Milpitas Camera Club Field Trip
Field Trip: Goldsmith Seed Company
Trip Date: July 28, 2006
Report Author: Scott Hinrichs
Report Date: July 10, 2006

This most recent field trip fell right in the middle of one of California's worst heat waves in decades. News reports say the 11-day-long hot spell may have been responsible for up to 80 deaths. On the weekend of this field trip, temperatures at Death Valley went up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit, but they weren't that much cooler where we were shooting!

And as far as I know, three heatproof camera club members and two hardy associates braved the rapidly rising temperatures of Gilroy on the morning of Saturday, July 22 for the Goldsmith Seed Company field trip. The flowers were generally spectacular, as they usually are during the hot summer months, and those who were there for the first time were quite enchanted by the sight of the bright patches of blooming flowers.

We all got right down to the business of shooting and, after an hour or two, began to notice the oppressive heat as the sun rose higher in the sky. That day Gilroy peaked out at 109 degrees and temperatures in Morgan Hill soared to 114. Only two of us were left on the grounds by noon. Every time we talked about leaving (the sweat was pouring off of us) something new would pop up and set the camera shutters to clattering once again. We were treated to numerous wondrous little things, including a small bird sheltering itself under the shade of the sunflower leaves, several active dragonflies near the koi pond, and a pair of swallows in a nest under the eaves of the bathroom facility. Goldsmith always seems to have some great little surprises hidden among the bright blossoms.

Goldsmith is a family-owned company, founded in 1962 by Glenn and Jane Goldsmith. Founder Glen Goldsmith graduated from U.C. Davis with a bachelor's degree in plant genetics and did his graduate work at UCLA in ornamental horticulture. He grew seeds in Central America before coming to Gilroy to establish Goldsmith with his first crops of snapdragons, dianthus, petunias and geraniums. Since then the company has grown in leaps and bounds, adding plant breeders, technicians and greenhouse workers to a staff that now exceeds 4,000 persons. Throughout its 42 years, Goldsmith has built new laboratories, greenhouses, research stations and seed-production sites in order to maintain its status as a leading producer of ornamental flowers.

Some of the company's facilities include far-flung production sites in Guatemala and Kenya and a research station in the Netherlands. The company's literature proudly touts its distinction as a producer of the "best flower" varieties in the world. And rightly so- Goldsmith geraniums have been planted on the grounds of Buckingham Palace in London. The company's variety of "Americana Red" geraniums were selected because, in addition to its horticultural performance requirements for England's climate, the color precisely matched the red in the palace guardsmen's uniforms. Goldsmith's specialties now include geraniums, impatiens, cyclamen, petunias, dianthus and geraniums.

This year's field trip plans called for a tour of the inside of the facilities, but the person who would have led our tour was out of town this particular weekend and we had to fend for ourselves. (Which we did magnificently!)

After finally called it quits, well after the temperature had topped 100 degrees, we drove to Moss Landing for a pleasant lunch at Phil's Fish Market. We topped that off with a brief walk on the beach to enjoy the soothing sounds of the surf and-most of all-to be cooled by the gentle ocean breeze. It was late afternoon before we left the balmy sanctuary of Moss Landing to return to sweltering Milpitas.

As we approached our home turf, we saw a gray plume of smoke rising high into the sky above the Milpitas hills. As we neared the Starbucks on Calaveras, it was quite evident that the hillside near Calaveras Road was ablaze. We decided to extend the field trip to include an exercise in photojournalism-well, as close as you can get to photo-j for a place like Milpitas. We quickly parked the car and hiked up the hill to the intersection of Calaveras Boulevard and Piedmont Road. From there we could see the bright orange flames blackening the hillsides. Up on top of the charred hill was a large house that barely escaped being consumed by the fire. As fire crew after fire crew arrived, their trucks screaming up Calaveras Boulevard, helicopters and air tankers from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) were dumping large buckets of water and payloads of that pinkish-orange flame retardant on parts of the brushfire. From our vantage point on the edge of town, we were treated to a three-ring circus of emergency activities. Even the Milpitas Police put on a pretty good show detaining a few panic-stricken people who were trying to get past the roadblock that barred Calaveras Road to traffic. By the time the fire was almost contained, we officially ended the field trip shortly before dinnertime-after almost 12 hours worth of shutter-clicking action.

In spite of the fact that it was a helluva scorcher, it turned out to be a great day! (You should have come out of the air conditioning and joined us!)

© 2006 S.R. Hinrichs