Spring Rain, Quirky Climate Wipes Out Early Strawberry Crop in Monterey County – CBS San Francisco

WALNUT CREEK (KPIX) — Changing weather patterns are profoundly affecting those who grow our produce and one crop in particular has really taken it on the chin in recent weeks — organic strawberries.
Gathering around the JSM Organics booth at Walnut Creek’s farmers market Saturday, most customers had no idea what strawberry growers are going through.
“We don’t always appreciate the hard work,” said customer Angelica Davies. “I think we need to be more conscious of where our food is coming from.”
In this case, the food was coming from Watsonville in Monterey County. JSM Organic’s’ nine-acre strawberry field may be owned by Javier Zamora but he said, really, it’s Mother Nature who’s in charge.
“We’ve been experiencing different issues, weather related, that are not normal for us,” Zamora said.
The Watsonville area is prime strawberry country, with normal high temperatures in the mid 60s and cool nights to protect the fragile fruit. Yet,in the last 10 days, temperatures skyrocketed to 90 degrees and then, two days later, dropped below 40. That was followed by three days of rain. Any one of those things is bad for strawberries but, put together, it was a disaster.
“We were fully loaded with strawberries and Mother Nature threw us a curve ball. They all went bad,” Zamora said. “That specific week, we lost 95 percent of them. Probably, really closer to 100 percent.”
The plants have recovered and are putting out new fruit but the economic damage is done. Small growers like Zamora rely on the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day so having to send what little he could salvage off to the jam factory means he may end up with nothing to show for his entire year’s work.
“People sometimes are in denial about whether the weather patterns are changing. We farmers experience it,” he said. “We are not just talking about it. We feel it.”
Zamora said weather changes are just one of the obstacles farmers face. Water shortages, high transportation costs, even psychological burnout are posing a real threat to food production in this country. Some may say, ‘they’re only strawberries, we can live without that’ but Zamora thinks it’s a warning to us all. Climate change may be the hard lesson that finally stops us from taking our food for granted.
“This is a world event that things are changing … pay attention!” he said. “Weather changes will make food more difficult to get ahold of and more expensive, absolutely! There’s no question about that.”