| Emmett Harder | 2008 Trips

2008 Trip Report - Hector Mine and Cadiz Farms

Hector/Cadiz Trip

By Emmett Harder

Its a great joy to listen to people that know what they are talking about. And that was the case for  this trip. As an author and desert historian I know that we need to go to the primary source. Well our Desert Explorers adventure on Saturday the 9th of February was that kind of  treasure. Dave Given lead us to the Hector mine and introduced the Product Control Manager Joyce E. Pulliam-Fitzgerald of that mine. She presented a marvelous education about a most unique mine, unique in the world. And without hesitation answered all questions in an understandable way. We were astounded to find such a huge and successful operation so close to home.

 

 

My part of that adventure trip turned out to be a great opportunity to meet with the vice president/geologist, Mark A. Liggett and the farm manager, Lesley Thornburg, who were both founders of the enormous Cadiz miracle farm in the middle of the most barren desert south of the forgotten loop of Old route 66.

We left the Hector mine in a multi-car caravan and headed east on highway 40 and then we turned off onto Old route 66 at Ludlow..With the caravan crowding me (they were looking forward to a barbecue lunch) we made a short pit stop at Amboy. I was surprised to find the gas station is open there now and they have refreshments and a few tees and other items for sale also.

On we went, east to the site of the dilapidated remnants of a store where modern day Cadiz used to be. There we turned south onto a  road through the virgin stretch of desert boasting millions of well spaced  ancient creosote bushes, and not much else. Three miles later we passed a fine large bunkhouse that the farm uses for workers when they are harvesting. A short distant later we passed the farms neat and sparkling clean farm workers company trailer park. Then at the site of the old town of Cadiz (nothing there but a sign and some piles of brush now) we turned left and crossed the main line railroad. However after following the farm road a short ways our caravan abruptly halted. Our way was blocked by a train that was parked on a siding there. The farm manager had just called me on the cell phone and warned me. She said to wait there and she would see what she could do, maybe to get them to split the parked empty train. As we gathered at the site of  the large impending machine there were many suggestions offered (engineers and professors and a variety of talent in abundance) as to how we could make our way through the big iron monster (remember there was the promise of the barbecue). Fortunately word came on our CBs from the tail end of the caravan that the farm manager had sent a truck around the train and asked our President, Allan Wicker, to follow him. We all did a 180 and drove to another track crossing way on the far south side of  the farm.

This turned out to be an advantage as we caravanned thru field after field of luxuriant agriculture, and passing some of the seven 1000 gallon a minute wells they have on this farm (Dont worry, 20 years farming and the water table at this aquifer has not changed). When we arrived at the northern end field office (a short distance from the inconsiderate train at the first crossing) we were pleasantly surprised by the staff that were all prepared to host our party. Large bowls of freshly made guacamole, salsa, chips and a large cooler with a variety of soft drinks awaited us. And tables covered with white tablecloths to sit at under the veranda

Now I was a bit concerned with the train delay and how it would affect our visit as we had not anticipated interrupting the farm operations for much more than an hour or so. But they were glad to see us and were in no hurry.


 

And the fun began. They divided us into two  groups, One to tour the farm with Lesley the manager and another to meet with  the Vice-president and Geologist/Hydrologist, one of the founders of the Cadiz  corporation, in their richly appointed conference room. Here was another  miracle, Mark A. Liggett, a geologist who could talk to regular people, as well  as professors, in a language they could comprehend. He proceeded with a power  point presentation that was fantastic. Also he was not frazzled by the many  questions we interrupted him with, he was anxious to answer succinctly anything  we could throw at him.

And answer he did. This miracle farm in the  middle of nowhere is hovering over one of the largest natural underground water  supplies in the state. Water from the shrouding mountains that form a unique  basin collects here; not water from the overtaxed Colorado River. And another  fantastic feature is that there is room in this underground lake (aquifer) to  store water enough to protect Los Angeles from the impending drought. The  Metropolitan Water agency has not accepted that notion yet (political) even  though Federal Agencies  and many Universities have spent a fortune to test and  prove this.

This potential storage area is over twice as  large as the Metropolitan Water Districts  Diamond Reservoir that has been built near Hemet, CA. It was also demonstrated  to us that this storage would not impact the desert environment that exists now  in this area.

When I toured the farm with the second group I  was amazed see the thousands and thousands of acres of successful grapes and  lemons (2 kinds) that Cadiz is growing here. Some of the grapes are used for  raisins, some for table grapes and some are for wine. When we stood in the grape  vineyards they  seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon. In 1996 this was the  largest agriculture  ( much larger today) operation in California. In 1997 they  generated over $100 million in revenues.

 Every plant in this miracle farm is efficiently  drip irrigated as well.

We were then fed a scrumptious barbecue dinner  (beef, chicken, beans, rice and tortillas)  that was hosted by Lesley and her  group and would have fed twice as many people.  It was thoroughly enjoyed by  all. As we were escorted away from the farm (the train had been moved out of our  way), Lesley took us to one of their test well ponds where they had been pumping  1000 gallons a minute  all day and the water returned into the soil so fast that  there was not enough in the pond to wade in it.

I was told by many of the Desert Explorers that  this trip was one of the nicest they had attended.

Also, when I later talked with Lesley she paid  the Explorers a nice compliment. She told me that our group asked more  interesting and intelligent questions than she had ever been asked before  during  her twenty years of tours and that she had learned a lot from us.

Thanks, Hector Mine and Cadiz Corporation, for a  really great day. 


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