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A vendor cuts heirloom tomatoes to serve as samples for potential customers at a farmer's market.
Ever bought the cheaper tomatoes at the farmer's market and wondered how the farmer can afford to sell 'em that way? Maybe you should be wondering harder. In the LA Weekly, brilliant Beth Barrett has a pretty frightening must-read investigation of the claims of produce hawkers at farmer's markets.
Barrett's piece points out the limits of regulation in "direct marketing" of produce in California. (The term's not rocket science; but it's good to remember, for reasons I'll explain.) California's got no rule that you can't have pesticides at a farmer's market. And state law, Barrett writes, "places no restrictions on the size, or the "organic-ness," of the agricultural concerns that peddle herbs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and other edibles at farmers markets. And state-regulated chemical pesticides and fertilizers can legally be applied to the millions of pounds of non-organic produce sold at farmers markets each week."
Almond tree blossom petals scattered along Interstate 5. I was raised on California tree nut snacks.
Our Woman in Washington, Kitty Felde, sought out Tom Vilsack for his thoughts about Golden State ag.
Vilsack calls these good times for farmers. Agricultural income is the highest it’s been in 40 years. Unlike the housing industry, with so many homes under water, farm debt has dwindled by half since the 1980s debt crisis.
It seems worth levelling out Vilsack's reported rah-rah view, to start with, environmentally. Nowhere noplace in that story are mentioned the words "climate change." If farmers are in clover now, they may not be for long, and it's not like they're shy about saying that.
Studies from California's Energy Commission predict diverse consequences for farm profits because of climate change. Sure, hay farmers will make more money. But grape farmers will make less, and since grape farmers make more per acre than hay farmers, between those two crops California farming starts seeing a net loss in profits. My dad's beloved tree nuts, almonds and others, can expect changing winter temperatures to change the ranges where those trees do best, according to no research from UC Davis.