Drought’s lingering effect on farmers markets



The drought has taken a toll on cities and individuals, especially those in farming, and farmers with the Ventura County Certified Farmers’ Market Association recently shared their perspective on the long-lasting drought.

Greg Mitchell with Blue Ridge Honey says that even with a substantial amount of rain this past season, certain types of sage, buckwheat and chaparral habitats used in this production have a way to go before getting back to normal.

“Without a full recovery from the drought, our honey operation is stressed as less rain mean less flowering,” he said. “Adequate rain means our bees are less susceptible to malnutrition and disease and have more energy to do their work, which is to pollinate and bring honey.”

According to Mitchell, the drought has caused a smaller production of honey, especially in the wilderness areas where the bees are hosted.

“It will take several average or even above average rainfall years in a row to usher back in normal local plant growth again,” said Mitchell.

Blue Ridge Honey offers Sage Blossom, Wildflower, Raspberry Blossom, Orange Blossom and Avocado Blossom honeys. Their booth can be found at farmers markets in Ventura on Wednesdays at Pacific View Mall and Saturday mornings in downtown.

The drought has also taken a toll on Mizuno Farms, which had to alter its irrigation system from flood irrigation to drip irrigation.

In addition, the drought has caused food prices to increase with certain crops now limited.

“The growing season has definitely changed due to the drought,” said Gregory Mizuno. “To help us with quality of water for our trees, we have utilized different nutrients to improve the water and ensure high quality for our shoppers. We are now constantly looking for new technology to further improve our water system.”

Mizuno Farms, which produces apples, blackberries and a large variety of tree fruit, is at the Saturday morning downtown Ventura farmers market.

At Martian Ranch and Vineyard, a farm that produces wine grapes, the owners found that the drought produced unexpected good results.

“The water-stressed production actually worked to our advantage as it produced top quality grapes this year,” said owner Nan Helgeland.

Based in Los Alamos, Martian Ranch, named after Helgeland’s sons—a blend of Martin and Ian—is in its 10th year of production. The farm uses bio-dynamic practices and is Demeter-certified.

Martian Ranch offers 10 varieties of wine and can be found at the Thousand Oaks farmers market on Thursday afternoons at The Oaks shopping center.

For more information or schedule of the local markets, call (805) 529-6266 or visit www.vccfarmersmarkets.com.