As a series of storms including rain and snow move through California, growers and shippers are watching weather developments with a close eye.
“The further north in California you are, the more the forecast storm activity will affect growers. Heavy rains are forecast for northern and central California and this could directly impact the Santa Maria and Oxnard areas,” says Mark McBride of Coastline Family Farms in Salinas, CA. At this time of year, he adds, Santa Maria’s volume is greatly reduced compared to summer while Oxnard is in full production on celery and strawberries. The current desert forecast calls for rain showers starting Friday evening and continuing into Saturday.
In Oxnard, CA, Russ Widerburg of Boskovich Farms Inc. notes it normally doesn’t harvest on Sundays. “But with the anticipation of not being able to harvest at the end of the week, we are harvesting as much as possible before the heavy rains come,” says Widerburg. “We’ll attempt to continue harvesting as long as we can until weather does not permit us to continue. Looks like it could be a challenging end of the week.”
Boskovich Farms is currently harvesting as much as possible before the weather hits.
Preparing for wet weather
At J. Marchini Farms in Le Grand, CA, Marc Marchini says it’s preparing as it would normally and it’s harvesting and planting as much as it can before the weather hits. “Other than that, we will have to hunker down and let the storm pass and then get back to work,” he says.
And at Babé Farms, Inc. in Santa Maria, CA, Matt Hiltner notes that when rain is in the forecast, it takes advanced orders from its customers to allow its harvest team time to get ahead of demand. Then when the weather hits, Hiltner notes Babé’s field staff monitors the roadways and drainage systems to ensure proper functioning. “Additionally, our harvest managers monitor conditions and assess which fields are safe for harvest crews to enter and which need to be roped off until after the rain,” Hiltner says. “We are fortunate to be positioned on well-drained soil, thus allowing quick re-entry into the fields and lessening the impact of standing water.”
Babe Farms monitor conditions and assess fields for safety as it goes through wet weather.
Widerburg adds that it’s also careful to not damage fields or equipment while harvesting in wet conditions. “And if the safety of our labor force is at risk, we will curtail harvest until conditions change. And obviously commodities that are packed in dry, non-waxed cartons will have to be put on hold until dryer conditions prevail,” he says.
At the same time, communication is also key says McBride. “Our customers are busy people and may not be 100 percent in tune with the weather forecast here on the west coast. Informing them of the forecast helps them make decisions concerning their needs going into a potential production interruption, and can help keep the flow of product as consistent as possible,” he says.
Meanwhile, the wet weather is very much needed says Marchini. “They are talking about a pretty good soaking this week which we desperately need. We are 30 percent of normal for the year on rainfall,” he says. “I don’t foresee a huge impact other than the fact we need the rain which is huge. If we didn’t get this rain, we would be talking about another drought year.”