Yuma Ag and You: Farming Practices and Good Neighbors

Bobbi Stevenson-McDermott     October 11, 2015 publication

And so it starts, and we are not even 8 weeks into the produce season! A letter to the editor complaining about farm equipment and laborers massed at a lettuce field across from the writer’s home. Noise, vehicles with beepers, equipment moving and folks working were all part of the complaint.

I find it amazing that the writer did not notice the farm fields adjacent to his home when he bought it, because the farm fields have been there for 75 years. Why did you buy there? Was it the wide open spaces, the beautiful fields, the lack of neighbors or was it all of the above? Farms were part of Yuma long before most of us moved here. We all make choices, and have to deal with the consequences.

Farming at night is one of the best management practices that Yuma agriculture utilizes to reduce dust, better utilize new technology and to reduce the possibility of problems with daytime traffic. Tractors are equipped with GPS so tillage, field bedding, planting and agricultural chemical application can be done 24 hours a day. Farmers do not have the luxury of working an 8 hour day. When there are thousands of acres to be prepared for planting, there are never enough hours in the day. In addition, due to the heavy rains in the Somerton area in September, fields that were not scheduled for early fall planting had to be substituted for those fields that were flooded, increasing the workload for growers to have enough product planted to meet the harvest contracts in November.

Most growers apply agricultural chemicals at night as there is typically less wind and more humidity, making the products applied adhere better to the plants sprayed.

The agricultural community is well aware of the effect of farming operations on neighboring areas, trying to be as conscientious as possible in their operations. The need for pumps to run day and night to provide water to the sprinkler systems is part of the water conservation practices followed. Watering at night reduces evaporation, reduces wind distortion of the sprinkler pattern and reduces water drift.

Another best management practice used continuously during the winter growing season is the watering of field edges and dirt roads. Dust is a contaminant in produce and for food safety, the less dust kicked up by traffic, the better. Millions of gallons of water and thousands of hours of labor are spent preventing dust from affecting the fields. While there are chemicals available for dust suppression, they provide huge food safety concerns.

In addition to the equipment in the field, the public needs to be aware of all of the tractors, implements, sprinkler pipe and other equipment moving up and down the roads and highways. Farm equipment is always moving more slowly than most drivers assume, and it is necessary to change lanes far in advance when passing. Drivers also need to be aware of telephone poles, bridges or narrowing roads to allow the equipment to maneuver safely. Agriculture is the lifeblood of Yuma, employing 25 percent of the local workforce.

The letter writer assumed that the need for night work in agriculture was to avoid the heat of the day. I am afraid that farming operations 24 hours a day will continue throughout the August to April growing season.