Let it rain – the insecurity of farming during drought

Something most of us don’t think about is how dependent on weather we are.  Our inattention is likely caused by the protection of our heated and cooled homes.  Human built landscapes do cut us off from nature.

Perhaps one reason some people don’t believe in climate change is this buffer … it allows us to ignore the elements, forget there is a climate out there.  Until nature throws a punch or two, that is.  As I observe the worsening weather, it seems as if the earth is trying to get our attention, telling us we are hurting it and its environment. The more we ignore the stresses to the planet the more violently the planet signasls us.  Think of the recent floods in Texas, the extreme weather in the forms of tornadoes in the mid-west and the severe wild fires in the parched west – not to mention our local drought.

New England is temperate, normally green and well-watered.  While our farms may not be the size of mid-west factory farms, our land is exceptionally fertile and yields bountiful crops of fruit and vegetables. To grow vegetables to their full potential, the ideal is to receive one inch of rain per week.  Without rainfall, plants become stunted, the fruit may dry up, or sometimes plants don’t grow at all.

This year, nature has been a little off.  The winter was warm – without the freezing temperatures that reduce pest populations such as mice, chipmunks, voles and rabbits not to mention voracious plant eating insects.  The Spring was cold and overlong – delaying the planting and germination of seeds and crops – and the amount of rainfall has been non-existent.  Western Massachusetts is experiencing a significant drought – ranked from extreme to moderate with rain deficits in excess of 10 inches.

Yellow Stonehouse Farm is lucky.  We have water from wells originally dug to provide for 100 head of dairy cows.  We’ve been able to irrigate our fields since June to keep the crops going until it rained.  Which, Glory Alleluia – it did this past weekend.  The rain we received – just under an inch – was enough to make our crops pop!  Now that it’s rained, we have an abundance of produce.  Come see our beautiful certified organic vegetables and flowers – the farm market is open to the public Wednesday through Fridays from 3 – 6:30 pm and on Saturday’s from 9 am till 3 pm.

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