FALLBROOK -- Deep in the green avocado groves, the winter quiet is shattered by the whine of chain saws. Workers wielding machetes slash leafy branches from the trees and spray-paint the tall stumps white to protect the bark from sunburn in the forced hibernation to come.
Here, in the heart of the nation's avocado industry, growers are beheading their avocado trees.
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The tree-cutting comes as residents in Los Angeles, San Diego and most other area cities are still getting 100 percent of the water they need, with most of it going for lawns and landscaping.
"People need to know that in Southern California, water is a precious resource. But they'd rather water their lawns and cut off the farmers," said Laura Blank, executive director of the Los Angeles County Farm Bureau.
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Bob Polito, 57, who grows oranges in Valley Center, near Fallbrook, plans to take down as many as 1,500 trees, many with unripened fruit still on them. He has not started the work.
"I think I'm waiting until the last minute," he said recently. "You have these trees you've been raising for 40 years, and now I'm going to lose both the crop and the trees."
Polito sells oranges, tangerines and lemons at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and other area markets, where many shoppers haven't heard of the 30 percent cutback.
That does not surprise him, as the water crunch is not being felt in the city, he said. "As long as they have enough water to put on their lawn and wash their dishes, they're happy."