A story in the Sacramento Business Journal about a common fantasy in the workaday world - quitting one's job and starting a winery - was informed by UC Cooperative Extension research. And the bottom line is sobering.
The story says it will cost $4.5 million to get the winery going and keep the business running through the first three years. If you want to make your own wine, "plan on spending another several hundred thousand dollars to start a small winery," the story said.
Writer Celia Lamb spoke to UC Davis viticulturalist Jim Wolpert about the cost of building the winery.
“Some people have pole buildings with blown-in insulation,” Wolpert was quoted. “They don’t have any great attempt of having a first-class facility that’s going to be on the cover of some magazine.”
Others spend $300 per square foot on a tasting room, he added.
The majority of numbers presented in the story came from a UC cost-of-production study on vineyard establishment, which put the price tag at about $13,402 per acre for the first three years.
The hypothetical grower used in the study already owns property with surface water rights for irrigation and has a building, equipment, tools, a drip irrigation system and a drainage system worth a total of $689,000.
Winery founder John Giguiere warns in the story, “If you’re not at least 25 years old or don’t have a vast amount of experience in the industry, don’t get involved, because it’s a good way to lose a lot of money."
The New York Times ran a rather technical article this week about a disease that is sending shivers down the spines of citrus growers in Florida and California - citrus greening. The disease is endemic in Florida. California growers are nervously watching the border with Mexico, where a pest that transmits citrus greening has already been found. That development was covered by the Los Angeles Times in July, as mentioned in this blog post.
This week's article, focused on Florida, included some dire predictions:
On concerns over solving the problem by genetically modifying citrus for resistance, Jude W. Grosser of the University of Florida said, "It’ll probably come down to the point where people have to decide whether they want orange juice or not.”
A Florida grower was quoted as saying, “Scientists have 10 years at the most to find a solution, or there’s not going to be a citrus industry in Florida.”
UC scientists are among those looking for solutions to managing the disease. The article said Abhaya Dandekar of UC Davis is working on an electronic nose to identify volatile organic compounds produced by infected trees.
UC citrus entomologist Beth Grafton-Cardwell also has her finger on the pulse of citrus greening. She is the author of an ANR publication about Asian Citrus Psyllid, which includes a lengthy section on citrus greening.
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A long commentary published today in the Southeast Farm Press warns that agriculture dodged a bullet with the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, but that doesn't mean the industry will be able to do so indefinitely. The commentary draws liberally from a late-1990s book by UC Davis Cooperative Extension economist Steven Blank.
Blank paints a picture of America without agriculture in The End of Agriculture in the American Portfolio. For the Farm Press article, writer Paul Hollis quotes the publication's first paragraph:
“America’s unsurpassed ability to produce plentiful and inexpensive food is coming to an end. The signals are all there, the economic trends are in position to bring about this inevitable conclusion. America, ‘the world’s breadbasket,’ is currently producing at its peak, but it is going out of the food business.”
The end of American agriculture, Blank wrote, should be no cause for alarm because it's the result of a natural process that is making us all better off.
Hollis says Blank is no "nutcase," noting his UC credentials. But, of course, not everyone agrees with his conclusions.
Michael Pollan, in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma, dismissed Blank's notion that a nation shouldn't produce its own food when others can do it more cheaply. He listed these reasons for preserving American agriculture:
The sense of security that comes from knowing your community, or country, can feed itself
The beauty of an agricultural landscape
The outlook and kinds of local knowledge the presence of farmers brings to a community
The satisfactions of buying food from a farmer you know rather than the supermarket
The locally inflected flavor of a raw-milk cheese or honey
(Pollan's book was excerpted on the Mother Jones magazine Web site a few years ago.)
On this topic, Hollis, a writer for an agricultural trade publication, and Pollan, a Berkeley journalism professor and advocate for local food, tend to agree.
Hollis concluded his commentary with a concern about the next Farm Bill debate. "Let’s just hope that our leaders in Congress and the White House — whoever they might be at the time — recognize that American agriculture is about more than just numbers," he wrote.