This year has been an extremely dry one. Not since 1977 have there been such arid winter conditions and this one's going in the record books.
Reservoirs are alarmingly low, farmers have had to cut back on water usage, ranchers are selling off cattle, communities have water rationing, and Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a statewide water emergency.
So how does that affect your local farmers market food purchases? Our market managers have been asking farmers how the lack of rain has been affecting their business, crops and products, and some of the replies are:
"I am paying A LOT more for water and irrigation than I ever had at this time of year.
"If things stay the same, next year it's going to be really bad."
"I'm not optimistic about spring pasturage."
"Beef supplies are not affected yet, but 2015 will likely be a very rocky year for us and most small meat producers in California if we do not get rain this spring."
Don't be surprised if you see the cost of produce and other products a bit higher in price than last year. The costs of cultivation and production because of the water shortage are the reason.
Your farmers are doing their best to sustain their farms and themselves during the drought, so talk to them about their situation and support them in their efforts to continue to bring you the best fruits and vegetables they can.
For information on water conservation, visit Save Our Water for tips.
Farmers markets are open rain or shine.
Visit www.pcfma.com or call 800-949-FARM (800-949-3276).
The Time is Ripe is a monthly column written by Debra Morris, promotions coordinator for the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Market manager Matt Sylvester contributed to this column.