California Floods

This is the house orchard; standing water eventually kills fruit trees.

If you spend any time looking at the news on the California floods these days, it looks as though most of California is underwater. While it’s not quite that bad, there is no question that billions of dollars of damage has occurred to residential and business areas. The bigger issue, to my mind, is the damage to agricultural production.

California Floods and Agriculture

California farmers and ranchers provide the US with one-third of its vegetables and three-quarters of its fruits and nuts. The state of California produces 100% of the commercial almond crop for the US and 80% of all almonds worldwide, 90% of the world’s avocados, almost 100% of US broccoli, 20% of all US milk and 70% of US peaches, 96% of US prunes, more than 70% of US plums and 80% of US raspberries. The state is also the world’s 5th largest supplier of cotton fiber and agricultural commodities outside of food. Most of those crops are grown on the flat, low-lying ground of the Central Valley. In other words, the land most susceptible to flooding.

Impact of California Floods

Even if the rains quit today, the impact of this winter will be felt for years. Uprooted fruit and nut trees or perennial plantings such as grapes, berries, artichokes and asparagus obviously won’t be producing anything. Topsoil is eroding into various waterways and out to sea. Animals that can’t be removed from flooded areas or excessively wet soils will be prone to disease and their hooves will chop up soil. The flood waters quite likely contain various chemicals that will further damage or pollute the remaining soil. Damaged levees and irrigation systems may mean less water to grow crops in the heat of the summer. Damaged transportation infrastructure (train tracks, county roads, bridges and major highways) will mean difficult access and delays getting workers to the fields or crops to market.

Looking at the Future

Centralizing food growing activities for an entire country is bad enough. Relying on a massive, complex transportation system that is dependent on large quantities of fossil fuels makes it worse. The combination becomes a recipe for shortages or outright disaster in the face of catastrophic weather. You’re going to feel the effects for years and this scenario will be repeated in the future. So what can you do? Plant a garden, get some chickens, support local food growers, farmer’s markets and CSAs.

Do it NOW.

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