Things happen on the farm that simply do not happen in other places. Here are a few examples of zany events that I have collected over the past 6 years that I have been consulting for private growers.
• A client found a dead lady on his property. All work had to stop until it was determined if the remains were aboriginal.
• A contract harvest crewman came to work drunk and stole a grower’s tractor. He proceeded to run into a light pole and knock out power to thousands of people.
• Recently, two men stole an irrigator’s ATV, and when the thieves were pursued by field workers, the thieves discharged a shotgun, multiple times, at the field staff.
• A female intern PCA was carjacked at gunpoint.
• A field supervisor stepped into a portapotty located near a paved road. A passing bicyclist decided he needed a vehicle, threw his bicycle in the back of the truck, and stole the fieldman’s pickup truck.
• A contractor was driving a water truck that clipped a light pole, which fell into a freshly fumigated field. Power was interrupted to 25-30,000 people and several food-processing facilities. One facility reported it was losing $100,000/hour. However, PG&E could not go into the field to restore power because of the fumigant’s re-entry restrictions. Eventually, PG&E received permission from the Ag Commissioner later in the evening.
• A horserider trespassed on a ranch and the horse slipped into an irrigation reservoir and the rider was drowned.
• Rural theft is epidemic:
o It is common for metal wiring in wells to be stripped to be sold for salvage.
o Irrigation brass sprinkler heads are stolen to be sold for salvage.
o Solar panels disappear within days of installation.
These stories show that growers truly struggle with different realities and challenges than the other 98% of the society.
While farming is more precise than 10 years ago, farms are not engineered systems. Food is produced in spite of Mother Nature or despite human nature.
Iceberg lettuce is quite taken for granted. It is ubiquitous in the U.S.
Yet, it really is a luxury crop. It requires very specific growing conditions, a lot of hand labor, incredibly precise farming systems and requires a moderate amount of water (as compared to some crops) and moderate amounts of N.
The author of this article discusses Iceberg Lettuce’s misplaced role in the gourmet world and recommends two unique ways to fix Iceberg Lettuce.
How adventurous are you? Are you ready for pickled Iceberg Lettuce hearts and Chilled Lettuce soup?
California Growers have struggled with labor issues – well – since the Spaniards arrived!
First, farm labor was composed of the Native American Neophytes. Then, it was the Chinese. Then the Japanese, Filipinos, and Sikhs. Then, the Mexicans. Then, the Okies. Then, the Mexicans (again). Then, it was High School Students???
This is an interesting article about just one of the many labor experiments that have been attempted in an effort to secure a consistent labor force.
I have always been partial to puns and random, unrelated bits of information. Sometimes, the useless bits of information make life so much more interesting. I hope you enjoy these factoids as much as I do!
Summary (Mostly from the California Strawberry Commission)
- California grows about 88% of all the berries grown in the U.S.
- There are about 300 strawberry growers in California.
- There are about 34,000 acres of strawberries in California.
- Berries are grown in California’s unique coastal environment, which provides moderate temperatures with warm-sunny days, cool-foggy nights, and (typically) predictable rainfall.
- Average yields are about 50,000 pounds per acre each season.
- In 2017, there were 206,040,481 trays (1.8 billion pounds) of fresh strawberries harvested in California.
- Average costs at final harvest are between $40,000 to $50,000
- California Strawberries are grown in five distinct growing areas: Orange County/San Diego, Oxnard/Ventura, Santa Maria/Southern SLO County and Santa Maria.
- Production starts in the South in the winter and shifts northward as temperatures heat up during the spring. This ensures that California strawberries are available to consumers year-round
- New berry varieties have lengthened the number of days in the growing season to even out year-round production, improved shipping quality, while increasing the flavor!
With fresh fruits and veggies, shelf-life is serious business! Anything that will buy a few hours or an extra day, is a competitive advantage! This technology is a game changer!
I was honored to spend an evening with students from UC Davis Cal Poly Pomona & California State University, Los Angeles as they embarked on a three-day tour of the Salinas Valley, meeting with agricultural companies featuring STEM-related career opportunities and successful young professionals already in the field. — at Tanimura & Antle, Plant Tape