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California Farmers Facing Drought Are Choosing Empty Fields

In some areas of California it’s so dry that farmers aren’t even bothering to plant crops this season.

Growers north of San Francisco have begun pulling out of local farmers markets and produce-box programs.

County Line Harvest, which farms more than 30 acres in Petaluma, California, doesn’t have enough water to grow all the peppers, lettuces and other produce that normally go into its subscription boxes, according to a video posted to its Instagram page. Nearby farms are saying the same, underscoring the impact of the extended dry spell.

The announcements are concerning because California grows a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts.

“Due to severe drought, for the first time in 21 years, we will not be able to grow this summer in Petaluma,” County Line said in its post.

Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc. in Kansas, said California “missed the rainy season” and is not going to be seeing much moisture over the next several months.

A La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific pushed winter storms north and away from the state, leaving it with less moisture than usual. As California gets the majority of its water from winter storms, little relief is expected before October.

That has left growers like Shao Shan Farm in a bind. The business is unable to offer its selection of Asian vegetables and Bay Area-staples grown at its Bolinas location. Nearby, Green Valley Community Farm is also nixing boxes and inviting customers to pick strawberries, herbs and flowers instead.

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