A Letter from our Farmer Ted
My teenage son asked if he could fly out to California to meet some guys he’s been playing online games with. The first thing I said was, “no chance in h@#!!” And then I asked if I could go with him. Two days in Ventura, California are probably not worth the two days getting to and from California – days spent racing around airports and the many hours folded into tiny airplane seats, but I didn’t know that before hand. Once I established that my kid’s friends were not middle-aged pedophiles (was it wrong to be worried about this?), I headed off to tour both the region’s agriculture and its wild places.
On Friday I toured the Oxnard plains, a perfectly level landscape between the Pacific and the coastal mountains on which farmers have planted tens of thousands of acres of cabbages, lettuces and other greens, herbs, and berries of all kinds. Almost every acre is covered in plastic. There were perhaps a thousand acres of tunnel-grown raspberries. If you see raspberries in the grocery store under the Driscoll brand this time of year, there is a good chance they came from Oxnard. I was impressed with the scale and productivity of the region, but distressed at the quantity of pesticides used to produce their bounty. Spray tractors, pesticide holding buildings and men and women in white suits and gas masks were commonplace. After touring farms (which is what farmers do on vacation), I headed up to the spectacular Los Padres National Forest to do some hiking.
On Saturday I attended the Ventura Farmers’ Market where there were avocados, oranges, table grapes and berries of all kinds, along with many vegetables, but certainly not more than you’d see at Union Square this time of year. One organic farm was there – Tutti Frutti – but they said I couldn’t visit it because the drought had rendered the farm “more brown than green.” So, after having breakfast tamales, which were nearly as good as Candelaria’s, I headed back to the Los Padres (via the incredible Mariposa Highway) for another day of hiking in the mountains. California is big by the standards of a Northeasterner, and I felt a little like a hobbit too long away from the shire. I napped on six inches of needles on the top of 7,500-foot Reyes Peak under a stand of pines I couldn’t name, and I awoke refreshed and ready to go home.