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Farming in California

March 2, 2012 - Chuck Hunt
Want to see some of the biggest farm fields on some of the flattest land around? Where would you go? Southwest Minnesota? North Dakota? Red River Valley? All good choices, but I suggest you check out the Central California Valley. There is a Sierra Nevada mountain range far to the east and a smaller range west near the coast. In between is one massive flat valley. The valley stretches from Bakersfield to the south (east of Los Angeles), north through Fresno, Modesto (east of San Francisco) and further north to State Capitol Sacramento. The valley is more than a hundred miles wide and many hundreds long. In the southern part they grow vegetables. In the north fruits. Around Modesto, they have many acres of orchards and vineyards. Most of the almonds in the world grow on trees there. The Blue Diamond Almond factory is in Modesto. So is a monster-size Seneca Foods plant that is more than 10 times the size of the one in Blue Earth and does nothing but fruits. And while Napa Valley is famous for wine, many more wines are made in the Central Valley, around Modesto and Lodi. Check the backs wine labels in the Blue Earth Wine and Spirits store and you find many that say they are made in Modesto, California. Some of the fields of grapevines are so large it is difficult to see the end of them. These are not mom and pop farms. Most of these are monster-sized fields and they all belong to corporate farms. Field roads are all that connect them, there are no county roads every square mile. While Napa Valley has beautiful vineyards that are on the slopes of gentle hills and looks remarkably like Tuscany in Italy, the Modesto fields are boring and flat and ten times the size of those in Napa. And the wineries themselves are different. They are beautiful, attractive structures in Napa, designed to look like old European style buildings. They are made to attract tourists. In the Central Valley, the wineries more resemble our ethanol plants – lots of huge tanks and stainless steel pipes everywhere. And the buildings are much more plain. We midwesterners tend to think we have a lock on being farming country. Before you decide that for sure, take a trip to the big valley in California.


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