Californian Farming..
03 February 2020

We were pleased to welcome Alastair, son of club member Ian Brunton as speaker on 3rd February. Both are farmers and Alastair spoke of a study tour he made to the USA under the umbrella of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers. He was one of 15 selected from all of Scotland.

His visit was the Agri and Rural Affairs 2018 visit to California, that took in areas from San Francisco and the Napa Valley to Sacramento. The tour theme was ‘Improving efficiency by embracing technology’

We heard that California was picked as being well known as one of the most advanced and productive agricultural areas in the world. With over 76,000 farms and ranches they generate more than $100 billion worth of agricultural related activity annually, producing over 400 different plant and animal commodities. Main products are Dairy, almonds, grapes and beef. They produce more agricultural produce than any other state in America and have done so for the past five decades. 

What followed was an eye-opening account of the sheer industrial scale of farming there. One farm with 35,000 acres of carrots under cultivation; another with 8,000 cows milked by 110 robots.

An area producing 2 million pounds of cheese per day - around 25% of the US market. Egg packing plants running 24 hours a day.

A Mondavi winery where land is $1 million per acre, with each acre producing 5 tons of grapes and an output of 1.5 million bottles of wine a year - at $50 a bottle! 

But we heard too of concerns over the sustainability of this assault on the land. Water supplies are of particular concern and Alastair said that the Californian water table becomes lower each year as irrigation water is pumped out faster that it is replenished. It seems that cheap labour is also becoming scarce, leading to more automation - but also to migration of production across borders.

A fascinating, but perhaps also a worrying insight to a very different agricultural world.

Following questions, Roderick Skinner proposed a vote of thanks.


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