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Small Farmers in California Face Tough Choices Amidst Drought

After a historically dry winter, some growers are farming less land, switching crops, and trucking in water, or taking the season off entirely.

Scott Chang-Fleeman has had a challenging couple of years. Even before the pandemic, his solo farming venture, Shao Shan Farm in Bolinas, California, had to contend with broken equipment and flash floods. Then, when the pandemic hit, Chang-Fleeman had to quickly pivot from supplying restaurants with his produce to selling it directly to consumers at farmers’ markets and through a community supported agriculture (CSA) program.

It seemed like things were finally looking up for Chang-Fleeman—until this spring, when rainfall he has come to expect this time of year didn’t arrive, leaving the reservoirs on his property empty.

“It’s really disheartening,” he said. “I’m going into my third year of business, and every single year, there’s been not just a different crop, but a different business plan.”