BELLY BUTTON ORANGES

            I'm in Riverside, California today speaking at the 6th annual Grow Riverside Conference.  Riverside is the 12 largest city in California and 43rd largest in the U.S.

Located about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, it had two gold rushes.  The first was real gold in the mid-1800s, of course.

             The second was around 1900 with the development of the Navel Orange--or as they say here, the orange with a belly button.  That brought mountains of wealth into the area and now they're scared to death that a little insect is going to take down the trees.

             The city created a roughly 5,000 acre agriculture-preserved green belt around the city a couple of decades ago but all those farmers that had those properties are dying or quitting and now it's a quarter unutilized.  They're desperate to figure out how to attract a new generation of farmers onto these protected lands.

             I visited Amy's Farm yesterday, a working agri-tourism farm filled with school groups.  From the airport yesterday (in Ontario, CA) I went past numerous dairies, which are slowly leaving the area.  They bring in all their feedstocks and transport their manure 50 miles south.  Talk about a carbon footprint.

             Anybody here in the area who has a small farm can get all the manure they want for free because dumping it locally free is cheaper than exporting it, even if the farmer gets paid for it.  Many of these land blocks are small, about 10-15 acres.  This has become a bedroom community for LA.

             I told them that these urban farms have some real advantages.  Proximity to markets, proximity to waste streams, and access to labor.

             The other speakers have been interesting.  One bluntly forecast that  tomorrow's workforce in America will be hispanic.  Assimilation is critical. 

             Homeless tents dot the landscape.  It's quite shocking, and here it's a lot less of an issue than around San Francisco.

             I'm relishing the fresh local citrus.  Nothing beats it where it grows--like everything else.  The stifling regulations are a key point of discussion.  For all the people leaving California, plenty are still coming.  I don't think it's going to be depopulated any time soon.

             Have you been to Riverside?