Farmers Worried About California Drought

Farmers Worried About California Drought
Posted January 10, 2014

This year has been an extremely dry one. Not since 1977 have there been such arid winter conditions and this one's going in the record books. Reservoirs are alarmingly low, farmers have had to cut back on water usage, ranchers are selling off cattle, communities have instigated water rationing, and the State of California is considering a statewide water emergency.

So how does that affect your local farmers' market food purchases? Our market managers have been asking farmers how the lack of rain has been affecting their business/crops/products and some of the replies are: “I am paying A LOT more for water/ irrigation than I ever had at this time of year,” “If things stay the same, next year its going to be really bad,” “I'm not optimistic about spring pasturage.”

Joe Stabile-Hillview Farm, Watsonville, CA
Joe has been farming for 35 years and he told us last week that this is the worst droughts he has experienced thus far.  Normally Joe waters his apple trees 5-6 times a season but this past season Joe had to water 13 times!  This doubled his water bill for the year.

Patty- Great Valley Poultry, Manteca, Ca
When asked how the drought has affected her farm Patty said that there is no grass for their pastured chickens to graze.  They still rotate their pastured chickens around in the hope that the chickens will find something to eat.  Great Valley Poultry is having to supplement their pastured hens with alfalfa which is expensive.

Adriana- Tomatero Organic Farm, Aptos, Ca
Adriana said that they had to install sprinklers over their strawberry plants to mimic naturally rainfall since there has been no rain.

Anthony and Rachel- Casa Rosa Farms, Madera, Ca
Email sent to market managers: “Because of the drought we are experiencing, lamb supplies are going to be very low until the fall 2014. We have about 10-12 that will go to butcher this month and that will need to supply all our markets. At this point, we are not optimistic about spring pasturage, other than what we already have in irrigation. So most of our lambs from this fall/winter lamb cycle will reach butcher age September/October 2014, leaving a gap from June-October where we will likely have only small amounts of lamb available. Beef supplies are not affected yet, but 2015 will likely be a very rocky year for us and most small meat producers in California if we do not get rain this spring.”

Don't be surprised if you see the cost of produce  and other products a bit higher in price than last year. The costs of cultivation and production because of the water shortage are the reason. Your farmers are doing their best to sustain their farms and themselves during the drought, so talk to them about their situation and support them in their efforts to continue to bring you the best fruits and vegetables they can.

And do a rain dance or two!

For more information on how you can conserve water visit Save Our Water for tips.

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