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This is a busy time of year for California produce growers. Here at Hitchcock Farms, we always look forward to spring as we move operations back up from the desert to the Central Coast of California. However, this season presents us with unique challenges. Our efforts are directed at overcoming field conditions that we haven’t seen in California since the 1990s.
Our beautiful climate usually makes this part of the state ideal for growing premium produce, but it hasn’t been very cooperative over the last several months. It’s been hard on our plantings, and that directly impacts our ability to supply romaine lettuce hearts to produce buyers throughout the state and across the country.
Our Transition Between Valleys
As we began to expand our operations years ago, we wanted to do our best to sustain the fields that produced everything from hearts of romaine and baby iceberg lettuce to broccoli and artichokes. The weather played a major role in shaping our decisions, and it still does.
Today, we plant and harvest here in the Salinas Valley from January through the first of December. With the onset of our mild California winters, we shift operations to the southwest desert region. Our produce thrives in the warmer temperatures, and our fields stay in production all the way through early spring.
Things are very different this season from the Salinas Valley down through Brawley and Yuma. Unprecedented weather conditions have affected our plantings in Salinas and our harvesting schedules in the desert.
Dealing With Record Rainfall
We’ve faced cycles of good and bad weather since we planted our first fields generation ago. As difficult as it is to deal with drought, we manage with irrigation strategies and hearty seed stock. Too much rain is very hard on our premium produce, and we’ve seen plenty of the wet stuff since this past December.
Meteorologists believe our excess rainfall was caused by an unusual contrast in ocean water temperatures that affected the jet stream over California. A total 33 days of rain broke the state’s extended drought in December, but it also caused problems in our fields. January and February drenched Salinas with more than 15 inches of rain.
Even our northern areas were hard hit soaking up 27 inches during that same stretch. Heavy rain takes a toll on our planting. Hearts of romaine are especially vulnerable to this kind of weather, so we’ve faced weeks that only allowed planting a few acres and weeks when we weren’t able to plant anything at all.
Weathering the Challenges
We anticipate supply issues over the next two months, but we want you to know we’re doing all we can to bring you our best. Our teams are ready to start the annual transition back here to the Salinas Valley as things wind down in the desert. We expect to begin loading out of Salinas mid-April.
We ask for your patience as we adjust to circumstances beyond our control. This isn’t the first time our operations have weathered big challenges, and we know it won’t be the last. Our teams always come through. We will continue updating you all along the way.
We Appreciate Your Support
You have our commitment to always keeping you informed even if the news isn’t as good as we’d like. We join other growers and produce suppliers across California in hoping for a quick return to the kind of weather that keeps fields green and customers happy.
If you have any questions, please feel free to give our sales staff a call at 831-424-4864. Our teams here at Hitchcock Farms are working very hard through this difficult time, and we thank you for your support.