Recently, a co-worker asked how climate change has had an impact on our farm. I put together a few notes for him, and thought you might like to see them, too. It's nothing you haven't experienced yourself, as a member of our farm. Viscerally, you all feel the change that happens to our crops when weather takes a turn for the extreme.
Our highest yields come from moderate, predictable weather.
This year, we had that moderate weather (alternating small amounts of rain with sunshine on a weekly basis) for the first half of the year, and as a result, our May through August yields have been our highest ever. Weather makes a difference!
Presently,we are in a drought. We haven't had soaking rain since July, and most days have reached above 90 degrees. Our soils are parched and the vegetable crops, hay fields and pastures have stopped growing. (We got 1/8" rain yesterday, which was a wonderful blessing, but not enough to soak the ground.)
Animal pests have gotten desperate. Deer rip into 8-foot tall fences to reach the sweet potatoes. Groundhogs burrow into riskier places, such as inside our high tunnel and in the middle of the tomato field.
Last year was the wettest year on record for our region. The water-logged soils inhibited plant growth and in some fields killed off the crops completely. We had our lowest yield of vegetables to date.
As a grower, if I can't predict whether we will have moderate rain, constant rain, or zero rain, then I can't plant efficiently. I have to plant for all possibilities and spend a lot of time managing crises. This means for the same CSA business, I have to invest much more in fencing, animal control, irrigation systems and digging wells. I have to plant water-loving crops and drought-tolerant crops. I have to plant crops that take advantage of a warm spring and crops that thrive in cold weather. So now I can presume that at any given time, half of my crops won't thrive. For the same acreage and labor, I need to assume I will get half of the yield, and therefore, half of the income.
Because we are a CSA, we have members who invest in the season up front, and share the risks of the weather with us. The loss of income is not immediate. But over time, our member retention is lower when our product declines several years in a row. We can no longer sell as many CSA shares, and we can't raise our prices to keep up with the rising cost of supplies and labor.
It's go-time, my friends. The efforts you are making to change this terrible tide away from climate chaos are important. Let's all do even MORE. Are we going to push for innovative policy, such as the carbon fee and dividend? Yes. Are we going to get creative about reducing our own energy use? Yes. Are we going to rally and yell and march and write? Yes! Are we going to stick together, friends, and hold tight toallour neighbors through thick and thin? YES!