Local drought conditions may produce lingering effects for ranchers and farmers in the Sta. Rita Hills. 2013 saw less than half of the 14.74 inches of average rainfall in the Lompoc Valley.
Extra costs associated with lack of rain may drive up food costs as ranchers and farmers supplement their herds and crops with what Mother Nature has failed to supply. Peter Cargasacchi and local ranchers are having to feed their herds when, in normal years, cattle would be grazing on pasture grasses that grow naturally in the Hills this time of year. Some local ranchers have sold off part or all of their herds because of the high costs of hay and alfalfa.
Typically cattle are not sent to market before summer time when pastures have been grazed out and calves are bigger and bring better prices. Selling calves at a younger age for beef consumption means that feedlots have to invest more in raising the animals to maturity warranting, you got it, higher prices.
Typically hay is produced in fields that are dry farmed and since there has not been enough moisture to germinate seeds in that environment many local hay fields have gone un-planted this year, meaning that there could be shortages of hay for next year's herds.
Farmers are also having to irrigate more due to lack of rain. Every time a farmer flips the switch to the irrigation well their cost of production goes up, which you guessed it, gets passed on to the consumer.
We encourage you to hunker down and ride out the un-storm, continue to support our local farmers and ranchers, offer up a bottle of Sta. Rita Hills wine to Mother Nature and do a rain dance in support of our local producers.
Cheers to you and yours!