Balloon buddies

Two former competitors—friendly business rivals—are joining forces downtown, as Brayton’s Hallmark and Confetti Party Headquarters become one. Jerry Brayton, who is quite the Chico historian, as his parents ran shops here decades ago, said that come April 1 both stores will be located at his 241 Main St. location.

“They’re going to merge with us,” he explained. There are only three areas in which the two shops duplicated one another: balloons, Jelly Bellies and wedding invitations. Now, there will be an even bigger balloon selection and other expanded lines.

“It’s a win-win,” said Brayton, who is excited about spending more time with his grandchildren.

Confetti owner Linda Crawford was out of town doing the grandma thing and didn’t return a call by press time.

Brayton added that, besides managing his properties, there’s one downtown Chico role he won’t be giving up anytime soon: “I’ll still play Rodney the Reindeer at Christmas Preview.”

Of course, this will leave a huge vacancy at the corner of Main and Second streets, which had been occupied by Main Street Music before Confetti moved in. No word on plans for that.

Give me an N, give me a K

Rich Rosecrance, an agriculture professor at Chico State University, has created an online model that will help nut growers better predict how much nitrogen and potassium fertilizer they should be applying to their crops.

Armed with a $15,000 grant from the California Pistachio Commission and matching funds from the Legislature-backed Agriculture Research Initiative (ARI), he’s put together an orchard management tool that will be officially released next month. He’s already hearing from eager researchers and growers. Rosecrance said the model takes “a lot of information and puts it into a nice, easy-to-use format.”

He previously developed nitrogen models for almonds and walnuts, but such a tool is even more important for pistachios, which are a relatively new crop in California, so growers don’t know as much about what the trees need. Add too much nitrogen, and unhealthful nitrates leach into the groundwater. If growers know less will fertilize just as well, they can save money and protect the environment at the same time, Rosecrance said.

I tried it out, naming my farm the Rocking D Ranch and virtually applying ammonium nitrate fresh bovine waste to my sandy-loam soil. All you have to do is plug in your average yields and a few details on your application method, products and timing, and the program does the equation for you. It’s really cool.

Socially conscious coffee

I stopped by the Fair Trade Coffee kickoff in the Bell Memorial Union, where student volunteers were offering up free coffee in the name of awareness.

“Right now the coffee market is down—there’s too much coffee,” explained Orlando Jacobo, who is president of the Indigenous Nations Alliance at Chico State. Growers in places like Indonesia, Central and South America and Africa aren’t getting paid enough to cover their costs, and, along with their workers, “they’re getting down to the poverty level.”

If you buy coffee from a vendor (say, Starbucks) who’s agreed to pay growers a minimum price of $1.26 a pound for particular beans, you’ll be getting java that is less likely to be tainted by child labor or other abuses.

Also on board are the Associated Students and the Environmental Action and Resource Center. Tiffany Yost, A.S. vice president of business and finance, said that, while the coffee is available at the Bookstore, Butte Station, Holt Station and Primo Espresso, the A.S. would eventually like to expand to other blends.