News From the Farm | July 27, 2020

Our Fabulous Farmers Market Team in Berkeley  —  

Tradeoffs  —  

Last week, was hot and dry, but that is hardly news in the Capay Valley in July.  The fact that our field crews come to work every day in that sometimes too-hot weather, picking tomatoes and melons is also hardly newsworthy, but we do actively appreciate it.  A lot of lifting, carrying, bending, stacking and attention to detail passed over this farm last week — and every week of the year it seems.

Maria picking cherry tomatoes

One event that does stand out is that Full Belly acquired a brand new box truck to carry our produce down the road to market.  The truck arrived on Friday to join our already impressive fleet of five.  We often have two trucks and sometimes three on the road, usually driving down our two-lane state highway starting out in the wee hours of predawn.  We need at least another two trucks on hand to be loaded at the end of the day, ready for the round-trip to Sacramento, or the Bay Area.

What really prompted us to get the new truck was the fact that our older trucks are one-by-one going out of compliance with California’s air quality regs which have been phasing in since 2008.  By 2023 diesel trucks registered with DMV in California will all have to have engines that are 2010 model or earlier.  The reefers on the truck have to meet the same ultra low emission standards.  Limits on idling and other rules are all part of the attempt to clean up California’s air.

Two of our trucks were retired already and another one is going to have to be retired this year.  The cost for our farm is certainly high and all those resources tied up in the long-lasting diesel engines and truck bodies are hard for a frugal organic farmer to stomach.  But let’s get a perspective – what is the bigger picture?  The bigger picture is all about the large swaths of California that have harmful levels of the tiny particles that result from burning diesel, or gasoline.  Diesel exhaust contains nearly four dozen microscopic, toxic air contaminants that cause chronic asthma, allergies, nosebleeds and cancer.  Even worse, the smog is discriminatory — Low income communities of color are the hardest hit by clogged highways and distribution centers that use thousands of diesel trucks to make deliveries for the booming on-line commerce industry.

According to a 2019 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists:

•On average, African American Californians are exposed to fine particle pollution from gas and diesel combustion pollution that is 43% higher than that for white Californians.

•Latino Californians are exposed to this pollution 39% higher, on average, than white Californians.

•The lowest-income households in the state live where fine particle pollution is 10% higher than the state average.

•The highest income households live where fine particle pollution is 13% below the state average.

•Californians living in households without a personal vehicle are exposed to much higher levels of vehicle pollution than other households because they tend to live in urban areas surrounded by vehicle traffic.

Last month, California adopted another far-reaching and groundbreaking regulation that requires truck manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission trucks in the state starting in 2024.  The stringency of the requirements would gradually increase each year, with the goal of putting 300,000 electric trucks on California’s roads by 2035 and phasing out diesel trucks by 2045.

The state has to have permission from the federal EPA to set these stricter emissions standards and if the waiver is granted it is likely that other states will follow California’s lead.  However, under President Trump, the EPA has denied California’s ability to set stricter emissions standards than the  Federal government, so the final result of the regulations is up in the air.

I heard someone grumbling about the strict air quality standards in California. What will happen to all these out of compliance trucks?  “We could always sell them out of state, or down in Mexico” was one suggestion.  Having been to Mexico and experienced the smog and diesel fumes in urban areas, I have to say that I would much rather breath the air in California, even though the cost of doing business here is so much higher.

— Judith Redmond

Behind the scenes at Full Belly, Hector and Janine masterminding it all