By late March, the incessant rain that pounded the Santa Maria region and most of California this winter seemed to be subsiding, but the effects of the storms will be felt for some time.
“We’re going to have some gaps this year,” said Henry Dill, special projects manager for Pacific International Marketing, Salinas, Calif., which grows some product in Santa Maria.
“Spring will be hard to figure out with any kind of consistency.”
The wet weather saturated the soil, preventing workers from planting crops for up to a week at a time, he said.
He expected gaps in availability of certain products to continue until mid-May.
Those gaps likely will have an impact on prices.
Pacific International Marketing grows about 40 items, including organic and conventional iceberg lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, leaf lettuce, spinach, cilantro, parsley, kale, green onions and, starting in July, Brussels sprouts.
The company has similar programs in Santa Maria and Salinas.
Cauliflower and broccoli “were really hurting” on the front end of the Santa Maria deal, he said.
“A lot of the plants didn’t really get the size they would normally get, so cauliflower might be a little creamy on the start,” he said. And some broccoli suffered water damage.
But after two weeks without rain, he said quality seemed to be getting better.
Main Street Produce Inc. in Santa Maria will lose about 50% of its spring broccoli crop because of the rain, said Paul Allen, sales director.
”There were a lot of fields that were too wet to plant,” he said.
Supplies of broccoli and all vegetables will be tight for all of April, he said, and markets will be high.
But conditions seemed to be improving in late March.
“The quality is getting better,” he said.
Babe Farms Inc. in Santa Maria also was recovering from the rain, said Ande Manos, marketing and business development manager.
The company had good supplies of purple, green, orange and white baby cauliflower, she said, as well as root vegetables, like watermelon radishes, which are a popular Easter item with their pink inner flesh.
Rain caused some damage to the delicate tops of some of the radishes, she said.
But she added that, despite a few brief gaps, the company is “recovering well” from the impact of the rain.
“We’re back on track, getting better volume and quality just in time for Easter,” Manos said.
Santa Maria-based Gold Coast Packing Inc. expected good quality on broccoli and cauliflower, said sales manager Monica Cordero.
“However, with the planting gaps we experienced during the rainy season, we are lighter than usual,” she said.
She expected the company, which specializes in processed items for foodservice, to be back up to full volume by the end of May or early June.
Cordero did not anticipate any gaps in supplies of kale, spinach or cilantro.
Since Better Produce in Santa Maria won’t start its summer squash until mid-May, salesman Sal Barajas did not expect any problems because of the winter rains.
The same was true of the dozen varieties of chili peppers that the company plans to ship from the first week of June until mid-November.
Corona Marketing in Santa Maria was just starting to plant squash, chili peppers and green beans in March and should start harvesting squash in mid- to late May, said Jose Corona, president.
The company will have green beans from late May until late October or early November.
The jalapeno, pasilla, serrano, yellow and red chili peppers should start coming on heavy in late July or August and continue until the first part of November if a frost doesn’t truncate the deal.
Corona said the rainfall meant he didn’t have to turn on his water pumps during January or the first half of February.
“The best water to get is rain water,” he said, since well water sometimes can contain bits of salt.