Meet Mike Vereschagin, a California prune grower and owner of Vereschagin Farms Inc.
CDPB: What three words would your family use to describe you?
MIKE: Innovative, optimistic, dedicated
CDPB: What is your favorite activity to do when you aren’t working?
MIKE: Family time with grand kids , Camping with 5th wheel RV, travel with my wife.
CDPB: How did you get started in the prune industry?
MIKE: I am a 3rd generation prune farmer. Grew up in the business. When the family got into the prune growing business in a big way they knew there were opportunities. The family built its own prune dehydrator, expanding it, as production grew to an eventual 40 tunnel dryer that is still used in our business today. With the mechanization of harvesting prunes starting in the early 60’s, the rapid pace of harvesting created logistics problems for getting fruit bins in and out of the field fast enough to keep up with harvesters. In 1967, my father saw the need need to improve this and set out to develop the original Bin Carrier. The prototype was successful and had a patent awarded. Our farm shop today was originally built to manufacture the first Bin Carrier.
CDPB: What makes you proud to be in the California prune industry?
MIKE: All California prune growers can be proud in knowing we produce the highest quality prune in the world. It is done in a sanitary way from growing to drying. We are highly regulated in California in what we can and cannot use to protect or crops. We are the most efficient in our water use. Everything we do to grow a high quality prune is done in a sustainable manner.
CDPB: What sets California apart from other prunes?
MIKE: As mentioned in my previous answer, we are highly regulated in what we can do. We must record and report to the state all crop protection materials that we apply. We harvest only when the fruit is ripe with a high sugar levels that makes our fruit taste so much better, while ensuring the consumer is getting a safe and nutritious product.
CDPB: What makes your orchard different than your neighbors?
MIKE: Even though we are not organic growers, we have been recognized by our County Resource Conservation District and the University of California, Cooperative Extension Service for our conservation practices we have implemented into our farming operation.
CDPB: Who inspires you and why?
MIKE: My family. I come from a family that instilled a good work ethic when growing up. If you wanted to better yourself and others around you, it took a commitment that you had to work to achieve.
CDPB: If you were not a grower, what job could you see yourself doing?
MIKE: To a certain effect, I am doing it already. Agriculture is only about one percent of our population. I have been involved in our Farm Bureau for over 35 years, trying to protect the agricultural industry and our livelihood.
CDPB: Describe prunes in three words.
MIKE: Tasty, nutritious and healthy
CDPB: What advice would you give a future grower?
MIKE: We need more young farmers to get involved with the business of growing prunes and to keep the industry viable. If you are going to get into the business, you must commit to growing a quality product.
CDPB: Do you have anything else you would like consumers to know about your orchard and your growing techniques?
MIKE: We are committed to the future. We continue to farm in a sustainable manner and use Integrated Pest Management practices to minimize pesticides as much as possible.
CDPB: What is your favorite way to cook with prunes?
MIKE: My favorite way to eat prunes is right off the tree and right out of the dryer.