Northern California farms reeling from storm damage

On Monday afternoon, Joe Schirmer canceled deliveries to restaurants and farmers markets from his popular farm, Dirty Girl Produce, bracing for the latest atmospheric river to hit Northern California. He nervously monitored a dry creek on one of his four Watsonville properties. During intense storms earlier this year, it had already filled with water and jumped over the bank.

On Tuesday, it was exactly as Schirmer feared. Heavy rain and wind hit the region. The stream turned into a rushing river. It jumped into the bed in a new location, ate into rows of leeks and stuck an 8-foot gap in what is usually a path for the farm’s tractors. The damage will likely mean the loss of more than half an acre of land that can no longer be farmed, Schirmer said.

“It’s kind of irreparable,” he said. “I can’t imagine how we’re going to fix it.”

Many Northern California farms were hit hard by this week’s rainfall, which soaked crops and left flooded fields in its wake. The full extent of the damage remains to be seen, but it could have lasting effects on the farms that Bay Area eateries and restaurants depend on for fresh fruits and vegetables.

In Monterey County, for example, where the Pajaro River broke and caused widespread destruction this week, the flooding was even worse than earlier this year, according to the Monterey County Farm Bureau, which is still trying to explain the fallout. In January, flooding flooded more than 15,000 acres of farmland in Monterey County with more than $330 million in damage, according to the group, which works with farmers.

See also  Trees fall across greater Bay Area amid strong winds

“Other than saying this week’s flood damage is more extensive than January’s, we currently have no estimates of acres or economic damage,” Monterey County Farm Bureau Director Norm Groot wrote in an email. “And there will be more rain next week.”

Dirty Girl Produce employees rush to harvest as many leeks as they can before storm damage causes further erosion at the Watsonville farm.

Dirty Girl Produce employees rush to harvest as many leeks as they can before storm damage causes further erosion at the Watsonville farm.

Brontë Wittpenn/The Chronicle

The storms may also delay the arrival of some farms’ long-awaited seasonal produce, such as strawberries and tomatoes.

On Wednesday, Poli Yerena of Watsonville’s Yerena Farms used a pump to drain water from her berry fields and hoped for the best. Usually at this time of year, workers pick strawberries there. But the rain means the farm is about a month behind schedule, and Yerena won’t know the full state of the strawberries until the fields dry out more. He hopes to have strawberries to bring to Bay Area farmers markets in about two weeks, but he’s not sure.

“But the weather is (still) changing,” he said. “I hope everything will be fine. Right now we have no income yet. It’s been a long season for us.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *