Click here to read Why Farm a Desert – Part 1.
The whole farming the desert conversation was started by journalists far from the fields. To them it just doesn’t make sense. So……they get on their keyboards and write stories about what we do here in the Central Valley of California. But what it really did was expose the lack of knowledge of the “why” we “farm a desert” as they claim.
Never mind that this Valley had one of the largest freshwater lakes in the South end of the valley. Never mind it was full of marshes and swamps. Never mind that there was once a profitable steamboat industry right in the heart of this desert, that thousands of elk and antelope roamed the valley, that the native American Indian found the means to survive. In a desert.
Yes, the valley is dry and hot, and statistically parts of it do in fact receive 8 inches a year of rainfall, and that may be one of the qualifiers of being a desert. But it is not true by any means that the central valley was a virtual sand dune and cactus setting. The image from our journalists friends is to paint that picture. Let’s be honest…..the image one conjures up when you think of a desert, is like that of the Sahara desert. This valley is far far from that. Why is it that they want the reader to have that image of this area? Simple…..a lot of them, but not all, have a bias towards agriculture and they feel farming here should end.
But I’m going to tell you why that is hypocritical and foolish on their part.
First, we all know that growing food in a green house can out yield the same plant grown outdoors. Why? Because the greenhouse provides consistent heat and climatic control. Our valley is God’s gift to mankind. It is nearly a virtual greenhouse. Farming here uses less resources and creates more product on a per acre basis than almost any other place in the world. What we can produce with 1 gallon of water is just simply amazing. Over 400 different crops are grown in this 300 mile long, 60 mile wide area. Every gallon of water here produces an abundance of products, no matter the crop. This only happens because this valley has one of the longest and most predictably dry summers that make growing food here, the ideal location. And when you combine that fact with the valley having the largest patch of Class 1 soil in the world, it really makes perfect sense.
On to the hypocritical part.
Since these journalists started the conversation…..I will end it 🙂
First, I love the city of San Francisco. What a gorgeous place it can be. My comments are not directed at people there; they are busy folks and thousands of them have never visited the Central Valley. My comments are directed to the few that write stories that are hurtful to us in Ag. I also love the year-round 72 degrees that our Southern California friends get to enjoy….I will admit I’m a bit envious, but they too live in a desert. Neither location has the resources to feed, clothe, and shelter itself.
If farming in a desert is a bad idea, according to them, then wouldn’t 20 million people living in a desert also be a bad idea? By their own standards they too should relocate.
Many of the people that vehemently oppose agriculture in this state happen to reside in the city, by the bay. But that city has a climate that could never grow its own food supply, it could never grow its clothing, they could never grow their shelter. The resources to sustain life there have to be imported. And they coined the phrase “sustainability” but they are not sustainable at all.
How much more carbon and pollution will occur if all our food is grown on other continents and brought here?
To me…..growing food with the perfect soil, the perfect climate, is by definition “sustainable”. These folks have no idea that it is our dry weather that make it fiscally possible to grow all these products safely and abundantly. California water projects were designed first to feed this country. We have done a marvelous job at doing that.
Before you think it is great idea to shut down one the most productive farming areas the world has ever known, here is a reminder to my journalist friends…..next time you eat…..think how ironic it is that you have vilified us for growing food in a desert while you eat our food living in one yourself. With smart minds and leadership we all can have water, we all can live and appreciate what we all bring to mankind, from the city and from the fields. But we can never get to that point without first realizing some simple truths and stop writing stories that pit Ag against The City. To say we cannot fix our water crisis is a failure in imagination and a slap in the face to American ingenuity that makes us special.
Erik Wilson is a farmer and the owner of Erik Wilson Custom Spraying in Dos Palos, CA. He is also one of the co-founders of My Job Depends on Ag.