The One-Degree Difference

I ran into a friend yesterday whose farm grows many of the same crops we do at Terra Firma, just 30 miles north.  “Terrible, huh” he said, “We lost everything to the freeze”.  He was referring to the frigid weekend we had right after Thanksgiving.
He told me a familiar story of kale, cabbage, broccoli and other vegetables blistered and peeling from being frozen solid for too long.  Citrus fruit, ruined.
“It must have gotten much colder up there then it did here,” I said.  I admitted that despite anticipating a similar situation, at Terra Firma all of our crops appear to have survived the cold weather intact.
“We got down to 24 for two nights” said my friend.
Here at Terra Firma those two nights?  It was 25 degrees.
According to my friend, 25 is the magic number, the threshold, the cutoff.  He should know — he started out farming in Vermont, where it can get that cold in September.
I gave my friend a hug and wished him luck when we said our goodbyes.  His farm will make it through this crisis, as our farm has done before, thanks to a supportive community and good planning.
The difference between 24 and 25 degrees is blind luck, pure and simple.  A slight difference in microclimate, perhaps.  Some people might rejoice in their good luck in situation like this.  But it wasn’t just my friend’s loss that kept me from feeling happy.  It’s that what we do as farmers is too much hard work to be reliant, in the end, on chance.
Food is obviously one of a handful of critically important resources for human survival.  And yet so many people take an abundant and affordable food supply for granted.  Our state, country and our planet have a unique and incredible combination of soil, weather and water that allow us to produce an amazing abundance and diversity of food crops.  Yet we as a species pave over our soils.  Overuse and pollute our water.  And now with climate change, push our weather to extremes that threaten our own survival.
In the future, it won’t be bad luck when heat waves or cold snaps wipe out farmers’ crops, or tides inundate coastal cities.  While it appears that carbon output from fossil fuels may now have peaked, the climate will keep changing for decades or longer.
This why I was really glad to hear Secretary of State John Kerry speaking at this week’s at the Paris Summit on Climate Change about “Adaptation”, and specifically mentioning the food supply.  I hope the right people are listening.
Thanks,
Pablito

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