California Farmers Facing Drought Are Choosing Empty Fields

In some areas of California it’s so dry that farmers aren’t even bothering to plant crops this season.

Growers north of San Francisco have begun pulling out of local farmers markets and produce-box programs.

County Line Harvest, which farms more than 30 acres in Petaluma, California, doesn’t have enough water to grow all the peppers, lettuces and other produce that normally go into its subscription boxes, according to a video posted to its Instagram page. Nearby farms are saying the same, underscoring the impact of the extended dry spell.

California grows a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts. If dry weather hampers the produce powerhouse, that could add to the food inflation that’s already starting to grip the U.S. post-pandemic economy.

“Due to severe drought, for the first time in 21 years, we will not be able to grow this summer in Petaluma,” County Line said in its post.

Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc. in Kansas, said California “missed the rainy season” and is not going to be seeing much moisture over the next several months.

California Farmers Facing Drought Are Choosing Empty Fields

A La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific pushed winter storms north and away from the state, leaving it with less moisture than usual. As California gets the majority of its water from winter storms, little relief is expected before October.

That has left growers like Shao Shan Farm in a bind. The business is unable to offer its selection of Asian vegetables and Bay Area-staples grown at its Bolinas location, according to its website.

Nearby, Green Valley Community Farm has access to only about 5% of the water it usually relies on, according to owner David Plescia. He’s in the process of looking for new land with better water availability, and also has a permit in the works to grow cannabis to make up for the lost income. If it doesn’t come through, they’ll leave the fields empty.

“It’s part of our generation’s cross to bear, figuring out how to run small- or medium-scale farm businesses in this kind of atmosphere” of highly variable rainfall, Plescia said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.