As I drive through my family’s farm in the San Joaquin Valley, I feel as though I’m traveling on a chessboard. I cross a square with crops and then another square without crops – our fields to be laid. Drought destroyed the crops of our farm.
Last year, reduced water supplies in the state led to 395,000 acres of farmland Unemployed, according to UC Merced researchers, about 8,750 agricultural workers lost their jobs.
On my 2,000-acre farm, we’ve been growing organic fruits and vegetables – watermelon, asparagus, and sweet corn – as well as cherries and almonds. Three years of unprecedented drought have changed the landscape. Last year we said goodbye to asparagus and sweet corn. This year, we trimmed the cherries. Next, we’ll reduce our almond area.
My workforce is also shrinking. I once hired 25 full-time workers and employed more than 300 people at the height of the harvest. Not anymore.
Time and time again, my wife and I have had to make Sophie’s decision. She has a more difficult and painful task. I must choose which crops to reduce or eliminate. My wife, who runs our harvest teams, must decide which people who work for us will lose their jobs.
Most of our employees have been working with us for a long time, some up to 30 years. They have become a family. We provide them with medical benefits and retirement plans. Many have managed to buy their first homes and most of their children are going after another American dream – going to college.
My roots in California go back to the early 1900s, when my grandparents came here from Mexico. As a child, I would pick watermelons along with my father, a second-generation American who eventually ran a cantaloupe farm. In 1985, when I was 36, I was able to buy and start my own watermelon farm in Central Valley.
Now, at the age of 73, I am concerned about the future of Del Bosque Farms. Passing it on to the next generation has always been a goal for me and my wife.
Drought is a silent disaster. This is not evident by the visible damage but by the empty chess squares on our farms where crops do not grow and people do not work. Most consumers never see this, but they do witness its repercussions – the empty spaces on supermarket shelves and the high prices at the checkout counter.
Facing drought is nothing new for California Agricultural industry worth 49 billion dollars. But we are seeing a massive drought, exacerbated by human-caused climate change. Scientists say we are in the midst of Over a period of 22 years in the western United States for at least 1,200 years.
Without enough water, Californian farmers cannot survive. The state’s aging water supply infrastructure has not kept pace with the state’s growth. It no longer has the ability or capacity to provide food for the country’s population and its food production. Over the next thirty years, the water supply will be interrupted expected to perform to the permanent loss of one million acres of productive farmland in California.
It is imperative that the country adapts to more variable rainfall patterns and weather.
In 2014, Californians were resounding Vote for proposal 1Water bonds worth $7.5 billion for water supply infrastructure. The Los Angeles Times called it a “first step” in meeting the state’s water needs. But the water storage projects that were meant to be built are underfunded or stuck in the licensing process, bogged down by testimonies and constant objections by organizations that don’t want to build more water projects, no matter how much they are needed.
Recently, The Times reported that California has Made some progress When it comes to implementing regulations and better managing groundwater, the country is still far from sustainable. This could be the motto of the state’s farm owners.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a 2014 law that’s supposed to address excessive pumping and help regulate the state’s supply, is seen as a potential plus for farmers because we rely so heavily on groundwater for irrigation given cutbacks in deliveries from the state. .
But farmers see it differently: it may further reduce water availability in many areas that depend on groundwater. It could help some farmers, but it would hurt others because it would likely take a lot of farmland out of production.
At Del Bosque Farms, we’ve taken actions on our own that include using more efficient drip irrigation, partnering with other farmers to purchase and transport water, and developing small, local storage projects.
But as CalMatters reported last fallFarmers have run out of quick and easy solutions – transformative ways to reduce our water footprint are slow to emerge.
Even though we are in a drought, we are still suffering from floods in California. One solution to our ongoing problems is to do a better job of capturing more of the floodwaters that often flow into the ocean. This will require building more water storage infrastructure.
Regardless, if we continue down the path we are on, drought will eventually wipe out our great condition.
Joe L. Del Bosque is the CEO and President of the family-owned Del Bosque Farms in the San Joaquin Valley.