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."

  • Joe Stabile -- Hillview Farm in Watsonville: Joe has been farming for 35 years and he told us that this is the worst drought he has experienced thus far. Normally, Joe waters his apple trees five to six times a season, but this past season Joe had to water 13 times. This doubled his water bill for the year.

  • Patty -- Great Valley Poultry in Manteca: When asked how the drought has affected her farm, Patty said that there is no grass for their pastured chickens to graze. They still rotate their pastured chickens around in the hope that the chickens will find something to eat. Great Valley Poultry is having to supplement their pastured hens with alfalfa, which is expensive.


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  • Adriana -- Tomatero Organic Farm in Aptos: Adriana said that they had to install sprinklers over their strawberry plants to mimic natural rainfall since there has been no rain.

  • 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.

    "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.

  • In Martinez, the Sunday market is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year-round, at Main and Estudillo streets. The Friday evening market, at Main and Estudillo streets, is closed for the season, and will return May 16-Sept. 12.

  • The Pleasant Hill farmers market will return from May 3-Nov. 15, on Crescent Drive at Monument Plaza.

    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 debramorris@pcfma.com. Market manager Matt Sylvester contributed to this column.