San Diego Growers Assess Fire Damage

While hot spots are still smoldering, we are pleased to report most of the growers in San Diego County are out of harm’s way. This week, local grower associations and University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) are working with growers to assess damage and get them back on their feet again.

“There are still some burning hotspots, but they are in remote wildland areas and people, homes and nurseries are not threatened,” says Eric Larson, executive director of San Diego County Farm Bureau. “The county department of agriculture has reported there are 11,428 acres of agriculture with the footprints of the burn areas of the several large fires. That is not to say it was all destroyed. The random nature of the fires left many things untouched within the footprints. Of that acreage, 800 were outdoor cut flowers, 45 greenhouses and 750 acres of nursery stock. From my observations and what I have heard, a fraction of those totals will prove to have been destroyed. We are probably still a few days away from having dollar figures on damage.”

Avocado groves took the biggest hit due to the fact that they are heavily grown in the fire area and are on hillsides, which results in tremendous heat as fires move uphill, Larson says. Many citrus and avocado growers also produce ornamentals, notes James Bethke, floriculture and nursery farm advisor for UCCE San Diego. “The Rice Canyon fire burned through the Rainbow and Fallbrook areas, where there are a great number of small operations. From the 15 freeway, you can see burned palm nurseries and saran houses. The other was the Witch fire that started near two major tree nurseries then burned into the developments of Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Santa Fe.”

Larson says growers who suffered the most damage had permanent crops such as protea, banksias, wax, lepto and eucalyptus. “In the field, it appears those crops were very flammable and with high wind gusts driving the flames, it is no surprise that those crops would not survive,” Larson says. “We have heard reports from growers who lost between 20 and 80 percent of their plantings. In fact, when Governor Schwarzenegger was looking for a location to see the greatest damage to farms, he went to Kendall Farms in Fallbrook. Kendall grows the crops mentioned.”

Bethke also was in awe of the damage at Kendall Farms. “I was able to see the farm and the whole canyon from a good vantage point and it is nearly a complete loss,” he says. “The entire canyon except for one home looks completely gone. I spoke to an avocado grower who watched the fire burn right through Kendall Farms on the way to his avocados. He lost 200 avocado trees, several hundred azaleas in a shade house, then his house. His neighbor lost a portion of his shade house, some potted plants and several specimen palms planted along his driveway.”

Greenhouse Operations OK

Larson says he has heard no reports of greenhouse damage. “It appears the damage to nursery stock will largely be on the fringe portions of nurseries in the burn areas,” he says. “My observation is that the potted crops were not as flammable and flames did not carry through the nurseries. However, I did observe some palms at a nursery that were planted in the ground and they’re completely gone, just a few hundred charred stubs sticking out of the ground.”

Growers also sustained secondary damage because they could not get past evacuation lines back into their nurseries to irrigate their crops, Larson adds. “There was great local concern about possible looting in evacuated areas and security was tight. Growers couldn’t breach it to get back in to irrigate. We talked to one nursery operator who lost 100 percent of his nursery stock because the community water system went down in the fire and he had no access to water once security was lifted.”

The good news, so far, is there will be government assistance, Bethke says. “Just about anyone who is someone has been here to offer assistance–the governor, the feds, the local supervisors,” he says. “As I have driven some of the areas, I have run into representatives from the governor and Senator Diane Feinstein. The governor was visited Fallbrook yesterday to see if the National Guard were still needed there.”

Along with San Diego County Farm Bureau, the California Cut Flower Commission and San Diego County Flower and Plant Association are taking stock of the local growers with losses. Clean up has been put on hold until a full assessment has been made.

“As a group, the UC Cooperative Extension will be helping the county and the growers get up and running again as fast as possible,” Bethke says. “They will certainly need help networking to get the plants growing and producing again, and we have a serious reduction in ag water (30 percent) that we will have to deal with to compound the problem.”

Larson says the farm bureau is acting as the central information point for growers who may need to know what resources are available to get themselves back on their feet. The bureau is posting daily updates at www.sdfarmbureau.org.

Help Wildfire Victims

 

Leave a Reply

More From State of the Industry...

May 1, 2015

18 New Grasses To Grow

Ornamental grasses fit in with the needs of today’s landscapers and consumers better than ever. Whether your customers are looking for creative solutions for patio containers or a mass planting in a landscape, some of the 18 new varieties included here are sure to meet the need.

Read More

May 1, 2015

Restoration Landscapes: A Specialized Market For Natives And Grasses

Restoration landscapes, depending on their purpose, often require straight native species, along with a confirmation of their known provenance. Research is key in this area and good recordkeeping is a must.

Read More

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Financial Administrator

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Latest Stories
RedPeppers_RosanaPrada_Flickr

April 29, 2015

Nature Fresh Farms To Build 175-Acre Greenhouse Facilit…

Growing fresh vegetables in the Midwest is about to take a major turn in a new direction as Nature Fresh Farms has announced a large-scale investment in northwest Ohio. The company broke ground on April 10 to begin construction on a 175-acre greenhouse facility in Delta, Ohio. “This is an exciting time for Nature Fresh Farms as we expand our operations to include a U.S. growing facility,” said Nature Fresh Farms President Peter Quiring in a press release. “This development will allow us to better serve our Ohio customers with locally grown produce, year-round and continue to grow our U.S. operations.” Contingent upon acceptable levels of incentives from the State of Ohio and other government authorities, as well as utility rates agreeable to Nature Fresh, the company would be poised to ship its first case of vegetables in December 2015. The greenhouse project will be completed in several phases over the […]

Read More
RISE logo

April 29, 2015

RISE Delivers Petition Urging President Obama To Protec…

Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) delivered a pollinator petition to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, urging President Obama to create more habitat and forage areas for pollinators, and to consider all sources of information on, and contributors to the pollinator health issue. Nearly 600 citizens from across the U.S. signed the petition. “Our petition shows President Obama that citizens want a balanced and substantive conversation to happen on the pollinator health issue,” says Aaron Hobbs, RISE president. “The pollinator issue is very complex and research points to multiple factors affecting pollinators, including pests and parasites, microbial diseases, nutrition problems, bee management practices and climate change.” According to Hobbs, the petition highlights some of the steps the industry is taking to support pollinators. This includes creating pollinator-friendly habitats and forage areas through integrated vegetation management in utility rights-of-way and large tracts of land. “We do applaud the White House for including in […]

Read More
HRI logo

April 8, 2015

Horticultural Research Institute Accepting Scholarship …

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) is offering seven scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year, totaling $20,000. Applications will be accepted through May 31.

Read More
protecting bees and pollinators video

March 31, 2015

New Video On Protecting Bees And Pollinators Educates H…

A new educational video that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship is one result of industry collaboration by the Horticultural Research Institute, AmericanHort, Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment. “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” narrates the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy pollinator ecosystems.

Read More

March 25, 2015

NASS Reports U.S. Honey Production Was Up By 19 Percent…

Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013, according to a March 20 report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s…

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

February 2, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State Of The In…

The Greenhouse Grower 2015 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons on 2014 sales to past years, details on how 2015 production volume and prices will compare to 2014, crops that growers will increase and decrease production on, where growers stand on using neonicotinoids on crops, how many growers will pursue growing medical marijuana and more.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Benchmarks: Let’s Change Our Story

It's a new year. Time for our industry to change how consumers perceive plants by creating a new reality where plants are valued for more than their physical beauty.

Read More

January 21, 2015

AFE Wins Platinum MarCom Award For “Murder, Sex a…

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) took home its fourth award for the animated awareness video "Murder, Sex and Greed." The organization also recently announced that there are two new members on its board of trustees.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 19, 2015

2015 State Of The Industry: Current Green Industry Tren…

Demand for green industry products and services is forecasted to increase in coming years as the housing market rebounds.

Read More
DNA-logo

January 14, 2015

Terra Nigra Joins DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group will be expanding its range of cut flowers by incorporating Terra Nigra, a company specializing in breeding and propagation of gerberas and roses.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Florensis Receives Horticultural Entrepreneur Award

During the January 7, 2015 award ceremony in the Keukenhof, in Lisse, Netherlands, Florensis received the Horticultural Entrepreneur Award. Florensis was one of four nominated companies, which also included Arcadia BV, Artemis and Martens Asperges.

Read More
AmericanHort

January 9, 2015

AmericanHort Celebrates Its First Birthday

AmericanHort was formally launched one year ago on January 1, 2014, and the association is celebrating numerous successes of the first year.

Read More
Carol Miller

January 7, 2015

We’re All In This Together

Growers and retailers have a common goal — to serve customers better. In this new column, Greenhouse Grower will take a look at ways growers and retailers can work together to take advantage of profit opportunities and better meet customer needs.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Industry Speaks Out Against “Waters Of The U.S.” Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule change to the Clean Water Act, known as “waters of the U.S.,” has the potential to disrupt normal business practices for growers across the country.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Students Tackle Real-Life Challenges At National FFA Fl…

Top prize winners put skills learned in the classroom to the test at the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Floriculture Career Development Event.

Read More
Lesley Judd

January 7, 2015

2014 Meister Scholarship Awarded To Ph.D Student

The Richard T. Meister Scholarship was awarded to Lesley Judd, a graduate student with a passion for horticulture and a desire to pass her knowledge along through teaching.

Read More

January 6, 2015

39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium Will Be Febr…

The Professional Gardener Alumni Association (PGAA) will hold the 39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium program will be on February 6, 2015 from 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. in the Ballroom at Longwood Gardens, and will feature an array of engaging speakers.

Read More