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38th Asparagus Festival kicks off in San Joaquin County

Asparagus Festival makes its return to San Joaquin County
Asparagus Festival makes its return to San Joaquin County 02:36

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY - The 38th annual San Joaquin County Asparagus Festival has officially kicked off.

Asparagus grown locally is becoming harder and harder to find, with much of what you buy in stores being shipped to California from elsewhere.

There used to be about 60,000 acres of land in the delta that was for asparagus farming, but now, there are only 500 acres of land with one farm that keeps this asparagus and local tradition alive.

It's the county's biggest event, filled with everything a festival needs, and every kind of asparagus you could need – from deep-fried to bacon-wrapped and even asparagus ice cream.

"What we want you to worry about, is how much asparagus you're going to eat," said Alan Sanchez.

Sanchez is the spokesperson with the Asparagus Festival. This whole festival is made possible because of locally grown asparagus in the delta which is now getting harder to keep around.

"Asparagus was abundant in this area, especially in the delta, which is the perfect conditions for that," he said. "Now going into the 38th year, we're looking at a situation where this festival keeps the asparagus here in California. If this festival does not go on, the farmers understand that it's just not profitable to keep it here."

That's because ever since 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, farmers had to compete with Mexico for profits, where labor south of the border is 96% cheaper than the United States.

So what used to be dozens of farmers, and tens of thousands of acres of asparagus farms, is now down to just one. Greg Paul Produce are partners with the last asparagus farmers left in the delta.

"Our hope is always to keep this festival running. Obviously, there is a point where cost can be overwhelming to put an event like this together," Sanchez said.

So does that put the festival in jeopardy in the future? According to Sanchez, as long as people keep going, spending their money and buying that locally grown asparagus, it doesn't.

"As long as we continue to get the support from the community, not only from the San Joaquin County area who keep coming out just for the deep-fried asparagus and to help out those local farmers," Sanchez said. "I think it's something we will keep around forever."

The festival had people from the Bay Area come out, and even a family from England, who came to the event just to try the deep-fried asparagus.

It's that kind of stuff that will keep this festival going. Last year, they had roughly 150,000 people throughout the entire weekend. With rain expected this weekend, the festival remains optimistic that they surpass last year's attendance.

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