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Commentary: Climate changing California’s ag landscape

While others are preoccupied arguing why the climate changes, farmers just want solutions.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or
 present are certain to miss the future.”
― John F. Kennedy

Change can be easy, or changes can be difficult. We don’t have to like them, or we can welcome them with open arms. Change can be good for us or it can be bad for us. But like it or not, change is a universal certainty from which there is no escape.

Some have said the only way to prepare for change in our lives is to embrace it and, if possible, plan for it.

There’s an old saying farmers often use, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while and it will change.”

It always does. While there may be room for argument about what causes weather or even climate to change, they both do over time.

Considering the political controversy related to climate change, it is difficult to even raise the subject, and for certain the topic is a stumbling block that has served to divide us.

For the purposes of this article, it doesn’t matter which side you are on. There is no intent here to change minds or political views. Many believe changes in the climate are natural and historically cyclic while others believe human activity is to either blame or contributes to it.

While scholars, scientists and politicians are often preoccupied arguing why the climate changes, farmers are generally more practical. Most can see the changes in weather and climate in their fields and crops. They are much more concerned with how to mitigate changes rather than for the reasons behind them.

From ice age to searing temperatures and drought, Planet Earth has undergone many types of changes, and those active in agriculture have adapted and adjusted along the way.

For most California farmers, including tree nut producers, climatic changes have been obvious over the last 75 years or so. Droughts, floods, changes in temperature and snowpacks, a reduction in chill hours, and many other developments have illustrated a trend in the changes.

As the world turns, weather and the climate change, and farmers in modern times are adapting as did their fathers and forefathers dating back thousands of years.

In ancient times farmers of the world would cross breed weeds to develop food sources (most notably corn in the Americas). They also explored tilling practices, raised platforms for farming, irrigation canal or aqueduct designs. In more modern times. We have begun working with regenerative agriculture, soil enhancement programs including cover crops, and returned in some cases to older tilling practices to help mitigate changes.

Writer and Poet William Arthur Ward was addressing the subject of change when he penned these words, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

If weather and climate and the environment are undergoing changes that will affect the way modern farmers must farm, then the question we should be asking is how we can continue to mitigate the crisis for the future.

Technology can and already has been a benefit in realizing that goal. And new methods of farming – or in some cases returning to older methods – may represent another tool we can employ to mitigate the challenges ahead.

Fortunately, the process of researching and employing new methods and technologies to deal with earth changes is well underway, from new seed varieties that are better suited to weather and environment to the development of other sustainable farming practices.

On the West Coast, many farmers in California’s Central Valley and across the state and the nation have employed new measures designed to counter the adverse effects of those as well. In fact, California often leads the nation in the discovery of new and better methods of farming, and adapting to changes in weather and climate are no exception.

In this (Tree Nut) newsletter issue and elsewhere on the Western Farm Press site we explore existing and emerging agricultural technologies and practices designed to counter the changing world in which we live and farm.    

For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.

TAGS: Weather
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