Briden and Wilson are old Dafoe family names that have been passed on for many generations. Tom’s middle name is Briden, his dad’s was Wilson, his grandpa’s was Briden, and his great-grandfather’s was Wilson, and so on. We chose the name Briden Wilson Farm because it carries a strong sense of family and the bonds that tie generations of a family together.
Our heritage in farming is actually through Tom’s maternal family, the Hutton family from Manvel, North Dakota. Tom worked from a young age for his uncle Jim doing anything and everything related to raising sugar beets, beans, and wheat. Uncle Jim was one of eight brothers, and carried on farming after Grandpa Bill Hutton. Our migration west to California wasn’t enough to quench my love for the land, working the soil, and making things grow.
We purchased part of the Friel homestead southeast of Arbuckle, CA. The land we farm has been growing almonds for at least seventy years. We still use one of the original wells dug on the property for irrigating. Surface water delivered from the Sacramento River has been the primary source for irrigation water since the construction of the Tehama-Colusa Canal, but recent drought conditions have us pumping water again from the old well.
The climate in California’s Central Valley provides for nearly endless horticultural possibilities. There are several olive and pomegranate trees on our property that produce fruit prolifically without any cultivation, although almonds are the only trees we are producing commercially.
The orchard keeps us busy all year long, whether pruning and poling in the foggy winter months, managing bees and blossoms during the critical pollination stage, managing weeds and other pests as spring progresses into summer, irrigating and feeding the trees during the hot growing season, or shaking, raking, sweeping, and picking up the nuts during the intensely busy harvest season. There is a satisfaction that is difficult to put into words every season as the fruit of our labor is rewarded.
Farming is a family adventure for Rebecca and I and our children. The children love helping with irrigation chores, and help with the raking during harvest, although they don’t love that quite so much. The kids seem more excited to find an egg in the chicken coup or watch the playful jumping of a goat kid. Of course we all enjoy having fresh eggs from our hens and homemade yogurt from our goat’s milk nearly as much as we enjoy snacking on our almonds, so it’s no surprise.