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Mother Nature gifts an early present


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Standing water, from recent rain puddles, settles along orchards in Madera County.

 

Christmas came a little early for Central Valley farmers with two storms that brought more than an inch of rain each and many more feet of snow to the mountain areas last week.


For local farmers in the almond and grape industry, the two storms came at a perfect time for farmers.


“Most of the crops in Madera County are dormant,” said Jay Mahil, president of Creekside Farming. “There’s no damage to the crops. These are all pleasantries. Our commodities are getting irrigated by Mother Nature. The entire Central Valley is smiling.”


“We are always looking forward to rain,” said Nick Davis, former Madera County Farm Bureau President who helps run his family ranch, Davis Vineyards. “This time, we are preparing for winter pruning. The storm helps us knock off the leaves in preparation for pruning. The frost leading up to Thanksgiving helped us put the vines to bed. The rain and wind helped knock the leaves off. It helps solidify our herbicide we applied several weeks ago.”


The farmers got a little taste of the winter storm season with a couple of days in September, but this storm came just in time for farmers.


“It’s great news,” Mahil said. “The last rain storm was a little more than a month ago. It’s been dry ever since. As a grower of many crops, he knows the crops are needing water pretty soon. It’s been cold and dry. We were looking at starting our wells up and irrigating. This was a great storm that came through. We’ll take it. We hope the second round will give us what they’re telling us it’s supposed to give us.


“September’s rain was the season opener for us. We hadn’t had much rain prior to that. It was embraced by the agriculture community. Our crops have been harvested and are dormant. The growers are wanting these storms to be coming in. The most important thing is we’re getting snow in the mountains, which is our savings account. Sometimes we get rain only, but we’re getting rain and snow. It’s good news for us.”


“For almond and wine grape production, the storm was great. This is a blessing, as it always is,” Davis said.


The most important result of the storm, according to Mahil, was it increased the snowpack in the mountains.


“We got the great 1-2 punch,” he said. “We got liquid and we got the frozen version. It’s good because we need it. I hope it keeps coming. We really need it. It’s been dry. We are starting to see dust so this is very welcome.”


Mahil said his company was about a week away from having to turn his pumps on to start irrigating his crops. The week worth of storms helped alleviate the stress on the Central Valley’s aquifers.


“If this wouldn’t have come through until next week, we would have had to start the wells up and pump water out of the ground, which has been highly impacted,” Mahil said. “We would have impacted it even more just to irrigate crops and keep moisture in the ground. We’ve had a lot of frost. When soils are depleted and dry, the frost events can do damaging effects to trees and vines. This moisture is going to help out and alleviate the stress we would have put on the aquifer by turning our wells on.”


September’s rain allowed the farmers to hold off turning on their wells for about a month. Mahil said these two storms will keep them from pumping water so early.


“The last rain we got, we got about two inches,” Mahil said. “We haven’t irrigated since then. The fill light was on and we had to fill up the soil again. This should give us another good month before stuff looks dry on the field. Hopefully we won’t have to wait that long until the next storm comes through.”


With rain in the forecast for the weekend, Mahil is looking for as much precipitation as Mother Nature can give farmers.


“Every little bit of rainfall we get helps the aquifers out,” he said. “We’re not going to change it overnight. What really helps is the snowfall in the Sierras. That will help our underground aquifer.”


While the storm halted any work in the fields, Davis is more than happy to do some work in the shop, but is also looking forward to burn days.


“We try to find things for the guys to do when we have small amounts of rain,” Davis said. “When we have as much rain as we just had, it gets the ground wet enough to where we can’t do field work. So we continue shop operations. We slow down everywhere else. We are also developing properties. We are holding our breath for a burn day. We have a vineyard that is all piled up. We are awaiting permission to burn. Hopefully with the rain, we will get permission to burn in preparation for the next storm. This sets us up for the rest of the winter.”

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