California farmer  sees locally based green houses, if farm wages go up, thank goodness.

Dutch-style all-glass greenhouses. Picture: Wikipedia Commons.

Dutch-style all-glass greenhouses. Picture: Wikipedia Commons.


Many readers of this blog known the author of this blog really thinks the city should permit farming in places with the city area.

In the area just west to the meat packing industry in the Junction, there is a multi hectare  area, lying empty. The area is made of a long disused city property and old very large factory complex, oh and then there is the Symes Rd destructor location.

Edited  for brevity, a  conversation between two farmers, farmerfound and Gilbertd13, in Reddit.

As a California farmer, I can comment on a couple of the outcomes I expect from discussions with others in the area:1. Labor based crops that California compete’s with the rest of the world on might leave. I don’t know all of them, but a for instance is avacado’s or strawberries that can be shipped up from Mexico, because they overlap seasons with the US. Which, in turn, by decreased availability will probably raise prices. 

2. Since prices will be going up, I expect to see more locally based green houses to pop up over the US. The food will taste fresher, be better quality, but most of those green houses will be expensive in either setup, labor to operate, or costs to automate. 

3. Automation, which was already underway, will speed up. It takes a crew of about 8 to 10 for a tomato transplanter, which is good seasonal work. Automated transplanter’s are already being tested, which will require maybe two to three people if that. Harvesters have already been whittled down from a high of about 25 to 30 in the 70’s to just 2 people per harvester. And I expect that to go 1 to 2 per 5 machine, once they get the automation down even better.

4. The water situation, as mentioned in the article, is tenuous. Some people have a lot, others not near enough and despite what everyone might think a great deal of the water is tied up more in political fighting between interest groups than it is in environmental concerns. And while that means all of us are going to drip, where possible that drip will be for permanent crops. The highest paid job on our farm is for line movers, who move sprinklers in the early morning. You have to pre-irrigate the fields before planting to get the right level a moisture. We’ll have to find a way to automate that, because the piece work rate we pay is already pretty high. And it has to balanced against minimum wage to make it worth it for guys to do this extremely hard work. 
None of us know exactly what will happen, but like any cost to any business owner, we don’t like seeing costs go up. It’s nothing personal. Our employees are wonderful people, some of whom have dedicated 30+ years of their lives to working for my family. No one is getting fired, but with the way I expect things to go in the future, few if any unskilled/low-skilled laborers will be getting hired to replace them. 
We do about 7 different commodities, including fresh market fruit as well as mechanically harvested row and tree crops. 

I think fresh products will continue to be hand harvested for a good long while. But where possible, it’ll be automated like in lettuce. And while that is not the standard, and it probably impacts the quality, they’ll continue to make improvements to hopefully reduce that impact. 

Now, if you want to talk crazy, in the next 15 to 20 years, you’ll see things like the Atlas Robot picking fresh fruit.

Yea fresh produce is what we handle mostly. Tobacco is already picked with a primer and that does fine other than break downs. But sweet potatoes are the main crop and we’ve tried for years to automate some of the harvesting to no avail. Can’t beat the hands of a worker on soft skin produce. Pepper, squash, and cabbage are so size dependent and sometimes color dependent that I don’t think automation will ever work, at least at the scale we produce at.

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