Climate change: whether you accept it or not, it's happening. The world is changing, and we are living the change. There are more refugees due to climate change than there are refugees from war-torn countries. Entire islands are going underwater. Fish and marine wildlife are suffering and dying or moving. Industry such as lobster fishing is running dry in places like Connecticut. There are truly serious issues happening here. When I was growing up back in the 80s and 90s we had very predictable weather patterns. During winters we would have a few great snow falls, a little sleet and rain throughout the course of the winter. We had predictable cold spells and then things would warm up at the end of February and beginning of March. The snow would melt, temps would hit 45, 50, then 65 into April. The rains would come in March and April, bringing morning fog, budding trees and greening grass. By April 15 we were planting corn and a week later the corn is sprouting. The days were warmer, the nights would drop back into the 40s. By May, the temperatures were in the 70s, June we have low to mid 80s, July would always hit the 90s maybe once a year we have 100° day. August we had muggy, hot days and thunderstorms a few afternoons a week. Over the course of these few months we would have rain once a week at least sometimes twice a week and then a nice warm spell afterwards. Plants grew uniformly, they grew well. We had low disease because the plants could dry out after rain because it would warm up. The farm season wound down in September and that was that. These days, we run into cooler spring temps which slow plant growth and development. It increases disease early on in the season which increases our losses, decreases our revenues and increases consumer costs. The weather patterns have changed our diseases patterns significantly. We have had early blight in late blight during unseasonable times as well as other issues. We have had flooding like never before which has devastated entire seasons and spread disease into our soils as water sweeps across contaminated farmland into what was pure and clean soil.
Springtime is cooler and more damp which makes planting difficult. We had snow on the ground in the April one year, which made planting impossible until May. Soil temperatures have to reach a certain point in order to be able to put a seed in the ground and to have it thrive. New England varieties of seeds (specific to our temp. Zone) are hardy at a certain soil temperature but not below that. Having snow on the ground
for such an extended period of time doesn't enable the soil to warm to the temperature which the seeds can grow and thrive.
Our summers are hotter and dryer which has stunted the growth of a lot of our plants it's changed the texture of fruits and vegetables and decreased yield in many cases. Hot, dry weather is ideal for hot peppers because it increases the flavor and berries as well - however, it slows the growth and development of most other plants and decreases yield overall. Many of us farmers do not have adequate irrigation methods and we rely upon the rainfall. In some cases we rely upon the water level of the river to keep the root zone cool, however given the mechanical manipulation of the water levels of the river and in the lack of rainfall throughout the summer, water levels are dramatically decreased and not helping us very much.
With all of these changes in weather, our seasons start later and and end later. However, the consumer hasn't picked up on that yet. So, with early losses due to cooler weather, slower growing time, more disease and lack of consumer recognition for an extended growing season, farmers in New England are getting hit hard by climate change.
I will have tomatoes into October. I will have squash, eggplant, peppers, winter squash, pumpkins, corn all into October but the customer base doesn't yet recognize that and their seasonal pattern is still focused around the shook year and not reality.
Regarding invasive species and their impact on habitat devastation and environmental impact, the purple loose strife causes quite a problem in wetlands and having worked with the DEEP in Connecticut eradicating a lot of these non-native invasive plant species, (which I felt was quite fruitless in the manner in which were doing it) I came to notice how damaging some of these plants truly are. However, I also noticed that many insect species have begun to thrive on the purple loosestrife and knotweed. I'm good friends with a well-known beekeeper in New England and his bees love the purple loosestrife. It produces a very wonderful fragrant, strong honey. The Japanese knotweed I've noticed encroaching upon all of our fields and it is hard to eradicate, however, I noticed the Monarch butterflies and other butterflies flocking to it and and again the bees really do this thrive on the pollen of this plant as well. Sadly, we live in a time where so many people have killed off native plant species like Goldenrod, Buttercups, dandelion, wild aster, clover, wild strawberries, wild roses and other wonderful plants. Plant which these insects and wildlife depended upon. These are beautiful and native plants which insects and wildlife thrive upon. Unfortunately, people think they need lush lawns and to have a manicured landscape. That takes pesticides, herbicide and whatever else your lawn care specialist decides you need. All of that is a factor in water quality, air quality, insect and wildlife proliferation. Don't blame big ag. and industrialization for everything- our own back yards are just as damaging to habitats and global climate.
Human beings travel more than we used to. We are shipping things in and out of the out of country daily. People flying in and out of the country and crossing state borders daily. They bring back insects, they bring back seeds, and many times, accidentally. This all contributes to the decline of our natural habitat and environment which is part of the snowball effect of climate change. When our environment changes, everything changes with it.
Being a farmer is “hard work”. It’s a lot of work, constantly planting, weed pulling, harvesting, selling, maintaining an online presence, advertising, general equipment maintenance and oh by the way….most of us have other work to do. I don’t know any farmers with a lawn care service, laundry service, chef, management team, accountant, housekeepers….although I did have a house keeper for a few months when I first had my son. I just couldn’t get it all done. My husband- he has his own job to deal with and I would rather he enjoy some time with our son after work than to mow the lawn, clean the bathrooms…..he helps do that on weekend, while I work more. Bottom line is, usually we are a one or few person show and it’s a sprint through the season.
Farming, is a great way of life. My son who is 2.5 years old, works with me, he plays and digs in the soil with his equipment (dump trucks, tractors and more). He understands what all the equipment does and how it works. He picks vegetables and corn with me. He is exposed to great food everyday, insects, birds, an ecosystem which does’t exist in a daycare or school setting. He gets dirty and he learns about life, everyday. I grew up that way and am proud to be able to offer that life to my son and to be with him. We are very fortunate.
The “hard work” really comes in the planning stage. Most of us like the work- we don’t want to sit in an office. We want to sweat, to feel the sunshine in our hair and the warm air in our lungs. One mis step in planning however, can lead the season astray. Planning and sticking to the plan IS hard work. there are a multitude of variables which we encounter daily- insects, personnel issues, weather, road closures, and more. All of which impact the schedule and seasonal plan. Picking shifts to the left one day due to rain, now tomorrow you have to pick but the squash will be too big and won’t sell well….Now you’re encountering losses. Can’t get out to the fields for a week to weed, now you have to hire help to weed and hope it pays off. Couldn’t get help to run the farmstand? Now you either close early (lose more money), scramble to find help (when you should be picking greens and flowers) or you go work yourself (not completing the advertising, bookkeeping, picking and cooking). Planning is the key to success in any business and seasonal farm planning is like trying to plan your life on the stock market. there are only so many factors that you can understand and manipulate, but people and ideas change quickly, like the weather.
Being a farmer is “hard” because there is a negative stigma against farming. Getting dirty is no longer what kids are supposed to do, let alone adults- people have forgotten that soil, (not the dirt that you pick up in a parking lot) but soil, is teaming with microbes that promote plant growth, soil oxidation, aeration, clean air AND are GOOD for the HUMAN DIGESTIVE SYSTEM.
Farmers don’t generally make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and there is definitely a stigma against lower income folks and hat is hard to accept.
It is “hard” to get people to take you seriously. People think farming is for uneducated people, yet how many people can successfully garden or even landscape on their own, let alone grow 100 plus acres of product, market, sell and run a business and home. Not many. There is a certain type of training that we used to reference in the Army, called OJT- on the job training. Even if no degree is had, we have learned on the job. Farmers are educated, regardless of how clean or dirty we are, regardless of how new or old our trucks are, regardless of the fact that we aren’t sitting in a boardroom. We make important decisions daily which impact the success or failure of our crops and businesses. We have a boardroom, it’s called the corn field, at 06:30am daily. This farmer has two degrees in science, 37 years of OJT and an MBA in Project Management.
Farming is a science. Each plant is like a child- it requires attention, understanding of what is impacting that plant daily (think of insects as bullies and plant diseases as viruses and colds) each one needs a special place in the field, a special soil- just like each child is unique in his/her behavioral and cognitive abilities and learns differently from one to another.
Being a farmer is “hard” as a female. Many people think my husband (even before I had one) was the farmer. They think I’m just the farmer’s daughter and couldn’t possibly get the work done. They think because I have blonde hair, blue eyes and wear a dress sometimes, that I ‘don’t look like a farmer’, that I couldn’t be a farmer. My mother, sister and I, grew up farming. My mom, cooked, cleaned, worked the fields for 10 hr days and more. My sister and I have been fortunate enough to be a part of that. Don’t question our strength, we lift 500lbs or more daily, without exaggeration. We are strong.
Despite dealing with the “hard” aspect of farming, it’s really cool to be me. All in all, we do what we do because we believe in a greater good, a greater environment, an independent way of life, a healthy, outside way of life. We are fortunate to be who we are.
What does it really mean to have a drought? The answer depends upon who you are.
To many people, it means that you should't wash your car frequently or water the lawn. It means that you may take shorter showers. For a farmer, drought means trouble. It means the plants that she has raised/ bought, grown and cared for, may not survive. Time and energy lost. If they survive, they will grow more slowly than if they grew with regular rain fall or irrigation. This means a later season, fewer customers, less profit. The plants, whens tressed will set fewer fruits also. A lower yield and shorter growing season mean less revenue for the farmer. If the plants die, the farmer suffers a loss of investment and potential revenue.
Drought means that we either accept the negative outcome or we mitigate the situation and find a way to irrigate.
Drip irrigation is an excellent method of irrigation as opposed to overhead watering. Overhead watering creates an enormous amount of water lost through overspray, evaporation and runoff. The plants also have greater potential for disease, fungus to spread and the leaves to be damaged when watering overhead. When plant leaves are wet, they water droplets magnify the sun's rays and create spots on the leaves, damaging them and their chlorophyl production capabilities. Without chlorophyl, the plants don't produce energy.
I have a very simple irrigation system: a garbage can with a hose. I punctured the bin with a tool and inserted the hose into the hole. The water bin sits up on the bed of my truck and by gravity feed, the water trickles out and I am able to walk the hose through my rows of plants. It's such a simple method that my 2 year old son can help!