Extreme heat puts a squeeze on local growers

OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- The record heat across San Diego County has local growers on edge; they say the weather plays a big role in whether they have a successful season or not.

Whether you’re growing peppers or other crops, farmers like Neil Nagata -- who is also the president of the San Diego County Farm Bureau -- say weather is everything when it comes to successfully growing fruits and vegetables.

“Weather is something farmers have had to deal with forever,” Nagata told FOX 5.

And with this summer’s unseasonably hot temperatures, he says farmers are being tested: "You can try to irrigate, you can try to save your crop as best as possible, but it’s still quite a challenge."

For Nagata personally, the heat isn’t posing as much of a problem. That’s because his farm is located in Oceanside, much closer to the coast, and the produce he’s growing is not as sensitive to extreme temperatures.

"Strawberries, blueberries, cherimoyas and we have some red bell peppers here," Nagata explained.

But for farmers farther inland who grow heat-sensitive crops, like grapes or avocados, it’s a different story.

"I understand that avocados have been affected, especially inland. They’ve had some crop loss due to fruit drop. And then the next season is also going to have some fruit drop," Nagata said. "Wine grapes, they were harmed in this heat. It’s really the spike of heat, not just the extended season of heat. But all of this adds up and it really makes it more difficult for farmers to make a profit."

While Nagata is doing okay so far, he says the extreme weather is just one more thing his fellow farmers have to worry about. The heat adds to a series of challenges farmers have been dealing with for years, including paying for expensive water, finding enough labor and competing with imported produce.

"Everything has its temperature gradient ... so if it goes beyond a certain temperature level, then things get hurt," said Nagata. "Crop loss -- any crop loss -- is significant to the farmer’s bottom line."