California’s future can be found around the Rodney Dangerfield cities of the San Joaquin Valley of Bakersfield, Fresno, Tulare, Modesto, and Stockton plus everywhere in between.
It is the heart of the industry that has dominated the California economy for almost 160 straight years: Agriculture. It has been that way since the lure of gold lost its luster.
Farming is what laid the foundation for the California economy that would still rank as the seventh largest in the world if the state were a sovereign nation. And the biggest muscle of that economy is still agriculture that generated $37.5 billion alone in cash farm receipts during 2010. Add to it related jobs in growing related supplies, trucking, research, processing, packaging, and marketing and a major economic juggernaut takes shape complete with plenty of well paying jobs.
The Central Valley from Sacramento to Bakersfield is a virtual greenhouse with soil that is considered among the world’s best.
Farming is literally a growth industry in California. Exports have grown steadily from $3.6 billion in 1998 to $9.4 billion in 2010. It is being driven by growing demand for expensive and high quality food in developing nations such as China. And it is being made possible by California farmers open to trying new crops and finding more innovative ways to produce better food and more tonnage. It also helps that farmers today are not just savvy stewards of the land who understand to make more they have to produce more using less resources such as soil but are also international marketing and currency experts.
Most Californians spend an inordinate amount of time using smart phones for leisure activities and interaction with friends. A farmer armed with a smart phone is constantly checking – and making deals – involving crops, supplies, and other global connections to squeeze out profit from their land.
And soon just south of Manteca they will use their smart phones to monitor and control irrigation releases from a state-of-the-art pressurized drip system being put in place by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.
How innovative are California farmers?
The 1979 Iranian hostage crisis led to the banning of imports from that country. Iran was a major supplier of pistachios to the United States.
Some Central Valley farmers saw an opportunity in California and planted pistachios. Iran growers had traditionally been dyeing pistachios red to cover blemished left by bits of the hull sticking to the outer shell. California ag researchers found a way to remove all traces of the hulls. They were able to market pistachios that were smooth and flawless.
It was a short time before California pistachios - due to that innovation – became favored by consumers around the globe. California now grows 95 percent of the pistachios in the United States up from virtually nothing 32 years ago to a record 522 million tons in 2010 worth $1.16 billion. The crop is expected to double by 2017. Usually that means a drop in prices but savvy farmers are already cueing up a global marketing campaign.
And if you doubt the viability of farming, just drive by the former Sexton Chevrolet dealership on Speckles Avenue. Chevrolet may have retreated from the Manteca market by J&M Equipment is going strong. Farm receipts in San Joaquin County hit $1.9 billion in 2010.
Manteca’s economic future – and the rest of the San Joaquin Valley – is tied to agricultural whether it is raising crops or processing, shipping, or marketing them.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.