Greetings from the wet West. Not exactly the grand el Nino winter that forecasters had predicted, but it has been consistently wet since the new year. As of this writing, we are experiencing a normal Mediterranean climate wet season, with about 30″ on rain along the coast, 40″ just inland at 700’ elevation and upwards of 60″ near the coast range summits at roughly 1000’ elevation. As always I am awed by the huge influence of orographics on local rainfall, despite such close proximity as the crow flies. In the high Sierras, snowfall totals are near normal for the year to date. Snow pack is a critical component of our dry season water supply, an ephemeral reservoir covering millions of acres of high alpine environment, released slowly as melt water over the course of spring and summer. Seven plus months every year with no rainfall requires massive water infrastructure to sustain life in the arid West, but without the natural “reservoir” provided by Sierra snow pack, agriculture, industry and human populations in California could never exist at the levels we know today.

Work on a combined West and Northwest Regional Meeting continues, tentatively planned for midsummer in Oregon for 2010 and here in Santa Cruz for 2011. Highlights include visits to area growers and round table discussion on crop production, and pest and disease issues for flower growers. Details to follow soon.

Perhaps as an ongoing sign of challenging economic times, I am almost exclusively receiving calls from brides wanting to purchase loose bunches of flowers from our farm, and then, with family and friends, do all of the arranging themselves. This seems to be an outgrowth of the growing do-it-yourself trend. For the most part, I love the idea of friends and family coming together to create such a vital and beautiful part of a wedding. From a producer and designer’s perspective, however, I see this trend as a mixed blessing. On the downside, the do-it- yourself trend certainly limits our chance to market and profit from our creative design abilities. On the other hand, wedding work can be exacting and stressful, with a myriad of small but critical details that may not be our favorite part of being flower growers and designers.

While the typical do-it-yourself wedding invoice for flowers may be much smaller than a typical full-service wedding with all of the bells and whistles, the reduction in effort required and the consequent reduction in stress potential may make this an acceptable trend. Growers I have spoken to in the West have generally welcomed this transition and appreciated the additional time to focus on growing their crops and also to concentrate on other marketing outlets.

Christof Bernau

UCSC Center for Agroecology

Christof Bernau UCSC Center for Agroecology Contact at [email protected]