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Winter storms cause mix of relief and frustration for local farmers

Avocados growing at a farm in Escondido, Calif. March 3, 2023.
Mike Damron
Avocados growing at a farm in Escondido, Calif. March 3, 2023.

Ben Holtz and his family have been growing avocados in Escondido since the 1960s.

After recent rains he had to assess the damage caused by strong winds to his 100-acre farm. Fallen fruit means a fallen profit, and that loss could run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

“There’s nothing we can do about it once it hits the ground,” he said. “We just have to focus on growing the trees and growing the fruits that exist and getting it ready for market in the summer.”


The storm did bring some good news — the farm’s reservoir, which is surrounded by rolling hills, is unusually full. This means lower water bills, Holtz explained.

“This is the main irrigation water for the farm,” he said. “When it rains it’s free water instead of city water, so it’s a real blessing and keeps the costs down."

Around half of California is now drought free, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

But not every local farmer is jumping for joy.

Rain in some places means snow in others. Julian has had its fair share of the white stuff this winter. With snow comes people sledding, and some are causing damage to private farmland. Some people are even cutting fences to access fields and leaving trash behind.


Katie Ostrander from the San Diego County Farm Bureau said while the snowpack is helping irrigate pastures, it’s also attracting some inconsiderate tourists.

“It is private property. It is something we’ve invested our whole lives into,” she said. “It is basically like if I went down to Escondido and said 'that's a great looking porch, I’m gonna have a picnic there.'"

Ostrander said another concern is cows escaping through gaps in fencing and causing traffic accidents.

Back at the avocado farm, the Holtz family is trying to see the positive side to the aftermath of the winter storms. "Don't look down, just look up" is the family's motto, referring to the amount of fruit still hanging on the trees and not the ground.

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