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Central Valley farmers assess flood damage to crops and fields

Almond farmer Lukas Kisling says he won't know the full extent of the damage to this year's crop for another month. The flooding put about a third of his land underwater.
messed up road near kisling farms
Posted at 7:12 PM, Mar 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-23 06:20:29-04

TERRA BELLA, Calif. (KERO) — The recent flooding in the Central Valley has affected many people, and for some farmers, the rising waters have caused damage to their land and their crops.

At Kisling Farms in Terra Bella, just north of Delano in Tulare County, owner Lukas Kisling says recent rains made Deer Creek, which flows through Kisling's property, to jump its banks and put 40 acres of his 125 acre farm underwater.

"We have been farming that ranch, our family has, for about 60 years, and we've never had a flooding this bad," said Kisling,

Kisling described how the water came down the hill and flooded Deer Creek for around 36 hours, washing silt and trash over his farm, as well as sweeping away all of his irrigation hoses.

"We are worried about getting the ground back in shape, and we can't fertilize until we get the irrigation system fixed. This is when we are normally starting to inject fertilizers into the irrigation system," said Kisling. "Most of the summer we'll be working on getting it back into shape before August and September."

lukas kisling
Lukas Kisling, owner of Kisling Farms in Tulare County

He adds that there's a lot of work to be done to remove silt the floodwater deposited on his orchard.

"We have to, we'll have to - it's too unlevel to harvest right now. We have to have a level middle to harvest, and right now it looks like a bottom of a river. There's some areas where the silt is 2 feet tall. There's areas where it cut into the earth 6 to 8 inches," said Kisling.

Kisling says he's not sure right now what the long-term impact to his farm and crops this flooding will be.

"Pretty good idea here in about a month what nuts sat and if we have a crop or not. Even before the flood, the weather has been not ideal for almonds. It's been very wet and very cold. The bees just didn't want to fly, and on top of that, ya know, we were flooding," said Kisling.

Brian Hockett, district manager of the Northwest Kern Resource Conservation District says many of the farmers he works with have been impacted by the storms.

brian hockett
Brian Hockett, District Manager with the Northwest Kern Resource Conservation District

"An example: In one area along Poso Creek, they experienced about 2 feet of sand and about 15 acres which pushed out a lot of the hose. They're looking at maybe $50,000 dollars of replacement costs," said Hockett.

As Kisling works to deal with this most recent flooding, he says there are limited options when it comes to preparing for future river overflows.

"Only thing we can really do is fix the banks where they broke out and hope that it doesn't happen again for now," said Kisling. "Unless the state or somebody has better plans, we can't do much. It's not our river."

Although his farm was impacted by the flooding, Kisling says others in the area took even more damage than his.

"Ya know," said Kisling, "you don't like to see it. We like the rain, but just a little too much of it. Usually it breaks out, but it's not that bad, but this year was something different. It was a lot of water."