Salinas replanting will be delayed for many weeks
Salinas growers are scrambling for alternatives to planting elsewhere to overcome dramatic January flooding, Brian Church, CEO of Church Bros. Farms, in Salinas told FreshFruitPortal.com.
“These growers have to get it somehow. I predict a gap in supplies this spring but the industry will do its best” to supply customers with springtime vegetables. Normally leafy greens harvest in Salinas starts about April 1. That harvest date requires a Jan. 1 planting. Salinas growers – with those in much of California’s Central Valley - received constant waves of torrential rainfall through the first two weeks of January. The Salinas River is overflowing.
Cole crops in the Salinas Valley are planted in November and December. Those plantings are lost. Church said two of his growers have 2,000 acres underwater. In all, 20,000 acres are flooded in the valley. He is unsure exactly how much of that total is cultivated. Some of that acreage will have to be disked if it was already planted with crops.
A Church Bros. Jan. 17 internal memo indicates that this January’s “loss of acres could create a gap in April and the months to come as there are new food safety rules in place that were nonexistent in 1995.” These rules indicate “you can’t plant fields that were affected by the flood waters for 60 days and the soil must be sufficiently dried out. After 30 days, we have to test the soil again before we can plant.”
The company indicates that the Salinas River level in 1995 reached 30 feet and the flood level was 23 feet. Brian Church notes that the Jan. 13, 2023, comparison photo, the river was measured at 24.6 feet and the damage was nowhere near what it was in 1995.
Church, who is 50 years old, says he can count on one hand the number of times Salinas has seen wintertime rain such as this. He shares a picture of the March 1995 flood, which was “an unmitigated disaster,” and much worse than what’s being experienced now. Still, now it’s “nasty and muddy.” Some growers were already shifting to plant in Yuma. That inherent danger is the potential crop-killing heat in April. If those fields can withstand heat through April 10-20 “they’ll still be better off than trying to plant using a pontoon boat in Salinas now.” Other growers are planting in Mexico to compensate for saturated Salinas fields.
On Jan. 17, Church reports Salinas had clear skies. But that was very recent news. “We had heavy rain last night.” Jan. 16 rain was so hard that walking from the office to a car was a drenching experience. The clear skies are to remain for a week.