May 2014

Vol 27, No. 5

(L-R) County Ag Commissioner Ha Dang, Deputy Director Megan Moore, Scott Hinkle, Mike Anthony Mellano, Policy Analyst Thomas Ledford, and Deputy Ag Commissioner Jim Wynn tour the hoop houses at Mellano and Co.

Educating Washington on San Diego Farms

Early in April, on a picture perfect San Diego Tuesday, Farm Bureau staff walked a visitor through five north county farms for a crash course in San Diego farming. Scott Hinkle is the Policy Director and Legislative Counsel to Congressman Juan Vargas in Washington D.C. Juan Vargas represents Imperial County and portions of San Diego County and sits on the House Agriculture Committee. Mr. Hinkle covers a range of issues on which he advises Rep. Vargas, including agriculture. When he informed the county department of agriculture that he would be in town and was interested in visiting a few farms, Farm Bureau volunteered to lead a tour. Five members of SDCFB’s board of directors were glad for the chance to showcase their farms and speak frankly on the issues most important to San Diego County farmers. Among those on the tour were Mr. Hinkle, County Ag Commissioner Ha Dang, and county ag department and Farm Bureau staff.

The first stop was at Rockwood Ranch in the San Pasqual Valley. At Rockwood, Al Stehly oversees high density plantings of certified organic citrus, and winegrapes. Among other topics the need for immigration reform and labor reliability was discussed at length. Mr. Hinkle was quick to note that Rep. Vargas is a vocal champion in the House for comprehensive reform. Stehly demonstrated the level of resource management at Rockwood by pulling up a soil tensiometer at the base of a young tree and explained how irrigation water is only applied once the soil meters tell him it is necessary. At least on this farm, gone is the day of a timed watering schedule. Now, valves are turned on only when the technology - which measures water to the razors edge of good crop production – says its time.

The tour continued north through Valley Center and down Cole Grade into Pauma Valley to the home of Warren Lyall and his family. The route afforded a panoramic view of both fertile and abandoned groves. The real cost of water was plain as the tour van swept past acres of citrus slowly turning brown.

Warren Lyall, his wife Jan, and his sons Andy and Tim, welcomed the group into their home for conversation and cookies. Mr. Lyall is a member of the Asian citrus psyllid taskforce. The threat posed by the Asian citrus psyllid was underlined and the need for continued funding for pest detection and eradication programs. With his sons Andy and Tim standing in the room as the family farm’s next owners, Mr. Lyall also brought up the issue of estate planning and the cost and complexities of passing a farm from one generation to the next.

Leaving Pauma Valley the van turned back into Valley Center to visit Archi’s Acres, owned by Colin and Karen Archipley. Archi’s Acres grows more than just a primary crop of hydroponic basil, Colin and Karen also produce a growing number of farmers through their Veteran Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program. So far, they’ve graduated over 200 veterans through their farm training program, many of whom have gone on to start their own farms. Colin and Karen spoke to Mr. Hinkle of the importance of access to financing for entry level farmers and how helpful low interest loans offered through the USDA have been to some of their graduates. Visiting Archi’s Acres emphasized both how difficult it can be for a neophyte farmer to enter the industry and how important it is for governments and agencies to help clear the path.

Next up was a look at Sunlet Nursery in Fallbrook with owner Janet Kister. Janet this year ended a six year term representing Imperial and San Diego counties on the board of directors of the California Farm Bureau Federation. She knows the issues and made sure Mr. Hinkle knew them too. Immigration reform, pest exclusion, water pricing and availability, federal agency over-reach, and increasing regulations on California farmers were all examined. On the ground at the nursery, one can see the effects of the challenges she described. Mr. Hinkle also got a look at the sophisticated water runoff catchment system at the nursery and marveled that not a drop leaves the grounds.

The final tour of the day was with Mike Anthony Mellano at Mellano and Co. touring the fields and hoop houses where cut flowers are grown. Mellano and Co. is one of the few farms in the county that provides the option of farmworker housing, and showed what that can look like with its benefits and challenges. Mellano and Co. is continually researching better ways to bring a quality crop to market. Mike Anthony emphasized the need for cooperation between growers and UC researchers to help find workable solutions to tough problems like pests, disease, and the phasing out of the use of materials like methyl bromide.

At the end of the day Mr. Hinkle was asked for his impressions. “I’m impressed with how careful everyone is, how conservative and precise your irrigation is,” he said. He was silent for a minute, then, “this was all just very eye opening. I learned a lot.”

San Diego Grown: Star B Buffalo Ranch and Hop Farm

San Diego GrownIf you’re looking for proof that you can grow anything in San Diego, niche marketing works, and that farmers are innovators, look no further than the Star B Buffalo Ranch and Hop Farm. Ken Childs and his son-in-law, Eric March, are on the front edge experimenting with San Diego’s hippest new specialty crop: hops.

One of the four ingredients in beer production, hop cones, looking like miniature green pinecones, lend the bitter flavor and floral aromas to beer. Hop cones grow on vines trained vertically and each vine can produce anywhere from two to six pounds of them. A yellow powder called lupulin is produced at the base of each petal on the cone, and it’s this powder that contains the oils and acids which lend flavor to beer. Most of the worlds hops are grown in Europe and in the US, Washington and Idaho.

Ken and Eric decided in 2008 to try their hand growing hops on a small scale. There were setbacks and plants lost to the learning curve, but today they are the largest hops grower in the county with two acres planted on their ranch in Ramona and 3,000 vines in the ground. What can 3,000 vines give you at harvest? “I would hope for somewhere between two to five pounds of wet hops per plant,” says Eric. “That’s off our two original planted varieties. We have quite a few first year plants this year. I’m hoping I can pull in 2,000 - 3,000 lbs of Cascade and a 1000 lbs of Nugget.” Sold at $15 per pound to home brewers and $10/lb wholesale to local craft breweries, that’s starting to look like more than hobby money, but Ken admits in the past it hasn’t penciled out. “The problem is the difficulty of harvest. It’s just extremely labor intensive and there wasn’t enough margin to hire the people. We struggled with that. We were either going to give up, or step up.”

Step up they did. “One of the big things for us this year, we’re purchasing a hop harvester from Germany. It was designed and built in Germany in the 60’s and 70’s for small hops farmers. There’s a company in northern California selling these machines and we’re buying one refurbished,” explains Ken. “What it does it gives us the ability to expand. Operating two acres, we were struggling just trying to harvest everything in the window we have. The ripeness of the hops and harvest is a short window, about two weeks. 80 percent of cones are at their peak at the same time. Optimally you want to harvest in one week. This machine will give us the ability to harvest two acres in two days.”

Getting hops harvested quickly is essential for Ken and Eric this year. “Our main marketing concept this year is wet hops. Wet hops come once a year right at harvest. After that they are all dried and processed for storage and distribution. Wet hops go straight into beer at harvest. The machine we are buying allows us to do that. We make our best money in wet hops; processing and drying takes a lot more labor.”

It’s not just processing and drying that makes it difficult to bring hops to market. “They’re pretty thirsty plants,” says Eric. “They like a lot of water.” He adds, “Hop growing has been pretty specialized in the US and there’s not a whole lot of information out there on how to grow; it’s been a learning process.” Ken sees challenges in the labor requirements. “The problem for small production is there’s not a lot of equipment available. Growing organically we’ve got weed issues. We’re hand weeding and it’s very labor intensive. During harvest we have to cut the vine in the field, haul the vine underneath a shade, and pick it using an olive harvester. It strips the vine and you separate the hop cones from the leaves and the vine by hand. It’s a pretty slow method. Also, safety issues are very important. Rattlesnakes like to come into the field with the moisture at the base of the plants. When it gets hot, heat stress is an issue. Vines are on 10 foot poles and people are on ladders and standing in the backs of trucks. You’ve got to keep everyone safe.”

With all that, is there a future for hops in San Diego? “Large scale hop farming requires expensive equipment. Until we’re creating volume with proper machinery it’s never going to go anywhere. Now we’ve stepped up, we’ll be the only one in the county with this harvester machine. It’s going to give us the leading edge. I can’t tell yet how much of an edge it will give, but if the money follows this then we will expand,” says Ken.

Eric adds, “I think anything is possible. The beer brewing scene in San Diego is so huge, and people like local, quality, and organic. I think its possible but its hard getting to the point where you’re credible. It’s such a specialized crop. Hops are easy to grow, but hard to grow well and make your yields work. We cant compete at the level of volume that other states do, but a niche market that goes along with a booming industry can be viable. We have worked with breweries and are creating relationships. It’s a tricky industry. Its one thing to like beer and grow hops, its another thing to understand what a brewer is looking for, and having the experience to be able to talk shop with a brewer. There’s a lot to learn.”

Farm Bureau News
May 2014
Volume 27, No. 5

by Julie Walker

Julie WalkerThe Nature of Change

I love an adventure and sensed that I was headed for one as I cautiously navigated my way up the mountain and through several security gates. I weaved through massive rock embankments lined with protective netting and cameras which gave me no choice but to continue up higher and higher until I finally peaked on top. The winding tunnel of rock and tar instantly gave way to a sweeping view of mostly blue sky. The next thing that commanded my attention was an enormous body of water surrounded by a chorus of chaparral-covered hills that stretched as far as I could see.

The water body almost looked out of place. It was huge and so deep that its’ color was a deep blue-green that rippled with currents and swirls. I had just a moment to take in this surprise when I was signaled by a guard to drive to the lip of a long, narrow, concrete highway that stretched across the edge of the water. On one side, the water, on the other, a drop of hundreds of feet of void that filled the valley below. I chuckled out loud with anticipation, then sucked in my breath as I drove out on the lip of the dam that crossed the edge of the Olivenhain Reservoir. It was a bit tricky to stay centered and yet quickly look out both sides of the car to take it all in. It was awesome!

On the other side I could see the group that I was to meet that day. I parked my car and got out to greet them, still flushed with the thrill of driving across the dam. We all remarked about the experience with a reverence for the privilege of doing so. It is an engineering marvel and the region’s first new dam and reservoir constructed in fifty years. We were all there that day to talk about this cornerstone of the San Diego County Water Authority’s (CWA) Emergency Storage Project and the Climate Education Partners just released report, Focus 2050 Study. The report, presented by the San Diego Foundation, was authored by an impressive group of heavy-weights including the SD County Water Authority, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, SDSU, USD, and UCR to name just a few. It sites “science-based findings that address potential climate change related impacts in the San Diego region by 2050.”

You may or may not ascribe to the notion of climate change, but that’s not what this report is all about. Whether “climate change” is part of your vernacular or not, we’ve been experiencing water shortage challenges, for a variety of reasons, for a long time now and currently the entire state of California is in a severe drought situation. The point goes far beyond debating the term to the bigger picture. According to the report, “the question is not whether our climate is changing. The question is whether we will use the scientific knowledge we have now gained to prepare our communities for the future. The goal of the Focus 2050 Study is to provide a scientific basis for local governments and public agencies to develop climate preparedness plans, which include strategies for mitigating the damage from, and adapting to, climate change.”
The Foundation filmed an informative video that day, including quotes from Farm Bureau and Maureen Stapleton, CWA General Manager, who is to be highly commended for overseeing the successful completion of the Olivenhain Project. The message of the video stressed being prepared to protect the public and local business during disaster and anticipated shortages alike.

I should probably note here that farmers who participate in the CWA Transitional Special Agricultural Water Rate program would not receive water from the Olivenhain Project in a time of emergency. But that is a calculated decision some of us have made in exchange for a differential water rate.
When it comes to talking about water, it is very important for Farm Bureau to be in on the discussion and it was an honor to be included in the video that day. Water is our life-blood, the basis of our businesses, and we must be a part of the community plan for the future if we are to continue to farm here. We must share our farm presence and concerns with the public in order to foster their support when we need it. We must demonstrate that we are part of the solution, and not part of the problem, as some have accused. We must support storage projects like the Olivenhain Dam and work with the public, the scientific community, and water agencies to solve the problem of adequate supply in the future. (To learn more, go to or

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An Interview With Marie Waldron

Marie WaldronMarie Waldron was elected to serve the people of the 75th Assembly District in November 2012. She served on the Escondido City Council for 14 years, with two stints as Deputy Mayor. She was appointed a board member for North County Transit District and served as the city’s representative to the League of California Cities, the Regional Solid Waste Association Board and was a member of Escondido’s Investment subcommittee.

Marie and her husband Steve have owned and operated Top End Tees Screenprinting in Escondido for 20 years. Waldron has been a member of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association. She served 4 years as California’s Honorary Chairman of the Business Advisory Council which advocated on behalf of California’s small businesses to Congress.

Marie Waldron was a founding member of the San Diego chapter of California Women’s Leadership Association, is a member of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the American Legion Auxiliary and the National Rifle Association.

Marie has a B.S. degree from St. John’s University and has done graduate work at UCSD and SDSU.

As you approach the completion of your freshman term in the Assembly what are your major observations on how Sacramento works?

Building relationships is extremely important in being able to work effectively here.  Having experience in business and in local government service has been very helpful in hitting the ground running on the various issues.   Our freshman class (43 out of 80 total Assemblymembers) has been more cooperative than in past years.  We are working together more openly and many have a genuine desire to solve problems.  I am hopeful that a new sense of cooperation will grow and take root here after the next round of term limits with the 2014 elections.

Is there any one thing about the system that bothers you greatly?

In some ways I’ve found the situation frustrating. As a member of the Escondido City Council, I was one of five decision makers. In city government, if you want to accomplish something, you simply vote on the proposal and it gets done. In Sacramento, I am just one of 80 Assemblymembers and 120 total legislators, counting the Senate.
The process is very burdened in that there are very slow moving times and then a mad rush. There are numerous rules, but they can be waived by a majority vote at any time.  It is both challenging and frustrating at times.

Can it be changed?

It’s a structural part of our constitutional system, yet some things can be changed.  On the other hand, increased cooperation among the members should help move things along.  I have been informally meeting with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work on streamlining our legislative sessions adding both flexibility and efficiency.  We hope to work on this during interim.

Is there anything that came as a total surprise?

There is a lot of time spent early in each session where little seems to be accomplished. Then at the end as constitutional deadlines approach there is a mad dash to pass hundreds of bills. We wind up spending twelve hour days (or more) on the floor debating and voting. Serious issues like the need to update California’s antiquated water infrastructure should not have to wait until the frenzied voting at the end of session.

 It’s also at times like these that bills are sometimes gutted and amended. Unfortunately, bad ideas thought dead and buried can suddenly come back to life. It is very important for us to be aware of all the moving parts at all times!

What do you view as your greatest accomplishments to this point?

Unanimous passage of AB 20 last year, and having it signed into law by Governor Brown. The bill increases penalties for persons convicted of creating, using or distributing child pornography on a government computer and sets up a fund to finance counseling for victims.

 I am also very pleased that I was able to take a leading role in creating sales tax exemptions for businesses purchasing manufacturing equipment in California. The Governor’s original proposal called for a sales tax exemption lasting only 4 ½ years; my proposal for a 10 year extension was eventually negotiated down to 8. Even so, this will provide a badly needed shot in the arm for manufacturing in our state, a sector of our economy that has virtually been in a depression for over a decade.

As a member of the minority party, what have you learned about navigating the legislative process?

Most bills pass with overwhelming support from both parties, simply because most bills aren’t really controversial in nature. As a minority party member, passage of a bill that would make significant changes will often require support from across the aisle. That often means having someone from the majority sign on as a co-author. Even with a Democratic co-author, Republican-authored bills sometimes fail.  I believe if we make good policy as a minority member, it can sometimes be supported politically too.

Have you found it difficult to find a balance between your life in Sacramento and the district?

Yes, to a certain extent. Balancing my family, including our 13-year-old son, a business that I run with my husband, the needs of my constituents and a full-time job in Sacramento has been a challenge, but it’s one that I have been able to meet.  After all, I am fighting for our kids, our families and our businesses -- that is why I travel to Sacramento!

Do you have words of advice for members of the farm community who would like to have their concerns considered on pending legislation?

In Sacramento, when most discussions occur about agriculture, they are centered on the Central Valley or Salinas Valley.  People often express surprise when I tell them that San Diego is one of California’s major agricultural regions.   I had to work hard to become a member of the Assembly Rural caucus so I could better represent my district.

So with that in mind, keeping our office apprised of issues of interest or concern is important.  I speak with the CA Farm Bureau folks on a regular basis.  Also, with the important decisions on water infrastructure coming to a vote, I need to be informed of your concerns as the San Diego County Farm Bureau will continue to provide an important voice for our region’s farmers.

 Rest assured that to the best of my ability, I will continue to be a voice for San Diego and Riverside farmers in the Capitol.

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by Eric Larson

Minimum equals maximum hurt

Eric LarsonWhether on the November ballot or on a city council agenda, the City of San Diego appears hell-bent on having a vote on raising the minimum wage paid within the city limits to $13.09 over a period of three years. Never mind that California will be at $10.00 next year and San Diego would be 30 percent higher than the rest of the Golden State. Editorial debate is heating up on the topic and concern has been expressed for the hospitality, service, and manufacturing industries. A single word has not yet been spoken by the members of the city council about farming. That just might be because they have little, or no, knowledge about farming in their city.

The City of San Diego runs a long way from the U.S./Mexico border to Safari Park. At the extreme ends in the Tijuana River Valley and San Pasqual Valley there are some 5000 acres of farmland operated by dozens of farmers. The authors of the minimum wage proposal have said employers can raise their prices, automate, or reduce hours worked to cover the higher payroll. That proves the authors have no sense what it takes to operate a farm. Farms operate on thin margins, crops grown in San Diego County don’t lend themselves to significant automation, and reducing hours just means less gets planted and sold. But the biggest laugh gets reserved for the notion of raising prices.

If raising prices was as simple as just doing it, every farmer in the country would raise prices tomorrow, assuming they couldn’t get it done today. If San Diego is out there on its own with an increase in the minimum wage – which will actually result in an increase for everyone above the minimum wage as well – does anyone in their right mind think our farmers can sell their products at prices higher than the local, regional, and international markets? It would be unlikely a buyer will pay more for tomatoes just because they were grown inside the city limits.

In a quick informal poll of several farmers who operate within the city limits the replies contained comments on the affect to their business such as “adds further strain,” “jobs will exit the city,” “will foster further unemployment,” “hugely impacted,” and “measure is anti-business.” I think I can stop waiting for the farmer who thinks it is a good idea.

In addition to the comments above, raising the minimum wage on farmers would be a disingenuous act just two years after the city adopted an urban farming ordinance that was designed to encourage farming within the city.

Elected officials are often accused of being out of step with the community, to which I often disagree. However, when it comes to the economics of farming the minimum wage hike authors appear to be dancing while the farmers are just trying to put one foot in front of the other.

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Thank You Farm Bureau Volunteers

Thanks to those volunteers who serve on the ACP Task Force

Bob Atkins
Chuck Badger Jr
David Bauer
Gary Bender
Enrico Ferro
Warren Lyall
Earl Rutz
Al Stehly
Matt Witman

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From the Ag Commissioner

Ha Dang, Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Weights and Measures


There is a lot going on in San Diego County in terms of water quality protection. Of particular interest to agricultural operations is that the current Ag Waiver is in the process of being replaced with the Ag Order.

Let’s briefly review the events that led us to where we are now and the new Ag Order. Back in 1948, the Unites States Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. In 1972, the law was reworked and expanded into what we commonly refer to today as the Clean Water Act. There are 46 States authorized, in lieu of the federal government, to implement the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), of which there are numerous separate permits. One of the major permits in California is the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4), which was revised last year as part of the regular five-year cycle.

California has nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCB) whose responsibility is to preserve and enhance the quality of the state’s waters through the development of water quality control plans and the issuance of waste discharge requirements (WDRs). The San Diego RWQCB is the local regulatory agency responsible for protecting and enforcing the many uses of water, including the needs of agriculture, industry, municipal districts, and the environment.
The County of San Diego is one of the co-permittees operating under the San Diego RWQCB MS4 permit and must comply with the requirements in order to prevent polluted runoff in the unincorporated areas. The Department of Agriculture Weights & Measures (AWM) conducts stormwater inspections at nurseries/greenhouses, pest control businesses, golf courses, and cemeteries to verify compliance with the MS4 Permit.

The Ag Waiver

Water discharges from agricultural operations in California include irrigation runoff, flows from tile drains, and storm water runoff. These discharges can affect water quality by transporting pollutants from cultivated fields into surface and ground waters. Many surface water bodies and aquifers may be impaired because of pollutants from agricultural sources.

To prevent agricultural discharges from impairing the waters that receive them, the State Water Resources Control Board Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands. This is done by issuing WDRs or conditional waivers to growers. These would require water quality monitoring of receiving waters and corrective actions when impairments are found. To avoid the need for individual WDRs, agricultural and nursery operations must be enrolled in an Irrigated Lands Group. 

The Proposed Ag Order - 2014

On January 23, 2014, the San Diego RWQCB released the Ag Order, which will replace the Ag Waiver. Two stakeholder meetings have taken place and more will be scheduled to discuss the proposed Ag Order, which is expected to be finalized and approved in late 2014. It will be in effect for a period of 15 years. Growers who are already enrolled in the Ag Waiver will be automatically enrolled in the Ag Order.

San Diego growers have a long-standing commitment to the preservation of the land and to clean water. As this regulatory process moves forward, you are encouraged to participate and comment on the proposed Ag Order. Visit the San Diego RWQCB’s website for up to date information and subscribe to their Agriculture and Nurseries e-mail list here.

If you have any questions on the current Ag Water Quality Program, please contact AWM’s Agricultural Water Quality Program at (858) 614-7748.

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Meet Your Board Member: Pierre Sleiman, Go Green Agriculture

Pierre (right) stands with his father Pierre Sr. in their new greenhouse in Encinitas.What do you produce?

Organic Butter Lettuce, Bloomsdale Spinach and Kale – grown in a greenhouse hydroponically.

Tell us a little about your business.

I am a first generation farmer. Nobody in my family has ever farmed. My business started as an idea during my college years in 2007. When I graduated, I had a little family support to put together a small pilot operation. After a great deal of hard work, time and many failures, we started to master the art of hydroponic farming. Today, I am fortunate to work with my dad, mom, and sister at my office everyday. We are supplying over 300K plants per month to over 400 local customers from just a 2.5-acre footprint.

My goal is to have a network of relatively small greenhouses across the country that supply healthy produce to the local community.

Where did you go to school? What did you study?

I did my undergrad at UC Riverside in Computer Science and Business. I then completed my Masters in Business from UC San Diego.

What was your first job?

I have never had a job, other than working for myself. My first business was during my undergraduate degree at Riverside when I started a company called “The Hookah Hookup” where I would make deals with local restaurants to allow me to run a “Hookah Lounge” business in their own patio at no expense to me – the upside to the restaurant was the added value of my service to their existing customers. I would then rent hookahs to their customers and keep the profit. In about a year, I opened 6 locations and had 6 employees during my sophomore year in college. When my grades dropped, I quit and focused 100% on acing my classes.

What is your business background/how did you get into the business?

I started my business fresh out of college. My parents would have originally preferred me to get a “real job.” However, I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I love to build things and make a positive impact.

Are there aspects of what you do that you particularly enjoy?

I love the feeling of growing food. I think there is a fundamental connection between humans and Mother Nature that connect us to our environment. It feels good to know that the technology we use reduces environmental impact. The most rewarding feeling of all, however, is when a customer tells us how delicious our produce is and how good it makes them feel.

What are some favorite hobbies/activities?

I enjoy practicing Martial Arts and exercising when I have time; in fact, I’m a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I also enjoy building remote control airplanes and helicopters.

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From the Farm Advisor’s Office

Day of Science and Service May 8, 2014

By James A. Bethke

When I was young, I knew that I really wanted to be a scientist. I was one of those that went into the backyard for hours and caught things in jars, and my mom, although encouraging, was not fond of the collection of organisms in my room. As I’ve grown older, I haven’t grown out of that behavior, and much to my wife’s dismay, my jars and pets are bigger. I know that right now you are probably thinking of a friend or family member that is much like I was when I was a child.

Citizen science is the collection of scientific data, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, and because I am confident that there’s a little bit of scientist in everyone, even you have the chance to be a scientist without having a collection of organisms at your home or office. Let me explain.

One hundred years ago on May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act, which created Cooperative Extension to serve as a conduit for scientific advances in agriculture, nutrition and natural resources from the nation’s public, land-grant universities to its farmers, youth and communities. On May 8, 2014 (our centennial celebration), we are conducting three science projects, and we need your help collecting data.

In the first study, you can spend three minutes outside counting pollinators and let us know how many you see. You are also encouraged to take an electronic photo and submit it to the web site. In the second study, you only need to take two minutes and let us know how you are conserving water in your home, landscape, garden or farm. In the third study, you will answer the question, “Do you know of a garden, farm, or aquaculture system nearby?” This is actually very important information because the trend is to grow and distribute food locally, so take a couple of minutes and let us know where food is grown in your community.

It will take very little time to add data to these studies, and you will have the opportunity to watch the results show up in real time online. Indeed, there is already some data on the associated web pages. Spread the word!

Follow this link to the web page that describes how you can become a scientist for a day: OR

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American AgCredit

Get Ready for a Day on the Farm

We are excited to invite all Farm Bureau members to participate in this year’s Farm Tour Day, June 7th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a behind the scenes look at diverse farming operations ranging from large nurseries to small family vegetable farms. We want to showcase the unique approaches San Diego farmers all take to grow the crops that keep agriculture alive in the county.
Walking tours led by the farmers themselves run every half hour at each location. This day in the country will showcase the agriculture industry in San Diego County to the public and farmers alike.
We have three outstanding tours this year:

San Marcos: Features a global botanical garden, an avocado grove, farm animals, vegetables and cutting-edge greenhouse growing grounds.

Ramona: Features a free-range and pastured egg ranch, a working vineyard and winery, an international succulent and cactus growing operation and fruits and veggies.

Oceanside: Features a picturesque vegetable and berry farm, avocado groves, unique niche crops and state-of-the-art art flower and plant growing.

Reservations can be made online at here or by phone at (760) 745-3023. Tickets are $30 for adults, $10 for children 6-17 or $80 for a family package for 2 adults and up to four children. Due to the popularity of the event we expect it to sell out, we recommend making your reservation as soon as possible.

See the Farms & Serve Farm Bureau as a Volunteer!

We are beginning our search for necessary and vital volunteers. Farm Tour Day cannot happen without volunteers willing to spend a day supporting the Farm Bureau and helping to make the day run smoothly. We have more sites than ever this year and that means we need even more volunteers.

  • Volunteer duties will include:
  • Welcoming attendees and directing them to appropriate parking
  • Creating tour groups to be ready for farmer tour guides
  • Maintaining welcome tent with waters, sunscreen and check in materials
  • Checking in all attendees at their first farm site, checking for wrist bands throughout the day
  • Acting as a Farm Bureau Ambassador: answering basic San Diego agriculture questions, acting as site captain and main contact for FB staff during the event (one per site, per shift)

If you are willing to volunteer for a half day shift, the other half day you can spend touring the farms of your choice. This is an opportunity to serve the Farm Bureau and advocate for agriculture awareness to the public. Our volunteers have always had an enjoyable day, and we hope you will join us.

Email if you are interested today!

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Beyond Qualified. Certified.

Your banker. Your accountant. Your attorney. Three people you trust with a significant amount of detail about you and your operation. The more information you provide them, the better they understand you and your needs, and the better they can partner with you to help you and your farm or ranch operation thrive.

Bankers, accountants and lawyers get specialized education and bring you levels of expertise you don’t already have. They help round out your own knowledge. They become trusted advisers who know your family. They help protect your business and can help you grow and prosper.

In talking with farmers and ranchers across the country, they told us that’s what they wanted from their insurance agent, too: Someone with a high level of specialized education. Someone they could trust with a lot of personal information. Someone who understands the business of farming and can help them protect their operations. That’s why the On Your Side® Farm Certification program was created. We understand farmers and ranchers are looking for more than an insurance agent. You want a trusted adviser.

Edible San DiegoWe know of no other farm insurance company that certifies its farm agents. We wanted to provide farmers and ranchers a means to recognize insurance agents who are committed to agriculture, knowledgeable about the business of farming and bring a level of expertise that helps make an insurance program most effective -- both in cost and protection.

Nationwide® Agribusiness’ On Your Side Farm Certified agents spend a few days in a classroom immersed in the specific kinds of risks farmers and ranchers face. They study the various policies and endorsements available, and learn specific questions to ask to help our customers get the most from their insurance policies. When those agents advance to Master level certification, we work with them on how to help farmers and ranchers identify potential hazards in their operations and teach them best practices for eliminating or minimizing those hazards.

We’ve always seen ourselves as a long-term partner who wants to work with our customers to help them grow their businesses and protect them for future generations. Nationwide® was created by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and its innovative leaders. Nationwide can offer a deep array of financial solutions for farmers and ranchers, including some of the best farm insurance available in the marketplace today. Financially strong, you can trust us to meet our promises of protection to our customers.

But we think our Farm Certified agents really allow us to stand out. Nationwide Agribusiness has been focused on protecting agriculture for over 100 years. That experience has taught us an incredible amount about what can happen on farms and ranches, and what farmers and ranchers care about most – hard work, solid values, honest people.
When you’re ready to work with an On Your Side Farm Certified agent, there’s only one farm insurance company you can call: Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Company. We’d like to earn your business and your long-term trust. To find a Farm Certified agent near you, go to

Article contributed by Nationwide Insurance, which is endorsed by the California Farm Bureau Federation. Margie Piercy, Sponsor Relations Business Development Director, can be reached at 530-701-4486 or

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Fair Tickets

The San Diego County Fair once again opens its gates on Saturday June 7 and runs to July 6. Each year millions of visitors pay the general entrance fee for a day of entertainment, activities and absurd amounts of fair food. As a San Diego County Farm Bureau member, you deserve something even better; unlimited days at the fair for one heavily discounted price!

As a benefit to our members, SDCFB is selling tickets to the fair at discounted group rates. Do you plan to go to the fair more than just one day? Purchase an Unlimited Admission ticket which will get you into the fair every day that it runs for just $14 at the Farm Bureau office. You’ll pay $24 for this same ticket if you wait to buy it at the fair box office.

Looking for package deals? You can pick up the Value Pack which includes 4 adult (one time) admission tickets, one Passport to Savings Book voucher, 4 drink coupons, 20 ride coupons & one parking pass, a $101 value, for $59! Or buy a Mega Pack: 2 adult admission tickets, one Passport to Savings Book voucher, 2 drink coupons, 25 ride coupons, 25 game coupons & one parking pass, valued at $94.25, for $59.50 at the Farm Bureau office.

Reserve your tickets for pickup by calling the Farm Bureau office at 760-745-3023, or stop by the office Mon - Fri, am - 5 pm, at 1670 E. Valley Parkway, Escondido, CA 92027.

Crop of the Month - Ground Cover

Groundcover is a descriptive term applied to many plants that because of their particular growth habit are used to literally cover the ground. They are used often to control erosion, add beauty and texture to a landscape, and keep weeds down. Richard Martinez of Martinez Farms is the largest producer of groundcover in San Diego County. Below he answers questions about this popular and useful type of plant.

Top commercial varieties produced in San Diego:

Iceplant and Gazanias. Red Apple is by far the number one seller and is grown year round. There are about 15 different iceplants. Iceplants don’t sell year round; when it’s in bloom people buy it. Gazanias are grown year round because they produce flowers 8 months of the year. Myoprum pink and white is popular because of its drought tolerance, it doesn’t freeze, and doesn’t take much water. Those four are the top varieties, but there are a lot of others.

What is the planting and harvesting timeline for groundcover in San Diego County?

The top four varieties are planted year round and sold year round. Peak time is the spring when buyers get spring fever. Winter is the slowest season. Market time goes spring, summer, fall, winter .

Is there a peak season in groundcover production?

Spring by far.

What is the general market?

Home Depot takes a lot of product, and landscapers and licensed contractors. We sell to some homeowners. The general public is hard to deal with because a lot of time they don’t know exactly what they want.

What are some of the challenges of producing groundcover in San Diego County?

The biggest challenge with groundcover is heat waves. Heat creates a good environment for fungus and fungus will become active in certain varieties. That’s the biggest challenge. Another is groundcover is not grown from seed, you have to have mother stock. Everything is from a cutting. When you have extreme heat or extreme cold it hurts the mother stock. So you don’t produce as many cuttings. It’s not as if if you want 100 plants you order the seed. There is a lot of stock management. If you want a good crop you need good stock management. Groundcover is pretty tough. There are very little pests. Bedding plants you’re constantly spraying because the pests just love the bedding and vegetables, but groundcover you can leave it alone, you spray it a lot less. For every 10 times you spray bedding or vegetables, you’ll spray groundcover once. It’s a very hardy plant.

Are there specific challenges unique to this crop?

During the summer when humidity is high and it’s warmer, it is harder to grow. The plants don’t root as easy. During the cold weathe16r everything is dormant, it takes longer to root, but your rooting percentage is much better in the winter and spring. Summer is the worst time to plant pretty much anything.

Is there anything unique about San Diego County grown groundcover?

Not specifically, but we get away with growing more varieties here. In other areas where they get snow and extreme heat waves, they can’t grow and can’t sell for many months of the year.

Are there aspects of groundcover that you find interesting or fascinating?

I like them all because it’s my business. Many groundcovers are used basically for erosion control. Gazanias can go on hillsides, but more often they are planted in islands. Most groundcovers are perennial and don’t have to be changed out. They’ll take an occasional trim and use less water than annual color. All perennials will last for years if they are taken care of.

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County livestock producers met this month at the Farm Bureau office to discuss the feasibility of building a USDA certified slaughter, fabrication, and value-added meat processing facility in San Diego County.

Farm Bureau Working for You

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Farm Tour Day

Grangetto’s Farm & Garden Supply

What allows a business to survive and continue to grow for over 63 years? The answers can vary from having loyal customers and employees, conservative philosophy, or simply being in a position where its services are needed. Grangetto’s has stood the test of time by diversifying its place in the marketplace. When the company started in 1952 it primarily serviced citrus groves which populated San Diego County by supplying petroleum oils to control insects and weeds, and anhydrous ammonia to the farms at that time. As the population grew and avocados began to be planted on the hillsides in the early 1970’s, Grangetto’s began offering irrigation supplies and opened their first retail location in 1976 in Escondido. Today Grangetto’s has four locations in Escondido, Valley Center, Encinitas, and Fallbrook and services grove owners, nurseries, landscapers, and homeowners with expert advice and quality products.

“Our employees are trained to offer first-rate customer service and combined with their knowledge in the industry we are able to offer something the competitors cannot. We are not the “low price leader” but instead prefer to sell based on expertise and know how supplied to all customers that walk in the door.” Kevin Grangetto, who owns the business with his wife Martha, enjoys the challenge of having to create the future. “We know that water prices are not going to decline and we have to try and help our customers make that transition to either more efficient irrigation systems or different crops that utilize less water. I am amazed at the number of vineyards that have been planted in the last 5 years.

We have been selling the end posts, trellis equipment, and vineyard supplies non-stop and it continues to grow. In addition, customers are looking at using rebate monies to adapt their existing irrigation systems to more efficiently apply the water we do have available.”
The desire of homeowners wanting to grow their own vegetables has driven Grangetto’s to expand their offerings to include vegetable transplants year round and to include organic seeds and starter plants for those desiring to grow organically. “We have continued to grow our organic line of fertilizers, soil amendments, and pesticides and today have over 10,000 items in stock. We have seen an increase in the number of customers that desire rain water harvesting tanks and that has been a growth opportunity for us as well. We updated our website and have created a Grangetto’s Garden Club whose members receive timely email reminders about upcoming events and product information.”

Kevin’s brother, Edward Grangetto, formed a group called Escondido Growers for Ag Preservation (EGAP) that operates under the Farm Bureau umbrella. Escondido growers were being challenged to provide solutions to the limited and expensive water available and Eddie and Karen Grangetto began meeting with local stakeholders John Burr, Phil Henry, and Burnet Wohlford, and the City of Escondido to create possible solutions. As a result, the City of Escondido has agreed to fund future waterline expansions to the orchards that will supply them with recycled water in late 2015. This is a major achievement for the growers in Escondido and will provide them a reliable and affordable water supply in the coming years!

To find out more go to, or visit one of Grangetto’s four north county locations:

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I'm glad to be a Farm Bureau member because . .

My husband and I grow avocados on 25 acres in Oceanside so water prices and availability are very important. The Farm Bureau gives the small growers a voice in government and is committed to helping us continue growing avocados. We support the Farm Bureau along with my family who have been farming in California since 1908.

Louise Ravera Balm

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Protect yourself against Identity Theft

The bad news about identify theft is that nowadays most people will at one time become a victim to it. Just look at the number of cases where massive amounts of data has been lost or stolen; last Christmas, over 40 million debit and credit card transactions and up to 70 million individual identifying records from Target stores were stolen. The good news is there are helpful tips out there that you can use to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

At the May meeting of the Farm Bureau board of directors, Anna Winn, Deputy District Attorney with the Economic Crimes Division of the San Diego Regional Fraud Task Force, spoke to those gathered about identity theft and how to prevent it. Below are some helpful tips you can start doing now to stop yourself becoming a victim.

If you have questions about identity theft or would like more information, Anna Winn can be reached via phone or email at 760-806-4034 or

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Welcome New
Agricultural Members

Hines Growers
Golden Hop Farm
Nick Krnich
Nima Rasakhoo
Royal Oak Stables LLC
S&S Nelson
Bernard S. Shoeps
Garden of Eden Organics
Weston Nut Farm Inc
Artifact Vineyard & Winery

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Classified Advertising

Classified Ad Policy

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