Bay Area city-dwellers have seen steady increases to their water bills and higher prices on their produce for the past couple years. While more and more images reveal our lakes and reservoirs at their lowest levels in decades, consumers try their best to cut back on usage, but what about farmers who need the water to sustain their land? How do the extreme effects of little to no rain impact the rural farmland that helps create Northern California’s abundant food-centered culture?

Kevin Watt and Paige Phinney at a business advising session at Early Bird Ranch. 

Kevin Watt and Paige Phinney at a business advising session at Early Bird Ranch. 

Farmers are working around the clock to find solutions to what seems to be imminent, a serious change in water distribution and conservation across the state. Kevin Watt is one of those farmers. His farm, Early Bird Ranch in Pescadero, California, has seen the drastic effects of the drought--and he gave Kitchen Table Advisors some insight into the lengths farmers will go to conserve.

To sustain our current water supply we have focused on caring for our soil and building new infrastructure to create more water infrastructure on the ranch.
— Kevin Watt

Farmers who grow crops, like fruits and vegetables, see even greater consequences from the lack of rain, while Watt and his family have to worry about their animals. Keeping their livestock hydrated and healthy is at the forefront of their minds as we approach the dry season in Northern California.

While pasture-based livestock are less water intensive than crops to raise, we do rely on rainfall to grow the forage that feeds our animals. We’ve seen 30-50% reductions in forage production over the last couple years and as such have scaled our production way back in order not to overtax the pastures our business rely on.

Watt believes this is just the start of the issues the drought will cause for the California ecosystem his farm helps create. According to his experience, both farmers and regulators will have to make significant changes to circumvent the impending threats to keep the flourishing farmland of California intact.

“In Northern California the absolute most effective strategy for managing water supplies is off-season storage. The rainfall we receive is so concentrated that most of it runs off and is lost to the farmer and rancher. This strategy, however, is incredibly difficult because of state regulations around the construction of ponds and water storage.  As such, farmers and ranchers must be innovative in how they can capture and use more of the water that falls on their land,” Watt finished.

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AuthorKitchen Table Advisors