While I was working at home the other day, we had a nice little shakeup – a 5.8 earthquake centered near Lone Pine. That’s on the other side of the Sierras but only about 60 miles away from my place near Sanger.
Of course, earthquakes are nothing new to Californians. We all know we need to be ready for the big one. We should make our homes and offices as safe as possible to avoid injury during the shake.
We’re all familiar with the state’s guidelines for earthquakes at home, and if not, you should hurry over to www.ready.gov/earthquakes. Farmers and packers have a bigger problem, though. A study done by the State of California shows that Agriculture is uniquely vulnerable to disruptions from an earthquake.
That study says there is more than damage to structures on the farm to worry about. Most of California’s farms are located in regions with the potential for significant seismic activity. After a big quake, damage to the infrastructure could be a bigger problem than damage to the farm. Loss of electrical power is a real possibility. Not only could there be power outages, the report points out that rural areas are the last on the list to be restored.
So power could be out for days or even weeks, halting packing and cold storage operations. Plus, highways could be damaged and roads closed, possibly for weeks or months, making it hard to ship product.
Much of California’s farm output is highly perishable. Farmers often have little flexibility in timing of harvest, processing or marketing. Shipping delays or loss of electricity for cold storage could cause large crop losses.
So earthquake safety on the farm goes beyond protecting people and structures during the shaking. Growers and packers need to have the assets needed to make sure their products will survive and make it out to market under what could be very difficult conditions.
If you would like to read the state’s report, it’s available online as a PDF on a state website, click here.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.