Rural Communities


For me, general interest in Rural Community Prosperity has been incubating and building for the last couple of years.

In the autumn of 2016, while I was attending a fertilizer conference in Modesto, California, my car was vandalized. During lunch, I explained what had happened to a friend, who lives in the area. She complained that crime was high and that the area’s social indices were some of the worst on the west-side of the Rockies. Her theory was that Silicon Valley moved it’s manufacturing overseas rather than investing the San Joaquin Valley. Then, when California imposed its “Water Plan” on the area, the Agricultural jobs evaporated with the drought, and community prosperity dried up, too, for lack of economic diversity. This incident stimulated thoughts about economic and social interconnectivity. 

Next, in 2017, the national Soil and Water Conservation Society accepted a presentation called, Salinas Valley 2020, The Perfect Regulatory Storm. The intent of the presentation was to discuss four, game-changing regulatory initiatives with concomitant deadlines occurring in 2020. As part of the presentation, I attempted to estimate net revenues (i.e., gross revenues minus gross costs) for six main crops: head lettuce, romaine hearts, strawberries, broccoli, celery, and chardonnay and pinot noir wine grapes, grown in the Salinas Valley. I utilized two data bases: the 2016 Monterey County Crop Report and the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Cost and Return Studies.

The result? Crop production for all crops, except celery, operated in the red, unless yields were high and the market prices were high. If that is case, then, how do Salinas Valley growers stay in business? The answer? They either grow niche crops to cost-average or they supplement their farming operation with profits from vertically integrated businesses such as labor, harvest, transport, or processing. The conclusion? Today’s Salinas Valley growers may have finite capacity to absorb ever-escalating and compounding environmental regulatory costs. Changes to farming and the agricultural industry will be needed; however, the necessary business and technological innovations are lagging behind the pace of current policy and rule making.  

What, then, will happen to rural communities dependent on Salinas Valley Agriculture?  What are the social implications, if the local base economy does not have the resiliency needed to sustain itself or must dramatically alter to survive? What factors will dictate which rural communities prosper and which communities do not?  Are these factors exacerbated or ameliorated by virtue of being in the Salinas Valley of California? 

The next few pages focus on defining Rural Communities, discussing common problems associated with today’s Rural Communities and discussing solutions that are being initiated throughout the U.S. How can these factors be incorporated to ensure the brightest future possible in the Salinas Valley?