Sunday, February 26, 2017

And Who Will Do the Harvesting?

My site in a co-op RV park is twenty miles from the rich California Central Valley.  Although my spot is at 1,800 feet elevation and is rocky, granite strewn, close by are the fertile valley soils that nurture an abundance of foods. Some 230 crops, farmed on 1 % of the nation's croplands, produce 8% of the total harvest of fruits and vegetables.

A few days ago, driving from the Bay Area back to Coarsegold, the almond orchards were blooming.  Not quite yet at their peak, they still provided a mass of blossoms as I traveled along I-99.  The ground is green, with lots of yellow wild mustard showing, as a result of a wet winter, breaking the long drought.

Almond Orchard, Central Valley.  These trees are not yet at peak bloom.  I hope to get back to get additional photos.

But there is a problem.  Most of the harvesting of California's crops, the work in the packing sheds, and much of the pruning and irrigation work is done by immigrants.  U.C. Davis, the large agricultural school here, estimates as many as 70% of farm workers are undocumented.

In reports from U.C. we learn that most of those workers are not newcomers.  People entering the US at the Mexican border has dropped.  The combination of better opportunities in Mexico, lower birth rates there, and more border enforcement have all played a role.  Most of the people now working in California's agriculture have been here ten or more years, they have put down roots in the country, their children are acculturated.   The farm communities of California, like their counterpoints in the country's center, are politically red in a state known for its blue, liberal leanings.  Many of them voted for the current POTUS, attracted to the messages on taxes, regulations, water, of listening to them. They heard the rhetoric of fences and throwing out the undocumented.  But quotes from individuals indicates they didn't really believe people, their employees, people they have known for years, would be deported.  Now they are worried.

A few years ago, when our unemployment was running at 10%, attempts were made to recruit through the unemployment offices.  There were only a handful of takers.  So, as people are deported and others decide to keep their families together by going back below the border, don't be surprised if the prices of our food stuffs increase dramatically.

The following chart, which I found on-line, prepared by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  Note: it was from compiled and published before this year's wet winter when drought, not employees was the issue.

I pulled next to the road to get this photo of a flooded area near the San Joaquin River.