Saturday, August 30, 2014

Covering Up

When I first moved up here my Dad, with his fatherly advice, even though he’d never lived in a climate like this, said, “Make sure you wear a floppy hat and long sleeves.” I always have because we started working cattle so I wore cowboy hats and long sleeved western shirts.
            It’s easy to tell the difference between the people who work outside and those who play outside. People who work outside do cover up. People who play outside wear tank tops and shorts.
            Years ago my son asked, “Dad, why don’t you wear t-shirts to work. You would be much cooler. That week he actually came out to work for us.  After his first day out in the field he came home, BBQ’d,  and even before he took a shower he went upstairs took two of my new works shirts out of my closet. I never did get those shirts back.

            There’s nothing wrong with playing or enjoying the sunshine. You just have to remember sunshine in our area is strong. The same sun that turns grapes in to raisins can turn us in to raisins too. So, if you don’t want to turn into a raisin- cover up and keep hydrated.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

When It Comes to Farmers- One Size Does Not Fit All

   Another busy week on the farm. The almonds are all up. Yay! We are done irrigating the cotton. Now it is time to wait for the crop to mature. It is looking good. We already have open bolls which is early for Pima. It won't be too long before we fire up the picker.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright June 2012

            You want diversity? Then come on down to the farm.
We have-boy farmers and girl farmers
            Short farmers and tall farmers
            Smart farmers and, well the system has weeded out the dumb ones.
We have farmers from different ethnic groups.
We have farmers on big farms
            And farmers on small farms
            Part time farmers and full time farmers
            Farmers who only grow vegetables and farmers who only grow meat.
And, therein lies the problem. We have folks in Sacramento and DC doing one size fits all farm policy. It doesn’t work because of the diversity we have in California agriculture.

            I have to admit, there is another side to the diversity among farmers. You may have noticed this yourself. We are kind of an independent bunch.  If you have three farmers, you can get five different opinions. Not only are we diverse in size, crops, gender and ethnic background. We differ on politics, sports and just about everything else.

I hope you all have a good week.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pioneer Spirit

Some friends and I rode our bikes up past Shaver Lake as part of a fundraiser for Valley Children's Hospital. It was a nice day for a ride, until we headed home. (The air conditioning on my motorcycle wasn't working.) We took the back we around Huntington Lake. The scenery was beautiful and the air was cool. The route is called Big Creek Road and goes past the old electric power generating plants.
These plants are amazing if you think about it. Without modern computers they designed, installed and operated hydro power plants generations ago. Do you think these plants would ever get through the permit process today?
   This reminded me of a couple of radio pieces I did last year.

Pioneer Spirit
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright February 2013

            Can you imagine the heroes in John Wayne movies if they saw what is happening in the country today?
            My hat’s off to those of you who still have that can do, pioneer spirit. This country was built, at least in the West, by those who faced enormous problems and made a go of it.
            Can you imagine a John Wayne character going to the government after problems with a cattle drive?
            Yes, I know life isn’t like a movie. Got it. That’s just an illustration. What I want to commend is the pioneer, ‘can do’ spirit that built this country. Yes, I understand all the criticisms of Manifest Destiny, etc.  I am not addressing that. I am saying there is an enormous, qualitative difference between the people who built this country and us today. In that comparison I’m not sure we look all that good.
The immigrants who came to this country in the 19th Century faced tremendous hurdles just getting here. Can you imagine putting all your worldly belongings on a boat and sailing for nine weeks just to cross the Atlantic? That was only the beginning of the trip. Then they had to load up and start walking across the country. I’m tired thinking about it.

I think we still need some of that pioneer spirit to solve the problems we face today.

Pioneer Spirit II
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright February 2013

Recently I talked about the Pioneer Spirit.
The contrast is today’s response—one minor hiccup and people are suing each other or running with their hands out for government help. John Stossel criticizes himself and the government. Being a famous and rich reporter he has a beach front home that has been damaged twice by hurricanes. Each time the government---that means you and me---have helped him rebuild his beach front, luxury, second home. This is crazy. Even Stossel admits this is crazy.
            I get it. We are not a society of lone rangers. We live in community. Our high-tech world is more complex and inter-dependent than the world of the 19 Century. But, I think that calls for more, not less, of the pioneer spirit that made this country great.
            The world makes fun of Americans being a bunch of cowboys. People vote with their feet. Have you noticed where people all over the world are migrating to? They are not migrating to China or Cuba. People all over the world want to come to the U. S., not because it is like home, but because it is different. Today’s immigrants still see the U. S. as the land of opportunity.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


We spend a fair amount of time each year killing weeds. Not by choice. This is a picture of grass growing up around young cantaloupe plants.

If you remember Scripture, apparently we have had weeds since the moment we were tossed out of Eden. In Genesis 3 God's curse to Adam for eating the fruit is-

"Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you"
Genesis 3:17-18

   For those of you who question Scripture, I live with this reality almost every day of the year. Either we are killing weeds, we just killed weeds, or we are planning to kill weeds. This is no joke. Weeds block out the plants we are trying to grow. Weeds take water and nutrients that should go to the crop we are trying to grow. They make a mess in our harvesters when we are trying to pick cotton and they lower the quality of our crops.
   There are two ways to kill weeds, and neither one involves wishful thinking. Those things just will not kill themselves. We can either kill then mechanically or chemically. Those are our two choices. Like I said, they just will not kill themselves.
   To kill them mechanically we use shovels, hoes, mechanical cultivators and plows. It takes a lot of sweat, muscle power, diesel and raises a lot of dust.
    In the old days mechanically killing weeds was all we had. Today we can kill them chemically. Many non-farmers freak out when we mention herbicides. I get it. There was a time before I started farming. But, as I mentioned earlier, the weeds will not kill themselves and they have to be eliminated.  Yes, I us herbicides. Not necessarily because I want to. Nobody could want to farm organically more than I do. But, because the weeds gotta go. [A side note- there is one other way to kill weeds. Burn them. An organic almond grower I know burns weeds instead of using herbicide. You organic types tell me- is that a good trade off? He is using less herbicide. But, isn't that affecting greenhouse gases? Sometimes those are the choices you get. But, I digress.] 
    I just wanted you to know we still have to deal with the basics. To grow your food I have to kill weeds---and my choices are limited.

For those of you who are concerned about the tools of modern agriculture I will repeat the following quote-
Wise Words from Dixie Lee Ray

Dixie Lee Ray was the former Governor of the State of Washington and the Chairwoman of the Atomic Energy Commission. As a farmer I have sure appreciated the words she wrote in her book, Environmental Overkill.

         “Sometime in the future, when all the accomplishments of the 20th century are recorded for posterity, it will finally be acknowledged that our greatest achievement by far has been the introduction of high-tech, high-yield agriculture. Measured in terms of benefit to human society, an adequate diet of nutritious, abundant and affordable food eclipses all other developments of this most remarkable century. Neither computer technology nor transistors, robotics, advances in communication and transportation, life saving antibiotics and modern medicine, nuclear energy, synthetics, plastics and the entire petrochemical industry rank as high in importance as the advances in food production. And all these other wonderful breakthroughs probably would not have happened without a well fed population.”
                                                              Environmental Overkill
                                                              Dixie Lee Ray
                                                              Regnery Gateway