Spring rain, peculiar weather ends Monterey County’s early strawberry harvest – CBS San Francisco

WALNUT CREEK (KPIX) – Changing weather patterns are deeply affecting those who grow our produce and one crop in particular has really taken a hit in recent weeks – organic strawberries.

Gathered around the JSM Organics booth at the Walnut Creek Farmers Market on Saturday, most shoppers had no idea what strawberry growers are going through.

“We don’t always appreciate hard work,” said client Angelica Davies. “I think we need to be more aware of where our food comes from.”

In this case, the food came from Watsonville, Monterey County. JSM Organic’s nine-acre strawberry field may be owned by Javier Zamora, but he said it’s actually Mother Nature who’s in charge.

“We are facing different problems related to the weather that are not normal for us,” Zamora said.

The Watsonville area is a prime strawberry region, with normal high temperatures in the mid-60s and cool nights to protect the fragile fruit. However, in the last 10 days, temperatures soared to 90 degrees and two days later they dropped below 40. Three days of rain followed. Any of these things are bad for strawberries, but together they were a disaster.

“We were full of strawberries and Mother Nature threw us a curveball. They all went wrong,” Zamora said. “That particular week, we lost 95% of them. Probably much closer to 100 percent.”

The plants have recovered and are producing new fruit, but the economic damage is done. Small producers like Zamora rely on the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, so having to send what little he’s managed to save to the jam factory means he could end up with nothing to show for his year’s work.

“People sometimes deny whether weather patterns are changing. We farmers experience this,” he said. “We’re not just talking about it. We feel it.”

Zamora said climate change is just one of the obstacles that farmers face. Water scarcity, high transport costs and even psychological exhaustion pose a real threat to food production in this country. Some might say, ‘it’s just strawberries, we can live without it’, but Zamora thinks it’s a warning for all of us. Climate change could be the hard lesson that finally stops us from taking our food for granted.

“This is a world event where things are changing… pay attention!” he said. “Climate change will make food harder to come by and more expensive for sure! There is no doubt about it.”

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