News From the Farm | September 14, 2020

Almond harvest, daily marketing, picking and packing of our crops, and the construction of a tall deer fence around the recently planted strawberry patch are just a few of the activities that continued last week against the backdrop of six of the most massive fires in California’s history.

The daily CalFire newsletter has more-or-less the same format each morning, just the numbers increase — now there are 16,750 firefighter, 29 major wildfires and over 3.3 million acres burned, with fatalities and destroyed structures duly tallied.  The record-high temperatures, gusty winds and lighting strikes have led us to a situation that meteorologists and climate scientists keep calling “unprecedented” with various extremes coming together all at once in a way that makes it hard for the weather guys to do what they usually do — simply predict temperatures.

Each morning we stop to consider the air quality and how it is affecting our crew.  We have tried to shorten hours as much as possible and called off work last weekend so that most of us could be indoors resting our lungs. Nevertheless, we are compelled to carry on — Another season and another year are coming, there is more to learn about how to farm well when the skies are full of smoke and our future is full of uncertainty.

Climate scientists have every right to point out that they have been predicting this for several decades, in fact they might say that the future is NOT so full of uncertainty when it comes to climate change. There is little doubt left on this issue:  Increased warming has lead to all kinds of weather variability that we have never seen before and increasing summer temperatures in California have made each fire season worse.

So this is a time to reassess our own habits — What can each of us do to reduce our climate footprint?  Conserve water, use less energy, reuse and repurpose something old rather than throwing it away and buying something new. This is certainly a time to strengthen our community networks and reach out to our neighbors. But it is also time for policymakers to turn budget priorities around, investing in the environment and divesting from all activities that we know are harmful. Agriculture included — A good place to learn more about what farmers are doing to advance agricultural climate solutions is the CalCAN web site.

I happened to be on the coast when the first huge lightning storm happened.  That night, I was looking out to sea and watched and listened to the dry lighting in awe of the power and beauty of Nature. We live among miracles every day — and the farm is another great place to observe Nature’s miracles.  But the lightning storm as well as this moment full of the terrible losses from the fire and the pandemic show that while the storms we suffer may be full of terror, they are, on the other side also beautiful — there are two sides to these things.  The act of saying, “I will not give up, I will work with my community, we can turn this thing around together” —  that is the beautiful side of this stormy moment.

Maria Grazia, our member who takes the wonderful photos (like the one above) that we have been sharing with you wrote to me: “We are all united under a sky of ashes…Let us keep the desire to smile alive!”

— Judith Redmond