CARPINTERIA, California – Avocados, lemons, and oranges grown in orchards managed by Shade Farm Management Inc. get a helping hand from some familiar equipment for the forest products industry.
Best practices drive the efforts at Shade Farm Management. That means hand-planting all the baby avocado trees. Another critical practice is using mulch, which is produced using the company’s Astec Industries Peterson 5710D horizontal grinder.
C.J. Shade, co-owner and vice president of Shade Farm Management, talked to us about his company. It was established by his father, Rick Shade, owner and president. C.J., 29 years old, has been his father’s partner for 10 years.
“We are a small business that originated as a farm management company and have since diversified into contracting, mainly forestry and land-clearing services,” said C.J. The company manages over 2,000 acres on 70 farms that grow avocados and citrus fruit.
Southern California – from the border with Mexico north to Monterrey County – is the primary region served by Shade Farm Management’s many contracting services. Managed farms – some dating to the 1880s – are concentrated in two counties along the coast.
Irrigation is a must for farming in the region. Mulching helps make it feasible. And Shade Farm Management makes the mulch from trees it removes – older, unproductive fruit trees, invasive species in orchards (e.g., eucalyptus), and trees from land-clearing projects.
“On average, we produce around 250,000 to 300,000 cubic yards of mulch annually,” said C.J. The mulch is produced by the company’s Peterson 5710D horizontal grinder. The grinder is designed for high-volume producers like Shade Farm Management.
Working at different farms, the Peterson machine is moved frequently. It is easily done with the optional tow dolly. “We move [the Peterson] usually once a week,” said C.J. “The Peterson dolly system is a seamless system.”
The Peterson 5710D can meet demanding end-product specifications. The type of mulch the company makes is critical to the operations of Shade Farm Management and successful growing operations. The mulch must retain water without cutting down on soil aeration through compacting; it’s a fine balance.
“Mulch has been proven to help with water retention in the soil as well as cut down on weed growth in the orchard — and even provide beneficial nutrients back to the soil,” noted C.J. Moreover, with the periods of drought experienced by the Golden State, “water retention is a hot button topic,” so it’s essential to minimize water loss and reduce the need to irrigate.
The Peterson 5710D is powered by a Caterpillar C27 1,050 hp Tier IV engine, which gives it the highest ratio of power to weight in its class. Reducing the impact on soil is a significant goal, and any reduction in weight contributes to best practices for farmland.
Shade Farm Management plans to purchase a second Peterson 5710D to support its thriving operations soon.
Peterson Pacific Corp. officially rebranded last year to align with its parent company, Astec. Astec was founded as a small business manufacturing asphalt mixing and paving equipment in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1972. It was known for innovation and had many successful initiatives throughout the years. As Astec enjoyed steady success over time, the company acquired nearly 20 subsidiary brands across the forestry, road building, aggregate, and other industries.
Astec entered the forestry industry with its acquisition of Peterson in 2007. Since then, Astec has continued to grow the forestry equipment product lines as well as manufacture complete industry-leading systems, including horizontal grinders, disc and drum chippers, debarkers, and blower trucks and trailers.
Astec chippers can be used for producing biomass from logs and other wood materials. They can also be utilized for other forestry-related applications such as processing residual materials from sawmills and other wood product manufacturing facilities, salvaging timber operations, plantation tree rotation, and producing pulp and paper industry chips.
Astec horizontal grinders can also be used to recycle scrap pallets, used railroad ties, wood material from land-clearing operations, and similar wood debris, processing them into revenue-generating products while at the same time diverting wood material from landfills.
(Find more information about Astec Peterson equipment by visiting www.astecindustries.com.)
The Shades’ first experience with Peterson equipment began with a Peterson 4710B horizontal grinder. “We chose the Peterson 4710B because it had been in the marketplace for a long time and was proven to be a reliable and nimble workhorse,” said C.J., adding that it seemed to “dominate the 750-horsepower class.”
CJ recalled the Peterson 4710B with fondness. “It was a great entry-level machine for us, and we built our business on that machine. It was a sad day when we had to sell it to upgrade to a larger machine.”
The connections between machines and their owners mirror those established between sales representatives and the clients they serve. Everyone can get a bit nostalgic, especially since the equipment being adopted and deployed supports the businesses and helps propel them forward.
“I met C.J. Shade and his father at the World Ag Expo in Tulane, California, back in February of 2018,” said Michael Souther, territory sales manager-California for Astec Industries, which is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tenn. “They were interested in purchasing a horizontal grinder to do some select orchard removal, land clearing, and state fire jobs.”
The Shades bought the Peterson 4710B shortly after the agricultural show. “It didn’t take long for the company’s business to take off and grow,” noted Michael.
By August 2020, the Shades wanted to upgrade their grinder to keep pace with an increased workload and demand for increased production. That’s when they bought the Peterson 5710D.
Michael welcomes being informed about the various projects the Shades have tackled, such as clearing land after forest fire damage. “C.J. has always been great to work with and I always appreciate his questions and opinions on how to better his machine and his business,” said Michael.
“Late last year, we sent C.J. to St. Louis, Missouri, for a select-only customer relations class on our latest machine – the 5710E,” said Michael. “His input was instrumental in many changes to this new grinder.”
C.J.’s expertise with machinery is fortified by the experience he gained before joining the family business. “I previously worked for a general engineering company that focused mainly on public works projects such as bridges, pipelines, and roads.” He operated various types of heavy machinery, like excavators.
Consequently, when the Shades were looking at purchasing the first grinder – after many years of renting – C.J. knew the questions to ask. What most impressed him about the Astec team was that they were “truly willing to do whatever it took to make us succeed.”
At the same time, said C.J., when he talked with existing owners of Peterson grinders, he got positive reviews. “Not one person had a bad thing to say about the machines, and more importantly, about the people that work at Astec,” he explained.
C.J.’s experience at the construction company came on top of his experience in farming. “I am a sixth generation California farmer, and as I transitioned into the Shade Farm Management business, I saw a large need for whole orchard recycling as well as other forestry equipment needs,” he explained.
With the foundation he brought to Shade Farm Management, C.J. has been keen on moving the company in the direction of an array of services that meet the needs of landowners. In his day-to-day role, C.J. helps oversee farming operations, including fertility, pruning, harvest, and details of plant culture.
C.J. is also president of the Shade Farm Management contracting division and liaises between clients and the business. His duties include estimating and scheduling equipment.
Rick is just as active in the business. Work is divided into the most efficient. “Teamwork keeps everything humming as everyone is prepared to cross over to other tasks as necessary,” explained C.J. There are 24 employees.
Shade Farm Management is based in Carpinteria. The Santa Barbara County town has some 13,000 residents and lies approximately 84 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
The Carpinteria facility occupies two acres on which a small shop, yard storage and a small office building are situated. The area is mostly open with only 2,000 square feet under roof.
The equipment roster includes a TimberPro 725B feller-buncher and two Cat excavators with a Rotobec grapple and a Paladin grapple. “The track TimberPro is essential to clearing work which is done mostly on slopes from slight to extreme,” said C.J. “We found TimberPro to have the best leveling capability. Stihl chainsaws are used for taking down some big eucalyptus trees.” Shade Farm Management contracts for trucking services.
The farms managed by Shade Farm Management range from 2 acres to over 400 contiguous acres. All the farms are within Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The company’s land-clearing and grinding services are offered across southern California.
Eighty percent of the mulch produced by the Peterson 5710D is used by Shade Farm Management on its clients’ farms. The remainder is sold in bulk form.
There’s no way to overstate the importance of mulch to the success of the farms managed by the Shades. “Each farm has its unique set of challenges, including water issues, labor issues, and so on,” said C.J. “Finding each farm’s ‘weakest link in the chain’ usually trickles back to water management right now.”
Given the scrutiny of water use in the region, practices aimed at conservation are an integral part of the company’s operations.
“Irrigation is essential for growing avocado trees, which are subtropical, while the Central Coast region of California has a more Mediterranean climate,” explained C.J. The water retention and nutrients provided by mulch allow Shade Farm Management to keep the avocado orchards producing.
C.J. currently serves on the Hass Avocado board. Rick is a former chairman of the California Avocado Commission. And the company belongs to the Farm Bureau.
“We take a lot of pride in growing high quality fruit,” said C.J. “Our diverse scope of services brings a lot of challenges…Being able to solve each problem like a puzzle is extremely satisfying.”
“The people at Shade Forest Management make it all possible,” said C.J. “We have compiled one of the best teams in the industry.”
C.J. values the ties established with Astec Industries. “The team at Astec supports us like no other equipment manufacturer or dealer has.” The responsiveness of Astec “has allowed us to grow our business in ways we never thought possible.”
In his free time, C.J. enjoys almost any outdoor activity.