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Sarah Taber @SarahTaber_bww
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Again, this one's difficult to explain to folks not personally familiar with doing ag on a day to day basis

and keep in mind that I'm in veggie/fruit farming, YMMV with meat/dairy/grain etc, and "east coast" in this instance p much means "everywhere except CA"
But basically, the east coast approach is basically: farming is a ~lifestyle~

West coast: farming is a JOB
eastern US: countryside is slower-paced. ahh nature. sometimes you get stuck behind slow-moving tractors!

California farm regions: FRANTIC ACTIVITY ALL THE TIME. Lots of trucks filled w produce barreling down highway every May-Dec
Central Valley agriculture isn't perfect by any means, but compared to the goings-on in other US farm areas, it's our golden child for sure.

The funny part is, a lot of veg farmers & orchardists in the rest of the US look down on CA farming for being "corporate."
Lemme tell you what I see.

Elsewhere, all over the US, I've caught farms poisoning their employees, illegally misusing pesticides to where their customers could be affected, all kinds of BS. (All accidentally! Of course!)

And yet... you really don't find that in California.
The sustainable farm movement really likes this narrative that bad farming happens bc of bad people. Or more precisely, bad corporations.

Like, they deliberately overuse very expensive pesticides. Because ... profit?
What I find in real life does not gel with that narrative. At all.

IME sloppy farming happens when people are overwhelmed. It's pretty much the farm version of, we all know we're supposed to put laundry away, but when we're overworked it all winds up on the floor.
But there are a lot of farms that run a really tight ship, and they're having a great time right now. They're making money, landing new sales accounts, building new facilities, etc.

People are eating more produce now. It's a great time to be in the fruit & veggie business!
These farms recruit smart people to run them, make it worth their while to stay, & give them enough resources to farm right. As a result, their farms are clean & profitable.

Here's the thing though... most of these well-run farms are "corporate farms."
Some of them are literally just companies that farm, some of them are family farms that figured out nepotism kills profits and started acting professional.

But overall, what I've seen tells me that farming is only successful when it works like a job.
Good farming means you need a solid pipeline for humans to grow into it. There needs to be a way to get IN to farming- people who want to farm have to be able to learn how, start working, and stay & gain experience.

Even if you weren't born on a farm.
To be sustainable, farming has to be a job. It needs to be something you can train for, do it even if you don't have inherited capital, and- if it turns out you're not really gifted in that arena? You need to find a different job.
So, unpopular opinion time. I think family farming is actually a terrible model for building a sustainable farm sector.

How does this relate to east coast vs west coast farming? In most of the US, farming is an inheritance you might luck into. In CA it's a job.
Again, most of the "corporate farms" in CA are actually family farms that just figured out how to be professional. They hire in skilled ag knowledge workers, etc.

And I thiiiiiink CA's notorious environmental regulations are actually a big part of how that happened.
States w large farm economies tend give farms generous policy deals. They're given fairly soft regulations re: pollution, pesticide use, water quality, etc.

California does NOT play like that. You wanna farm in California? Get your shit together or get out.
And you know, a lot of farms did. As regulations tightened, a lot of mediocre farmers left the business.

And they left a lot of "regulations put me out of business!" hand-wringing in their wake.
But you know what? A lot of folks stayed, & they run their farms tight as HELL.

I work with farmers all over the US. Compared to rest of the US, working w farms in CA feels like being on vacation. They know what they're supposed to do and they just ... do it.
Elsewhere, you get things like farmers not even knowing what a PHI *is* (= pre-harvest interval- can't harvest crop for X days after spraying w Y pesticide)

Even though they've been federal law since 1994, & every jug comes with a label that tells you what the PHI is. just. god
And despite all these Crushing Regulations, CA is still the US's top state in agriculture income in the US. By, like, a lot.

They beat out Iowa by almost 50%.

agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2…
There's SO MUCH more to say about the relationship between human capital and agricultural productivity. But bottom line, "west coast farming" basically means treating agriculture like a job that you should be good at, and magically being way more successful as a result.
When working with CA farmers, I mean, they're dealing with PITA regulations on a daily basis, and bc the state's farmers are pretty good, they don't have to try to farm next door to the reasons those regs exist. So they're not exactly ecstatic about the regulations.
So they're grumbling about regulations, and I just start dropping stories about the stuff I've seen firsthand in other states where that level of oversight isn't there. And the CA farmers are just. SHOCKED.

"Wait, people really DO that?"
man I wish you could take CA farmers on a field trip just so they could appreciate what they've got in the Central Valley

Anyway, that was a long ramble. And again there's way more to say about the people factor in ag. Like, imo the influence of skilled immigrants in CA is HUGE.
But bottom line, people think the weather in CA is the reason for the hardcore farm sector out there. It's ... not the weather, it's the people.

And that's east coast vs west coast farming, kids

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