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Floods Devastate Organic Farms

9a6ac09d-6184-4561-9497-edb7273f5922February 14, 2017 – Heavy rain, wind and flash flooding has severely damaged several organic farms in Hollister and is causing trouble for farmers throughout the Monterey Bay area.

Heirloom Organic Gardens, Catalán Family Farms and California Kurobuta—all located near Pacheco Creek—are among the hardest hit.

“There was water 1,000 feet wide covering our farm in January and then 800 feet wide again last week,” says Jack Kimmich of California Kurobuta—a pig farm profiled in the winter issue of EMB. Click here for story.

“About 70% of our fencing and 125 tons of feed and feed troughs were carried away by the floods,” he said of the first round in January. “The funny thing is lots of pigs went to high ground and slept right through it.”

But he and his wife ended up wading into the water to rescue a dozen piglets that could not withstand the swift current. “We took them into the house and washed them off and put them by the fireplace to warm up overnight,” he says.

Today Kimmich was busy shoring up his driveway with rock in hopes that it remains passable with the next wave of storms expected to get underway on Thursday.

He says his pigs are too stressed out by the weather to be taken to market and that without fencing they are wandering onto neighbor’s property. “One sow gave birth on the front doorstep of the house next door and now they can’t open the door,” he adds.

Flooding at Catalán Family Farm
Flooding at Catalán Family Farm

To help offset some of the losses, California Kurobuta has launched a flood sale on mushroom sausage (click here for more info or to make a donation) and Pig Wizard Jonathan Roberts has promised to host a fundraiser once the weather clears up.

Nearby, Heirloom Organic Gardens was also hard hit. Two of their spinach fields located near Pacheco Creek have been wiped out by the flooding, which left a six-foot deep gully meandering across the property.

“It’s a big mess,” says Juliette Brians, wife of farmer Grant Brians. “When the levee broke it was just devastating. Our property was really damaged.”

Brians estimates the lost produce was worth $40-60,000, since the fields were among their most productive, and says mud is preventing quick repairs: “It’s like sticky peanut butter, with every step you get taller and taller.”

A beautiful bouquet of radicchio from Live Earth Farm
A beautiful bouquet of radicchio from Live Earth Farm

“Since we don’t have access to that property where the levee is, we just have to wait it out,” she adds.

At Catalán Family Farm, owner María Inez Catalán told a reporter from Benito Link that she lost everything in the January flooding along Frazier Lake Rd.

Vegetables rotted under the floodwaters and she has had to pull out of the 20 weekly farmers markets she usually participates in, because there is nothing to sell. Read the full story by reporter Leslie David here…

Meantime in Santa Cruz County, Farm Bureau president Tom Broz—owner of Live Earth Farm—says there has been localized flooding of strawberry fields along the Pajaro River and near Pinto Lake, but that his farm has held up well.

“The creeks are more trouble than we anticipated and we had some damage from creeks around the border of our farm, but overall it’s been OK,” says Broz. “Except getting into the fields and being able to plant.”

“During the drought we were able to plant in January and February and almost forgot what rain was like,” he says.

Saturated fields mean delayed planting for almost all area farms, but vegetables already in the ground are loving the rain, resulting in the most succulent winter produce in many years.

About the author

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Deborah Luhrman is publisher and editor of Edible Monterey Bay. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.