From the Fields® - March 20, 2019

By Janet Kister, San Diego County nursery producer

Rainfall in San Diego has blown past our annual amount of 9 inches a year, with a series of storms still on the horizon. Farmers here are loving it, although nursery plant growers have to work well ahead of shipping in order to dry the plants down to avoid disease issues.

The colder-than-normal temperatures this spring have also delayed the crops from one to four weeks. Once we get some sunshine and warmth, the plants will respond and all become available at once. We're anticipating (hoping) the customers will be more than ready due to pent-up demand, as this weather has put a damper on their gardening also.

Indoor foliage plants are the hot-selling plants again this year. Millennials are driving this trend, pushing the popularity through Instagram and Pinterest. Their desire to become "plant parents" that gives them a sense of being needed and a new connection with nature is fueling this popularity, with no end in sight for the foreseeable future. It is a good time to be a foliage grower.

By Scott Hudson, San Bernardino County apple grower

I have been in apples for the past 36 years. I retired recently, but I am still very active in Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau issues. In our area of San Bernardino County, we are seeing a reduction in farming. It is a situation of urban development brushing up against farming. This is impacting the cost of farming and the kind of farming that we are able to do. There is a decline of farmers, as many want to move away or sell their land at a better profit than farming can produce.

We also have the Asian citrus psyllid issue that we have to deal with. It is a sign of our times. We have a task force of farmers working with researchers and other interested parties to see what we can do. We aren't going to be able to eliminate that threat, but hopefully we will be able to manage it.

Very few apples are grown in San Bernardino County. All of our success with the apples stems from ag tourism. People come out here to our apple sheds and ranches. They want to see how the apples are grown and the beauty of the mountains. And also, they enjoy the wonderful apples that we produce here. We grow 36 varieties, including some of the older varieties like Rome and Gravenstein that people really like. So, they rely on us to provide them with those old, heritage varieties of apples.

We are seeing a resurgence in our area of younger people through 4-H and FFA. We are able to maintain those programs thanks to the efforts of Farm Bureau. It exposes these young people to agriculture. Agritourism also provides an opportunity to teach people about the importance of agriculture. Whole families come out to the farm and enjoy the experience.

By Dan Errotabere, Fresno County diversified grower

It is warming up nicely here in Fresno County, although there is a chance of rain forecast. Our garlic is in the ground and growing nicely, as are the garbanzos. We are actively transplanting tomatoes as well, and that looks very good.

Land prep is continuing as we take advantage of this warm weather.

As far as water, the Kings River is flowing well, so that helps with our groundwater recharge and it means we don't have to pump. We also got the announcement from the Bureau of Reclamation that our Central Valley Project allocation has increased to 55 percent, so water won't be an issue this year.

All in all, everything is going well.

By Brandon Fawaz, Siskiyou County hay and grain grower

After having two years of really dry weather, I think we literally had more winter this past February than we've had in two years. We've had snow and rain and the creeks are running and we didn't flood. So, it has been a pretty good winter. We are in the second week of March and we usually would have 90 percent of our spraying and spreading done by this time of year, but we started last week.

The crops are all behind as far as coming out of dormancy, but everything seems to be rapidly catching up with the sunshine. The forecast looks for temperatures in the 60s and maybe 70s. So, it won't be long for us to catch up.

We primarily grow hay, but we will also grow grains and orchard grass that we make hay out of as well.

The market could be a little better, but as all hay growers always say, "If the dairy sector could just start improving, it would benefit all of us." We feel for our friends in dairy, but I think we will have an OK year that will carry us over to another year.

We are always on three cuttings for our orchard grass and with the alfalfa, it depends on whether we are growing for dairies or exports or horse hay. So, with the alfalfa it is three or four cuttings. Everything is irrigated, so we are impacted by drought. We have very little surface water, but we are fortunate to have a very good aquifer that we rely on.

By Martin Pozzi, Marin County sheep, beef cattle and hay producer

Like a lot of people, we are submerged in water. We cannot even drive in our fields because of all of water, which is incredible.

Predation is a huge issue to keep the lambs alive. It is mainly the coyotes that cause the problems, but we also have mountain lions. And the eagles always show up when we are lambing. This is an issue that is out of control in this state and it is becoming more and more of an issue.

In Marin County, we only have a handful of sheep producers left. On the North Coast, from Bodega Bay to Eureka, there once was a million sheep. And they are pretty much all gone, which is really sad. Those mountains are too steep for cattle and they are just perfect for sheep, so it is unfortunate that the industry has changed so much.

Some of it is markets and things like that, but the biggest thing is the predators. We used to have a couple wildlife agents to control the coyotes, but they've taken them away. That was one of the most well-documented programs we had. Plus, as a rancher, I don't want to go onto my neighbor's land to hunt coyotes, so it was a really good program. But we don't have it in our county anymore. They wanted us to go to a non-lethal program to control the coyotes, which is totally ridiculous.

Some of the biggest issues in our county right now are that the California Coastal Commission is coming in with their plans on telling us what to do. I believe we are one of first counties in the state to be faced with this. It is a real problem trying to figure out how agriculture is going to survive with these regulations. In general, a permit to farm is where they want to go.

Everybody is working with markets as much as possible and hopefully the markets will be good.

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