My food trajectory is pretty simple. Chicago: tired, overcooked produce. Ann Arbor: tired, overcooked produce. Santa Monica, California, Technicolor year-round abundance that I am still not used to after most of my life here. Every Wednesday I’m at the farmers’ market when it opens, and every Wednesday I buy more produce than makes sense.

How impractical am I, you might ask. Here’s how: I often walk back to my car to offload a large basket full of goods so I can make a second pass and buy more. I am not a vegetarian, but animal protein has to fight for a toehold on the plate.

Like any long-time regular, I know the market layout by heart, the long east-west section of Arizona Avenue, with stalls on both sides of the street, and the shorter intersecting row on Second Street. There are 85 farmers, some year-round, others seasonal, but I’ve come to rely on about a dozen, with the occasional foray to an outlier for passion fruit or pistachios. My regular farmers are what Stanford University sociologist Mark Granovetter would call my “weak ties,” not friends and family but not strangers, either, familiar faces who know me as the pints of cherry tomatoes I always buy, the bitter greens and tart stone fruit, the Satsuma tangerines rather than the Pixies.

Lately the market is even better than usual, simply because it is usual, again: No more long wait as volunteers enforce occupancy limits, no more one-way lines and warnings not to touch the produce; the market feels like the market. At the same time, it’s worse because of the drought. A pall hangs over the festivities.

I was sidetracked, at a market on July 14, not by a tempting item but by the absence of one; funny, how you register a void where your brain expects to see a basket of Jimmy Nardello peppers. The guy working the booth for Flora Bella Farms apologized, but there would be no Jimmy Nardellos on display this season because there wasn’t enough water. The yield of the long, thin-skinned sweet pepper, in recent years a darling of local chefs, was so low that even restaurants had gone begging. Civilians who wanted a pound or two didn’t stand a chance. In market parlance, the Jimmy Nardellos would not make it to the table.

Read the full article about California farmers struggling during the drought by Karen Stabiner at The Counter.