Chico, Calif. – As Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough continues the series, Chico on the Verge? we explore the role agriculture plays in the region. You can see the next segment of Chico on the Verge? Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 5 and 6 AM on Action News Now.
Butte County rice farmer John Thompson says there may be no better place to grow rice than this Northern California region. As the partner of Thompson Farms, he has been farming rice for more than 30 years. Rice is one of Butte County’s top money-making crops.
Thompson says rice is more than just a crop. He says it equals food, jobs, income and offers a sense a personal satisfaction in the growing and harvesting process.
Thompson describes rice farming as something much different than holding an office job. He says one is out in the environment, working really hard and says he can see the fruits of his labor at the end of the day.
Agriculture is just one component of California’s economy, which is now ranked as the world’s fifth largest, with a Gross Domestic Product of more than 2.7 trillion dollars.
The Butte County Department of Agriculture lists the county’s top five “million dollar crops” as Walnuts, Almonds, Rice, Prunes and Cattle & Calves. All goods account for a total production for Butte County at more than 705 million dollars for 2016.
Given that crucial economic role, those with a vested interest in the agricultural industry say it is important for regional farmers to stay on the cutting edge of agricultural research, saying the industry offers a great deal for many.
20-year old Breanna Holbert is a Chico State Agricultural Studies Major who is passionate about educating the public to the key role agriculture plays in our lives. She describes agriculture as what we eat, what we drink and what we wear. Holbert routinely promotes inclusiveness and diversity within the agricultural industry and she also lives it.
Holbert is the first African-American woman to serve as the National President of Future Farmers of America. Her enthusiasm for discussing the topic is a matter of practicality and sustainability.
Holbert says her goal and that of the organization is to instill in students the belief that they can be vets, doctors, teacher, lawyers, architects and various other professionals. She says the agriculture industry needs all of those disciplines to ensure agriculture is able to sustain for the future. She says the industry estimates that by 2050, agriculture professionals will be responsible for feeding some nine billion people. She says in order to meet that need, individuals from all occupations and industries must play a role in helping the agricultural field thrive.
Holbert cites statistic from the U.S. Census indicating just two-percent of the United States population are farmers and ranchers. Based on those numbers one may ask, how will the agriculture industry keep pace?
Chico State Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. David Alexander, says the answer is likely found in technology, innovation and creativity. He says Chico State University is collaborating with Fresno State University to tackle issues of energy, water and agricultural production challenges, through an incubator program called Blue Tech Valley Project. It is looking for fresh ideas from some of the best and brightest.
Thus far, some of the innovative concepts being tested, include using drones to monitor crops for nutrient deficiency, remote sensors to measure soil and moisture and pin-pointing specific water and fertilizer usage needs in order to increase yields.
However, Dr. Alexander says much of that technology has not yet reached the North State. The Blue Tech Valley program seeks to create opportunities to encourage people to develop innovative ideas that can advance agriculture in the region and support the local economy. Dr. Alexander says failing to utilize innovations could lead to local farmers falling behind.
For a multi-million dollar industry that helps drive the Butte County economy and provides goods for consumers locally, nationally and internationally; falling behind is not an option.
What is Hobert’s vision for Chico? She believes Chico is on the verge of sustaining agriculture through the future of agriculture and says that future. is through students.
Dr. Alexander believes Chico is on the verge of combing technology, software and hardware to make the community and region, great.
You can catch the next segment of Chico on the Verge? Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 5 and 6 AM on Action News Now.
- Chico on the Verge? Part One
- Chico on the Verge? Part Two
- Chico on the Verge? Part Three
- Chico on the Verge? Part Four
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