Bobbi Stevenson McDermott July 10, 2016 publication
Isn’t it great! Not only do we have heat, we now have the humidity. At least most days there is a breeze. This is the ‘brown’ time of year for Yuma agriculture. Wheat has been harvested, cotton is well on its way to harvest; Sudan grass for hay is getting a final cutting and all the seed crops are drying down for harvest. Produce fields are being disced, laser leveled and readied for planting. By mid September, the fields will be a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns.
While we think about fall and winter as the season for farm equipment and trucks on our roads, this time of year the fields are being prepared for the first session of vegetable crops. It is important to remember that is never safe to drive into dust. There is no magic device in the new electronic packages on vehicles that can warn you of impending danger in a cloud of dust. While growers are very aware of not creating poor visibility conditions, with our climate and variable winds, a dust devil can develop unexpectedly despite all precautions. Defensive driving is never out of style, and will prevent many accidents.
As I drove through the valleys, there were fields with beds already shaped, ready for planting. Each year, growers try to get a jump on the markets by having vegetables ready earlier in the fall from the old ‘normal’ of early November. Competition is increasing and getting crazier. After last year’s season, I heard of produce leases of $1000 per acre, mostly by California companies who are dealing with lack of water issues. While we have 95 percent family farms, trying to bid against growers with no vested interest in Yuma farmlands is difficult. Farms are getting bigger, acreage wise, to be competitive and cost efficient as they move to new technology equipment which is extremely expensive. Automatic thinners, tillage equipment that does not disturb the laser leveled irrigation surfaces; harvest machines that can work under almost any conditions and automated weeding are just some of them. While our local farmers lease their lands for produce crops, there is a great concern about how the lessees will manage the lands and what condition it will be in when returned to the owner for rotation crops.
In the back of everyone’s mind in the agricultural industry is what happens when we no longer have our priceless labor supply. Our farm workers, in all jobs, are skilled people who care about the quality and safety of the foods they work to produce. Yuma is truly blessed with the availability of labor, water, soil and climate that allows Yuma County agriculture to flourish.
It is never too early to talk about food safety as well. Not allowing animals in farm fields, cleaning up weeds that harbor insects and diseases; not allowing trash, animal waste, keeping foreign plants or animals out of the irrigation canals; and generally respecting the farmland as you expect your neighbors to respect your property.
Agriculture is still the lifeblood of Yuma County and touches all of our lives on a daily basis.