Agriculture is alive and well on the California Central Coast. I am behind the steering wheel this week traveling across several coastal counties interviewing growers and agricultural leaders for future stories for the www.westernfarmpress.com  website and the highly successful Western Farm Press magazine.
I flew into Monterey yesterday. After flying in from Phoenix, its 108 degrees, and high humidity, the touch down at the Monterey airport delivered a much welcomed 68 degrees – literally 40 degrees cooler than Phoenix.
In the afternoon, the drive from Monterey south on Highway 1 along the coastline was simply breathtaking. Thousands of people soaked up the ocean drive sights and inhaled the salty ocean water aroma.
Today’s journey is in the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County and the southern tip of San Luis Obispo County - vegetable country. The fields are abuzz with activity as broccoli and other veggies are at different levels of maturity.
In my opinion, the most wonderful time of crop growth is the harvest period – bringing in the food and fiber to feed the world. It’s also the payday for growers who have worked so hard and invested large amounts of money.
Numerous strawberry fields added a colorful twist to the drive given the “sea” of bright red berries. I visited with several strawberry growers who are dealing with strawberry pallidosis disease which can kill the strawberry plant. Harvested berries from a field with the disease are safe to eat. The disease has only been found in a few fields. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Part of the afternoon was spent at Presqu'ile Winery  (pronounced press-keel’), located south of Santa Maria, with vineyard manager Jim Stolberg discussing the grape crop in his part of the world.
The Pinot Noir grapes were changing from a beautiful shade of green to a purplish color. Stolberg has a “good crop with good quality.”
Stolberg’s mantra is about growing high-quality grapes to produce high-quality California premium wines.
I bought a bottle of Chardonnay for $35 at the tasting room – my favorite wine. Sharing a glass later with my wonderful wife Pam will be a wee bit of heaven back in the insane Arizona heat.
Stay tuned as the trip along the California Central Coast unfolds.