I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: farmers can’t help talking about the weather. And with a year like this, it’s not surprising. Southern Ontario has experienced a record-breaking drought this year. Our winter was warm and dry (remember the early apple buds that were growing in March?), and our spring was seemingly non-existent – summer just popped up out of nowhere and hasn’t quit since. Unfortunately this means that many folks growing food are struggling. My farm pals from last year have been irrigating since May! UNREAL. Here’s an article about the situation.
And here is an interesting 20-minute segment from The Current about the drought conditions in the USA and in Ontario. Emphasis is on widely grown conventional crops (corn and soy, which are often GMOs grown with synthetic pesticides and/or fertilizers, and are used mainly for “livestock” feed). Crops on organic farms are also suffering. The radio segment above brings up some excellent points at around 15:00, such as how we use the crops we grow and whether this is the best thing to do, and how our use of such crops affects water availability.
There’s no doubt that farmers are struggling to keep things going this year. Such conditions remind me to consider extreme weather when planning a season – especially after last year’s mish mash of strange weather, when we had a very wet spring and couldn’t work the soil, and then 2 months later, had drought conditions that were evident in our fields. One thing I observed last year was the beauty of biodiversity in action: the cooler crops like lettuce and radishes didn’t fare so well in the heat, but we also had outstanding tomatoes, melons and summer squash. When a number of crops are grown with diverse growing needs, a drought like this might pose a less serious threat because while some do poorly, others thrive. Planning accordingly could be a saving grace, while putting all your eggs in one basket could result in disaster, as is sadly the case with corn right now. Longer-term planning for rain water catchment and efficient irrigation systems and water management would also be valuable. From what I hear, though, just about everyone has been hit pretty hard, regardless of what they’re growing or how. I feel lucky to be out west where things are milder.
I wonder if these extreme weather bouts will continue over the next few years, and if so, will farming change because of it? Will we plant different crops, divide up our growing season differently, and build in possible solutions as preventive measures? In my experience, small farmers are very innovative, and I don’t doubt that we’ll see some creative problem solving soon (in the form of something other than a rain dance).