Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Calif. drought a nightmare for small agri-tourism businesses that once thrived at Halloween

The California drought is forcing many small agri-tourism businesses to skip Halloween festivities this year that require water, such as pumpkin patches and corn mazes, Geoffrey Mohan reports for the Los Angeles Times. "The travails haunting some of the state's small farms this Halloween come even as large-scale growers of the ornamental gourds in the San Joaquin Valley say they've had a bumper crop that is in high demand because of rain-damaged harvests in the Midwest, Texas and East Coast. The divergent fates illustrate a paradox of California's drought: farmers with recourse to deep wells can reap a tidy profit. Those who don't might not farm again." (Times photo by Kirk McCoy: Bob Lombardi, owner of the shut-down Lombardi Ranch, looks at one of the baby bear pumpkins he was able to grow on only two acres because of the drought)

"Statewide, growers have gambled on crops that give them the best yield per drop, agriculture experts say," Mohan writes. "Despite the drought's estimated $1.5-billion toll on the agriculture economy last year, many of California's vegetable crops, and a few fruits, have had increased yields, according to University of California Davis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pumpkin harvests were up 16 percent last year."

"Meanwhile, farms with few choices have withered: the state lost about 1 percent to 2 percent of its dairy industry from 2010 to 2014, according to Lesley Butler, a dairy economist at UC Davis," Mohan writes. "And while farm revenues for vegetable crops in the San Joaquin and Sacramento regions are expected to rise by $4 million to $8 million this year, they probably will plummet by more than $100 million in Tulare County, according to UC Davis' Center for Watershed Sciences." (Read more)

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