Jackie Grazier and her sisters grow raisins for Kellogg’s Raisin Bran® cereal on the same California land worked by their Armenian immigrant grandfather. We recently visited their vineyard to get to know them a little better.
How did you get into farming?
Jackie: My parents farmed this land, as did my grandparents before them. My grandfather arrived in California in the late 1800’s with his brothers, escaping unrest in Armenia. I remember my dad getting up before daylight tending the fields, and I would walk the vineyards with him. With my mom, I remember picking grape leaves used to make Armenian delicacies.
During harvest, everyone in the household pitched in. In those days, there was no such thing as mechanical harvesting and we had a short window of time.
How do you grow raisins?
Jackie: Of course, we start in the vineyards with our Thompson seedless grapes, the same green grapes you buy at the store. The young grapes appear on the vines in early May and are ready for harvest in September. We pick the grapes, which are then laid on paper trays to dry right in the vineyard. They dry in the sun until they are ready to be delivered to Sun Maid® which is very close to our ranch, and then to Kellogg’s®.
What’s your favorite part of being a farmer?
Jackie: The best part of being a farmer is the knowledge that we are creating something from basically sun, soil and water. And as members of Sun-Maid, it is great to be growing raisins that are represented by the pretty girl on the red box, and we are proud that our raisins go into Kellogg’s Raisin Bran cereal.
What’s the most challenging part of being a farmer?
Jackie: The biggest challenge is Mother Nature herself. You can spend an entire year nurturing a crop, and one bad frost or one bad rain can ruin an entire year’s effort.
What does sustainable farming mean to you?
Jackie: We want this farm to be around for future generations to come, so that means using sustainable agriculture practices. For example, we switched from flood irrigation to drip irrigation years ago to save water and electricity costs as well as protect the groundwater supply. Also, as Sun-Maid members, we have access to educational programs on the best farm management practices.