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Demand holding steady for strawberries as farmers worry about drought

Posted at 12:49 PM, Apr 29, 2022

It’s peak season for strawberries but a lack of rain has many farmers worried.

San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau’s executive director, Brent Burchett, says they expect the strawberry crop on the Central Coast to be on the rise, adding that demand is holding steady, but in the long run, they are worried about where to get groundwater.

Strawberries are the number one commodity in terms of total value in San Luis Obispo County and the fruit contributes to about 30 percent of the Central Coast agricultural economy.

"So strawberries were probably the last crop to be impacted by drought, but we're worried about that long-term in terms of seawater intrusion, kind of having that quality of water go down,” Burchett said.

Anytime there is a deficit for groundwater, he says that empty space will fill up with seawater.

"We're worried about the seawater intrusion starting to creep in, so if you don't get rain or a pretty good rain this time of year, this time next year, we're worried that the seawater will start getting into those groundwater, aqueducts and wells,” Burchett said.

Both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties have moderate, Mediterranean climates and temperatures and rainfall becomes a bit more volatile further inland.

"Fortunately, strawberries are grown near the coast. That part of the counties actually get more access to water. We don't worry about wells going dry in South County as much as we do in North County," Burchett said.

He adds that demand for strawberries went up as well across the U.S. and says Mother's Day is one of the biggest days for strawberry sales.