Agriculture

On this week’s Valley Edition: We’ll hear firsthand accounts of how COVID-19 has impacted conditions for those working in the fields.

We also talk to a reporter who spent three weeks in Kern County’s corner of the Mojave Desert. Her new podcast investigates false promises of wealth in California City. 

And, we discuss what will happen to Valley renters out of work because of COVID-19 and potentially facing homelessness when the state’s eviction moratorium is lifted.

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above. 

Courtesy of The Wonderful Company

The largest agricultural employer in the San Joaquin Valley announced today that it’s providing $1 million in grants to support COVID-19 relief in rural communities. 

Fruit and nut powerhouse The Wonderful Company says the form of that relief will be decided by community non-profits applying for grants. 

Alice Daniel / KVPR

 

 

Outside the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in downtown Fresno, volunteers unload boxes of ribbed sinqua from a farmer’s pickup truck.  

“All right they’re all good to go,” a young man says. “All of it?” another volunteer asks as he and others line up to carry the boxes of vegetables inside.

 

This week on Valley Edition: We learn more about an organization in Fresno that’s buying crops from small farmers to help offset the huge losses growers are experiencing due to COVID-19.

Plus, a man currently incarcerated at Avenal State Prison describes the toll that COVID-19 has taken on life behind bars, including months without seeing loved ones. 

 

And documentary filmmakers tell us what it’s like inside the Mesa Verde detention center in Bakersfield.

 

Joel Martinez

As COVID-19 cases in the San Joaquin Valley continue to climb, the Fresno County Department of Agriculture recently secured nearly one million masks to help protect the county’s agricultural workers.  

 

Melissa Cregan, the agricultural commissioner for the county, said the masks came from California’s Department of Food and Agriculture and the Office of Emergency Services.

 

“We’ve probably received over 800,000 of the face coverings and we’ve distributed probably over 700,000 of those,” said Cregan.  

 

African American Farmers of California

Small farms are at the heart of the San Joaquin Valley’s rich agricultural industry, but the challenges facing these operations are numerous. Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock checked-in with three Fresno County farmers about the most recent obstacle they are facing: COVID-19. She spoke with grape and raisin farmer Steven Cardoza, Chue Lee of Lee's One Fortune Farm and Will Scott Jr. who in addition to running Scott Family Farms is also the president of the African American Farmers of California.

UC Merced

The San Joaquin Valley is accustomed to dealing with drought, but when those conditions last for decades, scientists call it a megadrought. According to a study recently published in the journal Science, the Southwest is currently experiencing a nearly two-decade megadrought that is fueled in part by global warming and is among the worst in human history. Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with John Abatzoglou, a co-author of the study and climatologist who will join the faculty at UC Merced this summer.

 

Lisa Blecker, Kristen Beall Watson and Laura Moreno

COVID-19 is disproportionately hurting vulnerable communities like seniors, ag workers and the homeless. To learn about efforts to protect these at-risk populations, FM89's Kathleen Schock spoke with Lisa Blecker, pesticide safety education program coordinator for the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Laura Moreno, chair of the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, and Kristen Beall Watson, CEO of the Kern Community Foundation.

Alex Hall / KQED

President Donald Trump was in Bakersfield for a short visit Wednesday to sign a Presidential Memorandum to commit more water to San Joaquin Valley farmers. He spoke to an invitation-only crowd of about 2,000 people.

Department of Pesticide Regulation Youtube Page

Pesticide regulations can be tough to understand, especially among communities that don’t speak English. Recently, however, with the help of local ag advisors and video production students at Fresno State, California’s Department of Pesticide Regulations released a series of how-to videos about pesticides in Hmong.

Flickr User Michael Patrick, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Farmers across the country have had a tough few years, between drought and climate change, evolving regulations, and of course, tariffs due to the Trump administration’s escalating trade war abroad. In one big way, however, 2019 was a good year for agriculture: Farmers received their largest subsidies in over a decade.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Fresno County has settled with a family of pistachio growers over unpermitted building on what the family contends will be the largest pistachio plant in the world. 

The County issued permits back in September to Ventana South, LLC and Touchstone PIstachio, LLC for the construction of 49 siloes in Cantua Creek. Both companies are owned by the Assemi family of Fresno. 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Here in one of world’s most productive agricultural belts, we have lots of potential for community-supported agriculture—or CSAs—in which consumers connect directly with local farmers by subscribing to weekly boxes of fresh farm goods.

While many small-scale CSAs still operate in the San Joaquin Valley, some of the more prominent ones have been forced to shut down—including Fresno-based OOOOBY, a long-time service with thousands of subscribers that closed its doors very suddenly in November.

On this week’s Valley Edition: It’s hard enough being a kid in the foster system. But imagine making it through college without family support. One university program is helping students beat the odds and graduate

Plus: We live in the food basket of the world, but community-supported agriculture programs tend to have a short shelf life here in the Valley. In the wake of a popular Fresno CSA shutting down, we find out why they're so hard to run.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Even with his eyes closed, Doug Martin can recognize the sound of every tractor on his Hanford ranch. There’s the big silver work horse, and the 40-year-old Oliver that can still run his backup generator, but the one he looks at with love is a tiny green thing from 1958. “The first time I plowed ground with it, I was seven years old,” he says, recalling how he mishandled the plow and feared he had ruined the fields. He hadn’t; his father simply re-plowed them. “This little tractor did a lot,” he says, laughing.

In The Studio: Farming In The Age Of Climate Change

Nov 22, 2019
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The unseasonably warm and dry fall we are experiencing in the San Joaquin Valley is a reminder of the changing climate, here and around the world. In the studio, moderator Kathleen Schock explores how climate change is affecting the region’s top industry: agriculture. Her guests are Renata Brillinger who is Executive Director of the California Climate and Agriculture Network, Dr. Tapan Pathak from UC Merced, Ruth Dahlquist-Willard who is an Advisor with the UC Small Farm Program, and grape and raisin farmer Steven Cardoza.

Ezra David Romero / KVPR

Legislation proposed Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives aims to give undocumented farmworkers more protections.  The Farm Workforce Modernization Act will provide undocumented workers a path to legal residency, and for those who want it, citizenship. 

 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Jovita Torres Romo lives in a grayish bungalow surrounded by cactus and succulents and strung with Christmas lights. It’s located on one of the handful of streets that make up Tombstone Territory, an unincorporated Fresno County community that’s been her home for 30 years. It’s quiet, except for the few days a week when her young grandchildren come over to watch cartoons and play in the backyard. “I like it here,” she says through a Spanish interpreter. “I raised five children here, they grew up in this house, and I like living outside the city in the county.”

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Dennis Hutson’s rows of alfalfa, melons, okra and black-eyed peas are an oasis of green in the dry terrain of Allensworth, an unincorporated community in rural Tulare County. Hutson, currently cultivating on 60 acres, has a vision for many more fields bustling with jobs. “This community will forever be impoverished and viewed by the county as a hamlet,” he says, “unless something happens that can create an economic base. That's what I'm trying to do.”

John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

We in California are depleting our groundwater aquifers faster than we can replenish them. Over the last few decades in the San Joaquin Valley, that deficit has averaged close to two million acre-feet per year, a total that was exacerbated by drought conditions that may become more common as the climate continues to change.

To help reduce this deficit, state lawmakers and Governor Brown in 2014 passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, which aims to overhaul the way growers, cities and other water users manage the resource.

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