It was in most senses a glorious Spring. We were spoiled with lovely bright sunny weather and the growing season got off to a good and promising start. But it was not to last.
It started with high levels of rainfall, this had been hindering our work in the garden. Then, on the 17th June 2016, a localised micro climate storm struck here in Wraxall, Somerset. There are not enough words to describe the tense scene. Millions upon millions upon billions of heavy raindrops pelting down, a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder and then the intensity of the rain would increase. For a while the intensity would just slightly decrease, then more lightning and thunder and the intensity and velocity of the rain increased again. This lasted around two and half to three hours but within the last half hour or so, just to stick the boot in, there was about ten minutes of high velocity hail, which we found out later had shredded a lot of our valuable leafy greens. It was hard not to think someones angry, or very very sad up there! It took a while but the water level on the growing field started to rise and rise and it started to stream into the greenhouse. All the ditches around the field were full and the field was over saturation point and flooding. Luckily the rain finally subsided, we went out and nervously surveyed the soggy aftermath.
The greenhouse was partially flooded, with the bottoms of the raised beds under water. Everywhere else was soggy and waterlogged but had already started to drain away slowly… Whilst walking around picking for market my heart sank after seeing the extent of the damage from the high velocity hail. This takes on a long lasting financial toll to our business as leaves and plants simply take time to re grow.
And still after the unforgettable storm there was rain, and more rain, everyday, hindering our progress in the garden. With all the clouds and humidity, the greenhouse was unable to dry out successfully… And tomatoes were just not ripening…
Now, two weeks later we have definitely got early blight (without having sold any tomatoes) and just today have been round to cut it all out. Liam found a natural recipe to spray the plants, we will see how this pans out and update on our progress.
The success of a grower can certainly be dictated by unpredictable weather. This has really come home to us in 2016.
From a Buddhist point of view, there may be no better way to learn non attachment to everything than through gardening, as everything constantly changes, nothing lasts and money is never guaranteed…
It has got me thinking…
Should the growers of our food personally lose out due to unpredictable weather and climate change? They put in the hours, the labour, the care and attention and if something damages their source of income should they bear the brunt of it? After all, they are providing a service to the community and are normally quite low waged. In our case, we do not currently get a wage… When something like this happens, I wonder if I want to keep doing it as it is such a hard task.
Should there be something in place to protect and look after the growers to keep them happy and growing? I am wondering if this should be put into the hands of the community somehow and not the government.
A potential working example solution could be a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture.
Farmers are getting older and there are not enough going in to the industry replace them. The average age of a farmer now is 59. Not surprisingly, the majority of farmers’ children do not want to take over the family farm when their parents retire.
Personally, I am not sure if I will do this long term, and if like me, others run out of steam and drop out then what?
Going into the future, should we really continue to place a monetary capitalistic value on food. It is not a product, it is the food that we need to give nutrients to our bodies, surely that should be considered a basic human right?
But because food has become entwined with the monetary system, it has been given a value. When something of value comes under the beady eye of capitalism, then it is all about whittling down the overheads and shaving off expenses in the creation of the ‘product’… Save some money here, cut down on a certain input there.. etc.. etc.. we then get an eroded, sick, empty version of what it should be… this is not how we should treat our food, our sustenance.
What can you do to help, dear reader?
You can support your local growers… find them, know them, and support them. Bring about change for the good by voting with your hard earned money and how you make your consumer choices. Choose what is better for you and for the planet – both should be of equal priority as we are part of planet and what we do to ourselves, we do to the planet. If we show love to ourselves by choosing to put good things into our bodies this will benefit the planet earth too. That would be a good start. Post Brexit we need to start standing up for what we need.
You could also join the Land Workers Alliance, the Sustainable Food Trust OR the Organic Growers Alliance as a supporter – these guys help to campaign for growers rights and food issues to help our survival into the future.