Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is the best known of various farmer’s almanacs // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

Question: Has anyone ever looked at how accurate the various “Farmer’s Almanac” predictions for winter are? Does the weather center here in town have anything to say about their accuracy? And, does the government track its long-range forecasting accuracy?

My answer: Nothing can be as accurate as my old, worn-out body. Whenever my surgically repaired knee, shoulder, low back and neck all flare up in unison in the winter, I just buy a ticket to Florida.

Real answer: I’ve always thought most weather predicting is about as accurate as flipping a coin, at least any forecast more than three days out.

Turns out that’s about right, at least in reference to the almanac world, according to David Easterling, director of the National Climate Assessment Technical Support Unit, part of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville. He cited a University of Illinois study that evaluated the accuracy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts (You can find it here). 

“Their conclusion was that they are about 50 percent accurate, meaning that they are about the same as random chance or flipping a coin,” Easterling said via email.

He added that, “NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville does not evaluate the accuracy of any forecasts.”

“NCEI is mainly a weather and climate data center that archives and makes available climate data and produces climate products like the Normals (e.g. the Normal temperature and rainfall for locations), monthly and annual climate monitoring reports, and climate assessment reports,” Easterling said. “The NOAA/Climate Prediction Center is a part of the NOAA/National Weather Service and produces longer-term forecasts (e.g. monthly or seasonal forecasts) and they also evaluate their accuracy on a regular basis. That evaluation helps them improve their forecasts.”

By the way, I picked up a copy of the 2023 Old Farmer’s Almanac, and here what it says, in part, about how they predict the weather: 

“We derive our weather forecasts from a secret formula that was devised by the founder of this Almanac, Robert B. Thomas, in 1792. Thomas believed that weather on Earth was influenced by sunspots, which are magnetic storms on the surface of the sun. Over the years, we have refined and enhanced this formula with state-of-the-art technology and modern scientific calculations.”

As far as its accuracy, the Old Farmer’s Almanac claims it was pretty solid on its winter forecast last year.

“Our overall accuracy rate in forecasting the direction of precipitation departure for a representative city in each region was 94.4%, as we were correct in 17 of the 18 regions,” the 2023 Old Farmer’s Almanac states. 

It also states its predictions for temperatures and forecasted departures from normal “were largely correct from the High Plains to the West Coast. We were also correct in New England, but other areas near the East Coast ended up warmer than we expected. Overall, our accuracy rate in forecasting the direction of temperature departure for a representative city in each region was only about 50%.”

Yup, flip a coin, folks.

But I will say the Old Farmer’s Almanac is always entertaining reading, and I enjoy perusing it. And hey, it’s only eight bucks.

By the way, the new Old Farmer’s Almanac is saying our winter here in the Appalachian mountains, Region 3, “will be colder than normal, with near-normal precipitation and above-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will be early December, Late January, and mid-to-late February.”

So bundle up, buttercup!

Customers line up to pay Buncombe’s bottle tax

Question: I saw a report where the profit revenues for the Asheville ABC Board are significantly higher than in previous years. The payout to the city and county is measured in millions of dollars. It looks like 75 percent goes to the city and 25 percent goes to the county. How do these two governmental agencies use these funds? Do they go to the general fund or are they targeted for specific projects? Because these figures change from year to year to what extent are projections built into the city and county budgets?

My answer: If these monies don’t go toward booze for the masses, we’re overdue for a revolution.

Real answer: Well, this is kind of boring.

“ABC revenues go into the General Fund,” Buncombe County spokesperson Lillian Govus said via email. “The 1-cent and 5-cent bottle taxes are recorded as ‘restricted intergovernmental revenues and (governments) shall spend those funds for the treatment of alcoholism or substance abuse, or for research or education on alcohol or substance abuse.’ ”

Govus added that the Beer and Wine Tax, and Mixed Drink Surcharge is recorded as “unrestricted intergovernmental” and may be used for any public purpose the county is authorized to engage. 

For fiscal year 2022, the ABC bottle tax 1-cent charge came to $11,152. The ABC bottle tax 5-cents charge totaled $126,640.

The mixed drink surcharge came to $1,259,308, while the beer and wine tax came to $602,076. 

City of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller also said, “ABC revenues go into the General Fund.”

As far as projections, Miller said, “We project for and budget these revenues on an annual basis like we do all other revenues in the General Fund.”

We apparently really like our drinks around Asheville. Gross sales for the Asheville ABC Board increased by 13.14 percent in fiscal year 2022 (ending June 30), totaling $50.4 million, according to general manager Mark Combs.

The distributions to the city and county increased by 29.72 percent from the previous year, totaling $4.8 million. Mixed beverage sales (think restaurants and bars) increased 52.5 percent and made up 35 percent of overall sales. 

Sales have risen steadily over the past five years:

  • 2018: $35.3M
  • 2019: $38.3M
  • 2020: $39.9M
  • 2021: $44.5M
  • 2022: $50.4M

The Asheville ABC board comprises nine stores and the warehouse on Cherry Street downtown.

Combs said the Asheville board’s ratio of mixed beverage sales to overall sales is the highest in the state, thanks largely to all the restaurants and bars in our tourist mecca town. The Asheville Board has about 260 permit holders selling mixed beverages.

“If Mark Combs goes out of business, John Boyle opens it back up in the same location a month later,” Combs said. “Since the COVID crisis, our permittees have actually gone up.”

Well, it looks like now I have to open a bar. Cheers!

Got a question? Reach out to Asheville Watchdog Answer Man John Boyle at (828) 337-0941 or email him at

One reply on “How accurate are farmers’ almanacs? What do localities do with booze sales money? ”

  1. The rest of the “profit” goes to the state; any idea how much North Carolina clears from alcohol sales?

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