Agriculture in Northern Baja is a big employer. In just 200 miles we’ve passed olive groves, vineyards, tuna farms, tomato polytunnels, strawberry plantations and prickly-pear cactus fields. I never considered that wine was produced in Mexico, but apparently Mexico became the first wine-producing region in the Americas after the Spaniards brought the first grapes in the 1500s. The best wines are said to come from Baja California – of course we had to try some, Merlot from Santo Tomas. It wasn’t half bad.
Apparently many of the tomatoes (and I guess strawberries too) are grown go to feed southern California. Water here, as there, is a problem. The environment is semi-arid desert. Aquifers are being depleted at an unrenewable rate, so that many are suffering from creeping salinity – a problem also found in California. The rampant development of tourism on the coast has not helped – some of the hotels resemble those in Vegas in their ridiculous proportions. The rate of construction has slowed because of the recession, but it’s only a matter of time before the creeping concrete gets going again. Draughts have affected agricultural production in the peninsula many times, thwarting the efforts of invaders of various nationalities to settle for long. Water used for agriculture is often wasted – about 75% is estimated not to be productively used. As we approached the town of San Quintin I spotted many irrigation businesses, so maybe efforts to address this are underway.
Apart from the produce, another common sight on the roads has been the agricultural workers transport – ferrying fieldworkers up and down the Mexico 1 highway to work the land. There have also been lots of smallholdings, houses with small veg plantations (especially corn), plus goats and chickens, or cows. It seems like many people work on larger ranches in the day time and then go home to tend their own plots. It’s nice to see evidence of such self sufficiency after the sterile environment of much of southern California, although of course it’s probably a necessity rather than ‘nice to have’ hobby farming.