People move to El Dorado County for the “quality of life” created by our open spaces and rural lifestyle. They move here to get out of the city, away with the rooftops and crowded freeways to the country to improve their “quality of life.”
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Our rural lifestyle did not happen by accident; it is the result of long-range planning and community involvement. EID policies and pricing also determine if Micro Farms, also referred to as “Small Farms,” can be profitable on a parcel by setting the rate growers pay for water. The Small Farms Irrigation Rate (SFIR) is a critical factor in making these small businesses sustainable.
Because we have few large parcels, most of our farming is done on small parcels (less than 20 acres), making Micro Farms a critical part of our land use. Micro Farms utilize the small parcels to grow crops, adding to our economy, maintaining our open space and our “quality of life.”
Micro Farms have resulted in the development of Apple Hill, El Dorado Winery Association, Farm Trails, Farmers Markets, Christmas Tree Growers, Wine Grape Growers Association and berry growers, all of which maintain our open space. If Micro Farming is profitable, they will continue to farm. What will the next crop be in El Dorado County to join our successful growers?
It takes most crops five years to come into production, meanwhile it takes thousands of dollars to water, weed and maintain the orchards and vineyards until they can start to see an income from their hours of work. Micro Farms cannot afford to pay residential rates for water.
Micro Farms are small business and should be treated as such. If a person owns 20 acres of land and the only thing they can do with it is mow the weeds, the pressure to divide the parcel and to build another house will be tremendous. As landowners they will put that land to the “highest and best use” based on the economics of that land. If it is economical to grow a crop and produce income on that land then it will be kept “Open Space,” if not they will grow rooftops.
Much has been said about EID’s “Small Farms Rate.” We need to consider what the impact on Micro Farms would be if this rate were eliminated. It will not be economical for Micro Farms to water their crops with residential water; these Micro Farms will go away and be replaced with more roof tops and more traffic on our roads.
We need Micro Farms to preserve our “quality of life.”
Bill Snodgrass is the Retired El Dorado County Agricultural Commissioner and served at the time EID created the Small Farms Irrigation Rate.