About a week after the big rain we had in early February, the peepers (tree frogs) started singing at our pond here at home. I went out after sundown and recorded the sound on my iPhone. For me, their song indicated that we'd finally received some relief from our dry conditions. At least 3 other farmers of my acquaintance posted audio recordings of the peepers singing at their farms that week on Facebook. All of us, it seemed, were relieved to hear the frogs.
This week, a friend of mine received a call from a very distraught woman who lives in a posh subdivision in our county. The frogs in the water feature in her landscaping, it seems, were bothersome - they were even keeping her awake at night. She asked for help in ridding her "pond" of frogs.
These differing perspectives on the return of the tree frogs, for me, incapsulate the difference in our state's response to this drought. California is both the most populous state in the country and the leading agricultural state - a dichotomy that plays out in our water policy. I've written previously about my annoyance when TV or radio "meteorologists" talk about beautiful (aka, sunny) weather during a dry winter. Some time in January, I noticed, these prognosticators started realizing that our "beautiful" weather was a problem.
Another example of this disconnect: our local water agencies serve both agricultural and urban customers. One agency calls itself an irrigation district; the other calls itself a water agency. At a board meeting last month, the water agency decided that swimming pools were "commercial" water users - just like farms. While I can certainly appreciate the economic impacts of reducing or eliminating water for swimming pools, I have a difficult putting these impacts in the same category as reducing our ability to produce food. This perspective, it seems to me, is incredibly urban.
Since we direct-market some of what we raise, I have a regular opportunity to talk to my suburban and urban customers about the impacts of this drought on our business - and on our community's ability to produce its own food. For those of us in the "country," this drought has meant that we're selling animals, or deciding which part of our orchards we'd let die. For those of us in the "city", I'm afraid, the drought has meant that we're thinking about not watering our lawns as frequently. To help bridge this divide, I've recently launched a Facebook page called Farmer and Rancher Voices from the Drought. This page, I hope, is a place where we can talk about the impacts of the drought on our farms and ranches - and on our larger communities. I hope you'll check it out!