FRESNO, Calif. — With a Central Valley pepper crop running a week ahead of schedule and a major packing shed upgrade running two weeks behind, Baloian Farms had to improvise as the season started.
Vicky BoydAlthough Baloian Farms grows several different kinds of vegetables, peppers are its core. Most of these peppers were grading as jumbos and were packed under the Pam Pak labelGenerators were brought in for a couple of weeks to help with air movement until the new air conditioning system could be hooked up and the ducting could be completed.
Three weeks into harvest, workers who once were closely monitored for heat exhaustion were packing peppers in much more comfortable confines.
Improvements involved enclosing a packing shed that had been open for years, said Jeremy Lane, sales manager.
Insulated walls were erected, and four Freon-fed air conditioning compressors were installed to cool the building.
The receiving department, formerly housed in a single-wide trailer, now has a permanent office that looks out onto the packinghouse floor, he said. The sales department, formerly in a quadruple-wide mobile home, also has new permanent offices next door to the packinghouse floor.
Before the permanent walls, Lane said they would create a wall of stacked plastic bins along the sides to try to block the prevailing northwest winds. Even so, dust was a never-ending battle.
“The machinery’s a little more sensitive now to temperature and dust as we get into these bags,” he said. “Now it’s enclosed, and we can keep things very clean here.”
Baloian Farms also used to use bird hazers to try to keep winged pests at bay, Lane said.
Talk of enclosing the packing facility dates back six or seven years, said Pete Baloian food safety-facilities manager. Each year when the management group met, they brought up the project but tabled it until the following season.
With increasing emphasis on food safety and the additional value-added products that Baloian Farms is packing, he said the time had come to move on the project.
“Food safety was the business reason,” said Pete Baloian, food safety facilities manager. Baloian said. “We did a cost analysis, and it doesn’t save you any money on cleaning. I think what made it more palatable is the 100-plus people here.”
He was referring to the routine cleaning that needs to be performed because the facility is a food plant. What the new enclosure does help is keeping equipment cleaner between the routine wash-downs.
Before the walls and air conditioning, temperatures in the shed were nearly as hot as the ambient air. In Fresno, the mercury routinely tops 100 during the summer.