Open fields, shady orchard and vineyard settings and cattle grazing peacefully often obscure the deadlines, pressure and intensity that are part of some agricultural operations, especially in climate friendly California.
Producing three harvests of the same crop in one year as some vegetable growers do creates an intense environment with little time for land, equipment or personnel to lie fallow and relax. Regular maintenance of equipment and facilities must be tightly scheduled, completed on time and evaluated for continuance.
Even a picturesque field of alfalfa hides the need to mow and bale the crop seven times or more during the warm growing season. Irrigation must be scheduled precisely, and one eye must remain on weather predictions to avoid having mown hay rained on.
Cherry growers in the current season faced devastating, mid-season rainfall and hail just as their fruit ripened, was being picked and sent to market. It will be another year until they can try to recoup their losses . Mother nature can be a very strict parent.
Rain in late August or early September puts extreme pressure on Central Valley raisin growers as their wrinkled grapes lie on open trays in their vineyards, soaking up what they hope will be the last bit of summer sunshine. Many of them are turning to improved grape varieties, up-dated cultural practices and technical improvements that ease the stress at pre-harvest time.
Little is more pastoral than milk cows grazing contentedly in open pastures, but watching their personalities change at milking time provides another glimpse of intensity. Watch a one-ton Holstein jockeying for her traditional place in line approaching hook-up to a milking machine, and you catch a glimpse of intensity. Get in her way and your view might be from the ground up.
While we c\don’t have smudge pots anymore to remind us that Central Valley winter temperatures can head south of 20 degrees, citrus growers have bedside thermometer alarms to announce the reality. Wind machines, which might be set to start running automatically, sprinklers spraying ground-temperature(warm) water across an orchard only lessen intensity slightly for citrus growers.
Frosty weather can create intensity for growers of dozens of other crops in California, mostly those who produce vegetables and green crops. The 14(or more) crops designated as leafy greens, from lettuce to dandelions, create revenue of a billion dollars every year in California. But it takes growers dedicated to working their land intently, following each harvest promptly with another planting to maximize the potential to reach profitable levels.
The leafy greens dominate in specified areas, the Salinas Valley being the most prolific Other sectors identified with this kind of agricultural intensity include Santa Maria, Oxnard and neighboring areas in Ventura County, even parts of Orange County and the South Coast not yet dominated by industrial and residential expansion.
Equipment failures, labor shortages, even thievery and destructive vandalism can create intensity in an otherwise peaceful and pastoral setting. One of the less traditional causes for intensity in the farm community is regulatory interference. Experience and years of training are often overturned by regulations that demand certain procedures, often accompanied by strict deadlines.
For a firsthand view of intensity in the farming and ranching sector, ask a cattle ranching friend for an invitation to a spring round-up. Those bull calves don’t care how many cowboys they hurt as they try to avoid the inevitable. As a bonus you might develop a taste for mountain oysters.