Central Valley farmland is being chewed up by development at an alarming rate, thanks to home buyers with their eyes on the American dream: roomy houses with big yards.
Farmland cities must shoulder much of the blame for the suburban sprawl that results, says a University of California cooperative extension researcher.
“Counties, with their rural orientation, generally are more active in farmland protection efforts than growth-oriented cities,” Al Sokolow, a public policy specialist, said in a recent report. “However, most conversions of agricultural areas to urban uses in the Central Valley are the direct result of municipal expansion.”
Sokolow’s report--"Municipal Density and Farmland Protection: An Exploratory Study of Central Valley Patterns"--is the third in a series of research reports on farmland and open-space issues sponsored by the UC California Policy Seminar and the state Department of Conservation. It is the first to focus on the policies of cities rather than counties.
In his report, Sokolow suggests changes in state policy to prevent the encroachment of residential uses onto farmland. He also advocates state legislation to require local agencies to consider density patterns when they review development proposals. City general plans, he added, should put more emphasis on the merits of small-lot residential development.
He sees some cause to hope that cities are getting the message.
“My sense,” he said, “is that [a larger number of] developments since about 1990 . . . are higher density and more interestingly planned.”
Fresh (Juice) Approach
Odwalla Inc.'s brush with E. coli poisoning--traced to the Half Moon Bay company’s unpasteurized apple juice--has faded from the headlines. But it is still fresh in the minds of fresh-juice makers. Earlier this month, leaders in the industry, including Odwalla Chairman Greg Steltenpohl, formed the American Fresh Juice Council to promote product safety and share information on ways to improve the manufacturing process.
Nationwide participants range from small cider mills to large public and private companies. Other California members include Beaumont Juice Inc., Beaumont; Paramount Premium Juice Co., Vernon; and California Day-Fresh Foods Inc., Glendora, producer of Naked Juice. One goal of the organization is to stave off any push for a mandate that all fresh juices be pasteurized.
“We do not feel that pasteurization is appropriate or necessary at this stage,” said William T. Sander, general manager of Beaumont Juice, which provides citrus juices to the food service industry.
Separately, 24 small, privately owned fresh-juice producers from the United States and Canada met recently in San Mateo to form the MicroJuicers Guild, with the goal of promoting safety. That group is applying for membership in the council.
Grape Price Surge
Mix rising demand for wine with a third straight year of small grape harvests and what do you get? A 25% increase in California grape prices in 1996, according to a preliminary grape-crush report from the state Department of Food and Agriculture. The 1996 wine-grape harvest was down 2% from 1995, to 2.17 million tons, but total grower revenues rose by more than $200 million, or 22.4%, to a record $1.17 billion. Wine prices, meanwhile, shot up about 11% last year--the same as in 1995. Some wineries are boosting prices by more than 20%. Grape growers and vintners are optimistic that the good times will continue to roll. UCC Vineyards in Napa sold chardonnay grapes for about $1,500 a ton last year and is looking for a $200-per-ton price increase next fall.
Martha Groves can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at (213) 237-7837.