Devon Yurosek grows pistachios, pomegranates, cherries, citrus, and almonds with his dad and brother on the farm his grandfather started three decades ago.
Located in Kern County, California, in the central San Joaquin Valley, he and hundreds of other farmers grow some of the best citrus and tree nut crops in the world. In 2017, Kern County was ranked as the top agriculture-producing county in the United States. They also have dairy operations, grow feed for cattle, and produce a large variety of fruits and vegetables.
But growing crops in this part of California, which averages only seven inches of rainfall a year, can be challenging. And that’s why this third-generation farmer buys crop insurance, just like his dad and grandfather did before him.
“In good years we never look to get any money from crop insurance. It’s the bad years we are looking to cover,” Yurosek said.
Crops grown in this fertile valley can yield high profit when rain is ample and the winter is cool enough to produce adequate chill hours for the trees. When that doesn’t happen and there isn’t a crop to harvest, money becomes tight.
“We only get one shot at making money because we only get one crop each year,” he said. “We’d have no way to recoup some of our costs if we didn’t have crop insurance.”
Yurosek only remembers a handful of times when they’ve had to file a claim. And he’s thankful for that.
“If we have to make a claim that means we aren’t profitable as a business,” he said. “We can be a lot more financially stable taking a crop to harvest than we can with a check from the insurance company.”
The Yuroseks aren’t the only family who relies on the success of the farm. The farm employs several full-time workers because the labor to care for the crops and take them to harvest is so high.
“We try to take care of our employees, but that’s difficult to do if you don’t have a crop on the trees” he said. “That’s where crop insurance has been a huge help to us.”
The trickle-down effect of agriculture in Kern County is obvious when you drive through the small towns located there. Agriculture surrounds them. There are implement dealers, seed and fertilizer businesses, packing houses, and mechanics, just to name a few. One out of every five jobs is either directly or indirectly related to this $7 billion industry.
“Our employees spend a lot of money in this county,” said Yurosek. “And we do, too. There are a lot of vendors who aren’t associated with agriculture who provide us with goods and services. We need paper and supplies for our office. Furniture for our homes. And that puts a lot of money back into the local economy.”
Farming isn’t the easiest of occupations no matter where you live. Mother Nature can throw a lot of curve balls. World markets effect the price you receive for the commodities you grow. And input costs seem to rise whether prices go up or down. Yurosek says he pays 20 percent more in labor costs and 300 times more for water than he did just a few years ago.
But while the challenges can be overwhelming at times, Yurosek says he can’t image doing anything else.
“I’m incredibly fortunate to be part of a family farming operation,” he said. “It’s a business that means more than just making money. It’s about providing jobs and providing healthy, beneficial food for the world, but especially for the United States.”