Our daily media diet is chock- full of alarming expert opinions on climate issues- a dizzying cocktail of facts, distortions, denials and affirmations. Most of this chatter hurts my head and is kind of confusing. At Duke and Stanford, however, I accepted the premise that science is no joke. Truth is I don’t need every scientist on the planet to tell me that climate issues are a problem- I can see that for myself every day at Jubilee Orchards.
Farmers are accustomed to challenges. Global markets force us to compete with fruit grown in South and Central America where farm crews earn less than ten dollars a day. Organic growers like Jubilee Orchards must combat heat, insects, weeds, and plant diseases without using pesticides or herbicides. But increasingly climate issues pose our biggest challenge and the deepest risk to our fruit.
Cases in point:
1. The last two growing seasons have ushered in dramatic swings in temperature during critical periods of our fruit development. The month of February was so warm you could go swimming in North Florida, and March was bitterly cold with nighttime temps well below freezing. This hot/cold dynamic ruins crop yields because it prevents bees from pollinating, causes all kinds of plant diseases to flourish, and damages fruit before it has a chance to ripen.
2. The normal rainfall for December in North Florida is a few inches. This year, twenty five or more inches flooded our orchards, eroded our crop lanes and tractor roads, washed away mounds of vital pine bark substrate, and greatly increased our labor costs.
3. Not only are rains and winds far more dramatic, but also hurricanes and thunderstorms are far more powerful and damaging. In the past two years, both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael have impacted our orchards. Irrigation damages, fence damage, plant losses, tree obstructions everywhere, are just some of the impacts. The truth is we are fortunate compared to farmers more in the direct path of the storms. Many lost everything- cotton, peanuts, and pine forests, even thousands of pecan trees that took a lifetime to grow!
My goal here is not sympathy. I learned a long time ago if you want sympathy get yourself a dog. My goal is that we all need to open our eyes to what is right in front of us, recognize the problem, and understand each of us has a role to play in the solution. Climate change is real as the dirt our berries grow in. We are making every effort to grow our fruit in a manner that reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by capturing it through photosynthesis in our soil. Eco-agriculture, all organic cultivation like we are practicing creates healthy and high yielding carbon rich soil and healthy sweet berries. For every ton of carbon we build into the soil, we reduce three tons of carbon dioxide from the air. 1
Think about how you and your household can be sustainable in your consumption of food and your handling of your waste. Drive electric, carpool, or at least drive high mileage autos. Get some solar panels, turn the thermostat up or down in winter. Try and conserve water, shun plastic, compost. Enjoy nature-what kind of people would we be if we continue to harm her.
1 The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to
Save the Planet. Ohlson, Kristin. Rodale