By now you’ve probably heard the term “atmospheric river” referring to January’s record breaking storms. Meteorologists describe this phenomenon as a river 1,000 miles long and over 100 miles wide – the size of the Amazon River – flowing high overhead and dumping massive amounts of water on California. Great news for the drought, but not so great for farmers trying to harvest and plan for next season.
We checked in with Susan Simitz of Earl’s Organic Produce to get a national distributor’s perspective on how the farmers are keeping California – and the entire United States – fed during weather like this (via earlsorganics.com):
“Heavy rain in California (during the atmospheric river storm) completely shut down all [northern California] growing regions, tightening the supply of many fruits and vegetables. The rain not only makes it difficult for workers and tractors to get out on the muddy ground to harvest, but it can delay the planting of the next crop. We could see a shortage of some items down the road when they would have been ready to harvest.
The most recent storm has halted most of the citrus harvesting in the three main growing regions except for in small sporadic amounts. There may be some small pockets that are dry enough to pick and pack but for the most part we don’t expect volume to be back to normal until the end of next week. Any fruit being picked is a tedious process because of the difficulty of bringing a ladder into a muddy orchard.
Once it rains, the fruit needs a few days to dry before they can begin picking again. If they are picked and packed before they are dry they will have a higher incidence of developing the post-harvest disease called clear rot. Although this rain will be very beneficial in the long term it is disrupting supply in the short term. The citrus varieties affected include navels, all mandarins, blood oranges, lemons, cara cara’s, minneola’s and grapefruits.”