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Community Corner - What's Growin' On ...
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Happy New Year! We all survived the Mayan calendar apocalypse and the "Fiscal Cliff" - kind of started to remind me of the Y2K phenomenon 13 years ago.

Last year ended with snow in the mountains, water in the lakes and green grass growing in the hills. Farmers can't ask for much more than that. Even the dairymen were seeing a small flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. And to boot, our tree growers are racking up "chill" hours like the US Government is racking up debt. Maybe we should put the government to sleep like our trees!

The effect of cold weather is an interesting phenomenon in agriculture. First off, certain insects die off - most notably flies! If you are a cattleman and you are in the midst of a drought, cold weather leads to an expensive winter. Feeding hay and supplements becomes an expensive proposition rather quickly. If you are enjoying this winter, a cattleman merely wishes for the frost to evaporate so the tender young grasses don't get burned and for the sun to shine.

The tree growers welcome the cold weather and the "chill hours." What is a "Chill Hour" you ask? "Chill" is the amount of time it takes to satisfy a trees' dormant rest requirement. Basically hibernation for trees. Various models describe different temperatures, but a safe scale is temperatures between 32F-45F. For instance, almonds need approximately 400 hours and the most common walnut varieties vary from 600 to 700 hours. Many of the stone fruits those with pits range from 300 to 800 hours. Different crops require different hours. It is best to check with your local nursery for this information. Enough about "chill"!

Part of my responsibilities with Farm Bureau include dealing with the rural crime issues plaguing our farmers and ranchers. Crime does not know city limits signs and agriculture provides a target-rich environment for criminals. The criminals we deal with have common threads - most commonly drug addiction. They look for targets of opportunity - open gates, no fences, unguarded vehicles or equipment and dark places. Unlocked shops and farm pumps are common targets. Even crops in windrows on the ground during harvest season are easy pickings.

Our local law enforcement agencies are doing all that they can do with the reduced numbers that they have. They cannot be everywhere at the same time and unfortunately the criminal element knows this. This needs to be looked at as an opportunity instead of as a detriment.

A common problem is communication. Many people do not know their neighbors in the rural areas - or urban areas, for that matter. The increase in crime has led to an increase in the formation of Farm Watch and Neighborhood Watch groups throughout the region. Groups communicate through text messages, e-mails, social media (Facebook and Twitter are the most common) and phone calls. The speed in which information is passed can make the difference in interrupting a crime, preventing a crime or even building a case for law enforcement.

What to look for? Something out of the ordinary. If your internal radar goes off and a situation does not seem right, it probably is not. The best things to do are take notes or pictures with the camera in many phones today. Look for distinguishing marks on the person or the vehicle involved. Are they short or tall? Stocky or thin? Tattoos, glasses, long hair or short hair? Does the vehicle have distinguishing marks or make a unique sound? For example: There are a lot of white pick-ups out there, but did this one have a specific sticker in the window, missing hubcap, different color door, crack in the windshield or a trailer hitch? Little things help differentiate a person or vehicle of interest from an innocent bystander.

There's your tip for today - pay attention, take notes and report!

And remember to be a Californian and Buy California Grown! It does make a difference.

Tom Orvis serves as the Governmental Affairs Director for the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau.