Winds and wildfires hit farms, ranches, nurseries
» October 23, 2007 «
Extent of damage will take days to assess
Strong winds and out-of-control firestorms have damaged family farms, ranches and nurseries in much of Southern California.
A survey of Southern California agricultural officials conducted by the California Farm Bureau Federation indicates winds and wildfires have damaged or threatened avocado and citrus groves, nurseries, vineyards, rangeland and other farm and ranch operations. Thousands of horses have been evacuated to shelters and grazing livestock may also have been caught in the fires' path.
Losses remain impossible to quantify. Farmers and county agricultural officials will need several days to assess the losses, once they're allowed to return to fire-damaged areas.
The most extensive farm-related damage may have occurred in San Diego County, a key agricultural region that leads California production of avocados, flowers and nursery products.
"We've had a lot of destruction to vineyards, cattle ranches, poultry ranches, nurseries, avocados and citrus fruit. All those crops are produced in the footprint of the burned areas," San Diego County Farm Bureau Executive Director Eric Larson said.
Farmers in other regions of the state continue working to protect their crops from fire as best they can.
"Right now, we're running drip lines and operating water tank trucks to keep the perimeters of our ranches wet," Ventura County avocado and lemon farmer David Schwabauer reported.
Here is a county-by-county breakdown of the situation as of midday, Oct. 23:
Los Angeles County: No specific reports of agricultural damage have been received yet by the county agricultural commissioner's office or the county Farm Bureau. There's concern about farms located near Highway 126, which connects Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Most crops in the Antelope Valley have been harvested, so weren't vulnerable to the high winds. Horses evacuated from local ranches have been housed at Pierce College.
Orange County: The county agricultural commissioner's office reports minor fire damage to avocados and to nursery crops and buildings. Most nurseries have sent their employees home and are maintaining skeleton crews to irrigate plants so they don't dry out. The county Farm Bureau says some nurseries in the Irvine area have closed because of road closures.
Riverside County: Strong winds appear to have caused the worst trouble. The county Farm Bureau says power outages caused by the wind disrupted milking at dairy farms. It says some pumpkins and winter vegetables were "sandblasted" by blowing dust carried on the strong wind. The county agricultural commissioner's office says it is still assessing damage and has heard of no losses specifically related to wildfires.
San Bernardino County: The county Farm Bureau reports that apple orchards stand near the path of wildfires, but has heard no reports of damage. It expects fire damage to rangelands. The county agricultural commissioner's office says some beef cattle may have been threatened by the fire but the agricultural commissioner has received no damage reports to date.
San Diego County: Almost every crop in the county is threatened by fire in some locations, according to the county Farm Bureau. Based on the path established by the wildfires, the county Farm Bureau expects to see damage to avocado and citrus groves, nurseries and vineyards. The county agricultural commissioner's office says egg ranches, turf farms, pumpkin farms, greenhouses and dairy farms may also be threatened. Travel restrictions make further assessments of damage difficult for now. More than 2,000 horses have been evacuated to the Del Mar fairgrounds.
Santa Barbara County: No significant damage has been reported to the county agricultural commissioner's office or the county Farm Bureau.
Ventura County: High winds have taken a toll. One avocado farmer says up to one third of the fruit has been blown off his trees. Lemons may also have been damaged by high wind. The county agricultural commissioner and Farm Bureau of Ventura County report no significant fire damage to date.
The California Farm Bureau will post updates about fire and wind losses on its Web site, www.cfbf.com.
The California Farm Bureau Federation, the state's largest farm organization, works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 92,000 members.
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.Top