Influence of the Generations and the Joys of Zee Lady Peaches
Paul Muradian’s first job in agriculture was sorting peaches; he was nine years old. He has other early memories of following along behind his father plowing the fields, shoveling the dirt into piles, and cutting low growing vine canes along side his brother.
And while some farm kids grow up fostering off-farm aspirations, others know it is the life they are called to lead from an early age. Paul is this kind of farmer.
His grandparents on both sides farmed in the old country, and Paul, his wife Gini, a school teacher, and their three girls now live on the land Paul’s grandfather bought in 1916 after immigrating to America. Paul started his professional farming career there after earning a degree in agricultural science with an emphasis in viticulture from Cal State at Fresno.
“I like grapes the best, the romance of making wine captivated me,” says Paul, “I had a great enology instructor in college and I had visions of studying in Europe, in Germany, at a wine college.”
And though he did try making his own wine “once,” the romance of wine-making evolved over the years to a love of farming peaches and plums on he and his brother’s 200 acres of farmland near Kingsburg, California.“My brother has the art gene and I have the farm gene,” he says with a grin. “He makes pottery, is great at welding and mechanics, drives truck, and has his own ranch that he farms. At peak times, he helps me. I do all the bookkeeping and billing, etc.” Paul pauses a moment to ponder the volumes of paper work, then grins broadly. “Dad was one happy man when he gave me all this upon his retirement in 1985, especially the book work!”
Though there is undeniable value in the wisdom passed down from multiple generations living tied to the land, there is more than just a “farm gene” at work in Paul’s world—his enthusiasm is contagious.
“There is nothing better, and I mean nothing, than a Zee Lady peach!,” he said, “Dry it, make jam, or bake that in a pie with some vanilla ice cream on it, and you’ve got some great eating. For me, it’s all about the eating experience. If people don’t have a good eating experience, they’re not coming back.”
The skill involved in picking at the perfect time comes from experience. Paul explains, “Knowing your varieties is essential; harvesting at the right moment insures that the previous eleven months of work are not wasted. Seeing the completion of the project is the very best part of my job—getting things growing, and experiencing the fruits of the labor—it’s very satisfying.”
Mixing a family life with the rigors of harvest, which falls during his wife and daughters’ summer vacation, is definitely a challenge. As Paul says, the demands of family life and farming, often with opposite schedules, can be like oil and water.
“But on the other hand, I am able to get to my daughters’ sporting events, and be at home for meals, so that’s a plus for the family. Vacations are often few and far between for farming families, and that’s just one of the many challenges.”
Others include extreme and unpredictable weather, hail, rain, frost, scorching heat, and pests.
“Farming is not for the weak-minded,” Paul concludes, “Obviously, the obstacles we face can take their toll, but it’s just part of life. In the spring time, we’re tipping and thinning and picking; we’re rockin’ and rollin’! At times, I don’t know how we do it. We start picking the first week in May and don’t finish thinning until mid-June, so it’s a juggling act. You have to keep your perspective on God, the family, the seasons, and through all of it, not let it overwhelm you. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
The Muradian family’s stone fruit roll down the packing line and into your AHO subscription boxes seasonally.