Climate change is here and it is affecting our food supply.
I can’t run with the greatest of minds here at Peak Prosperity but I read and learn from them without commenting. Where I can comment is on our long journey to learn how to grow food for us as well as others.
We have a “market garden” and we now run the local farmers market, this has been a ten year journey to become a producer.
Having just read Chris’s latest two part, we are preparing too and it is less a gut feeling than a stark realization. Climate change is upon us and it is affecting us this year in tangible ways. Two of our market growers have been hailed out already this year, one had seedling failure due to the heat. We were brushed by a super cell and lost all of our lettuce, much of the rest of our garden was damaged but is working its way back. Food in the future just might be a big deal.
Frankly I am spooked.
We have been adding high tunnels (hoop houses) every year and yet we still have about a half acre that is very exposed to our changing climate.
The weather is weird this year, instead of a steady monsoon season we have alternating highs and lows that are both scorching hot or drenching wet and cold. It has been hot enough that our tomatoes and cucumbers (both in high tunnels) will not set fruit until it cools a bit. This is a new, this has not happened in the last five years that we have been selling at market.
I worked in the packaging industry for 25 years and as a commissioned sales guy I focused on food producers to become somewhat recession proof. The “just in time” system of our food production is just amazing, our truck would be unloading our packaging onto the line as finished product was being loaded for shipment in the next bay.
The stark reality to me is there are only three days worth of food on the shelf at the retail level. The time to learn how to grow food is not when you need to.
I participate in some online market grower groups, these are amazing intelligent folks that have mastered the growing of multiple crops organically. My queries about their plans for coping with climate change have not produced replies. This is a global group of over ten thousand members. I have to think that we are woefully unprepared when it comes to our food.
As a grower we are looking ahead to our winter “vacation” and planning to add hail structures to the rest of our garden as well as planning new fruit tree plantings under high tunnels. Most of the structures we are looking at come from other countries. The US is way behind most of the world in controlled environment growing. The cost of adding these structures will probably exceed the annual income of the market garden below it. It is our own food security that we think about as we ponder the expense.
The Wal-mart effect has hit our growers, the dollar is way up against most currencies and we are importing most of the veggies that we consume in this country. The Farm Safety Modernization Act will add cost and a raft of paperwork to what we do, some small growers have quit in defiance.
We are now shopping for winter hay and in some cases feed has almost doubled. Climate change? The cost of diesel fuel? Hard to tell but we have plans to cut our grass fed beef herd by two thirds before winter. Maybe our egg layers too.
We have gained a USDA growing zone in the ten years we have been here, we are taking out some of our hundred year old heirloom apple trees to make way for peaches. It is getting hotter and we are doing our best to look into the future.
We are a model sustainable farm according to the NRSC, we generate a lot of our inputs on site. The source of our composted material comes mostly from the hay we bring in from the outside, the cows happily help break it down. We do augment our pastured layers with organic feed and then compost the nightly deposits. I wonder about our sustainability as there a lot of imbedded energy in the feed we buy. To truly be sustainable and grow without our purchased inputs my guess is that our output would fall by half in a few years.
Our favorite tree nursery in California has cut way back on the number of peach varieties that they will produce this year. According to them the hot ticket is almonds, the California growers are pulling fruit trees and planting almonds as they can be mechanically harvested. Farm labor is almost impossible to find at this point, and don’t we know it.
Limits To Growth (pardon the pun)
The strong dollar and expensive labor have made it very easy to import a lot of our fresh food.
The average age of the average farmer in the US is now 60.
The high cost of farmland coupled with a high rate of student loans makes entry for the next generation difficult.
Just when our growers need to be investing in infrastructure for a new climate, our globalized food makes returns on investment look pretty bad.
Drought and water, if you can’t water it, it won’t grow.
Floods and water, too much water is a very real problem to growers, really as bad as or worse than drought.
Peak oil, food is highly impacted by the cost of oil with 10 calories of fuel (or more) needed for every calorie of food.
I will admit to being an addict. I am addicted to food, without three fixes a day I get grumpy.
This has been a very physical journey and my Wife and I have done it and lived it together. Because of what we do we have found our place in this new community, we are the providers of good food and health. Folks just show up to pull weeds not expecting pay and refuse the food we offer in exchange. We drop what we are doing and give farm tours on a moments notice, we sponsor rows in the garden for kids who want to learn how to grow. They are the true stars at the market and sell out before anyone else.
It is a great life we have earned, and yet I fear for our ability to continue to produce at this high level. Economic uncertainty brought us down this road to our own food security. This year climate change has me very worried about our ability to continue to produce. It took us ten years to set up the infrastructure and to learn enough to produce a significant amount of food. The cold hard fact is, my family will eat before those customers who paid for our high tunnels.
Food, water, shelter. Food is the one that has me worried this year as the affects of climate sneak up on me. Get good at growing your own food, be responsible for your own food security. Your growers have trouble ahead, this one is pretty spooked by what may be coming.