Climate change has been a part of the L2T conversation since the start of the food system network. Conversations have taken a tone that is future tense, asking: how will farmers in our regions be affected by climate change? And certainly water access goes hand-in-hand with climate change, and you can’t talk about our water and watersheds without also talking about the salmon—it really is all connected.
For myself (I won’t speak for others here), my sense is that this summer’s heat/drought has brought us across a threshold, from “how will farmers be affected” to “how are farmers being affected.” That “heat dome” was damn scary and super destructive!
In a media release shared far and wide, the National Farmers Union (NFU) explains, through accounts from three Western Canadian farmers, just what the heat/drought has meant and the more frequent events/damage we can expect.
For Arzeena Hamir, an organic fruit and vegetable grower in the Comox Valley, as experienced by many of the organic growers in the North Okanagan, the high temperatures have been trying for her. In the NFU article she shares this:
“We depend heavily on our water supply to grow our vegetables and fruit. The heat wave required us to double our irrigation, and yet we still lost a crop of salad greens and our early berries. The berries literally cooked on the plants and there was nothing we could do to stop it. As a farmer, that was the hardest part to handle: not being able to control what was happening in terms of the temperature and seeing so much food go to waste.”
Here in the North Okanagan, many farmers lost crops and still struggle to grow in this heat. Certainly it was noticeable that cherries suffered and many apple growers are waiting to see how that severe heat, which burned many apples, will affect the fall crop, while others have lost livestock like laying hens and meat birds. In social media posts from local, small scale farmers, many have been kind to remind folks to “come out to the farmers markets,” with the sentiment being that this is a hard season. We need your support.
Arzeena also points out (and this is the scary, crossing the threshold moment/reminder for me) that:
“The planet has warmed by just over one degree Celsius, and things are already very bad. Going to 1.5 degrees will make things worse. And if we don’t slash emissions, we’ll go far past 1.5 degrees of warming and hit 2 or 3 degrees, with catastrophic consequences for agriculture in Canada. We must respond rapidly to this drought, but equally important we must spur emission-reductions to lessen the frequency and severity of future ones.”
I suspect there will be more opportunities to discuss the impacts of this summer season in the fall, to debrief what it means for how farmers are affected by climate change, and what we can do about it.
For more information, read the full NFU article: Canadian Farms Hammered by Heat and Drought; Climate Change Will Make Such Events More Frequent and Damaging
On social media, the NFU will be posting additional and expanded stories of Canadian farmers hard hit by drought and heat. Please see their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, or contact Darrin Qualman at (306) 230-9115 for more information.