Updated: Dec 22, 2021
Meet John Johnston, manager of Johnston Farms, Johnston Farms Custom Spraying, J.C. Johnston, LLC, and Blue Lupin Ranch! John grew up in Atwater, CA, attended Atwater High School, and then onto Fresno State majoring in Ag Business. He started working on his family's ranch at 12 years old, but it wasn't until the college level that he decided his future would be best served going back to the farming business. John is now the 5th generation of his family to be involved in California agriculture.
As the manager for each of these companies, he oversees day to day activities pertaining to pruning in the winter, thinning in the spring, and harvest in the summer months. On a daily basis, he is moving throughout Merced County checking on peach and almond orchards, as well as coordinating with ranch foremen on activities that need to be executed. "I chose this field to continue a legacy of providing stone fruits and almonds to customers across the U.S." - John Johnson
INTERVIEW W/ JOHN JOHNSTON
What's the history behind how your family's company got started?
"My family's farming roots date back to 1919 when my great-great grandfather, Elmer Woods, planted his first peach tree in California. He then expanded the business into frozen fruit and vegetables through a company called J.R. Wood Inc. in Atwater, CA. At its peak, we farmed 3,000 acres of stone fruit and processed over 200 million pounds of fruits and vegetables from our own ranches and a number of outside growers. He grew the company into the world's largest processor of frozen freestone peaches with the #1 retail brand "Big Valley". The company was acquired by Dole in 2004 and after a few years of management my dad began purchasing his own land and planted peaches with grower contacts for Dole. Now as a fifth generation farmer, I manage operations at my parent's orchards and a number of outside growers."
Tell us a little more about your companies:
- Johnston Farms Custom Spraying offers spraying services from Merced to Turlock for peach trees and almonds
- J.C. Johnson, LLC is an orchard management and consulting business for peaches and almonds
- Johnston Farms and Blue Lupin Ranch are our two personal farms
What has been your biggest challenge or challenges you see other growers facing?
"I believe the biggest challenges in the industry are all the regulations and standards we have to stay up on as well as irrigation water availability. My biggest personal challenge is labor. Peaches are extremely labor intensive and it's getting harder and harder each year to find employees."
What is the best advice someone has said that has stuck with you?
"The best advice that I've been given is to not dwell on mistakes, but to learn from them. 'It's going to grow again next year'."
What do you enjoy most about your job?
"As a manager and traveling around the Central Valley, I enjoy being out in the fields, communicating with employees, and spending as little time behind a desk as possible."
CA Clingstone (canned or frozen) Peaches are harvested from mid-July to mid-September while CA Freestone (fresh) varieties are harvested from April through October. That's why August is National Peach Month - it's the heart of peach harvest!