Monday, March 3, 2014

Doomsday Headlines Aren't Stopping Central Valley Farmers From Farming This Year

 We all have seen the chilling headlines: “California farmers brace for drought, unemployment;”  “California drought: farmers, ranchers face uncertain future;” and “Farmer loses 1,000 acres of almond trees.”

It reminds us of a tale almost 25 years ago when the San Francisco Bay Area was hit by a devastating earthquake. A stretch of elevated freeway in Oakland had collapsed. A section of the Bay Bridge had fallen. The million-dollar homes in San Francisco’s Marina District had caught fire. And the Bay Bridge World Series was suddenly interrupted.

In the days that followed, Bay Area residents were bombarded by frantic telephone calls from worried friends and relatives across the globe, asking them if they were OK and how much of San Francisco has slid into the Pacific Ocean. Yes, there was devastation. No, the quake didn’t wipe out the Bay Area.

Growers are starting the season irrigating their alfalfa fields.
Like the Loma Prieta temblor of ’89, the Great Drought of 2014 is big news. Yes, farmers are going to be impacted. Water is going to be a precious commodity. Fields are going to be fallow. 

Aphid damage on alfalfa.
Yet contrary to what the headlines may lead folks to believe, the Valley’s agriculture isn’t going to vanish overnight. Crops are going to be planted and harvested. Farmers are farming.

Last week, for example, some growers were irrigating their alfalfa fields, reports field scout Carlos Silva. They could start doing their first cutting, or harvest, of the season in the middle to the later part of this month. Remember, there are still dairy cows and cattle to feed. With acreage expected to be lower this season, growers could be fetching more money for their crop because of less supply. 

Recent rains were a welcome sight for Valley farmers.
The early-year aphid problem we discussed in recent weeks appears to have moderated in the alfalfa. Carlos has found fewer pests on the stems and a lot more lady bugs in the field. Perhaps the rain and cooler weather is helping with natural pest control. We’ll continue to monitor the fields and keep everyone updated.

We all welcomed the arrival of more rain last week. Areas around the Valley recorded up to an inch of rain through the weekend. That will help some growers stretch their water supplies a bit.

In the meantime, let’s remember that growers are still farming and working hard to keep local agriculture going in spite of the drought.

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