11 Feb 2011

Does IID produce 80% of US winter veggies?

That's claimed in this NPR story:
Southern California's Imperial Valley produces about 80 percent of the nation's winter vegetables
I wonder if this number includes food grown for farmer's markets or imported into the US.

Does anyone have official data on that? Fact check please!


Wild Rose said...

You can find all those numbers at the California Farm Bureau Federation County Crop Reports. According to THOSE numbers, most of our 'table food' actually comes from coastal counties and greater Sacramento Valley, NOT the Central Valley.

Yet another data fact that is misrepresented by Agri-Business/water exporters. The facts are there, one just has to know where and actually get up and look for them!

Anonymous said...

Here is this:

" .. desert growers in the Imperial Valley and surrounding areas provide 80% of the nation's fresh winter fruits and vegetables. .. " from University of California:


I was there recently. I saw a lot of broccoli and cauliflower being harvested. There were many fields of lettuce in various stages of harvest.

I can't say whether or not it's 80%, but I will tell you it's substantial. The Imperial Valley is the largest year-round irrigated agricultural area in the U.S.

Cantaloupes and corn were being planted last month. The earliest domestically grown cantaloupes will come from the Imperial Valley in about May. Also sweet corn being planted now.

None of these crops will survive the heat, so after the harvest, the fields will be replanted with a different crop that is more heat-tolerant.

CRG said...

@Wild Rose,
The information is NOT misrepresented. What you saw were overall figures. Central Coast and Sacramento harvest at different times than Imperial Valley (which is not in the Central Valley, by the way). Those regions provide much of the nation's produce during the summer months, while Imperial Valley and the surrounding areas provide much of the nation's produce during the winter months...

But is it 80%? That is a more difficult figure to come up with (I have tried). Often it is generally accepted that Imperial Valley AND THE SURROUNDING AREAS provide 75% - 90% (depending on who is talking) of the nation's WINTER produce. Imperial Valley proper (IID's service area for water) provides a large part of that, but not all.

Most estimates I have heard regarding how much of the nation's winter produce comes specifically from Imperial Valley (from the ag commissioner and others in positions to know) range from 66% - 75%. When asked, I typically quote the lower end of that range--about 2/3--because I'd rather understate than overstate.

Imperial County's crop reports are available online at http://imperialcounty.net/ag/Crop%20&%20Livestock%20Reports/archives_1907-2009.htm
so you can see for yourself just how much produce actually comes from the area.

CRG said...

Since you asked, David, and this is kind of a hobby of mine, here are some facts to ruminate on...

Imperial Valley is one of the nation's top 5 vegetable producing counties.

In 2009, enough lettuce was grown in Imperial Valley to provide a 4-ounce salad to 3/4 of the world’s population.

In 2008, enough carrots were grown in Imperial Valley to serve carrots to 2/3 of the earth's population.

In 2009, enough onions were grown in Imperial Valley to give about 3 onions to every man, woman and child in the United States.

And it's not just veggies, Imperial is one of the nation's top beef, sheep and honey producing counties in the nation.


Take whatever you want from that info, but I find it quite fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Also interesting to know about the Imperial Valley:

Aquaculture is one of the top products of the county when ranked in with other agricultural outputs. Catfish, tilapia and a few others are grown; catfish are either sold or stocked in area lakes. Some facilities use irrigation water; others use geothermal water. Check out Imperial Catfish here: http://www.imperialcatfish.com/

(What, geothermal water, how is that done, you ask? See here: http://www.digtheheat.com/geothermal/geothermal_aquaculture.html)

Desert durum is a patented brand of wheat grown in the Imperial Valley and surrounding Arizona area. It is widely used both here and abroad, sought after for its consistent low moisture and uniformity. See here: http://www.desertdurum.com/

Mister Kurtz said...

Vegetable production moves around, depending on markets and weather in other regions, but Imperial is indisputably important in the production of many valuable crops. There are certain periods when an astonishing percentage of our country's produce comes from a very small production area. WR, I think you may be overlooking dairy products as "table food"; the forage grown in Imperial is essential to this activity.
Could this activity take place elsewhere? Possibly. But I have never seen a suggestion of where that other place might be, and why that would be better for the environment, the workers, or the general public.

CRG said...

To Mister Kurtz' point, the average yield for alfalfa nationwide is less than 2 tons per acre (according to USDA NASS). Average yields in Imperial Valley are around 7 tons per acre. There are few places that are better-suited to growing hay, and with California's #1 commodity being dairy, Imperial Valley is an extremely important part of that supply line.

Another area where Imperial Valley is a key supplier is seed. Imperial is one of the main producers of a number of different types of seed.

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