By: Raul Riesgo
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel from downtown Los Angeles to a farm several hours away. The farm tour was part of an effort by farmers to build bridges with people like me who live in cities and have very little understanding or appreciation of our California-grown food supply.
Like a lot of people in cities, it’s easy to take California agriculture for granted. I get my food at the grocery store and in restaurants. It’s always there. Fresh and affordable. Healthy and nutritious. I never really gave it much thought about how it ended up on my plate.
What I learned on the tour was how much care and attention goes into farming at every phase: planting, irrigating, combating pests and diseases and harvesting. I was also impressed by the relationships between farmers and their workers, who are like a family bonded together by an appreciation for the land they till and the food they grow.
One of the most surprising things I learned was how much research and innovation goes into modern day farming. We all appreciate how advanced California’s technology is when it comes to Silicon Valley and Southern California’s entertainment industry. But far from the spotlight, California’s universities are working with farmers in ways that incorporate technology and state-of-the-art science to make food production more sustainable.
For example, a process known as precision breeding is a way to develop better crops by editing the genes of superior plants within the same species. By enhancing the genes that are naturally within that species, plants can produce better fruit and vegetables using less water and fewer pesticides.
Another project is exploring how to grow crops on walls and other vertical surfaces. For a city person like me who wants locally grown food, this concept is especially fascinating. Can you imagine strawberries or tomatoes being grown in downtown LA? Imagine the potential this vertical farming could have in eliminating “food deserts” so that people in inner-city communities can enjoy the same quality of healthy food available in upscale communities.
The best part of my brief contact with farming was getting to meet some farmers. They were good and decent people who care deeply about the food they grow for all Californians, as well as people around the nation and world.
So at your next trip to the grocery store, farmers’ market or restaurant, take a moment to appreciate the miracle and innovation of California agriculture.
Raul Riesgo is a public relations expert who has been featured on Spanish language news outlets Telemundo and Mundo Fox News discussing both political and Latino community issues. He has also been a news reporter for two Los Angeles area newspapers writing on variety of community and social topics.