ARZEENA HAMIR: When you can’t predict the season, you can’t farm
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion hosted by the University of Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.
The panel focused on climate change and its impacts on agriculture in B.C. I guess I’m a bit of a food security geek because I even arranged for childcare and took the Canada Line to Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus just to see this evening presentation.
Why was I so curious? Up until now, I’ve heard various “spins” around climate change, especially coming from the provincial and federal government. Often, the term climate change is used in conjunction with the term “opportunity,” as if we’re now going to be able to grow new crops like bananas and lemons.
If you are any way connected to the natural world, be it as a gardener, a farmer, a fisher, or a forester, you will agree that climate change is not some futuristic concept. We are living it today. Turn on the weather channel. How many times do you hear the suffix “est”, as in hottest, wettest, or driest? More than ever, it seems.
I look back at my notes to see when I planted and harvested over the past few years and climate change has forced me to just throw those notes out the window. I can no longer predict anything! The farm in Terra Nova was underwater until the beginning of June. That’s never happened before.
When we were able to plant, all of our bok choi, and gai lan immediately went to seed and we lost almost all of it. With the constant back and forth between hot and cold temperatures, the greens were totally confused and just gave up. We lost a whole season of crops.
Just this last week, there was a huge panic to pull out all of our garlic. It was still green but with all the predicted rain, we risked it rotting in the ground. Since when is July so wet?
Climate change has brought nothing but uncertainty in my own garden and on our farm. Do I plant now and risk the seed rotting or wait and possibly lose the planting window entirely? My historical data is useless.
Where is the opportunity in millions of dollars worth of root crops rotting in the ground because of heavy fall rains? Where is the opportunity in the inability to plow fields in the spring? I fail to see the opportunity in the introduction and spread of the new spotted wing fruit fly. All of these are linked to climate change and have just made growing food more complicated.
I raised all of these issues with the panel at SFU and, in the end, they agreed with me. When you can’t predict the season, you can’t farm. So, next time you see some rhetoric about the positive aspects of climate change, give you head a shake. Whoever is spouting it has no idea about food production and certainly hasn’t spoken to a farmer.
Arzeena Hamir is co-ordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society. Reach her at email@example.com.