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Downside of the wetter weather: Ontario farmer shifting gears for planting season

"It's very, very expensive when you make a mistake," David Navarrete said.

ONTARIO, Ore. — The recent rounds of wetter weather are helping to build up mountain snowpack and fill reservoirs, which is essential for water supply in drier months. However, all the moisture is forcing an Ontario farmer to change his plans during a key time frame.

David Navarrete's family has been in the Ontario area since 1935, growing onions on Navarrete Farms. Navarrete says March is a critical time for him because if he can plant this month, he'll get the best results when it comes time to harvest.

But, in order to do widespread planting, soil moisture has to be just right. With the recent weather, Navarrete says some of his fields are too wet. So, he's been able to plant some of his early variety onions, but not as many as he would like.

"You know, we need the rain. We haven't had it for 5, 6 years, it's been really low. So, I can't complain, it just makes things difficult for your planting season," Navarrete said.

Since some of Navarrete's fields are too went to plant in, he may have to change the onion variety he plants, or switch crops all together. However, switching crops can be very expensive. 

Each scenario will change what his harvesting season looks like in the months ahead. Navarrete compares it to a chess game, where you always have to be one or two moves ahead.

"My grandpa came in 1935 to the area. So, my family's been here a long time. So, when your grandpa teaches you something, and then when your dad teaches you something, you kind of know what to do," Navarrete added.

"Once in a while, we'll have a wreck or two, but we try not to because it's very expensive. Any little mistake, it's hard to come back from. If you make a mistake, it could take you a year or two to come back from that."

Navarrete adds his strategy changes from year to year depending on weather conditions. Last year, he started planting around March but then stopped when there wasn't any rain. Then, planted the rest closer to April when water from the reservoirs would be available.

In wetter years, Navarrete has waited until the end of April to plant. Then he has to change to a variety of onion that has a shorter growing season. Otherwise, they won't be mature enough to store.

"You just try to change your planning or change or varieties or look for different ways to keep going."

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