Climate Change Affects Us at Home, Urges us to Think and Act Locally

In the news it seems like the main impact of climate change is about people who live on islands that will soon be underwater, or parts of the world where summers with temperatures above 110 degrees will be the new norm. Or perhaps it is most aptly described by dwindling glaciers and even city-sized chunks of ice breaking off of our endangered ice caps.

It’s easy to forget that we live in Washington, DC a city that is below sea level in many parts. Thanks to temperature controlled lives, most people don’t notice the weather extremes that wreak havoc on our region’s farmers. It doesn’t register to many that we are in a serious drought because there are always more news-worthy disasters happening somewhere else. Being dependent on the weather for our food is not the same as enduring the magnitude of tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis or other disasters that dominate the entertainment level of the weather channel. And thank God (I’m not complaining, trust me!) our current lack of rain has not resulted in out of control fires that have unfortunately become a regular annual occurrence in California and other parts of the west.

It doesn’t take a weather disaster to greatly affect our food production Here in the Chesapeake region we are experiencing more “mild” weather disruptive patterns. For example last year we had 20 inches of rainfall above average, compared to this year our farm has not had a good, measurable rainfall since early August. Last year, we had snowfall on the first day of spring covering the ground and re-freezing what had previously been thawed soil that our planting team put many seeds and baby plants into, forcing us to start over. This year, we had some record high temperatures in September making it difficult to stay “on time” with our fall planting schedule because the soil and air temps were far too high for the kale, lettuce, spinach, and root crops. Temperatures above 90 degrees in September coupled with the drought conditions have meant huge crop loss despite going through almost 10,000 gallons of water in just one month.

Drought has affected not just our farm in Edgewood, but your gardens and yards as well. More than once in the last few weeks, Adrian Higgins has reminded us all that the trees need a good soaking (not too much, not too little at one time) of water to replace the lack of rain. I’m very worried about how many trees we might lose this year and you can already see leaves turning brown instead of their usual fall colors.

You may or may not have guessed that if there is nothing green growing except in the places where people are actively watering, that means the wooded areas where deer live must be a real food dessert. Indeed, as I’ve been saying now for several weeks, the deer pressure at our farm is the highest it has been since we started growing in this location in 2012.

We have named our “friends” Mike and Ike and they pushed through a weak section of our deer fence three times “incredible hulk style” to get to greener pastures on the other side. They learned how to jump over a barbed wire fence I never imagined would be physically possible for them to do. What we didn’t lose to the drought we’ve been steadily losing to the deer.

Deer and Drought Can’t Take Us Out! In a crisis, Three Part Harmony Farm relies on the community that sustains it. For one, the fact that over 95% of our produce is distributed to members of our community supported agriculture system means that I am able to explain to the customers why certain vegetables are in the share in bounty, and why others are not. Of course we are doing our best by working overtime to re-seed beds that did not germinate, use protective shade cloth on top of the most vulnerable crops to keep the deer out, and calling in help when we needed it (thank you Sarah! Mosadi! and Xavier!) to add a third fence on the property.

Looking for a way to support the climate? Support local farmers Supporting local farmers is a small act. Your financial support keeps our farms in business, which means we can continue to offer an alternative to a consumerism that depends on a fossil-fuel based food economy. I was traveling with my mom a few weeks ago in Georgia. Our first stop is always a grocery store so we can pack a lunch to take to the beach or other  adventure. I had a moment where I understood what consumers feel like when your only choice is to buy produce in the grocery store, instead of getting it from your own farm like I do all of the other days of the year: the heirloom tomatoes in the produce section were from Canada. Canada? It was September and we were in Georgia. That kind of excessive part of our food system where produce that tastes better when it comes from less than 100 miles away endures thousands of miles in a truck or even on a boat or plane: opting out of that terribly conceived waste of time, money and fuel is the kind of public service that local, sustainable farmers offer.

Because we exchange money, the relationship between a farmer and their customer is often muddied and our instincts go to that capitalist relationship that our brains have been trained to understand. It takes an intentional readjustment in our minds to see our farmers not as providers of goods that we buy, but as providers of a service we desperately need. We’re giving you a chance to opt out of eating tasteless tomatoes that travel thousands of miles to get to stores in your city. We’re also opening up a door for you to be part of a new way of life that is really an old way of life, and it’s one that is based on a relationship with agriculture and land that puts the planet first, not profits.

That’s what we do everyday, even though sometimes at the end of a long one I’m so tired I forgot what the hard work yields. I’m grateful to everyone who goes on this journey with Three Part Harmony Farm and who provides that affirmation that through collective effort, another world is possible.