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Name: Steven R. Jones; Link: http://teaarts.blogspot.com/
名字:瓊斯史迪芬Steven R. Jones, 網址: http://teaarts.blogspot.com/


california tea

Beginnings of a Tea Farm in California,
Roy Fong Starts Cali Tea Farm
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
by Heidi Kyser

On Monday, Imperial Tea Court owner Roy Fong closed escrow on a 23-acre farm in Esparto, Calif., where he plans to grow approximately 10 acres of Camellia sinensis.

"It's taken every single skill I've learned in my entire professional life to do this," said a relieved Fong. "We had to be very creative to make this happen."

He was referring to the lending process, run by banks which he described as being extremely reluctant to loan money, despite the fact that he had enough cash for 50 percent of the down payment on the property. Fong said he tried six different banks before finding one that would finance the deal, which did not involve any outside investment, only his personal capital and loans from friends, family and the bank.

"Our offer was accepted Dec. 8, and we finally just closed escrow yesterday (Monday, March 22.)," he added. "Now, I'm completely broke, but happy."

Fong believes the house on the property was too small to create much value, and land was priced higher than it would have been had it been used to grow alfalfa or another similar crop. Still, he believes it was a steal relative to what it would have cost a couple years ago.

The farm is about 20 minutes from Davis, Calif., and about an hour and a half northeast of San Francisco, where Fong lives in the suburb of Lafayette. Fong said it was important to him that he be within an hour's driving distance of the farm, in case of emergencies.

Other criteria for the farm included pleasant scenery that would be welcoming to visitors; sufficient water; and affordability.

Fong said the farm's former owners of 10 years put a great deal of work into it, including landscaping that makes it a "pretty spot." It also has two wells and access to an aqueduct 1,200 feet from the property. He hopes to irrigate mainly with water from the aqueduct, in order to avoid pumping the wells dry.

With the lending process behind him, Fong can now begin the real labor: getting the land ready to grow tea.

He said he was leaving on a trip to China the weekend of March 27 (coincidentally to look at another tea farm he's hoping to buy in the northwest part of that country), and while he was gone, his staff would begin the process of amending the soil.

Fong explained: "We have tested the soil and the water. It's within a range where we can grow tea, but I don’t want to put the tea in an environment and hope it gets used to it. I want to put the tea in an ideal environment for it to flourish. We’ll put in cover crops – mustard, alfalfa, beans – and natural humates that drive down the acidity of the soil. We want to do it with microbes instead of chemicals. It’s a probiotic approach. You encourage the kind of microbes you want in the soil."

He hopes that correct soil management and irrigation will lead to harvesting viable crops within three years. He'll plant the first seedlings this fall, but the crop will be a wash; the second year will be an experiment with different varietals; and the third year will involve planting those varietals that have shown the most promise.

According to Fong, tea farms typically grow 9,000 plants per acre. At that rate, his yield could be as high as 700 kilos per harvest, but until he knows what type of tea he'll be growing, he can't say how often he'll be harvesting.

"You harvest green teas only two or three times per year," he explained, "but oolongs yield all year long. I have a feeling we'll be growing a lot of oolongs, assamica varietals – we'll see. We'll just have to play with it."

More information about the farm can be found at Imperial Tea Court's blog, Camellia Sinensis.