Rain keeps farmers happy
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Almond trees stand in a large lake created by the latest round of storms. Madera and the Central Valley will be seeing more rain in the future, but farmers are loving the water.
With more rain falling Monday, Madera County farmers are rejoicing because of the moisture in the air.
Before Monday’s storm, Madera received about an inch of rain since the beginning of the year and 4.6 inches of rain since October 1, according to the National Weather Service.
The normal total for that period is almost three inches of rain.
“I’m happy with the water,” said Nick Davis of Davis Vineyards and past Madera County Farm Bureau Board President. “If you’re farming citrus and you’re harvesting, you’re not happy. Generally speaking, the farming community is happy.”
Despite the amount of water dropped from the rain, there are some negatives, that includes fallen trees and getting the crops prepared for the season.
“We’re challenged to get into the field with dormant sprays with our almonds and mummy shaking,” Davis said. “This wet weather has interrupted some of our activities that need to be done and will likely be prolonged. It pushes harvest back. How long, I don’t know. It depends on what kind of soil you have. If you have sandy soil, you can get in there the next day. If you have clay or heavy soil, it’s going to be a week.”
Another benefit to the recent storms other than water is that it allowed farmers to do some much needed burning, sort of.
“The State of California regulates ag burning,” Davis said. “They only give farmers permission to burn when weather conditions allow burning to occur. I don’t know how it all works. The state says so many particulate matter can go into the atmosphere so we’re going to allow this many farmers to burn this many acres.
“We have 80 acres of vineyards that we’re trying to burn. We were only able to burn 20 acres, another time 8 acres, another 18 acres and the last time nine acres. We had four different burns and still have 25 acres to burn. We’ve had an atmospheric river with rain. That’s a beef I have with the state of California. They don’t care about farmers.”
One of the negatives about the storm is that it hasn’t dropped a lot of snow nor caused the snow line to drop. However, farmers are still happy about the amount of rain the state is getting.
“We were hoping the snow line was lower,” Davis said. “We’ve had warmer systems come in that dumped a lot of moisture at higher altitudes. We were hoping the snow line would drop.”
Another benefit from the past storms is the amount of water that has filled up the lakes and reservoirs. Hensley Lake released water and the Fresno River could be seen flowing through Madera.
“The latest in the community is the Madera Irrigation District will release water to its growers,” Davis said. “All of the MID members are trying to figure out how to take the water. This is exactly what the farmers were waiting for. To take this water that is going to be released and put it back into the water for groundwater recharge. Farmers don’t use water right now. We have an obligation to the farming community to put water into the ground in order to survive.”
Because there isn’t much snow associated with the storms, the lakes and reservoirs are filling up and the Bureau of Reclamation is releasing water to the irrigation districts.
“It’s flowing down to the lakes and filling them up,” Davis said. “As the lakes fill up, they need to provide capacity when snow melts. They will allow water to leave the lakes, and the Bureau of Reclamation is giving irrigation districts to distribute the water.
“This water is significantly interfering with winter activities. The huge upside is we have an opportunity to capitalize on these weather systems that can recharge our groundwater basin that will positively affected our farming community.”
Even though fallen trees may be an obstacle and the farmers can’t do some things they would be usually be doing this time of year, Davis said farmers should be happy with all the water they are getting.
“We don’t care about downed trees right now,” he said. “If that happens, it sucks. We can’t pull the trees out right now because it’s so wet. At the end of the day, all of that is eclipsed by water. Water is what is on every farmer’s mind. We should all be extremely happy and asking ourselves how we can do our part to put water back into the ground.”