Yesterday, Andrea and I drove through the CA Central Valley; south though Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Merced, and to Fresno.

As a younger person, drives like this were not impressive; stip-mall towns and cities mixed with flat farmland…about as far as the eye could see (or until the smogg stops you from seeing).

As an older young person, after immersing myself in farming the last 4 years, I see the valley differently.  The flat farmland is a luxury my eyes soak in.  I long for it.  I also long for solitude, clean air and water – all of these things the valley has forsaken.  Here’s what I learned on our 4 hour trip south:

  1. Some farmers actually cover-crop their land in the winter – this is a step that I am pleased to see.  However, most don’t, and the muddy fields, slashed by disc imprints point to an irresponsible land stewarship that we as a people should not tolerate.  My thoughts point to the fact that we won’t be able to apply magic chemical fertilizer every spring in perpetuity and expect the plants to grow with vigor.
  2. The valley is smogg-ridden.  Deisel tractors, trucks, pumps and gasoline everything is turning this place into a very bright place (read: the glare of the sunlight off the smogg makes you squint).  Those things, and a little wintertime inversion layer compromise everyone’s health.
  3. 99% of agricultural products in the nation are conventionally farmed.  I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the percentage in CA is similar.  That’s a lot of chemical usage, and, observing the city-dwellers here, I’d say the effects are dramatic and evident.  I know it’s not just the agriculture and the resulting pesticide residues, but as our agriCULTURE goes, so goes the rest of the CULTURE and vice-versa – ie, its a sick culture and we’re masking it with anti-depressants, cholesteral regulating drugs and others (ie herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, etc).  It’s weird for me to see the parallels (and maybe I’m reading into this a little bit
  4. California is huge and the amount of arable land is immense.  We are so lucky to have this…let’s be aware of this and be thankful for the bounty.