airport in December — provides hope that there will be a break in the region’s drought.