Measuring the value of wine, wood and water

By From page A5 | June 20, 2012

Richard Esposito

Miraflores Winery was the final stop on this year’s Ag Tour. Now in its 48th year the Agriculture Tour continues its mission of providing awareness of the importance of agriculture to El Dorado County. The event was sponsored by the Agricultural Council of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, Apple Hill Growers Association, El Dorado Farm Trails Association, El Dorado County Farm Bureau and UC Cooperative Extension.

In a nutshell the Ag Tour this year was all about water, wood and wine. All three of these topics are of great value to the county and its overall economic health.

The pavilion at Miraflores was the perfect setting for the last leg of our tour. The massive wood beams supporting the structure impressed all in attendance. No better way to end a tour than listening to a keynote speaker over lunch served with fine wine.

“Let me borrow your tape measure,” I whispered to my wife sitting across the table. “I want to measure the width of this post.”

Some women carry makeup, sewing thread and scissors in their handbags. For as long as we’ve been married I could always rely on my bride having a tape measure in her possession. It comes in handy for “her” when sizing up “my” next home repair project.

“It’s in my purse in the trunk of the car,” she replied. And our car was parked at the Fruit Growers parking lot in Diamond Springs.

“Why?” she asked.

“You won’t find wood beams this size anywhere locally. I want to measure this,” I informed her.

I would later learn the beams are original to the Port of Oakland. After the wharf was dismantled in 1938 the long wood beams were removed and stored at some obscure location in Mexico.

Recycling continues to work its magic and this is just one small (or shall I say large) example of how the private sector works.

El Dorado Irrigation District’s Reservoir 1 water treatment plant was our first stop on the Ag Tour. We witnessed firsthand the process that produces some of the highest quality drinking water in the nation. The $3 million retrofit from compressed chlorine gas to liquid sodium hypochlorite increases the safety of the facility to both employees and the general public. EID catches its share of complaints but since 1925 this agency has acquired additional water rights and refurbished a complex water delivery system that guarantees local control of this major asset.

Water replaced gold as a more valuable commodity long after the years of the gold rush. Gold discovery may have been the reason for tapping into this vast water source but today it’s water that sustains our local economy.

Our next stop on the tour featured a clear cut operation Sierra Pacific Industries was performing on Iron Mountain Road. SPI, the largest property owner in California, is still harvesting lumber albeit not in the quantities of years past. The collapse of the home construction sector along with California’s outrageous regulations and fees is slowly grinding this industry to a halt. And to those folks dreaming of the day the Camino sawmill reopens — we’ll wake you up centuries from now. Today there are just 36 sawmills operating across the nation.

The wine industry, on the other hand, is a growing concern. Good, fertile soil combined with favorable temperatures and abundant water supplies make for an agricultural product with a bright future.

This year’s Ag Tour provided me with a deeper appreciation of how essential our water rights are to the future economic growth and stability of our county. I walked away with a better understanding of the relationship between agriculture, logging, water conservation and watershed management.

Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a local venue to showcase the bountiful harvest of the fruits, vegetables, nuts, grapes, apples and livestock grown and/or produced right here in El Dorado County? Imagine a venue timed appropriately with harvest that truly characterizes our historical past with our agricultural roots.

If and when that occurs it might be worth measuring with my wife’s tape measure.

Richard Esposito is publisher of Village Life the Mountain Democrat. Contact him at [email protected].

Richard Esposito


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