Celebrate Labor Day With California Strawberries!

Add California Strawberries to Your Labor Day Event

 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

Many people will be out and about with an extra day off on Labor Day, trying to get that last swallow of summer. They’ll crowd beaches, lakes, parks and backyard BBQs. What better way to celebrate the achievements of American workers than to add fresh-picked California strawberries to the menu?

Carolyn O'Donnell
Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director, California Strawberry Commission

 

“Any holiday can be celebrated with strawberries as they are available year-round,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director of the California Strawberry Commission in Watsonville. “Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits around. They are sweet but low in sugar, and they are quite nutritious. People are often surprised to find out that having just eight medium strawberries gives you more vitamin C than eating an orange,” she said.

 

“Grown year-round, right now strawberries are coming mostly from the Salinas-Watsonville area on the Central Coast and also in the Santa Maria area,” noted O’Donnell. “As we get more into the fall there will be less coming from the northern sections and more from the Ventura County area to the south. Eventually strawberries will come out of Orange County and Northern San Diego County. The crop will roll back up the coast again with the New Year. By next April or May, strawberries will be coming mostly from the Watsonville area again,” O’Donnell explained.

generational_small strawberries

 

O’Donnell said that strawberry growers are very dedicated to growing the best possible product they can for their customers. “Their strawberries are actually often a crop of opportunity. A number of our farmers started as field workers and were able to work their way up to owning a farm because you can produce a lot of fruit and make a good living on a small amount of land.”

 

O’Donnell said supplies should be plentiful in the grocery store. “We probably have more fruit this time of year than usual probably because rain this past winter delayed harvest, which was good news. Now we’re just working our way along. Folks in the Watsonville areas are also beginning to start preparing their other pieces of fallow ground so that they can plant around Thanksgiving and produce next year’s crop,” she said.

 

Photos: Courtesy of California Strawberry Commission

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Prather Ranch Receives 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award

Prather Ranch Named 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award® Recipient

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – (November 18, 2015) Sand County Foundation, the California Farm Bureau Federation and Sustainable Conservation are proud to announce Prather Ranch as the recipient of the prestigious 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award®. The award honors private landowner achievement in the voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.

Prather Ranch, owned and managed by Jim and Mary Rickert, is a working cattle ranch headquartered in Macdoel, and stretches across five counties. Under the Rickerts’ management, Prather Ranch has grown in size, implemented conservation enhancements and established several permanent conservation easements. Over the last 35 years, Prather Ranch has continually collaborated with diverse partners to enhance the land and promote land stewardship in the community.

One of the ranch’s first efforts to promote biodiversity was taking an unusual approach to managing the wild rice fields on their land near Mt. Shasta. After rice harvest, they began tilling the stubble into the soil and keeping their fields covered in water year-round. The practice not only benefited common species of waterfowl such as Canada Geese and Snow Geese, but it also attracted shore birds like plovers and terns, previously found only on the coast.

Through conservation easements in cooperation with the Shasta Land Trust, the Rickerts have preserved some of the state’s most spectacular wildflowers and protected sensitive vernal pools and riparian areas. Prather Ranch has also planted several miles of riparian habitat along streams and irrigation canals to benefit a wide range of animals such as the California Quail and the endangered Shasta crayfish.

Jim and Mary Rickert provide community leadership, working with 4-H, Future Farmers of America, and local schools for ranch field trips and other activities.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

“Because more than half of all land in California is privately owned, how landowners manage their properties has a dramatic and lasting effect on the environment and quality of life for all Californians,” said Ashley Boren, executive director of Sustainable Conservation. “Since the 70s, Jim and Mary have demonstrated an above-and-beyond commitment to enhancing the land, water and wildlife across a large swath of the state. And, they’ve done it in true Leopold fashion, regarding their land not simply as a commodity that belongs to them, but rather seeing their land as a community to which they belong.”

“The Leopold Conservation Award recognizes unique yet replicable strategies a farmer or rancher has developed in managing their land, to be the best steward of the natural resources,” said Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau President. “We are honored to join Sand County Foundation and Sustainable Conservation to recognize the extraordinary efforts of California farmers and ranchers who go above and beyond in managing and enhancing our natural resources.”

The Leopold Conservation Award program inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders.

The 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award will be presented December 7 at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Reno, NV. Each finalist will be recognized at the event, and Prather Ranch will be presented with a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000.

The award sponsors also wish to congratulate the 2015 finalists for their outstanding contributions to agriculture and conservation: Bruce and Sylvia Hafenfeld, who own Hafenfeld Ranch and manage public lands in eastern Kern County, and Ken and Matt Altman, who own and manage Altman Specialty Plants in Riverside and San Diego Counties.

The California Leopold Conservation Award is made possible thanks to generous contributions from American Ag Credit, The Harvey L. & Maud S. Sorenson Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, The Mosaic Company, DuPont Pioneer, and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

 

ABOUT THE LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD®
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of $10,000 and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold. Sand County Foundation presents Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

ABOUT SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION
Sand County Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to working with private landowners across North America to advance ethical and scientifically sound land management practices that benefit the environment.

ABOUT SUSTAINABLE CONSERVATION

Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing our land, air and water. Since 1993, it has brought together business, landowners and government to steward the resources that we all depend on in ways that make economic sense. Sustainable Conservation believes common ground is California’s most important resource. 

 

ABOUT CALIFORNIA FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of over 53,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members. 

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New Medfly Quarantine

A portion of San Diego County was placed under Medfly quarantine earlier this week following the detection of 4 adult Mediterranean fruit flies (Medflies) in the La Mesa area.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner, and CDFA are working collaboratively on this project.

The quarantine area in San Diego County measures 93 square miles, bordered on the north by Prospect Avenue; on the south by Mount Miguel Road; on the west by Fairmount Avenue; and on the east by Vista Grande Road.  A link to the quarantine map may be found here: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/medfly/regulation.html.

To eradicate the infestation, the release of sterile male Medflies began on August 10, at a rate of 250,000 flies per square mile per week.  The new release area is approximately 59 square miles.  In addition, properties within 200 meters of detections are being treated with an organic formulation of Spinosad, which originates from naturally-occurring bacteria in soil, in order to eliminate any mated females and reduce the density of the population. Finally, fruit removal will occur within 100 meters of detection properties in order to remove any fruit infested with eggs and larvae.

The quarantine will affect any growers, wholesalers, and retailers of susceptible fruit in the area as well as local residents. Home gardeners are urged to consume homegrown produce on site and not move it from their property.  These actions protect against the artificial spread of the infestation to nearby regions where it could affect California’s food supply and our backyard gardens and landscapes.

In the eradication program,  sterile male Medflies are brought to San Diego County from the joint CDFA/USDA sterile insect rearing facility in Los Alamitos, which prepares sterile files for release everyday over the Los Angeles basin.  The sterile release program has a proven track record of eradication in southern California.  Sterile male flies mate with fertile female flies in the environment but produce no offspring.  The Medfly population decreases as the wild flies reach the end of their natural life span with no offspring to replace them, ultimately resulting in the eradication of the pest.

The Medfly can infest more than 250 types of fruits and vegetables, causing severe impacts on California agricultural exports and backyard gardens alike.  Residents who believe their fruits and vegetables are infested with fruit fly larvae are encouraged to call the state’s toll-free Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

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USDA Designates Imperial County as Primary Natural Disaster Area

Drought-Ridden Imperial County Named Primary Natural Disaster Area 

TODAY, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated Imperial County in California as a primary natural disaster area due to damages and losses caused by a recent drought.

“Our hearts go out to those California farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling California producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Imperial County, CA
Imperial County, CA

Farmers and ranchers in Riverside and San Diego Counties in California also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

Farmers and ranchers in La Paz and Yuma Counties in Arizona also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas TODAY, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

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Early rains help range partially recover

By Ching Lee; Ag Alert

Late autumn and early winter storms that moved through the state have spurred greener pastures, improving grazing conditions on California rangelands, but ranchers say more rainfall is needed for them to begin rebuilding their herds.

“As far as grass growth, this is as good of a feed year as we’ve ever had this early in the season,” said Placer County cattle rancher Joe Fischer. “This early grass growth and early root establishment will really set us up to have a phenomenal feed year come spring if these rains continue.”

But he said he also prepared for additional drought by reducing the herd he manages by 20 percent last winter and leaving more residual feed on the ground in order to promote better grass growth this season.

Mild temperatures have also aided grass growth, Fischer said, but they don’t bode well for a healthy snowpack—sensors measure the Sierra Nevada snowpack at about half of average—and that will affect water supply for this summer where he has irrigated pasture. In addition, many springs are not yet flowing the way they should be, he added, noting that a lack of drinking water on one ranch prevented him from placing any cattle there in early fall, even though it had plenty of residual dry feed.

“I’m still fearful that we aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to drought in California,” he said.

Despite his fears, Fischer said he’s “hopeful and optimistic that this is going to turn around for us” and that California ranchers will move toward reestablishing their herds, though their cattle numbers will remain conservative at first.

With last month’s deluge, Mariposa County rancher Clarence Borba said it appears he can start retaining some of his cattle, after being forced to cut his herd in half and to buy feed when there was nothing left to graze. Because he leases his ground, which receives no irrigation, Borba said his costs soared when he had to buy feed and pay rent on the land even when no grasses were growing.

“There were times when I didn’t know if we were going to make it through,” he said.

Borba said while he’s trying to build back his herd, he’s doing it slowly.

“Things are looking a lot brighter now than they were a few months ago, but our profit margin is pretty narrow, so you can’t make too many mistakes and spend too much money,” he said.

San Joaquin County rancher Diana Connolly said she sold about a quarter of her herd early last year and didn’t keep any replacement heifers, due to a lack of feed. Like many cattle ranchers around the state, she has had to buy plenty of hay during the last three years. Whether she will keep any replacements this year will depend on how the rest of the rainy season goes, she said, as she doesn’t have to make that decision until May, when she weans her calves.

Though she has filled her barns with hay, Connolly said if more rain does not come this season to improve pastures, “it won’t make any difference how much feed you have right now.” She recalled how the lack of precipitation last winter left ranchers scrambling, even though the fall began with some good moisture.

“The rains are good, but I think the whole cattle industry is still feeling the effects of the three-year drought,” she said.

One lesson that Sacramento County rancher Jim Vietheer said he has learned from the drought is to start buying crop insurance, with this year being the first time he’s signed up for it. He noted that federal disaster aid has allowed him to buy extra hay. Strong cattle prices have also allowed him to cull his herd more heavily than he normally would, so that he could reduce impact on his pastures.

He said even though recent rains “have helped our situation amazingly,” he fears it will be short-lived if the state does not continue to get more, periodic rainfall. For this reason, Vietheer said he’s going to remain conservative on his stocking rate on some of this leased properties, “in case it becomes another bad year.”

“I’m a lot happier, but you don’t want to count your chickens before they hatch,” he said.

For San Diego County rancher Jim Davis, his region has not gotten “significant amounts of rain” and it has “come very gently, with little runoff,” he said, but he also noted that “conditions are very much improved over what they were a month ago.”

He said his cattle will be on supplemental feed for another month and a half, but that is typical for this time of year. Being three hours away from the Imperial Valley, Davis said buying feed has not been a problem, and while the price of hay “is never low enough,” at least there’s an adequate supply.

But for now, he said he will try to maintain his herd at the current level.

“I’d like to see another year of good moisture before we start rebuilding,” he added.

Riverside County rancher Bud Wellman said his herd size has not bounced back because a fire two years ago destroyed much of his summer range, which is on forestland, and the U.S. Forest Service so far has not allowed grazing to resume.

“Right now is when the cattle would do the most good,” Wellman said, adding that cattle grazing would restore the forest ground so that water could penetrate it rather than causing floods.

What has helped him, he said, is that the Girl Scouts of Orange County has allowed his herd to graze its campgrounds for weed abatement and fire prevention.

While his summer range in the mountains has improved with the recent storms, Wellman said where he’s hurting is on his winter range, south of Palm Springs. He has not been able to place his cattle there because many of the springs and creeks cattle use for drinking water are still dry, and what rainfall the region received has not been enough to get them flowing.

“The water situation on the desert side is still very critical,” he said. “If we could get those streams and springs back, we’d be in good shape.”

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Everyone Plays a Part in Protecting California Citrus

Protecting California Citrus

By Victoria Hornbaker; Ag Alert 

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its final crop estimate for the Florida orange crop, reflecting a reduction of 30 million cartons in total production from the previous season. There is no denying the devastating impact that Huanglongbing has had on the Florida citrus industry since the disease was first discovered in 2005. A drive through Florida citrus country will offer vastly different scenery than that of California’s premier citrus-producing regions.

In some respects, the California citrus industry has been fortunate to learn from the situation in Florida and has taken a very proactive approach to protect itself from a similar fate. In 2009, the industry supported a mandatory self-assessment to fund a comprehensive treatment and trapping program to manage the insect carrier of HLB, the Asian citrus psyllid, and prevent HLB from taking hold.

The Asian citrus psyllid is now endemic throughout a majority of Southern California, particularly in dense, urban areas where citrus trees can be found in six out of every 10 backyards. In March 2012, HLB was discovered for the first time in a backyard citrus tree in Los Angeles County. Although there have not been any additional confirmed cases of HLB since then, as an industry we must remain vigilant statewide in order to protect our $2 billion citrus crop.

Currently, there are eight counties in California that are entirely quarantined for the Asian citrus psyllid: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura. Additionally, portions of Fresno, Kern, San Luis Obispo and Tulare counties are also under quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid.

The total quarantined area statewide is now 46,530 square miles. Maps are available online at www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/acp-quarantine.

With a large portion of the state’s commercial citrus production now within quarantine zones, it is increasingly important that growers and packers are up to date on current regulations and protocols, to best manage psyllid populations and prevent the pest from spreading any further.

There are two approved options under the Bulk Fruit Movement Performance Standard available for commercial citrus growers and packers to comply with the quarantined regulations: Remove all leaves and stems/plant debris using a field cleaning machine, or apply a University of California integrated pest management-recommended material within 14 days prior to harvest.

There are no restrictions on moving fruit with leaves and stems if shipping to a packinghouse or processing facility located within the same quarantine boundary.

Asian citrus psyllids can easily “hitchhike” on citrus plant debris, so it’s important that we all do our part to minimize the movement of plant material between work sites. It is strongly recommended that growers and packers work with farm labor contractors, picking crews, pesticide applicators and hedging/topping services to ensure that all equipment, picking bags, field bins, clothing and gloves are free of stems and leaves before leaving the field.

We all have a commonality in agriculture and can understand the pressures posed by invasive insects and diseases. This is a fight that no commodity can win without the support of homeowners and consumers, which is why everyone with a backyard citrus tree should:

  • Not move citrus—Do not move citrus plants, plant material or fruit into or out of a quarantine area or across state or international borders.
  • Inspect your trees—Inspect your citrus trees for signs of the psyllid or HLB whenever watering, spraying, pruning or otherwise tending to trees.
  • Plant responsibly—Plant trees from reputable, licensed California nurseries.
  • Talk to your local nursery—Ask about products that are available to help stop the Asian citrus psyllid.
  • Graft with care—Use only registered budwood that comes with source documentation.
  • Be mindful of clippings—Dry or double-bag plant clippings prior to disposal.
  • Cooperate—Cooperate with agricultural officials who are trapping and treating for the Asian citrus psyllid.

By working together, we can help stop the Asian citrus psyllid and protect California citrus from Huanglongbing.

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