gmhTODAY 09 gmhToday July Aug 2016 - Page 62

needs the support of the county.” In order to grow their business- es, farmers are constantly adapting to increased mechanization, global competition and increased regulation. “For something as simple as building a storage barn in a field, regulations require that paved roads be put in. It doesn’t make economic sense,” Bill added. Bill also talked about the impact of government- mandated increases to the minimum wage. “Thousands of jobs are created to support the process of growing, harvesting, processing, packing and shipping locally-grown products. We’ve managed to stay competitive with China and Mexico, but mandating a $10 to $15 per hour minimum wage will make it more difficult for farmers to compete.” To offset the impact of a lingering drought, Bill said Christopher Ranch has taken proactive steps including putting in two more new wells, but he noted that the water table is going down. Thriving agriculture is a powerful weapon in the face of food insecurity. To protect food security for the future, Bill said, “We need to preserve the good agri- cultural land we already have to grow the crops and trees we need. The Williamson Act has been very helpful in this regard.” As far as what’s new on the horizon, Bill shared that after selling out in Bay Area McDonald’s restaurants, Gilroy Garlic Fries are have been approved in 400 outlets across the county. These made-to- order fries are tossed with a puree mix 62 of (Christopher Ranch) garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, parsley and salt. “To promote garlic is to promote Gilroy!” Bill said. Along with fresh garlic, Christopher Ranch also offers a growing line of organic certified products, which are available at Costco, Nob Hill, Safeway, Whole Foods and many other retail grocers across the United States. The Gilroy Garlic Festival got its start in 1978 when Dr. Rudy Melone (a former president of Gavilan Community College) suggested to Don Christopher (world’s largest shipper of garlic) that there should be a festival to celebrate the harvest of the “stinking rose.” Don agreed and became co-founder of the event. Today the festival is legendary. Christopher Ranch supplies more than TWO TONS of garlic to the event. This year’s festival will be held July 29th through 31st. Attractions will include the infamous Gourmet Alley with its “pyro chefs,” the traditional garlic cook-off, a wine pavilion, live entertainment and activities for the kids. The event has raised over $5 million for local charities since its inception. Royal Oaks Mushrooms California is second only to Pennsylvania in terms of U.S. mushroom production, and Santa Clara County grows one-third of the state’s output on less than ten farms. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY / AUGUST 2016 The White, Crimini and Portabella variet- ies we love in our soups, salads, burgers, omelets and pizzas grow year ‘round at farms in Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy. But for our local growers, the rewards come with challenges. Don Hordness took over an established Morgan Hill mushroom farm in the early 1980s after graduating from Cal Poly and working for Campbell Soup Company and Ralston Purina. He renamed the business Royal Oaks and expanded growing operations to include a second farm in Gilroy. Royal Oaks mushrooms are sold primarily at whole- sale under the Del Fresh label. “I’ve been in mushroom farming a long time and it’s a very productive business. Royal Oaks produces about 120,000 pounds of mushrooms every week, 52 weeks a year. Mushrooms are harvested by hand every day, so it’s a labor-intensive business. I love Morgan Hill but when it comes to maintaining ag from the stand- point of economic viability, it’s getting more difficult to farm here. California’s ag industry is the most heavily regulated in the nation, and we are competing with Pennsylvania, Texas and Canada where farmland and labor are cheaper. Minimum wage increases make things even more challenging. I have people on staff who have been with me for 30 years now and they earn a good wage plus full benefits. A higher minimum wage moves every- thing up the scale in terms of the cost to do business.” “Santa Clara County needs to have