We write as we are in the middle of grape harvest, one of our most bountiful ever due to abundant winter rains. For nearly three decades Condor’s Hope has exemplified sustainable agriculture in our family vineyard. We use traditional dry-farming practices so that in a normal rainfall year we don’t need to irrigate our grapes and olives at all. We use less than five percent of the water required by a conventional vineyard in extreme drought years.
Yet, we write to you now about the very serious groundwater situation in our Valley and want to share two ways you can support our efforts to stop depleting the groundwater in the Cuyama Valley. (1) the two largest carrot growers in the world, Grimmway and Bolthouse Corporations, are the biggest pumpers in the Cuyama Valley and have created a serious overdraft in the central part of our Basin. The residents of the Valley have launched a carrot boycott against these corporations and we want you to visit the website to find out more and sign the petition. (2)Harvard University’s endowment fund has converted historic non-irrigated rangeland into a water-intensive vineyard on the western end and now wants to increase the amount they pump.
Robbie & Steve
Our commitment to ecological farming methods includes defending our critically overdrafted groundwater basin from greedy corporations. This is a duty we have never taken lightly and now it is a charge we urge you to join us in.
Background: Why is water contentious in Cuyama?
Our small, rural valley in northeastern Santa Barbara County is completely dependent on groundwater for our survival. We have no other source of water for our drinking water, for our homes, for our schools, for our farms. The Cuyama Valley is one of 21 critically overdrafted basins in California. For too long more water has been pumped out of the ground than nature puts back. The State of California says we must bring our basin into sustainability by 2040. This means we cannot pump out more than gets replenished by rainfall. We will need to reduce the pumping in our Valley by 60%.
Despite this fact, three giants are depleting our limited groundwater and competing for water rights – Grimmway Farms and Bolthouse Farms (the world’s largest carrot growers) and Harvard Management Corporation (Harvard University’s investment arm, the largest endowment of any university in the world, valued at $50 billion).
Read more about Sustainable Groundwater Use in Cuyama here.
Harvard’s Water Grab
In 2012, Harvard’s investment arm purchased 10,000 acres of non-irrigated dry range land that had been used for cattle grazing. Harvard immediately began planting water intensive grapes, drilled more than 15 deep wells, and has asked Santa Barbara County to approve 3 mega reservoirs that will hold a total of 135 acre-feet of groundwater (that’s over 43 million gallons of water pumped out of our depleted water basin). These reservoirs would cover a total of 15 acres of land and would be filled with enough groundwater to meet the needs of over 2,000 four person households for one year. We at Condor’s Hope, with support from the Cuyama community, have stood up to Harvard three times – paying lawyers to help us go before Santa Barbara County’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to stop this water guzzling project. And three times we have succeeded! Yet, Harvard persists in their narrative that the reservoirs are needed for frost protection, despite the fact that they already successfully use wind turbines for this need.
To build the reservoirs, Harvard needs permits from Santa Barbara County. The people who live in the Cuyama Valley have stood up and said ‘NO!’ and three separate times Santa Barbara County decision makers have voted in our favor. Now Harvard has paid its consultants and lawyers to appeal this decision one more time. The hearing before the Board of Supervisors is on October 10th.
We are overjoyed to announce that we met our goal and raised $25,000 to continue our fight against their appeal to build massive water-wasting reservoirs at their vineyard, located right by Condor’s Hope. We are so grateful to those contributed to this goal, and will be using these funds to help cover our legal fees to fight this Goliath from stealing our groundwater.
With gratitude and continued hope for the future of our Cuyama Valley.
Carrot Corporations have created Our Overdraft
Grimmway Farms and Bolthouse Farms, the world’s largest carrot growers, have been over pumping in the Cuyama Valley for years. In 2022, they pumped 28,500 acre-feet of water; enough water to supply three cities the size of Santa Barbara with a year’s worth of water. Now, these private equity owned farms are essentially suing every homeowner, business, small-scale farmer, rancher – even our schools – for rights to the groundwater we all share and depend on. To find out more about this and to support our Carrot Boycott please visit: https://www.standwithcuyama.com/.
For more information on this issue please read this article from the Santa Barbara Independent.
To learn more about the groundwater crisis in America, read this article from The New York Times.
To learn more about the Carrot Boycott, read this article from the LA Times.