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Area leads the way in sustainable ag

By   /   Monday, December 14th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Area leads the way in sustainable ag

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Agriculture still dominates much of the landscape across the Tri-Counties.

And thanks to a new wave of interest in creating a “sustainable” economy, agriculture is being reinvented for the 21st Century.

Gone in large part are the pesticide-heavy, water-guzzling practices of the past. Instead, farmers across the region are focusing on efficiency, environmentally sound practices and leveraging their role as “green” business in a cap-and-trade world.

Two recent talks demonstrate the power of Agriculture 2.0.

At California State University, Channel Islands, Casey Houweling described how his network of suppliers has built a $50 million, solar-powered greenhouse array to meet the year-round demand for tomatoes in Southern California and across much of North America.

By focusing on energy efficiency technology and a long-term view of stewardship, Houweling’s has transformed the tomato-growing business — and created 450 full-time, non-seasonal jobs in Ventura County.

A few days later at the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce, Agromin CEO Bill Camarillo described how “sustainable” practices are expanding from Ventura County to Orange County and elsewhere. Agromin’s drive for sustainability comes in two big pushes. First, to get cities and counties to recycle green waste, removing thousands of tons of methane from landfills.

Second, to recycle the green waste into high-quality soils that can replenish fields that have been depleted by the overuse of fertilizers. Replenishing soils has the added benefit of reducing water use in growing crops — Agromin partner Limoneira has reduced its water use by 40 percent by spreading Agromin soils throughout its avocado and citrus operations.

Sustainable practices are deeply entrenched in America’s rise to becoming a global power. Camarillo argued that the Founding Fathers clearly saw the value of an independent and self-sustained ag sector. In the 1950s, President Harry S. Truman urged Americans to return to “self-reliance.”

Sustainability is the best thing to happen to agriculture in years, and the Tri-Counties appears to be at the cutting edge of this powerful new trend.

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