Small Farm Blogs
Fourteen percent of Sacramento-area farms market directly to consumers, compared to just nine percent of farmers nationally, according to research by Shermain Hardesty, UC Davis Cooperative Extension economist. The study was publicized in a UC Davis news release, and picked in the Sacramento Business Journal.
Hardesty found that farms in the Sacramento region averaged $19,518 in annual income in direct sales - at such outlets as farmers markets and roadside stands. California farms' direct sales income ranged from an average of $6,924 in Placer County to $66,568 in Yolo County.“We were especially interested to find that, even after deducting the added costs of transportation, distribution and selling at the farmers market or other point of sale, the farmers are still able to net a greater share of retail prices in local food supply chains than they would had they used conventional marketing chains,” the news release quoted Hardesty.
For example, mixed greens growers in Monterey County receive on average 79 cents per pound by marketing through conventional channels. One Yolo County grower netted seven times that price at a farmers market.
The full report, “Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains,” is available from USDA.
Yolo County farmer sells direct to consumer.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is tentatively scheduled to review a UC Cooperative Extension funding request at its July 27 meeting, according to an article published yesterday in the Lompoc Record.
The county had approved $111,700 for the programs and staff expertise provided by UCCE, but at its budget hearings in June, $68,000 in additional funding was requested. On June 22, the Board of Supervisors couldn’t get the four votes needed for approval.
For the article, reporter Sam Womack spoke to Don Kingborg of UC ANR Advocacy and County Partnerships.
“The $68,000 is to get us to the minimum level necessary to continue this program," Klingborg was quoted in the article. "Over the past years, the Santa Barbara County program has been funded in the range of $200,000 to $225,000. With this move and other adjustments, we recognized the terrible fiscal shape our counties are in and were able to decrease the cost to $180,000."
With the additional funding, the Santa Barbara County offices would close, but the advisors, services, programs and research would continue out of San Luis Obispo and Ventura county offices, the story said.Interim director of Santa Barbara County UCCE Mark Gaskell told the reporter he already spends about half his time outside of county boundaries. For example, he conducts agricultural research at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
“I don’t think its necessarily a critical issue where you sit and type at your computer,” he was quoted.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez held a hearing of the Food and Agriculture Committee last Thursday to review the Department of Pesticide Regulation's tentative decision to approve the pesticide methyl iodide.
The hearing prompted wide news coverage over the weekend, including a story in the New York Times that said the discussion in California over methyl iodide has implications beyond the Golden State. The U.S. EPA has indicated DPR's decision may influence federal policy on the use of the pesticide nationwide.
The Times article reported that, at the hearing, members of the scientific committee that had reviewed methyl iodide for DPR - and suggested it not be registered - said the state’s decision to approve its use was made using "inadequate, flawed and improperly conducted scientific research."
“This is without question one of the most toxic chemicals on earth,” John Froines, UCLA professor of environmental health sciences, was quoted. “You don’t register a chemical when you don’t have the necessary information you need.”
Carolyn O'Donnell, the spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission, said the pesticide would be deployed by growers safely and only when needed.
“The 500-plus growers of strawberries in the state are largely family farmers who live where they grow,” O’Donnell was quoted in the Times. “When they make decisions about how and where they farm, they make those decisions with the health and safety of workers and the community in mind.”
An article in the Ventura County Star said stringent regulations would deter growers from using the chemical even if it were registered. Some proposed restrictions are a half-mile buffer zone around schools, hospitals and nursing homes, limiting application to protect groundwater and limiting the number of acres that can be treated.
The Roseville Press-Tribune said field fumigation with methyl iodide would be rare in Placer County.
“There is less need for pesticides to manage strawberry pests because we have fewer species of pests and lower pest populations, partly because we lack the intense cultivation of strawberries as on the Central Coast and farms are scattered throughout the county,” the article quoted Cindy Fake, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Placer and Nevada counties.
The Monterey County Herald ran a commentary about the issue written by State Assemblyman Bill Monning.
"It is unconscionable for DPR to proceed with the registration of methyl iodide when its own scientists have presented unequivocal evidence of extreme risk and insufficient data collection," Monning wrote.
The public comment period on the pending approval of methyl iodide ends on June 29./span>
The sub-tropical fruit lychee could be a new crop for farmers along California's coast, according to Mark Gaskell, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor to small-scale farmers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
A ping-pong-ball-sized tree fruit with white, jelly-like flesh, the red-skinned lychee is popular among Asian consumers. They appear to be adapted to roughly the same conditions as avocados, Gaskell said. Since the fruit is well accepted in areas where it is available, the potential market acceptability of lychees is high. And, demand for fresh lychees already exists in Asian markets that carry whole, frozen, unshelled lychees.
Nutritionists are also looking closely at the fruit, which is a rich source of dietary flavanols, according to UC Davis research nutritionist Robert Hockman.
Flavanols – found in strawberries, cocoa, red wine, green tea and lychees - provide improvements in the smooth lining of the vascular system, reduce blood pressure, reduce blood stickiness and possibly provide cognitive improvements, Hockman reports in a video recorded for UC’s website Feeling Fine Online.
However, studies have determined that, just because people eat flavanol-rich foods, it doesn’t mean the beneficial compounds get into the blood stream. Most flavanols, he said, are long-chain polyphenols, which are not well absorbed by the body.
In his research, Hockman is using a lychee fruit extract that has been processed to have smaller – more bioactive – molecules. The product was fed to rats and found to pass through the digestive tract and into the blood stream.
“Now we are moving on to human studies,” Hockman said.
He is specifically studying the lychee extract and vascular health in post-menopausal women.
“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in California and the No. 1 killer in the U.S.,” Hockman said. “It represents enormous health care costs. California agriculture products may help reduce the risk (of cardiovascular disease), saving billions of dollars.”
Lychee (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
A behind-the-scenes battle is raging in the Senate over how to regulate small and organic growers without ruining them - and still protect consumers from contaminated food, according to a story published yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The crux of the legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority to regulate how products are grown, stored, transported, inspected, traced from farm to table and recalled when needed.
Small-scale producers may face compliance with tough laws.