What is in this article?:
- Citrus is a $2 billion industry in California
- California citrus is grown for fresh-market consumption
Some citrus farms rely solely on surface deliveries of irrigation water to survive
Orange Cove citrus grower family, flockwise from upper left, Mandy Brown, Andrew Brown and their children Caitlin and Allen. The Brown family grows mandarins, seen here, as well as navel oranges and lemons.
California’s $2 billion citrus industry is not the only entity fighting for its very existence. Families that make up the fabric of the San Joaquin Valley are fighting for their livelihoods and their homes.
Decisions by state and federal officials to withhold surface water from California agriculture seem to be hitting citrus growers harder because of where citrus is predominantly grown and the source of the surface water used to irrigate those crops. The impacts of these decisions will severely harm many of the families living in these regions as their farms will dry up and die, taking with them the small businesses built over generations.
Orange Cove citrus grower and agronomy consultant Andrew Brown is fighting that battle right now, not just for himself, but for his wife and their two children that they hope will become the fifth generation of Browns to farm citrus in the San Joaquin Valley.
Theirs is a story that can be repeated by simply changing the last name. Family farmers produce crops on land they’ve purchased or leased. They shop in local stores, buying goods and services from their neighbors; their children attend local schools alongside the children of their employees and those of the couple that owns the local restaurant they frequent; they donate to local charities and causes, and they volunteer where necessary to make their communities a better place to live.
Among the many hats he wears Andrew Brown also serves as vice chairman of the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, a citrus trade association that represents about 60 percent of California’s 275,000 acres of citrus. His family primarily farms Mandarins, lemons and Navel oranges near Orange Cove, a tiny community along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada where Fresno and Tulare counties come together.
The region is filled with citrus trees and large wind machines used at times to protect groves from freezing temperatures. Orange Cove is also quintessential California: a street named Orange runs through it and a public campus named Citrus Middle School sits at the heart of the community.