Community Columns

No one out-greens a farmer

John Michelena Jr. of Patterson
John Michelena Jr. of Patterson The Modesto Bee

With all this incessant hoo-ha to be greener than green, maybe it’s time for a discourse on the morality of irrigation. Let’s start with Merriam-Webster defining irrigation: “The watering of land by artificial means to foster plant growth.”

So far, I’m hoping no one is having a cow breech-style. Irrigation is artificial and man made, not spontaneously combusted from Mother Earth or Sister Sky. Yet, irrigation may still be good.

Let’s try the same with plant growth. Plants allow us to eat and keep our bodies biologically functioning, regardless if you are vegetarian, vegan, carnivore, or even a sophisticated cannibal craving Soylent Green.

Since I’m mentioning green and humans, maybe I should assert there’s no human activity more involved in pursuing a green environment than irrigation.

Green vegetation produces the added freebie of invisible oxygen through its exchange with carbon dioxide, which is providential for those who like free things and deep breathing. When speaking of green, gases and free things, one must ask why irrigation is ignored in the much touted “Green New Deal,” as its supporters are always opposing irrigation in California. I must remind green social progressives that cannabis also is a thirsty plant that doesn’t roll onto store shelves all by itself. It takes more than a green village to make a happy green new world; it takes plenty of irrigation water even for hashish and those munchies that follow.

I like to think of farmers who irrigate plants as the new green industrialists, who really know what green production is all about. We do not chase rainbows and unicorns, but we have a long history of knowing how to use water to produce food of all kinds. And that’s food of all sizes and colors, which makes us unprejudiced and inclusive when it comes to food discrimination.

Who’s to say what particular food should be grown? What water nazi decides if 1.1 gallons of water is too much to produce one almond? If it’s morally wrong to grow water-intensive rice, then why does China get a free pass for their rice paddies? Is growing alfalfa and pasture inherently sinful as much water is needed for cattle and dairy cows, and what about their wicked belching and other gases? Is the water expended on horses, cats, and doggies unconscionable, as we can’t even eat them?

What know-it-all will tell farmers what’s the best irrigation method? Does anyone understand that drip irrigation requires about as much water as flood irrigation? Flood irrigation helps recharge groundwater and reduces soil salinity, and ducks love it, too.

I would wager green money that America is losing its ability to think. Do green utopians grow their gardens with irrigation water? So what if agriculture uses 80 percent of California’s water just like everywhere else on Planet Earth? What’s wrong with that?

I never buy all this environmental bullpucky wrapped in bright green. But if greenness really matters, then irrigation is the greenest and most vibrant. Aristotle and Descartes would agree.

John Michelena is a West Side grower and community columnist. He wrote this for The Modesto Bee.

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