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Resiliency in the face of challenging weather

April 29, 2014

Operating on faith that spring will indeed come eventually, we continue to plug away in the greenhouses and potting shed.  The weather is discouraging to say the least, but not much we can do about it.  Instead I have been thinking of ways to build resiliency into our farming systems.  No matter how you feel about the nuances of the climate change debate, there is no denying that our weather patterns are shifting.  The pattern over the past couple years seems to be late, cold, wet springs followed by a dramatic shift to drought conditions come mid-summer.  What are we to do in the face of increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather patterns?  There are several things that we as farmers, and you as consumers can do.

As farmers we need to have systems in place to deal with weather extremes.  For example, irrigation to help us get through drought conditions.  We also need to have properly laid out fields and waterways to help distribute water evenly, to prevent extended periods of saturated soil and to guard against soil erosion.  In our region, greenhouses are extremely important both for extending the growing season and for starting and holding plants until conditions allow for planting.  Growing a diversity of crops and planting them at multiple times helps us ensure that even if we experience some losses, we are sure to have successes elsewhere.  Having a constant eye towards creating and preserving biological diversity helps us create resilience on many levels.  One example of this is creating pollinator habitat.  Almost everyone is now aware that bees, both honey bees and the vast number of native species, are in trouble.  Creating pollinator habitat on farms is an elegant solution to a potentially devastating problem.  And last but certainly not least, building healthy soil is essential to creating a farming system that is resilient in the face of difficult weather.  Healthy soil resists erosion, it drains better when flooded and it holds moisture better in drought.  From a wider perspective, organic and sustainable farming practices have the potential to help sequester carbon and other greenhouse gases and therefore lessen the human impact on climate change.  As organic farmers, we are always working to build the organic matter in our soil.  This means building up the carbon levels, which not only creates healthy soil, but also sequesters carbon.  Agriculture is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.  It is also the largest land use on the planet.  It therefore holds tremendous potential for positive change on many levels.

In order to create a more locally and regionally based food system, one that is based on sound farming practices, we need to support local farmers.  In supporting your local farmers, you are helping to create a more resilient community.  In becoming a member of a CSA you are standing in solidarity with your farmer.  You are making it possible for us to farm, without being subject to the whims of the commodities markets.  To all of you who are CSA members, thank you.  To all of you who are not.  There’s still time!

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One Comment
  1. Rick and Karola,

    Good post about our difficult climate and global warming changes which will effect us all. We had a difficult Winter and now a Spring that right now limits my desire to get out to local parks and trails, take photos and work my amateur radio. I am looking out the back window watching the snow. (Now that really is a 4 letter word to me). I to have gardens in mind, Joanne and I assist with our relatives garden in Grand Rapids, Mn and I am developing a small plot in Twig. We will continue to be strong supporters of your CSA also.

    The Spring was tough for Maple Syruping with the deep snow on the ground at tree taping time, but the Grand Rapids folks are doing well this season. I assisted for four days and we had a pour of 14 gallons of finished syrup. That was their third pour so far.

    We know the CSA agreement is for shared risk so we will stand by you in good times and bad. Resilience will help Northern Harvest produce as much as nature will allow. Hears to you, Rick and Karola, thanks for your skill and hard work and with hopes the weather cooperates this year.

    Like

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