Posts Tagged: Kern
Maybe it's the elusive feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself, of being a part of the community whose work is rarely seen up close and even less frequently understood by the majority of society. It's a feeling of being connected to the past - part of an ageless industry, something essential and concrete.
It was this feeling that began the summer in which I learned more about agriculture than any book has yet to teach me, became even more enamored with the industry that is the heartbeat of our valley, and became involved with the community that works endlessly to keep that heartbeat steady and strong.
I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the University of California Cooperative Extension of Kern County's DiGiorgio Internship, a summer position that gives one student studying agriculture at the college level the opportunity to work with all of the farm advisors, thereby getting broad-based and hands-on work experience.
From cattle auctions and range evaluations to variety trials and almond harvests, I worked alongside the dedicated UCCE staff, helping with projects and experiments, attending lectures, going along on farm calls, and everything in between. Working with all of the advisors gave me a very realistic sense of the full cycle of farming and everything involved, from pest management and soil health to irrigation techniques and all of the extensive equipment and technology.
This summer was packed full of new experiences for me. As someone who does not come from an agricultural background, every day was a new adventure. I saw more varieties of potatoes than I knew existed at potato field day. I helped plant a field of pumpkins and then climbed onto a tractor for the first time a few weeks later, unsteady at first but soon confidently cultivating the rows, proud of a morning's work. I harvested tomatoes and admired the bright red fruit produced in the California sunshine.
I learned about the spirit of generosity that is so prevalent in the agricultural community. I received countless words of advice and wisdom from farmers, ranchers, writers, and teachers and met people ranging from 80-year-old cattlemen to fresh-out-of-college farm advisors, all equally enthusiastic about preserving the traditions of our valley while improving the industry and way of life. I came home many days hot and tired, but satisfied and feeling like I did something truly worthwhile.
This internship showed me the significance of UC Cooperative Extension's work. Behind the scenes, the advisors are constantly solving problems and doing the research to prevent them before they happen. They work towards achieving the best results possible because they know that their results do not just affect one grower, crop or sale; eventually, they affect us all. The advisors' generosity in sharing their knowledge with me was invaluable, and it was an honor to work for an organization that is constantly improving our most important industry.
That first early morning in that vineyard, only one thought ran through my mind: it's going to be a long, hot summer. Now, I'm looking my last week of work in the eye, with a pair of worn out boots in my hand and a lot more knowledge in my head. I started the summer only knowing that I had a passion for agriculture. I'm still drawn to it for the same reasons: being a part of something tangible, essential, historical, grounded and evolving. But I'm ending it with a much more realistic and extensive view of the industry, excited about the endless possibilities and confident in the years ahead.
The Bakersfield Californian reported that it isn't just the listless economy ravaging Kern County agriculture. The industry's woes are pinned on water.
Reporter Courtenay Edelhart spoke to the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, Dan Sumner, about the national economic downturn's impact on ag. With the exception of the dairy industry, Sumner said, agriculture prices haven't been that bad over the past year.
The state of California has, however, suffered three years of drought - with implications that even last month's series of storms cannot reverse. The Bakersfield area had 5.10 inches of rain between July 2008 and June 2009, and only 2.38 inches during the same period a year earlier, the article said.
But even more significantly, recent court and government actions regarding water allocations are not satisfying southern San Joaquin Valley agriculture's thirst.
- In 2008, a federal judge restricted pumping into agricultural canals from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect Delta smelt
- The California Department of Water Resources said it will only be able to deliver 5 percent of requested State Water Project water this year to the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Southern California, although that figure may be updated next month
- The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation allowed only a 10 percent allocation for agriculture south of the delta.
The result: 40,000 acres of Kern County farmland aren't being farmed and, in December 2009, Kern County had 1,400 fewer farm jobs compared with December 2008.
Irrigating young cotton.