Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 4:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 7:38 p.m.
Strawberry farms get center at Cal Poly
Hoping to attract a new generation of strawberry farmers and tap the resources of a nationally renowned agriculture university, the California Strawberry Commission last week announced the creation of an industry-related center at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
The Strawberry Sustainability Research and Education Center will be funded with a minimum $1 million contribution from the commission during the first three years.
“It’s about nurturing new farmers,” commission President Mark Murai said. “We don’t want to be like Japan, where you have an aging generation of strawberry growers.”
Industry revenue was more than $2 billion last year, and strawberry acreage grew more than 6 percent, to 40,000 acres. California growers produce 88 percent of the nation’s strawberry crop.
California has smaller farms
The average farm in California remains smaller than the national average, according to a new report from the USDA.
The average farm in the Golden State has 316 acres, compared to 421 for the nation.
The number of California farms declined 1 percent to 80,500 last year. The U.S. had 2.2 million farms, essentially unchanged.
Sales for more than half the nation’s farms amount to less than $10,000 a year. Only about one in 10 produce sales of more than $250,000.
For California, four in 10 farms sell less than $10,000 a year in agricultural products. About one in seven have sales exceeding $250,000.
Drought threatens U.S. farms
More than half of the United States remains in drought, although things have improved from the record-breaking conditions last year that killed 123 and caused at least $35 billion in economic losses, including crop failure and livestock deaths.
At one point in September 2012, two-thirds of the continental United States was suffering from record-breaking drought conditions so severe they restricted navigation on portions of the Mississippi River.
About 55 percent of the nation remains in drought conditions, though the outlook for 2013 isn’t quite as grim as last year. But drought is expected to persist in the Great Plains and part of the West and could extend into more of California and Florida, said forecasters with the National Integrated Drought Information System as they released a seasonal drought outlook for the nation.
There are “very poor” conditions in the snowpack that feeds river systems in the Great Plains, said Mike Strobel of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Reservoirs in Colorado already are low because of last year’s drought.
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