wage slavery? [Re: St. Columba...]

Jim Whitehead ejw@cse.ucsc.edu
Fri, 12 Apr 2002 13:27:22 -0700

> My sister and her husband are ranchers in the Little Shasta Valley (Yreka
> is in the Little Shasta Valley),  Hmm, let's see they own and lease about
> 56 sections (35,840 ac.) at $300 /acre that's $10,750,000.  To
> bad they're so poor that my sister has to work in town.

I wasn't suggesting ranching. The land near Yreka isn't well-suited for
sustainable ranching (in fact, few places are in California). Either you
need a lot of land, or you have to irrigate and grow feed, or operate a feed
lot. The lots of land approach is really hard on the landscape -- soil
quality quickly goes downhill, and you get significantly increased erosion.
Might be able to sustain this for 100 years.

Irrigate and grow feed is done on the valley floor. Depends on reliable
access to water in a semi-arid region. Not a position I'd like to be in.

Feed lots seem to be what the pros use. Pick a chunk of land, beat the heck
out of it, and truck in all of your feed. With economies of scale, I believe
this is profitable. Oh, you'd better have forgiving neighbors (the smell,
you know).

> I think $300 /acre is probably to low.  The ranch is valued at $7,000,000
> including only the land they own (6-7 sections).

The $300 figure is for land near Montague, in the valley foothills. I myself
have purchased land at this price. Other parcels in the subdivision have
gone for $250/acre in the last 4-5 years. Land on the valley floor is more
expensive. But, last fall, there were a *lot* of for sale signs. I'll bet
prices have fallen there recently.

> Of course, if you don't want to have tillable (i.e., land that will grow
> food) land (that is, will settle for land full of volcanic rock),
> you might find it at $300 /acre.

Yes, there is a lot of volcanic rock on the land. But, if all you want to do
is grow food to support *yourself*, as opposed to farming the land to
generate a huge surplus for sale, then the soil is fine (with some amending
with composted manures--plenty of that around--to add organic material) for
a 1-2 acre farm. You can grow a lot of food on 1-2 acres, if all you want to
do is feed yourself, and you don't want to support really water-intensive
agriculture like ranching.

The "next door neighbors" have a fairly modest garden (75' x 100') and raise
about 1/4 of their yearly food on it. The garden is near a stream that
provides water 11 months out of the year, and is supplemented with water
from a well. They've been doing this for several years now, it appears to be
sustainable. Scaling this up would undoubtedly require more well water.

> >Much of the food you eat could be grown on the property.
> If you can get water rights.  In California that's problematic.
> And water rights would be required because it, like much of the
> rest of Northern California, gets very little rain during the summer.

No, all that is needed is a well that would cost about $4-$5k. If the goal
is to support just yourself and your family, this water would be sufficient.
Also, many of the properties have springs and seeps that, if managed
correctly, can support a lot of plant life (see above).

> >Assuming 2 months a year maintaining the garden,

Days when you water during the summer do not require the entire day for the
watering activity. Much of the work on the garden can be done during
otherwise unproductive time (early evening), or can be worked into an
exercise schedule. Think of it as trading your commute for watering the
garden. Maybe not as much fun as a BMW M5 6-speed, but then again, how
frustrating must it be to own such an expensive car and be stuck in traffic
behind a Daihatsu Charade?

- Jim