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Christmas trees have advantages

Sentimentality notwithstanding, Christmas trees are no different than any other agricultural crop; they're grown to be harvested. Because young trees grow faster than established older trees, they release more oxygen into the air. In addition, Farm Bureau reports Christmas trees, grown on about a million U.S. acres, create scenic green belts, stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife. Besides, they smell so good.

Beef is the No. 1 choice in retail meat purchases, Farm Bureau reports.

Scientists are selecting varieties of micronutrient-rich crops such as beans, peas, lentils, cereals, fruits and vegetables to develop those that will yield the largest quantities of iron, zinc, iodine, essential trace elements, and vitamins. They are hoping production agriculture will soon meet the need for these essential micronutrients as well as it provides macronutrients, such as carbohydrates and proteins.

Times may have changed, but pests still bug us. At the turn of the century, whale oil, arsenic or kerosene was used to get rid of them. Today, sophisticated Integrated Pest Management (IPM) often uses flowering plants and sticky barriers, along with beneficial insects such as ladybugs.

Who was the "Jack" in Monterey Jack Cheese? Before lettuce was a major Monterey/Salinas crop the area had a booming dairy industry built up by immigrant farmers from Spain, Switzerland and the Azores. Each family made a similar soft, white cheese from surplus milk called El Queso del Pais, or country cheese. In 1882 an entrepreneur sent a sample of this cheese to market, but the San Francisco merchants couldn't pronounce "El Queso del Pais," so they called it "Jack's Monterey Cheese" after David Jacks. And now you know the rest of the story.

We grow money! U.S. paper currency is made of 75 percent cotton, much of it grown in California, and 25 percent linen. One bale of cotton can make $294,000 in one-dollar bills.

Each year more than 10 million California residents of all ages and from all backgrounds get together to celebrate agriculture at 79 state-supported fairs. This first-hand look at agriculture is a first-time experience for some. Some come to show animals, others compete for prizes and some exhibit their handiwork. Everyone comes for the food and the fun that contributes approximately $1.6 billion to the economy.

Margaret Thatcher once said, "It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen that lays eggs." Laying an egg is something to crow about. A hen must eat 4 pounds of feed to make a dozen eggs. According to Farm Bureau sources, the largest single chicken egg ever laid weighed a pound with a double yolk and double shell

"Make hay while the sun shines." California farmers did. Of all field crops last year, hay was valued the highest at $802 million.

The University of California Cooperative Extension has launched a new Web site that gives California farmers access to certain UC agricultural meetings anytime on demand over the Internet. The Web site, found at, features audio recordings of UC advisors and specialists synchronized with the photos, graphs and tables they use in their presentations.

If you think there's no farming in San Francisco, you should know that at last report, nursery production in the "city by the bay" was valued at $1.9 million dollars.

Now that we've been fruitful and multiplied, how can we feed and clothe the 12 billion people that will populate the earth in 40 years? No problem. All we need is 93 million farmers who can each produce enough food and fiber to feed 129 people for a year ... just like a California farmer.

The first trans-Atlantic voyage of the airship Graf Zeppelin in 1928 brought seven species of insects and two plant diseases in the bouquets of flowers on board. This called attention to the need for quarantines and the fact that people are not the only living things that travel on international fights.

Agriculture does more than put food on your table. In California, it contributed more than $80 billion to the economy.

In this country, we eat about 2,175 pounds of food per person each year and about 900 calories more every day than the worldwide average of 2,700, say Farm Bureau sources.

There are 1.8 acres per person of arable land in agricultural production to feed the current U.S. population. By 2050, that figure is expected to decline to 0.6 acres. This will result in higher food prices, imported goods and less diversity in our diet. Farmers look to advances in science, biotechnology, animal nutrition, technology and water delivery systems to help them stay productive and competitive.

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