It takes irrigation water to grow crops

California food banks receive record donations in 2015

Two points: Using water to grow food is not wasteful and farmers tend to be much more benevolent than most people realize.

Here’s an example of both.

Last year the California Association of Food Banks’ (CAFB) Farm to Family program received a record 150 million pounds of donated produce from the state’s farmers and packers. That’s 75,000 tons of food that otherwise would have gone to waste because markets did not want it.

The reasons food that otherwise is perfectly healthy and good does not go to market can vary from size and appearance to the simple reason markets don’t feel they can sell it.

Donations like this go to help disadvantaged communities and their residents. Ironically, some of this food continues to feed California unemployed farmworkers because regulators remain stingy with the flow of surface irrigation to California farms.

According to Katie Nieri with Nuffer, Smith, Tucker Public Relations in San Diego, one in six adults in California and 25 percent of children suffer food insecurity. Helping to make a difference includes more than 150 growers and others committed to providing access to healthy fruits and vegetables.

Donations of citrus, berries, stone fruit, leafy greens, squash, carrots, melons, potatoes and more were distributed last year through the food banks’ network of 6,000 charities, food pantries and soup kitchens. The CAFB hopes to include dairy, eggs, chicken and beef in 2016.

So the next time someone tries to make a judgement call on the use of irrigation water for certain crops and commodities, remind them that some of these food products wind up feeding disadvantaged communities that otherwise would not have access to healthy fruits and vegetables.

Contributors to the Farm to Family program may receive a minor reimbursement for their donations to help cover picking and packing costs. State tax credits and federal tax deductions may also be available.

I’ve spoken with some who participate in programs like this. Growers oftentimes talk about the “greater good” and the sense of community when sharing why they do it.

Many of these are the same people who annually bid up the price at the local junior livestock auction, paying much more than market price for a hog, steer or lamb not because the animal is worth it, but because supporting the child who raised the animal is.

Growers and packers interested in donating to Farm to Family can contact Steve Linkhart at 510-350-9916 or [email protected]

For more information on the program watch this video.

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