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San Joaquin trails only El Dorado when it comes to the top apple producing counties in California
Special to the Times
A worker picks organic apples at Lucky You orchard in rural Ripon. Photo Contributed.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

That 120 years plus appropriation of a proverb was fashioned to boost the consumption of apples.

Research in western Australia, England and the State of Washington all point to no matter how you slice it apples have anti-oxidants in their skins, triterpenoids that suppress inflammation, probiotic fiber that feeds good bacteria in the gut, and other properties that reduce cardiovascular disease and may even extend longevity.

Ripon organic farmer Steve Chinchiolo sees no reason to dispute such findings.

But as far as Chinchiolo — who along with sons Alex and Adam as well as daughter Andrea farm more than 80 acres of various fruits dominated by apple trees in the Ripon area — is convinced eating apples make sense because they taste good.

And when they are picked fresh from the tree, they can literally be snapped in half with your bare hands to reveal a smooth, juicy and cool inside as Alex demonstrated recently on the family orchard on Carrolton Avenue.

That apple Alex picked and broke into two perfect halves is just one of 38,200 tons of apples San Joaquin County farmers grow in a year.

San Joaquin is only second to El Dorado among California counties for apple production. El Dorado, home of “Apple Hill” and its collective of more than three dozen tourist orientated apple operations, produced a $40.8 million crop in 2020. San Joaquin County came in second at $23.8 million.

The top five is rounded out by Santa Cruz at $20.3 million, Sonoma at $7.2 million, and San Bernadino at $3.8 million.

Apples grow well in San Joaquin County for the same reason watermelons and grapes do.

The sandy loam, heat, and cooling Delta breezes pump up the sugar content.

It is why San Joaquin — and not Napa, Sonoma or even Monterrey — is the top California county for producing wine grapes.

As far as watermelons are concerned in 2020, San Joaquin County led the state in watermelon production at 167 million pounds. That was almost half the 366.1 million pounds grown in the Central Valley.

Four apple varieties flourish in San Joaquin County — Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Pink Lady.

The advantage California apples have when it comes to serving markets is simple.

Crops are ready to pick three weeks on average ahead of Washington’s harvest. At the same time imports from the Southern Hemisphere have waned.

That said, the California harvest has some stiff competition from Washington this time of year in the form of the remnants of last year’s crop being released from cold storage and hitting the market.

Chinchiolo doesn’t knock the season-old Washington competition noting they still taste good. But they are no match for freshness for the organic apples his family grows — and you can pick yourself at his Carrolton Avenue orchard

Think of farming in San Joaquin County and crops such as almonds, grapes, pumpkins, and cherries come to mind.

Washington is by far the leading apple growing state while California ranks fifth.

Meanwhile California is still the run-away-leader among the states in annual ag production with the overall value of crops reaching $49.097 billion last year.
The Golden State produces the lion’s share of the nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

No. 2 on the list of states at $26 billion is Iowa, followed by Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, and Kansas.

San Joaquin is the seventh largest farm county in California with $3.031 billion in ag production. Neighboring Stanislaus County is sixth at $3.403 billion. Topping the list at $7.9 billion is Fresno County.

If San Joaquin County were a state, it would rank 34th right after Tennessee with $3.6 billion in farm production and before South Carolina with $3 billion in crop output.