- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Only an hour north of Los Angeles, one of the nation's highest-populated metropolitan centers, a vibrant farming community is actively producing millions of dollars in agricultural crops, reported Teresa O'Conner on KCET.org.
O'Conner's article features Ventura County, where farms continue to prosper despite natural disasters, encroaching housing developments, drought conditions and global competition. About $259 million worth of lemons were sold in 2017, making the citrus fruit the number-two crop for the county. The top spot belongs to strawberries at $654 million. Celery, nursery stock, raspberries, avocados, cut flowers, tomatoes, peppers and cabbage round out the rest of top ten crops. Ventura County boasts 20 additional million-dollar crops, ranging from kale, blueberries, Asian vegetables and oranges to cucumbers, spinach and lettuce.
One reason for the Ventura County agricultural industry's success is the support it enjoys from local residents. A county-wide grassroots initiative called SOAR (Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources) led to legislation that “requires a majority vote of the people in order to rezone unincorporated open space, agricultural or rural land for development." Voter-approved SOAR initiatives have been passed by the cities of Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Oxnard, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Ventura.
O'Conner spoke to UC Cooperative Extension advisor in digital communications Rose Hayden-Smith, editor of the UC Food Observer blog, about the connection between community food systems, the health of individuals and the survival of local farms.
“Everyone eats: everyone is a stakeholder,” Hayden-Smith said. “I would like people to be engaged with the food system, and to advocate for positive change. Think about where your food comes from and ask critical questions about the supply chain. Meet people who are involved in producing, processing, distributing and preparing the food you eat. Honor them with questions about and interest in their work.”