Farmer Focus: US trip impresses Neil Thomson

I’ve had an unusual month. At first I received a lot of stick about my hitting the tree. Then the local tailor asked me if I would model the “Big Men’s” clothes for his online shop.

My initial reaction was that he was having a laugh, but if you look hard enough for an online tailors shop in Kelso you will find he wasn’t joking.

Then, since we were well up to date with the land work, I was given a last-minute opportunity to visit the Salinas valley in California.

It’s 70 miles long by 12 miles wide, blessed with a very temperate climate, sits above a vast underground aquifer, and grows a colossal amount of broccoli. Here they can grow two and sometimes three crops a year.

Despite (thanks to supermarket dominance) difficult economics in vegetable production, the Americans have perfected impressive techniques to ensure they grow excellent crops and get them delivered to all corners of the States.

Figures quoted to us were mind boggling. We visited a company which makes over 400t of ice a day so that they can keep the crop fresh by injecting it into the cartons before shipping.

Since an E coli scare two years ago there is evidence of massive improvement in traceability. We visited a fresh food convention and I was struck by the number of firms that have sprung up to assist growers with this.

I have to admit the meeting was in Las Vegas, where we had some of our most enjoyable time. The drive there, seven hours from Salinas, went through some of most productive land in the USA to desert.

The key to it all is water, and judging by the water level in Lake Mead, home of the famous Hoover Dam, there is not very much left.

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