Water Worries at Sunrise Nursery During Drought
Written by the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association
Cut flowers are one of the many pleasures of life and nurseries and florists are gathering up their colorful bouquets for you to enjoy. The continuing drought has had an effect on how and what is grown, and long-term effects have not yet been calculated. Nursery owners don’t know what will happen in the next few years.
I spoke with Steve Fernandes, owner of Sunrise Nursery, a second generation flower farm in Watsonville, and asked him how the drought has affected his nursery business. He said that he has a private well on his property and even though the well belongs to the farm, the state of California has added meters and charges fees for water usage over and above a certain amount.
He says, “It seems that the well can be considered along with ‘mining rights’ since any land below the first few feet of top soil is considered property of the state.”
Fernandes has a total of 28 acres of flowers, nine of which are filled with large greenhouses so that most of his flowers can be grown year-round. These enclosures are opened during the day to let the sun in and for air to circulate, then closed at night and heaters turned on when necessary to keep the flowers at the proper temperature.
Steve says, “The flowers in the greenhouses have to be monitored much more than open acreage.” Everything is grown in containers so soil pH has to be maintained, water controlled, and mildew watched for.
The nursery irrigation acreage is 90% drip irrigation to control water use. They also have flowers like roses and Gerbera daisies that are grown hydroponically using micro-emitters. All water runoff is captured and the resulting gray water is used to water other flowers. Steve said he is seeking grants from the USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for water conservation assistance and improvements to his current system.
Steve said he loves to get out and work with his hands and bring his flowers to many farmers’ markets. Despite the challenges of drought he hopes to continue the nursery business for the future.