California Dairy Farmers Are Going Nuts For Almonds, But At What Cost?

November 3rd, 2014

Grist
by Madeleine Thomas

Source: Ray Fokker

This is Part 2 of a two-part series about California’s organic dairy industry. Read Part 1 here.

“The bees should be flying around today,” Ward Burroughs says in a slow, deep baritone, furrowing his brow over close-set eyes as he peeks over the steering wheel of his white pickup truck. We’re surrounded on both sides by a sea of pale pink — row upon row of densely planted almond trees, their plump, compact blossoms in full bloom.

The thermometer on the dashboard reads 59 degrees Fahrenheit, two degrees above the minimum temperature required for the bees to leave their hives and start pollinating, turning those blossoms into nuts that drive the state’s nearly $5-billion-a-year industry. Ward narrows his eyes, scanning a sky the color of an oyster shell for the little insects that could keep his family farm afloat.

As I wrote in my last post, Ward and Rosie Burroughs own and operate Burroughs Family Farms, a pair of organic dairies in California’s Northern San Joaquin Valley. But the Burroughs, along with many organic dairymen in the state’s Central Valley, are in the middle of a perfect storm of sorts: California’s drought and federal water restrictions are quickly drying up cattle pasture and driving organic feed costs skyward. National dairy co-ops like Organic Valley are starting to respond to the crisis by paying farmers more for their milk, but prices throughout the milk supply chain aren’t high enough to meet the rising costs of production.

Click here to continue reading this story by Madeleine Thomas in Grist.

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