On this first day of spring, rain has returned to the Bay Area.

I’m OK with it.

This was my first winter here. After grinding out years of drought in Los Angeles, I still love seeing the rain fall.

Sure, we’ve gotten plenty, and it has caused me some inconvenience. When it’s heavy, that first BART train I take in the morning is almost always late. And I’ve been drenched a few times on the bicycle ride between BART’s 16th and Mission Station and KQED.

But earlier this month, between scattered showers at Oakland’s Temescal Farmers’ Market, I met someone who has probably seen enough rain for a while, and what she told me was a lesson that some of us have no idea how inconvenient rain can be.

“We’ve pretty much had a solid rainfall for two months straight,” J.B. Ingraham of Happy Boy Farms told me. “Long term, it’s been a really positive impact. Short term it’s been very challenging.”


Happy Boy Farms grows vegetables in San Benito, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. I’ve stood in long lines for its carrots, kale and collards at the Temescal Farmers’ Market.

Some of Happy Boy’s parcels are along the Pajaro River, near Watsonville. The rainfall Ingraham talks about — about 20 inches total in January and February — pushed the river over its banks and flooded some of the firm’s farmland.

“We are a 250-acre farm. We’ve lost around 100 acres of crops. We have about 80 acres we can’t even get to because we’re still pumping water out,” Ingraham said. She says she’s seen fish swimming in the fields.

The water submerged a tractor and wells. The cost of repairs will run to more than $10,000, Ingraham says.

“Winter is a really hard time for farms to break even to begin with, but add all of this on top of it …,” Ingraham said.

So the farm has gotten creative and is trying to engage its customer community. It has launched a GoFundMe page and is offering a credit voucher for 10 percent more than any donation over $20. In other words, for a contribution of 20 bucks now, customers get a voucher for 22 bucks’ worth of produce in the future.

Two Oakland restaurants that buy produce from Happy Boy Farms — Temescal’s Pizzaiolo and Grand Lake’s
Boot & Shoe Service — have joined the effort by offering the proceeds from special cocktails.

Happy Boy’s message on its GoFundMe page is blunt:

“Last year at this time, we prayed for rain, as we had experienced significant crop failure due to years of drought. This winter, we got what we prayed for, and it has rained, and rained, and rained, resulting in flooding that has caused catastrophic damage to our farm.”

A Happy Boy Farms parcel along the Pajaro River near Watsonville.
A Happy Boy Farms parcel along the Pajaro River near Watsonville. (Happy Boy Farms)

At the Temescal Farmers’ Market, Ingraham’s tone was equally matter of fact.

“With farming, you have to let things roll off your back,” she said. “You have to stay hopeful and realize that all you can do is what you can do.”

When I asked about the level of support from customers at the market, her tone changed.

“People are so community-driven. The customers are so thoughtful and supportive every week. There are a lot of hard-core folks who do come out in all the conditions,” she said. “That’s why we keep coming. That’s why we keep growing. … It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship.”

Author

Brian Watt

Brian Watt is KQED's morning radio news anchor.  He joined the KQED News team in April of 2016.  Prior to that, he worked as a Reporter for KPCC in Los Angeles and a producer at Marketplace.

During eight years at KPCC, Brian covered business and economics, and his work won several awards.  In 2008, he won the Los Angeles Press Club’s first-place award for Business and Financial Reporting, Broadcast.  He’s also received honorable mention and been first runner up for the Press Club’s Radio Journalist of the Year.  He won two Golden Mike awards from the Radio and TV News Association of Southern California.

Brian holds degrees in theater from Yale University and the Sorbonne, and has worked as an actor in France, Italy, Brazil, Hungary and . . . Hollywood. He appeared in a few television shows, including The West Wing, Judging Amy and The District.

Email: bwatt@KQED.org  Twitter: @RadioBWatt

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