Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cry, California

The annual EcoFarm conference, which we attend biennially, took place last week. On the way down to Pacific Grove, we drove 100 miles of the Interstate 5 corridor, past vast acreages of almond trees. On the way back we noted a change - thousands of pallets of bee hives had been delivered and parked on the edge of the orchards. That means that blossoming is just days away, fully 8 weeks before the spring equinox.

The enormous monocultures of almonds in the San Joaquin Valley leave no room for biodiversity - no hedgerows, no remnant patches of native flora, thus no native pollinators. The almond trees are 100% dependent on honeybees for pollination, and the value of the pollination service is such that 90%-plus of the honeybee hives in North America are lured to the valley while the almonds are in bloom. Some have speculated that the stresses of transport, the sharing of parasites, and the restricted diet while on almonds have been a factor in the the widespread collapse of bee colonies across the country.

"EcoFarm" - the 34th annual - was as always both inspirational and overwhelming, an intense, compressed learning experience and large social gathering.

We return to just-opening blossoms on our earliest apple, pictured above, and to continued dryness which will mean daily irrigation somewhere on the farm henceforth unless by some miracle we get significant moisture this winter. That possibility seems increasingly slim as dry day follows dry day.

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