Fewer Raisins Planted
Those famous dancing raisins are fewer these days, pushed out by more lucrative crops in the Central Valley. In 2002, California raisins were grown on some 280,000 acres according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Today, that number is down to 165,000 acres – a 40 percent acreage decline. Kings raisin acreage has dropped from around 2700 acres in 2001 to about 2100 acres today. Tulare County has just 12,300 acres of raisins left as of 2015 compared to 33,000 acres in 2000.
Local Farm & Community Group Oppose Mass Deportation
In Fresno this week a farm and community based group is announcing a coalition of business and community leaders calling themselves the California Leadership for a New American Economy Organization. “The effort is one of a dozen statewide conservative coalitions calling for a responsible solution to the country’s broken immigration system that secures the border, grows the economy, and recognizes that America cannot and should not engage in mass deportations of millions of productive members of society.” says farmer and organizer Manuel Cunha The membership includes
-Paul Wenger, President CA Farm Bureau
-Manuel Cunha Jr., President Nisei Farmers League
–George Radanovich, President CA Fresh Fruit Association
-Margaret Mims, Sheriff Fresno County
-Alan Autry, Former Mayor City of Fresno
-Rev. Gilbert Montelongo, Board Member National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council
-Mario Rodriguez, Chair Hispanic 100
–Victor Lopez, Mayor City of Orange Cove
CC Yin, Founder Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs
Tea Time For Central Valley Farmers?
Fifty-five years ago, Thomas J. Lipton Inc.( think Lipton Tea) funded a tea study at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, which is piquing the interest of scientists today. For 18 years, researchers pampered and coaxed 41 tea clones to determine whether tea plantations could be a lucrative alternative for San Joaquin Valley farmers.
Scientists of the time predicted a potential $25,000 economic value of future California tea plantings. Today, tea is a $3.8 billion business in the U.S. and UC Davis recently launched a Global Tea Initiative. Kearney submitted its yellowed research reports, correspondence and newspaper clippings about the long-ago tea research to the initiative’s collection of research, teaching and outreach spanning agriculture, social sciences, health, culture and economics of all things tea.
That got the attention of UC Davis chemistry professor Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague, who is studying microbes in the soil where tea is grown and their potential impact on the health attributes of tea. “I believe there is a microbial exchange that ends up in the cup,” she said.
When the Kearney tea research program was scrapped in 1981, a prescient researcher had a handful of the best tea clones planted in the landscape around buildings at Kearney, where they stand today as fall-blooming non-descript shrubs.
Hague, who with her students frequently travels overseas to sample soil on tea plantations, learned of the plants at Kearney and recognized the opportunity to conduct studies in California.
“It’s really remarkable,” she said.
Kearney director Jeff Dahlberg believes the renewed interest in the center’s tea, growing awareness about the healthful properties of tea, and increasing enthusiasm for artisanal tea and locally grown food could turn tea into a lucrative specialty crop for small-scale San Joaquin Valley farmers.
“This may be something like blueberries,” he said. “Twenty years ago, people thought they couldn’t be grown in California. But with research conducted here at Kearney, there is now a thriving blueberry industry in the San Joaquin Valley and on the coast.”