- Author: Rachel A. Surls
Originally from the Midwest, I have been a Los Angeles County resident for 20 years, working at UC Cooperative Extension for much of that time. First, I helped start school and community gardens. Later, I became county director for the LA County Cooperative Extension office. With both jobs, I’ve had the opportunity to observe various facets of agriculture in Los Angeles, from small gardens to large commercial enterprises. It’s fascinating to me that, while Los Angeles County has a population of more than 10 million people, agriculture remains highly relevant. Many people may not be aware that LA County still has commercial farming, mostly in the high desert area near Lancaster and Palmdale. The “baby” carrots you buy at the grocery store may have been grown here. LA County growers also produce potatoes, peaches, onions, alfalfa and more.
In fact, as recently as 1950, Los Angeles County was the number one agricultural county in the nation. Although our current level of commercial production is much smaller, we still have a large nursery and landscaping industry, along with a population that is very much interested in food and its production. Because of our great climate, we’ve always had many residents who garden, with a recent surge of enthusiasm for home and community gardening, farmers markets, and even backyard beekeeping and poultry production. There is also renewed interest in canning and food preservation. These trends have been sparked by recent books, such as the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, the Slow Food movement and current economic conditions.
People are looking for information on these topics. After some Internet searching, they may end up at our Cooperative Extension web site, celosangeles.ucdavis.edu/ , and send me an email. I’ve been getting such interesting questions in my inbox: Can I raise cows in my backyard?; How do I start a vineyard?; Can I still use this can of soup that's been on my shelf since 1960?; and, Why are there so few honeybees in my backyard lately? I don't always know the answer to these questions (although I’m pretty sure you should NOT eat the soup), but through the University of California, we do have access to experts on a wide variety of topics. Right here in our Cooperative Extension office in Los Angeles we have world-class experts, and on our campuses, we have access to many more. It's satisfying when I can connect someone with helpful information.
I created this blog to accomplish several things. First, I'll find and share answers to some of the questions that come my way that are of broad interest to Los Angeles County residents. Second, I'll share stories about agriculture in Los Angeles County. I’m a history buff, so some of these stories will be historical in nature. I’m a firm believer that understanding our past can help us to plan for and make a better Los Angeles for the future. Third, I'll seek out and write about some of the interesting agricultural activities going on around Los Angeles County today. I define agriculture in the broadest way, and will include observations and information on everything from home gardens to our nursery and landscape industry to larger-scale commercial farming. Finally, I will suggest resources for those interested in various aspects of agriculture in Los Angeles County, including those available through UC Cooperative Extension.
Thanks for reading!