From the Fields - Tom Ikeda
By Tom Ikeda, San Luis Obispo County vegetable grower
We planted our normal crops. We have bok choy and baby bok choy, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, celery, parsley. Those are the main ones. We’ve been able to harvest most things. Further up in the valley we have a ranch where it’s a little bit warmer. We have struggled with diamondback moths. That’s really hurting our brassica production. They’ve also reduced the amount of water we have available, so we’ve had to fallow more ground. If we don’t get a wet winter, we may be down 30% of our overall acreage to fallowing.
The markets were somewhat depressed, but about mid-summer the market turned around. Prices on certain things are very good. Lettuce is at maybe historic highs due in part to problems in the Salinas Valley. The celery is the only thing struggling pricewise. But because we have lettuce, it can leverage the celery, so we think we’re going to come out in the black. We’ll wait to see what the next two months bring. They’re thinking the lettuce market should hold through December. If what they’re saying holds true, we should come out OK.
Revenues have been high, but costs are also high. Fertilizer prices doubled since last year. Like everyone, we are dealing with high fuel prices. So, even though revenue has been really good, we’re struggling to maintain the margin.
Considering the inflationary pressures at the beginning of the year, we’ve been blessed to have the markets we have and to even have the potential for a profitable year. I don’t want to say it’s because of our hard work. There’s a certain amount of luck involved. Unfortunately, the problems in the Salinas Valley create the lettuce market that we benefit from. Somebody has to get hurt for somebody else to benefit. It’s not what you want, but these days it seems like that is the case.