You may remember a few years back when winter in Northern California was a time when you huddled indoors, cooked soup, needed an umbrella to walk anywhere. You didn’t plan outdoor activities after Halloween unless they involved mountains and snow. But you may also have children, born during the last four years, for whom rain is a rare and memorable event. Drought Children.
Humans have a tendency to adjust to the conditions around them without even noticing. I think it’s safe to say that since 2011, Northern Californians have begun to develop a few new similarities with our SoCal neighbors. We’ve started planning outdoor Thanksgiving celebrations, New Year’s Day hikes, Beach ‘n barbecue days in January. We’ve forgotten where we put the umbrellas and raincoats.
Call it “SoCal Creep”.
Farmers are not immune to the tendency to project the present onto the future. It takes the old-timers longer. But after a year or two of laughing at the foolhardiness of our younger peers who have never farmed in a wet winter, the changes start to creep in. Maybe it’s not just a cycle of drought, but rather a permanent shift in the weather patterns due to climate change. After all, last year’s El Niño was basically a dud.
Just like everyone else, we at Terra Firma started adjusting our plans after a year or two of warm, dry winters. Our memories of the winters in the past — when it started raining in November and basically didn’t stop for months at a time — have faded. We now make plans to plant crops all winter long: we save space in the fields and order the seed. Just six years ago I would have considered that a complete waste of time and effort.
Our planning for annual Farm Day has changed, too. We used to have the event in mid-October, trying to avoid rain. But after a couple of very warm Octobers, we gradually shifted it later in the month in an effort to avoid hot weather. This year we may have scheduled it too late in the month. For now we are going to hope that the forecast holds for a cool, but not rainy, day.
With all due respect to our fellow citizens who live in the southern part of the state, wet winters are not just critical to allowing us — all of us — to actually live in this state. They are crucial to making us who we are as Northern Californians. I personally don’t want to live in Southern California. And while it has been an interesting and challenging few years experiencing what it would be to farm there, I can safely now say I prefer not to.
Come up to the farm on Saturday with boots and a thick blanket to sit on — the ground will be damp and there will be mud puddles for the kids to splash in. The air will be clean and crisp, and it will feel like a real fall. If our fields get flooded in Thursday’s storm, we will postpone or cancel the event and let you know via email.