On Friday we drove about an hour west to El Centro, California with Dick and Wanda to do a tour at The University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Desert Research and Extension Center, or Farm Smart for short.
The farm consists of about 250 acres where research is done in areas of irrigation, pesticides, different types of plants that will thrive in the desert, and even livestock feed. The program began and 9:30 am and ended at 2:30 pm.
There were probably about 70 people on the tour that day. We had a little cooking demonstration of carrot and ginger soup, and then got to sample it. Quite tasty! There is a group of researchers from the University of Wisconsin that comes here and does research on carrots of all things. They are growing lots of different varieties including purple, blue, and red carrots.
Next, we got on a wagon to tour the farm fields. I forgot my camera, so this picture is courtesy of their website.
We learned lots of interesting facts including how this area called The Imperial Valley, which only receives three inches of rain a year, can grow all of these wonderful vegetables. Water comes from the Colorado River. Farmers have to pay for the water. They actually have to call and reserve the water, and then it is released to their fields through canals with gates by the Water Authority.
During the winter this area along with fields in the Yuma Valley supply about 80 percent of the vegetables consumed in the country. Next time you are at the store check to see where that lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli came from.
Along the irrigation ditches we saw several burrowing owls. Our guide told us there is quite a large population of them here in the winter. I sure wish I would have brought my camera. Here’s a picture from the web that looks very much like what we saw.
At the end of the field tour, we were taken to a field where we could pick our own vegetables. Each of us had been given a very large bag and were let loose. Choices included head lettuce, romaine lettuce, green and red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, swiss chard, beets, cilantro and radishes. We picked quite a bit, and will be eating some delicious fresh vegetables for the next few weeks.
And here we are with our bounty (and muddy shoes).
After all that hard work, we were treated to a delicious chicken taco salad for lunch. Then, we went into a classroom for a power point presentation with more information. Each day during the winter months 8 to 10,000 Mexicans are brought across the border to work the fields. They are paid $9 an hour and are insured. They have to be ready for pick-up in Mexico at 3 am and are then transported across the border in white school buses pulling trailers with port-a-potties. In recent years, some machines have been invented to do some of the back-breaking work. Every day as we drive around the Yuma area we see the buses parked near the fields with lots of people working out in the sun picking vegetables.
At the end of the day we were treated to an ice cream sandwich and door prizes were given away. All of this for $20 a person. There are similar tours in the Yuma Valley through the University of Arizona, but they are twice as expensive. I’m glad we did the Farm Smart tour. It was an informative and enjoyable day.
Last Wednesday Dick had a dental appointment in Mexico so we tagged along. I was able to buy a pair of no line bifocal prescription sunglasses for $39 including the frame. Can’t beat that deal.
I also got a painted metal sun sculpture. I really don’t have room for it, but I just loved how it looked with the sun shining on it. I wasn’t going to buy it, but as soon as you look at something, the vendors are making deals. This started out at $35. As I was walking out the door, the guy kept dropping the price. When he got to $20, I couldn’t resist :) We’ll have to find a place this summer at Derge Park to display it outside our fifth wheel.
Saturday was a beautiful sunny day. We golfed with a group of friends at Fortuna De Oro RV Resort. We’ve been doing this most Saturdays and really enjoy the game, weather and company. My knees are feeling much better, so this week we’ll be playing pickle-ball again.
Today its raining, which is rare for this time of year. We’ve had rain a few times since we’ve been here. I’m thinking there will be lots of blooming cactus this spring.
Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!