When the phone rang the other day, Val cheerfully answered, “Hello, hubs of hell!” She wasn’t kidding either. With the heat index peaking at 110 degrees, one has to wonder how in the world do you cope with the heat? We usually put in six hours of labor a day. At this time of year the pressure of keeping up with irrigating, weeding and harvesting is immense. We take frequent breaks to drink tons of water and iced tea. We sometimes surprise ourselves that we are able to make it through the day, knowing we can collapse in the air-conditioned house when we are done.
Farmers and weather have always had a sort of love/hate relationship. As I do research for my next book, Full: Learning to Feed Ourselves, weather and climate change become more important to each of us as our adaptability to these conditions will become crucial. The statistics concerning our most recent heat event was well documented by NOAA. Nationally, 1,966 daily high maximum temperature records were broken or tied so far this month. Sixty-six of those records were all-time maximum temperature records. But it wasn’t only the record-breaking high temperatures that were a concern, it was also the record-breaking minimum temperatures that surprised experts as well. Because of the extremely high humidity levels during this heat wave, 4,376 record highest minimum temperature records were broken or tied through July 23. Of those minimum temperature records, 158 were all-time records. Warm nighttime temperatures remained above 80 degrees in many areas.
Should we be concerned? Only if we want to continue to eat. Corn for example will not survive 135 degree temperatures; nor will farmers along the Mississippi be able to continue to grow organically if their ground has been polluted by flooding. As more and more corporate crops are severely challenged or fail completely, food prices will continue to soar. Each region of the country will be learning what it will take to survive in a climate challenged world. This will directly impact local farmers, communities and anyone interested in adopting and finding local solutions for planning for the future.
With all these dire predictions, is it any wonder we can get out of bed in the morning? The true meaning of optimist is remembering that nothing is ever quite as bad as it could be. Farmers have long known that they do not control the weather, but have indeed learned skills of adaptability. The smaller the farm, the more personal it becomes. Nature at once beautiful and harsh has lessons for humanity. If the new normal is extreme weather, lets learn how to adapt by growing crops that can survive these changes and feed us locally.
“To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.” –Wendell Berry