When Sean McCauley and his crew finish planting safflower seeds on approximately 475 acres of land in the Benicia Industrial Park they will do what dry farmers have done for centuries – they’ll wait for the rain to fall.
“We’re dry farmers,” said McCauley, Tuesday afternoon while huge John Deere tractors pulled discs and ring-rollers across the land. “Rain water is our irrigation. A lot of the moisture we need is in the soil already.”
McCauley Brothers Agricultural Services, based in Brentwood, currently farms 4,000 acres in Contra Costa, San Joaquin Counties and now Solano County.
“We own some and we lease a lot of ground,” said McCauley.
McCauley said the soil on the property is a good mix of loam and clay that will hold moisture for a long time. “We like Benicia because it has a great climate,” said McCauley. “It’s a little cooler.”
The crop they’ll grow this year, safflower, is similar to sunflowers and is grown for the oil recovered from the seeds. According to McCauley, a lot of safflower is grown in the Dixon area.
McCauley and his crew have been plowing the ground, turning the weeds, grass and artichoke thistle under in order to create a seed bed for the new crops. “It was a lot of work,” said McCauley. “We’ve been out here for a month. Artichoke thistle is real hard to get rid of.”
All the work will hopefully pay off in August when he’ll harvest the crop. Until then, Benicians will get a view of crops growing while the grass on the surrounding hills dies. “When this all comes up it’ll be green when everything else is brown,” said McCauley. “In late July the flowers will come out.”
After harvesting the safflower McCauley isn’t sure what they’ll plant next. A lot will depend on the long-range weather forecast and what is learned from this first crop. He said garbanzo beans and winter wheat are being discussed.
The Seeno property in Benicia isn’t the only land McCauley Brothers leases from Seeno. “The Seeno family has always been good to us,” said McCauley. “They’ve always supported farming and agriculture.”
“At least 25 people have stopped to ask what we’re doing and none of them had anything negative to say,” said McCauley. “We’re happy to be here. We love the climate.”
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