Yuma Ag and You: Why do they do that?

Bobbi Stevenson-McDermott     October 11,2015

And so it starts, and we are not even 8 weeks into the produce season, complaints about farm equipment and laborers working at night across from a residence. Noise, vehicles with beepers, and equipment moving were included in the problems noted.

The farm fields have been in Yuma County for the past 75 or more years. The people have actually encroached on the cropland. While the beautiful fields, open space and fewer neighbors attract housing, choosing to live adjacent to the farming areas is up to the homeowner. With any production agriculture, there are sounds, smells, people, equipment and traffic. It is totally unreasonable to expect the farming community to change their farming methods to the detriment of the industry.

Farming at night is one of the best management practices that Yuma agriculture utilizes to meet governmental mandates. Dust reduction; more efficient application of agricultural chemicals by air and ground; proper utilization of expensive, specialized equipment; and less stress on transplants are all reasons for farming at night. GPS in tractors allows for 24 hour field preparation and tillage.

With the September flooding in the Somerton, much of the early harvest produce ground was damaged. To meet the strict harvest schedules, growers immediately needed to prepare alternative fields for production. With agriculture the largest dollar producer in Yuma County and employing 25 percent of the local workforce, it is the lifeblood of Yuma.

Irrigation at night reduces wind distortion on sprinklers, less evaporation and drift and is a best management practice for water conservation. Growers also run water trucks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep the dust down from roads and ditch banks and out of their crops. Dust is a contaminant in produce and for food safety. Millions of gallons of water and thousands of hours of labor are spent preventing dust from entering fields.

Driving in Yuma County during the winter produce season also has its hazards. The public needs to realize that they are sharing the roads with tractors, implements, harvest aids, aluminum pipe and sprinkler trailers. Farm equipment is almost always moving more slowly than it appears, and it is necessary to change lanes in advance when approaching equipment. Drivers also need to be aware of signs, telephone poles along roadways, narrowed lanes and bridges where the equipment will need to encroach into an adjacent lane to prevent damage. Visibility can also be a problem.

Residents and winter visitors will need to adjust to the busier pace of the winter produce season. It is not too early to start to find alternative places to walk you dog, ride your horse or exercise that does not compromise the safety of the crops being grown. It is also important to keep litter and animal droppings out of the local canals that water our fields. Litter, animal droppings, human intrusion and careless behavior around fields all cost growers money, time and labor. If an area is fenced, it means no entry. The food safety effort of Yuma growers are the best in the world..

Starting in November, there will be an increase in traffic with the coolers, salad plants and support industries to produce production starting up. 2000 semi-trucks per day or more will be picking up product to distribute across the United States and Canada. In addition, there is international product movement. Produce production starts in August, ramps up with harvest starting in late October and continues to season end in April.

We live in the best winter climate, with the most varied and beautiful crop production.

How lucky are we!

Bobbi Stevenson-McDermott is a soil and water conservationist. She can be reached at rjsm09@msn.com.