It has just rained, welcome respite from California’s ongoing drought, and puddles have turned a fallow farm field to squelchy mud. Artichokes will be planted here in January, to be harvested in the summer, and broccoli or cauliflower will follow.
The Salinas Valley, with its superlative moniker “the salad bowl of America,” is where some 60 percent of the nation’s lettuce is grown, and close to half of its strawberries. It’s some of the most productive agricultural land in the world, on rich silt accumulated over centuries of flooding on wetlands. The conditions enable two to three harvests per year, like the artichoke-cauliflower rotation planned for this damp field next year. Cool air blows in off the bay, keeping greens and strawberries at their most flavorful and fueling a $4.4 billion agriculture industry. Farming is the number-one use of land in the Salinas River watershed.