Monday, July 20, 2009

California Agriculture Is In Crisis

I haven't posted for a bit and I kept thinking, I know I usually post about LA centric or City centric things and realized that I should also be posting more about the dire condition of California agriculture.

Some of you may ask but why? I live in LA, how is this relevant to me? Because California produces over one-half of the fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States and has been the #1 agricultural producing state for at least the past 60 years. It brings in over $10 billion a year to the state's economy and now that's in jeopardy.

Like the rest of the U.S. economy, California's agricultural industry is facing tough economic times. There are towns in the Central Valley, Mendota for example, that has a 40% unemployment rate. That is mind-boggling to me, that here in California this is happening.

But, unlike other sectors of our economy, agriculture is also facing pressure due to the state's drought and the increasing restrictions on water as a result of other issues including protection of wildlife from the already sparse water resources it relies on. And, illogical and overzealous new food safety regulations that are in response to the food recalls of the past few years (instead of addressing the real issues in our food system).

In the past week alone, I have tweeted about and posted on my facebook page at least a-half a dozen stories on the troubles facing California farmers, and it's so heartbreaking.

I have been writing about our farmers and farms for the past decade and I made a conscious decision from the beginning to always try to focus on the positive, to show those outside of ag. (i.e. we city dwellers and consumers) what's in it for us. Be it pick-your-own-produce farms, farm stands, farmer's markets, or hayrides, I have encouraged people to go out and visit farms, and to buy from our farmers, because that's how we can support and save them. And, I still encourage everyone to do that.

But now, I feel that this alone isn't as effective considering the huge challenges our farmers are facing. We need to be more than consumers, we need to advocate for them, and to educate ourselves to become informed voters and urge those at the local, state, and federal levels of government to think about what would happen if we didn't have our farms. And, we all need to think about what would happen if we didn't have our farms. I shudder to think about that myself.

For example, to get you in the right mood, this is a photo of an orchard along the Fresno County Blossom Trail back in spring 2002. The Blossom Trail with it's vibrant colors each spring, is a great family activity and something that could be threatened if farmers keep having to clear their fields and leave them fallow.

Here's some links to some of the stories from the past week or two that I am talking about. Please read them and think about our farmers next time you bite into the sweet and juicy stone fruit of summer!Here's Simonian Farms, part of the farm family mentioned in this first story about packing houses closing, so sad, they have been farming in Fresno since the early 1900s. "Economic woes cause stone-fruit packers to close"

"Fresno County left in the dust",0,7402229.story

"Despair flows as fields go dry and unemployment rise",0,3172131.story

"Crops, ponds destroyed in quest for food safety"

No comments: