Those in Kern County will continue to celebrate their new status as the 2016 U.S. leader in crop values, widely released last September. Kern County has long been a top national producer of agriculture — and the dollars that go with it — often reaching runner-up status. But in 2016, crop values for the county exceeded $7.1 billion, beating common contenders Tulare and Fresno (along with every other county in the U.S.) earning Kern the top spot.
Analysts will dig deep into the numbers and reasons for Kern’s surge, undoubtedly discovering multiple causes for the win. Among those likely to bubble to the top are that county growers have been able to maximize efficiency from planting to harvest.
Efficiency in farming, as in every business, is a priority. Increasing efficiency saves money, increases speed and can save time. Farmers consistently think about all these things and more. In addition, farmers, no matter the crop, also consider water usage to ensure sustainability of natural resources and courtesy to the people (and even the animals) who make up the local traffic and community.
Of those Kern County crops with $7.1 billion, more than 60 percent are grapes, citrus and almonds. Almonds started to gain traction in Kern county in the early 1970s, replacing cotton. Those early adapting almond farmers were accustomed to traditional row crops, which were watered by flood irrigation. Once they realized that a permanent crop of trees could be farmed much more efficiently, they began installing drip systems and saved 33 percent of the water when compared to traditional flood irrigation.
This is particularly significant because farmers rely mostly on well water, rather than city water supplies, after threat of government restrictions (figuratively) and the recent drought (literally) dried up supplies. There have been many times when farmers were attacked for using too much water but people fail to realize how efficient they actually are and how much thought goes into saving every drop.
Not only are farmers being more efficient with their resources, but they also take into consideration the health and safety of the public. The invention of “low dust” equipment is an innovation that has permeated the almond industry. Farmers can now choose to buy low-dust harvesters and sweepers.
At this point, there has been no regulation to enforce the use of low-dust equipment, but many farmers choose to use the most dust-efficient equipment anyway. Trying to keep dust off the roadways, out of the air and away from pedestrians is a constant concern of farmers. They plan their equipment routes with unwanted dust production in mind to make sure their blowers are pointed away from the road when possible. Little things like this can make a big difference to passing traffic and general air quality for people and animals.
We can expect that farmers will continue to innovate toward efficiency in their processes from planting to growing to harvest. Along with the values of preserving natural resources and human health, there are more than seven billion other reasons to celebrate Kern County’s new rank at the top of U.S. crop values.
Dane Oleson has been involved in the agricultural community for 3 ½ years. His last two years have been in the sales department at Kern Machinery. As a salesman, Oleson has the opportunity to spend every day in the field using and learning about the newest advancements in Kern County ag.