July 2012
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GLEANINGS: n. 1. That which has been acquired by gleaning. 2. The monthly eNewsletter of CT NOFA. [Glean:v. 1. to gather relevant information or material by patient effort, bit by bit; to find out. 2. to gather grain or other produce (often: left by reapers); to harvest.]
From the Executive Director

bill duesing Last month CT NOFA began our drive to raise $30,000 and attract 300 new members to build a strong foundation for CT NOFA's next 30 years of advocacy and education.

The CT NOFA community thanks those of you who have responded already. However, several thousand Gleanings readers haven't responded yet. We'd love to hear from you.

There has never been a better time to support our work for a strong local and organic food system and for organic land care. There is a great need for more farmers, more gardens, more healthy food, more healthy soil and greater understanding of the value of organic methods.

Although there are lots of reasons why organic methods and local food are important, the increasing evidence of climate change is an especially timely one. Organic soil management (to store carbon and hold water), diversifying crops and diets and encouraging biodiversity are all aspects of organic agriculture and land care that have been identified as important strategies for adapting to and mitigating climate change.

What do we know about climate change and Connecticut Agriculture?
In 2008, the state legislature asked for a report on the impacts of climate change on Connecticut's infrastructure, natural resources, public health and agriculture. In 2009 and 2010, I served on the Agriculture Workgroup of the Adaptation Subcommittee to consider climate change's effects.

The Agriculture Workgroup released its findings in early 2010. The results were summarized this way:
Most of the agricultural features were determined to be highly impacted by climate change, and most of these impacts were negative. The top five most imperiled agricultural planning areas or features in Connecticut were maple syrup, dairy, warm weather produce, shellfish and apple and pear production (See table 2 from the report here.). There were opportunities for production expansion, including biofuel crops and witch hazel and grapes, with the future climate, as well as benefits identified for all agricultural planning areas.  View the full report here

The 2010 Climate Impacts report found that changes in Connecticut's climate are anticipated to include:
- More frequent days with temperatures greater that 90 degrees;
- Rising seawater temperatures and sea levels;
- Increases in the frequency and intensity of storms; and
- Increase of poor air quality days.

What has happened since then?
- Last year, 2011, began with snow, snow and more snow until hundreds of agricultural buildings collapsed.
- In August, tropical storm Irene brought lots of rain and wind that damaged summer vegetables and flooded crops.
- Then the Halloween Nor'easter snowstorm knocked down trees, which knocked down power lines, late crops, deer fences and caused other damage to farms and gardens.  Then the electricity was out for days (and weeks in some cases).

Although we can't say definitively that these events were caused by climate change, all of them were likely made worse by the many effects of the heat trapping gases we've added to the atmosphere. These are the kinds of effects that scientists expect.

- 2012 began with a mild winter. Maple syrup producers I know made only a fraction of the syrup they expected because of the lack of cold weather and frozen ground.
- Last month I talked with a large black current grower who said he will have very few currents this year.  He wasn't sure if the lack of fruit was because of the mild winter, the early heat and/or late freeze.  (He hopes that he can get currents from Europe or New Zealand to make his juice.)  
- In June, I visited an orchard in Cheshire, which had lost the majority of its tree fruit to a late freeze after an early warm period encouraged earlier blossoming.
- The fruit that was left at the Cheshire orchard was apparently decimated by a July hailstorm.

It seems prescient that the Agriculture Workgroup wrote two years ago: The top five most imperiled agricultural planning areas or features in Connecticut were maple syrup, dairy, warm weather produce, shellfish and apple and pear production.

Click here for the draft Connecticut Climate Change Preparedness Plan. The CT DEEP would be glad to have your comments. Agriculture is discussed on pages 30-40. There is a feature on Organic Agriculture on page 33-34.

If it were just our state that was affected by climate change, it would be one thing. However, some of these disasters were region wide. The flooding of near harvest crops from Storm Irene was much worse in Vermont and parts of New York than here. New York orchards were seriously impacted by this spring's freeze. Three million acres experienced production losses of 30 percent or more. Some lost 100 percent.

The national picture isn't a lot better.
-The NY Times wrote recently about the problems of Midwest corn farmers. Tom Philpott discusses the big picture herebill_suanne
-The NY Times wrote about a Kansas town where it has been 115 degrees.
-Grist talks about the connection between wild fires and climate change here.
-There is an increasing amount of information about climate change. Here's a new resource.

If you'd like more in depth information about the future climate, I'd suggest these two books I read recently: Storms of my Grandchildren by James Hansen and The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet

So far, at our farm, the growing season has been very productive, although the garlic harvest and ripe blackberries are earlier than usual.  

I hope your growing season is going well and look forward to hearing from you.