Long weekends are for sipping coffee and catching up on reading. I’ve selected three #mustreads for you to begin your busy week.
This wrap’s focus? The Golden State.
Coffee production finds a place in California’s avocado orchards. A mystery involving nuts. And an important piece about farm labor in the state, which is the nation’s largest agricultural producer.
A New California Crop: Coffee
About two dozen farms in the coastal counties between Santa Barbara and San Diego are cultivating coffee. Coffee is being interplanted between avocado trees, where the bushes find welcome shade. The crop may provide avocado producers a novel way to address the challenges they face, which include competition from imports, aging orchards, water access/cost and the high cost of land.
Editor’s Note: Coffee grower Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics is interviewed in Strom’s article. Ruskey has collaborated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Mark Gaskell over the years to establish field trials. Gaskell, a UC Small Farms and Specialty Crops farm advisor, was familiar with coffee farms in Central America and Hawaii. Gaskell and Ruskey conducted a multi-year, on-farm research and development program with the goal of producing a profitable, high-quality, specialty coffee. You can learn more about the research challenge – and the solution – here. To learn more about the ways in which UC farm advisors help farmers, read this UC Food Observer Q&A with Ventura County’s Ben Faber.
The theft of agricultural products and equipment is a significant concern for farmers. In California, the theft of nuts (almonds, pistachios and walnuts, which are high-value commodities) has dramatically increased. Peter Vigneron reports for Outside Magazine:
“More than 35 loads, worth at least $10 million, have gone missing since 2013. The number and style of the thefts—quick and professional, as if the characters from Ocean’s Eleven had descended on the Central Valley—have drawn the attention of federal organized-crime investigators and prompted the creation of a regional task force.”
Editor’s Note: To learn more about rural crime in California, visit the California Rural Crimes Prevention Taskforce website. To learn more about *nearly* everything related to nut production in California, follow @thealmonddoctor (UC ANR’s David Doll). Or, visit his website.
Farmers Say More Workers Needed to Harvest Crops
California is the nation’s number one agricultural producer. The state’s farmers face many challenges: water cost and access, regulation, high land costs, competition from imports, invasive species and more. Labor – availability and cost – present critical challenges, as well. Many of the state’s farmers rely on guest workers from Mexico, who come in under the H-2A program.
“If growers have their way, they will get even more under the visa program known as H-2A and face fewer barriers, delays and regulations.
To do so, they will have to ask President Trump to put an asterisk on his “America first” economic agenda, which promises to crack down on immigration as a way of opening up jobs for Americans.”
This is a complicated topic and Geoffrey Mohan explains the key issues incredibly well in this important read, the latest in an ongoing series appearing in the Los Angeles Times. Contributing to the piece is Natalie Kitroeff. Stunning photography by Pulitzer finalist Gary Coronado. Bonus: excellent data analysis and infographics, if you’re on the wonky side. Data analysis provided by Ben Welsh (one of founders of the California Civic Data Coalition). The Los Angeles Times has made the data available on open-source software, if you want to dig into yourself.
I can’t say enough good things about this newspaper’s reporting on a range of agricultural issues, especially in the last few years.
That’s it for now. As one of my favorite high school teacher’s used to say, “Make yourself a good day.” (And a great week).