California has been receiving a tremendous amount of rain recently, with news reports of flooding in some areas. Although in general, producers in California are a little quieter right now than at other times of the year, there is still a lot of produce being grown throughout the state. Rainfall was heaviest along the coast north of Los Angeles, however the majority of the state has received significant amounts of rainfall.
For many growers, it's the difficulties in harvesting that is having the most impact. Wet fields result in machinery getting stuck and soil on produce.
"We have certainly had a decent amount of rain," said Russ Widerburg of Boskovich Farms. "In the last two weeks, we estimate about five inches of rain has fallen depending on what location you are. This figure is for the plains area where a lot of produce is currently being grown. It has not come down all at once but rather been spread out and as such, we are not used to having so much consistent rain. The ground is saturated which has caused some difficulties with harvesting, including having to postpone harvest occasionally. It's been sporadic with various issues such as tractor trailers getting stuck in the fields."
Planting also affected
In the same way that harvesting has been delayed, the rain has also caused some missed plantings which may affect supplies in spring. "There will probably be a period of two to three weeks where growers won't be able to plant while the ground remains too wet," Widerburg observed. "These planting gaps might cause a problem two to three months down the line. We're talking about bunched items, such as cilantro, spinach, parsley and celery, as well as cabbages, including Napa cabbage, and also bok choy."
Kevin Jordan of Adam Bros. Produce Sales in Santa Maria, said they haven't had as much rain as other regions, although it still caused some impact, mainly with planting. "We haven't had as much rain in Santa Maria but it has had some impact through missed plantings," he said. "In this area, we grow broccoli and cauliflower mainly. For the most part, the rain has had minimal impact for us."
Positive in the long term
Most growers agree that the long term effects of the rainfall will be positive for the state after a lengthy dry spell. The rain and associated mountain snow is expected to finally replenish dams and aquifers. "For the short term, there are delays, but in the long term, the rain will have a positive impact," noted Widerburg. "The rain is very much needed as California has been dealing with drought conditions for a while."
Avocado growers are also seeing the positives. The avocado crop is largely unaffected, but the rain is very much welcome. "Despite some minor harvest delays, the rain has been a plus for us," explained Patrick Lucy of Del Rey Avocado. "It hasn't been too windy either which means the fruit isn't blowing off the trees. The amount of rain we've had allows farmers to turn off their sprinkler systems for the next few weeks."
The series of storms that have delivered the relentless rain are expected to have eased by Friday morning.