Saturday, February 6, 2016

It's Farm Show Time!

We got the trees planted! Yay!
   Now all we have to do is prune 10,000 trees, drop sleeves around them, realign and flush the drip hoses. Always something to do on the farm.

The Farm Show
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright January 2012

            OK, I have to admit- the Farm Show in Tulare is kind of like Disneyland for farmers. If you make a living growing things, there is something for you in Tulare. There are tools and tractors, software, equipment, colleges and clothing.

         And everyone is there. It is like Old Home Day for farmers.

         And if it hasn’t rained yet during the winter, it usually rains the week of the farm show. The first time I went to the farm show I was a student at West Hills College in Coalinga. We took a school bus to the farm show. I didn’t know until then that you could go four wheeling in a school bus. It was a sight to see.

         I don’t make it to the farm show every year. Often something pops up on the farm and that takes care of that. But, I always enjoy it when I go there. There is something for everyone to see at the farm show.

It’s Farm Show Time Again
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright February 2013
                  It’s farm show time again, and a young farmer’s thoughts turn to --- new toys. OK, even old farmer’s thoughts turn to new toys.
            The farm show is one of the first signs of Spring. You know I like cooler weather, but by now most of us are thinking that’s enough of that, it’s time for warming up. Here in the Valley the farm show is one of the first signs of Spring. Next, the almond and fruit trees will start blooming. There is a lot of unsettled weather ahead, but the days are getting longer and Spring is on its way.
            Farm equipment is pretty amazing. The engineers and inventors who create new farm equipment are some of the most creative problem solvers in the world. We all owe them a lot. They have eliminated a lot of drudge work. They have helped increase our food supply as well as the variety of food available to us. They are true innovators and my hat’s off to them.

So, it’s time to head to Tulare, look at new equipment and find some good barbecue. You don’t think we go just for the tractors do you?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Open Letter to the Governor

Another interesting week on the farm-

As I have mentioned before, my entire exercise program is Indy and Toby taking me for a walk every morning. On some walks we have a visitor, Sir Coyote. It is interesting, he will only come so close, but he of course he runs when Indy chases him. He has never threatened the boys and will even follow us closely on the way home. 
   Now that we are not running cattle any more and I don't have to worry about protecting calves I can say they are beautiful animals.

I am concerned. The almonds are pushing early this year. I hate when they do this. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing trees bloom. I just worry when they do it too early. There is still plenty of crappy weather between now and Spring. It can freeze. I can rain. And, it can hail. It can probably do all three at once if it wants.
    My sister's birthday is early March. One year while I was visiting the family for her birthday we had a black frost that weekend. I was back in the field Monday morning and it was raining almond buds. The floor of the orchard was thick with them and my heart broke. That season was done. One weekend of bad weather and a crop was lost. So, prefer when bloom is a late as possible. ANythign to give those little buds a chance.

Recent news has prompted the letter below. After waiting for two years for some decent rainfall we are finally getting some storms, and they are letting it run out to the ocean. Drives me nuts.

Open Letter to the Governor

Dear Gov. Brown

With all due respect, are you kidding me?
150% rainfall and 0% for farmers?

Yes, I am aware there is a difference between the state and federal water systems. I am also aware that state water users will get somewhere between ten and fifteen percent of their water. But, can you see how that makes my point? 150% normal rainfall and the people get 15% of their normal allotment.

As I write this, 100,000 acre feet of water a day are washing out to sea. We could refill the San Luis Reservoir in less than ten days with that water. We could refill Shasta in less than a month. And next June I am willing to bet you are going to be telling California why we still need water restrictions.

It is hard to see how you have any credibility left. You have spent the last two years getting Californians to conserve water and here you are letting billions of gallons of water per day wash back into the sea.

Since early last summer people have been signaling that if El Nino hit that would not be the end of the drought. Actually, yes it would. A drought is when there is no rainfall. Then end of a drought is when it starts raining. It really is that simple.
            Now the argument can be made that the impacts of the drought are not over with one wet winter. That may be fair. But, the impacts of the drought would be over much sooner if you weren’t running all the rainfall out to the ocean!

I have long said there are wet years and there are dry years in California and we are fools because we do not save the water from the wet years for the dry years. Yes, I know there are environmental concerns. I have written about this subject in my book, “Ten Reasons: Finding Balance on Environmental Issues”. We need a healthy environment and a healthy economy. Right now we have neither. After a decade of flushing water through the Delta the smelt are still in trouble and the pelagic organisms still are declining. In the meantime California’s farmers are getting crushed. Are we willing to admit our current plan is not working?

Since we have been doing this in the name of the environment let’s take a look at the bigger picture. What is your bigger concern water in the Delta or climate change? If we collapse California agriculture through water restrictions we will increase the carbon footprint of 38 million Californians. The United Nations estimates it takes 800 gallons of water per person per day to produce food. For 38 million Californians that is 31 million acre feet of water per year. Importing food from overseas will create a huge increase in transportation costs for our food and those farmers will not be under California regulations will they?
            My fellow farmers and I can lower the carbon footprint for 38 million Californians by growing our food here, but we are going to need some water to do it.

Yes Gov. Brown, I know a lot of this is driven by federal law, but this is happening on your watch in your state, this is your responsibility.

So, what do we do?

Of course we all still keep conserving water. Water is a rare and precious gift.

Second, Fill the reservoirs. If your credibility is important to you it is past time to crank up the pumps. You cannot expect people to make sacrifices when you flush this much water out to sea.

Third, I will be voting for the Water Priorities Constitutional Amendment on the ballot this Fall. ( I know high speed rail is important to you. That is a beautiful dream for the future. I love the train system and I ride it regularly. But, for one tenth the cost of the train we can fix the water system for every Californian starting now.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Confession from a Co-Founder of Greenpeace

It has been nice having some rain this week, even if it did slow down work. Next week looks pretty good. We will try to finish planting trees before the next storms hit.
   Of course, we have 150% normal rainfall. The state and the Feds have announced 0% water allocation for the year. I know the reservoirs are still low. They would fill faster if they didn't flush all this rainfall down to the ocean. Just saying.

Some of you think I am a little hard on the enviros. I thought you night be interested in hearing from a reformed environmentalist. Patrick Moore is a co-founder of Greenpeace. He stepped away a few years ago and he has been vilified by his former colleagues. I have met Moore. He seems to be a pretty good guy.

Environmentalism for the 21st Century
By Patrick Moore

As we begin the 21st century, environmental thinkers are divided along a sharp fault line. There are the doomsayers who predict the collapse of the global ecosystem. There are the technological optimists who believe that we can feed 12 billion people and solve all our problems with science and technology. I do not believe that either of these extremes makes sense. There is a middle road based on science and logic, the combination of which is sometimes referred to as common sense. There are real problems and there is much we can do to improve the state of the environment...
For me it was time to make a change. I had been against at least three or four things every day of my life for 15 years; I decided I'd like to be in favor of something for a change. I made the transition from the politics of confrontation to the politics of building consensus. After all, when a majority of people decide they agree with you it is probably time to stop hitting them over the head with a stick and sit down and talk to them about finding solutions to our environmental problems...

All social movements evolve from an earlier period of polarization and confrontation during which a minority struggles to convince society that its cause it is true and just, eventually followed by a time of reconciliation if a majority of the population accepts the values of the new movement. For the environmental movement this transition began to occur in the mid-1980s. The term sustainable development was adopted to describe the challenge of taking the new environmental values we had popularized, and incorporating them into the traditional social and economic values that have always governed public policy and our daily behavior. We cannot simply switch to basing all our actions on purely environmental values. Every day 6 billion people wake up with real needs for food, energy and materials. The challenge for sustainability is to provide for those needs in ways that reduce negative impact on the environment. But any changes made must also be socially acceptable and technically and economically feasible. It is not always easy to balance environmental, social, and economic priorities. Compromise and co-operation with the involvement of government, industry, academia and the environmental movement is required to achieve sustainability...

As an ecologist and environmentalist, not a political scientist or political activist, I have always shied away from strong opinions on poverty and class. But it seems unacceptable to me that so many hundreds of millions of people live at a material standard that we in the industrialized countries would not consider acceptable for a dignified life. I believe there is a great deal to be learned by exploring the relationships between ecology and politics. In some ways politics is the ecology of the human species. The two subjects have developed such completely different disciplines and terminologies that it is hard to think of them together. But I believe we must if we are to gain a truly holistic understanding of the relationship between ourselves and our society, and the Earth on which we ultimately depend...


If you would like to read Moore's complete statement you can find it at-