Name: Tom Hall
Farm: K.B. Hall Ranch
Location: Ojai, CA
What they grow: Fresh and dried Royal Blenheim apricots, harvested in June/July. This particular apricot varietal is somewhat smaller than the commercial varieties, but is packed with intense apricot flavor (great fresh, canned, in preserves, etc.).
Where to buy: Farmers markets including Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara and Sunday in Ojai.
In season now: In addition to their highly praised apricots, the ranch also sells Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons in the winter months and dried apricots (free of sulfur dioxide).
Their story: An Ojai institution, K.B. Hall Ranch is both a registered historical landmark and well-known apricot farm. (Apricots are one of the trickiest stone fruits to grow, due to early blooming and potential winter frosts.) Since the trees were first planted in 1906, the dry-farmed orchard has been farming organically, using no pesticides or commercial fertilizers.
“I have been farming my whole life,” said Hall. “I grew up on the farm and from my earliest memories, I was surrounded by apricot trees everywhere.”
The sustainable method of dry-farming works wells for two reasons. With the particular crop grown, the apricots tend to ripen early, before hot weather sets into the Ojai Valley. Additionally, the water table underneath the orchard is high. Because the trees are quite mature, their extensive root systems are able to access water easily.
“We do everything by hand,” said Hall. “Because we do not irrigate, our fruit is generally much sweeter than conventional varieties.”
K.B. Hall Ranch has had great success with their persimmon crops, a particular favorite during the holiday for making bread, cookies, and other holiday treats.
“The persimmons have been very good to us,” said Hall. “While you can eat a Fuyu persimmon like an apple, you really want the Hachiya persimmons to be very soft and sweet.”
One of the original vendors at the farmers market, Hall grew up on the family farm, dividing his time between the markets, farming, and even acting (currently playing Santa in Miracle on 34th Street at the Ojai Art Center!)
“The Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market is just great, it has everything you need,” said Hall. “I not only have regular customers, I have seen their kids grow up too.”