Farm Census: The 2007 farm census is out. The number of US farms is up by 3.5%. This is mostly due to an increase in small farms like ours and really large operations. More farms is good right? Yes but there are some disturbing trends. The average cost of land went up to $1900 which is about 55% higher than it was in 2002 and 95% higher than 10 years ago. (damn wish we could buy land here that cheap) There's a re-occuring trend of go big or get out happening. Growers need to spread the cost of equipment and capital investments over larger acerages to reduce the per-unit cost of production. An offset of the higher cost of land is the fact that the market value of ag products increased by nearly 50% over the last five years. The average age of the farmer continues to rise and is now at 57.5 years old. Younger farmers are not taking up the slack fast enough. In 2002 the average age was 55. A fact that more directly relates to a farm like Maple Rock is that we are part of a fast growing movement of farms that markets specialty crops. Organic farms grew in number from 12,000 to 18,000 between 2002 and 2007 and sales more the quadrupled from about $400 million to $1.7 billion. This is due to organic farms becoming more effiecient and acquiring more expertise. Nationally the number of farms who sell dierct to the consumer increased from 116,733 to 136,817. Here in Washington the number of farms went up 9% to 39,284 from 35,939 in 2002. The average size of farms decreased by 11 percent to 381 acres. Maybe this would be a good time for congress to kick down some of the stimulus package to help young farmers get a foothold in the Ag biz?
The Data above was obtained from The Capital Press.
Weather: The oddness continues. This has been the driest mid January thru mid February period on record in 117 years. Since we've been keeping a record. But... We had large amounts of precipitation in December and early January so it is less pronounced. Oddly, I only had one day that was dry enough to be able to do some field work. Often we get a break in February that will allow a few days of getting on the ground. So it's still pretty wet now. To complicate matters, forecasters are now saying that we maybe shifting out of our La Nina into an El Nino pattern that will likely cause us to see severe draught conditions this fall and into the winter of 2010. This is global climate change in the works. It's going to be a big challenge for growers in the future.
For those of you whom received my newsletter you will recall the situation about the bees and the almonds. As it turns out California is experiencing a serious draught and it looks as though many of the almond growers are deciding not to go for a crop this year. Apparently they need to irrigate and there is just not enought water? The Bee guys on their forums are not saying anything about CCD but only making reference to not as many hives being placed and having lots of difficulties getting bees across the border into California. The almonds are in bloom now so you may start to hear something.
Legal Battles: An Important case against Monsanto's roundup ready GM sugar beets is set to be argued in April. One of our seed suppliers is a plaintiff in the Case. Frank Morton, owner of Wild Garden Seed in Oregon is having his livelyhood threatened by the GM beets. Frank produces seed for chard, table beets and other vegetables in the willamette valley. The Gm beets can cross pollinate thus forever contaminating the true seed and ruinning Franks business. the biggest problem here is that the GM seed was planted on the sly for the last two years. Fortunately the judge in the case denied the petition for Monsanto to join the lawsuit and a precedent was established in 2007 in a similar case against the USDA regarding GM alfalfa seed.
We'll have to wait and see what happens. We send all of our best to Frank and good luck. It's hard enough to make a living as a grower and to have to add the stress and time of a lawsuit is aggrivating and sad.
And Last but not least. To the asshole that stole my daughters snowboard off of my front porch. You suck and I hope you enjoy the special seating section in hell.
Take care people it's a crazy world we live in.