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Flooding inundates Salinas, California — the ‘Salad Bowl of the World’


The Salinas River is flooding, and as residents around Salinas, California, are being faced with increased challenges related to road closures and preserving their homes. Additionally, farmers in this area — known as the “Salad Bowl of the World” — are suffering the consequences of Mother Nature with delayed planting and flooded fields.

Just last month, 80 percent of the state was listed as in a “severe drought” or worse after an incredibly dry year in the Southwest and adjacent regions. Now, the tables have turned, with some of the heaviest-hitting storms in years helping to replenish reservoirs, pack mountains, and fuel massive floods.

And, while the state certainly needs all the moisture it can get, this flooding may impact future harvests for farmers in the Salinas and Santa Maria Valleys. According to reports, some growers were able to plant before the rain, but planting came to a halt once rains began falling these past two weeks.

With more rain in the forecast, April’s lettuce harvests will likely be impacted. 

Salinas, California, produces roughly 70 percent of the U.S. lettuce crop. According to the University of California, Davis, the major production areas for leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa) in California are the Central Coast (Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and San Luis Obispo Counties), the southern coast (Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties), the Central Valley (Fresno, Kings, and Kern Counties), and the southern deserts (Imperial and Riverside Counties). Production is highest in Monterey County, which is where Salinas is. Planting to harvest takes 65 to 80 days for midsummer plantings and as long as 130 days for late-fall and winter plantings.

Posts on social media are already saying things like, “The Salinas River is Flooding. America, get ready for $10 a head for lettuce.”

And while harvests are being slowed as rains hit across the state, Mark Shaw, vice present of operations for produce foodservice company Markon, has noted that Arizona’s and California’s desert growing districts are still proceeding daily with harvests.

In the meantime, citrus grower Derek Vaughn of Johnston Farms in Edison, California, has reported that they need the rain. But, the moisture has slowed picking, leaving gaps in harvests, and limiting picking to just the outskirts of their orchards. Strawberries and other crops are also being affected by the moisture. Moisture is likely to provide additional challenges for strawberry producers with bruising, pin rot, and decreased shelf life.

Not to mention tractors stuck in the mud.

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