The Changing Agricultural Economy

“This is amazing. I’m not afraid to touch the products without gloves.”

The 2019 wine grape harvest has been tabulated. The total value of the crop from the North Coast of California was down fifteen percent from the previous year. (Super-prestigious Napa Valley grapes did manage a four-percent price-per-ton increase.) California wineries crushed ten percent less tonnage than in 2018. That means 250,000 tons were left unpicked. Industry experts calculate that 50,000 acres need to come out of production for supply and demand to meet.

So what does this have to do with marijuana? you may ask. A lot if you’re a vineyard or winery worker.

Premium wine grapes thrive in the coastal climates of California: Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties. So does marijuana. Cannabis growers are poaching workers from wineries by using the underhanded methods of paying more — including health care and paid sick days — and providing better working conditions.

One marijuana grower put it thusly: “A lot of times in agriculture, the employees get used like a tool. ‘Oh, we’ve got to harvest so let’s bring in 20 people, have them work 10 hours a day and don’t come back tomorrow.’ They don’t care what your name is or how you get your groceries next week.”

That and less pesticide. Wine’s dirty secret is the amount of chemicals used in the vineyards. Cannabis, not so much.

Does this mean that eventually marijuana fields will be hip places to host wedding extravaganzas?