Interview with Andrew Garcia

On February 22nd, 2011, Abha interviewed Andrew Garcia, who is a farmer at Burkart Organics Farm. He grows and sells citric products near the Sierra Nevada

Abha: How has the Water Crisis affected farmers like you?

Andrew Garcia: In our area, the base of the Sierra Nevada, it rains and snows a lot so we are fortunate to get quite a bit more of water. Last year the water table came up significantly almost by 13%. Water runs from dams and seeps into canals, the dam goes to rivers which lead to irrigation canals allowing fertile crop growth. This, in turn, brings up the levels of water in aquifers. Earlier, there was a drought that severely affected us all. It started about 3-5 years ago and sever regulations were imposed on all of us. We had to slowly cut back the amount of water we used from 7% all the way to 11%. This sounds small, but it was a tremendous change for us. The drought was officially declared "over" this year.

Abha: Have other farmers taken any action against those regulations? How did they try to overcome this?

Andrew Garcia: Well these drastic cuts made it difficult for many farmers to grow and produce their crops. Some weren't making enough money to keep their land so they tried selling their water rights to the city. It was a greater profit than farming. Most people would sell their rights for around $1 million. Other people had to move to Northern California to look for work.

Abha: What are water rights exactly? How can you obtain them?

Andrew Garcia: When some buys a piece of property like farmland or a ranch, they have to buy certain water allotments which allow landowners to have a specific amount of gallons of water yearly. The landowners often obtain the land and rights at the same time. If landowners don't own water rights, they would have to wheel in their water from outside sources which is more costly and isn't efficient.

Abha: How could limited water pose a problem in the near future?

Andrew Garcia: The population is growing exponentially, but our water supply is decreasing. Soon, the demand for water will increase to unimaginable amounts. If people don't start conserving water, we will not be able to do a plethora of things. A decrease in water will mostly affect crop yield, the amount of livestock raised, innovative technology, and the health of our population. Many people don't realize this, but water is extremely important and without it, we wouldn't be able to do many of our daily activities.

Abha: Has your produce been affected by the drought and limited amounts of water?

Andrew Garcia: Not for us particularly because we have seen an increase of rainfall in the San Joaquin Valley. We produce citrus fruits which don't need as much water as most other plants, but our neighbors, who cultivated melons, had no water so they had to move to Nevada and look into new profession. We have been extremely lucky.

Abha: Has the demand for most farmers' produce increased?

Andrew Garcia: Yes it has increased, but wrongfully so. Over 60% of farmers in the California and Nevada dropped the profession of farming because of a lack of water so we have that much less produce being harvested. Also, the human population is increasing as the number of farmers is decreasing. Therefore, there is a greater demand on products. People take advantage of this priceless commodity and don't recognize how valuable it is.

Abha: How does a lack of water affect the quality of your crops?

Andrew Garcia: If you don't have sufficient amounts of water, the size and quality of the crops are hindered. For example, 92% of a watermelon is actual water so if the plants are watered enough and properly, they will decrease in size. Also, cucumbers require a lot of water. If each plant doesn't receive the proper amounts of water, the skin becomes very thick so that water cannot escape from the plant.