California’s vegetable farms still digging out after flooding – San Francisco Chronicle

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Farms that fill Bay Area’s farmers’ markets and grocery stores with lettuce, kale, beets and carrots are still struggling to dig out from severe flooding during one of the wettest winters in years, with several more inches of rain expected this week. When storm after storm breached levees and flooded its fields outside Hollister (San Benito County) and other nearby locations in January and February, vegetable grower Happy Boy Farms lost an estimated $150,000 to $200,000 in crop sales, plus further losses on destroyed equipment and money spent on cleanup. “Right now is when the production shifts from Arizona and Cochella and Mexico and transitions on certain items up to the Salinas Valley,” said Brenda Haught, president of Creekside Organics in Bakersfield, which distributes to Bay Area grocery stores, restaurants and wholesalers. The soil in the area is particularly heavy, so it retains a lot of moisture, making it physically impossible to do planting, she said, whereas farmers farther south in the Central Valley are not facing the same problems. Just north of Salinas Valley, about 20 to 25 farms with fields in the low-lying area around Hollister and Pacheco Creek are applying to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for flood relief, including Happy Boy Farms. Flooding wiped out crops, carried away small equipment and destroyed a tractor and motors that run pumps for its wells in two fields. The farm has set up a Gofundme account that has raised over $18,000 of its $125,000 goal, some in the form of credit vouchers that customers can redeem for lettuce mix, bunched baby carrots and broccolini at its farmers’ markets starting in June, with a 10 percent bonus. The farm’s worst troubles began in January, when creek channels were blocked, causing a levee near Hollister to breech multiple times, which also forced some residents to evacuate. During the first levee breach, Hugo Castro of Castro Farms in Hollister lost 12 acres of organic broccoli that he couldn’t sell, partly because of food-safety issues from contamination with all the rainwater. When the levee breached again, the deluge created huge holes, buried sprinkler pipes and left behind debris in a field where he was about to start planting.

Source: California’s vegetable farms still digging out after flooding – San Francisco Chronicle

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