Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Climate and Peaches

See this? It's a Colorado Peach. It's juicy, sweet, and delicate. It travels about 75 miles to get to my house, so when I eat one it is tree-ripened and fresh. No other can compare, I do not buy peaches out of season shipped from South America. There is nothing quite like a Colorado Peach, accept no substitutions.

You have a local favorite, a fruit or veggie that is special to the region, best enjoyed right off the farmer's truck. Rocky Ford Cantaloupes. Wild picked raspberries. Fresh crisp arugula. Every place has a food which is best enjoyed close to the source and fresh as you can.

So What?

In 2003 a paper appeared in Science detailing a compilation of 180 years worth of layman's records. Bird watching observations, fish catches, an English manor which recorded the first sounds of frogs every year. The results? Species were moving, towords the poles (northward in North America and Europe) and to higher elevations. Furthermore, events that marked the dawn of spring - the songs of frogs and insects, the blooming of flowers and appearance of shoots - were coming earlier and earlier. An average move of 2.3 days per decade.

So What?

This spring we had lots of warm weather early on. The tulips appeared startlingly soon. The fruit trees in my yard burst into bloom alarmingly early. Here in Colorado, a late snowstorm is likely to freeze and ruin a crop that gets rolling too early. Luckly we had only a mild snowstorm. Unluckly, it was mild and dropped very little water on a parched state.
Our agricultural system is very cycle driven. Major food crops were developed for different climates, on the assumption that the yearly weather patterns would not deviate much. Early blooms can suffer from too much water, not enough, wrong temperature, lack of pollinators, susceptibility to disease, and other problems. Climate change is not just melting ice caps.

Consider the fragility of our food systems. It may not seem that way, we have long used chemicals, technology, and the care of thoughtful farmers to provide for us despite the challenges of shifting weather. But continued warming may lead to failures in the Orchards of the Western Slope, and a season without peaches.
Think about that every time you get into your car. When you switch on the lights, or the heat. Remember the cost of fossil fuels is not just in your pockets, it's also in your pantry.

What's you favorite local food? Have you had sparse years of it due to droughts, freezes, or flooding?

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