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Please Pass the Dressing

January 04, 1996|RUSS PARSONS

Monterey County, which likes to call itself America's Salad Bowl because of the prodigious amount of produce grown there, spent much of last spring under water.

As many as 40,000 acres of agricultural land were lost, with an estimated crop loss valued at almost $150 million. That made it the state's hardest-hit county in last spring's floods by a margin of almost 3 to 1.

But a year later, only traces of the damage remain. County Agricultural Commissioner Richard Nutter says only 2% or 3% of the land is still out of production.

Even the artichoke fields--so hard-hit by floods that the crop was 40% less than normal--are ready to go.

"We're down a little because we haven't been able to transplant everything we need," says Mary Comfort of the California Artichoke Advisory Board. "It is probably going to be a two-year process before we get back to where we were. But we've been fortunate in having a mild fall, so the plants didn't have to stress too much. Now, it looks like they're starting to go gangbusters."

And although the main lettuce harvest around Salinas won't begin until mid-April, hopes are high.

"We're feeling very positive," says David Eldredge, vice president for sales and marketing for Tanimura & Antle, the largest independent grower-shipper in the Salinas Valley. Last year's rains had flood waters lapping at the parking lot of T&A's headquarters. "Most of the land that was underwater at one point last year is back in production. We even got some vegetables out of most of the fields last year.

"I think it's going to be a fairly normal year. Everything is ready to roll. Of course, Mothern Nature can always trip you."

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