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 instigated water rationing, and Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a statewide water emergency.

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."

  • Joe Stabile -- Hillview Farm in Watsonville: Joe told us this is the worst drought he has experienced in 35 seasons. Normally, Joe waters his apple trees five to six times a season, but this past season Joe had to water 13 times, doubling his water bill.

  • Patty -- Great Valley Poultry in Manteca: Patty said that there is no grass for their pastured chickens to graze. They still rotate pastured chickens in the hope they will find something to eat and Great Valley supplementing with alfalfa, which is expensive.

  • Adriana -- Tomatero Organic Farm in Aptos: Adriana said sprinklers have been installed over strawberry plants to mimic missing natural rainfall.


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  • Anthony and Rachel -- Casa Rosa Farms in Madera: "Because of the drought we are experiencing, lamb supplies are going to be very low until the fall 2014. We have about 10-12 that will go to butcher this month and that will need to supply all our markets. At this point, we are not optimistic about spring pasturage, other than what we already have in irrigation. So most of our lambs from this fall/winter lamb cycle will reach butcher age in September/October 2014, leaving a gap from June-October where we will likely have only small amounts of lamb available.

    "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.

  • The downtown market is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays on Center Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

  • The North Berkeley market is 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays on Shattuck Avenue at Rose Street.

  • The South Berkeley market is 2 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Adeline and 63rd streets.