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Messages - queenie

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Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: September 07, 2018, 06:13:28 AM »
That's possible. The research was done for the New York Times by the Climate Impact Lab so I decided to write them a note. I'll let you know what they say.

Yes, I fear the lovely, cool summers are a thing of the past. 

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: September 05, 2018, 05:22:36 PM »
This may be the wrong thread for this but because I'm a farmer, thinking about climate change, this is where I lurk. If this should be moved, maybe to some thread for stupid questions or rants about the press, please feel free.

This is your friendly PNW apple orchardist needing help with a response to the New York Times. They recently published a cool calculator that lets you see how many 90 degree and above days there were in your town on “the year you were born,” "in 2017" and “by the time you’re 80”.

 As an apple farmer I’m acutely aware of these hot days as the temperatures in the mid-90s put apples into sunburn territory (unless smoke from fires limits the suns intensity, but that’s another story).  I used Portland because it’s a close big city with good data. This year we had thirty 90-plus days so far, a record. There are likely more to come as last year we had six in September.

The calculator told me that in the year of my birth there were 4 days above 90 degrees, by 2017 I could expect 5 days and by 2044 I could expect 6 to 14 days above 90.  Really?! I don’t know what a year with only five 90-degree-plus days would be like. It sounds like bliss. Thinking this was wildly lowballing it, I went to and added up the 90-degree days for each of the last 10 years. This is what I got for Portland. 2009:24, 2010:11, 2011:7 (I remember this cold year, because we got almost no tomatoes) 2012:11, 2013:10, 2014:21, 2015:26; 2016:14, 2017:24, 2018:30 (so far). This means the average for the last 10 years is 17.7 days of 90 degrees or higher and for the last five years it has averaged 23 such days. Again, the New York Times says we should be expecting 5. 

So, here are my questions. Why are they so wildly off? What time frames are they using to construct their baselines and projections? Are they looking at the last 10 years or the last several thousand? Should I believe them and figure the last decade is some kind of blip in the graph? I’m expecting it to continue to be hot like this, and even hotter. Am I wrong?

I want to write to them and tell them to take a harder look at the actual temperatures in the region. I want to see them defend their numbers. Do their numbers make sense to those paying daily attention to this sort of data and these trends?

Personally, I’m expecting 20 or more of these days most years and planning my perennial plantings accordingly. As a farmer of perennial fruits, we plant things we’re not going to harvest for several years, sometimes a decade. We have to get this stuff right or we go broke. I’ve got heirloom apple varieties, historically grown in this region, that in the last five years have dropped a significant amount of their fruit green. I’m moving them out and others that are more heat tolerant in. Am I planning wrong? Should I keep these trees going under the assumption that the days of bliss return?

I might be hoping for the return of years with just a week of 90 degree days but I'm not counting on it. 

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: August 29, 2018, 06:29:01 PM »
I once talked to a farmer on California who claimed he was raising free range chickens in his apple orchard, He claimed that the insects and fallen fruit and greenery was all that was needed to keep his chicks well fed until he harvested them.
Is such a thing possible?
I am an organic apple farmer and chickens can be fantastic that way. We've used them on and off. The challenge for us is that food safety regulations require that the chickens be out of the orchard 90 days before the first fruit is picked and stay out until the last fruit is harvested. We have a wildly diverse apple collection and have fruits ripening from July thru November, this means they're only allowed to roam the orchard December thru March. Then there is the challenge of where to graze that many chickens in the months they can't be in the orchard. Still, it's worth thinking about weather some broilers that would head off to the butcher at the end of March might be an option. Of course, we'd have to have some hardy chicks to survive as little guys out in the orchard over the winter.
My understanding is that in Europe the regulations allow much better integration of animals into a farm system. Sadly, here our regulations can present challenges for smaller, diverse operations.
I often encourage homesteaders, who aren't selling apples, to use chickens as a part of their pest control.

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: August 16, 2018, 06:11:22 AM »
"Bird species collapse in the Mojave, Driven by Climate Change"

I suspect that if insect populations are dramatically declining then, of course, the birds will follow. I can only speak to my own experience on my farm and homestead. Places where we do try to pay attention to such things. We have cherry trees, one ancient 40 ft tall one sits beside the house. It begins to fill with birds before the fruit is even fully ripe. They'd wake us up in the mornings, there were so many, they were so loud. By the time the cherries are truly ripe they have usually stripped the tree bare and the ground is littered with pits. Today, more than a month after they were ripe, the tree is still full of drying cherries. For the very first time, the birds didn't come. Not the cedar waxwings, or the jays, or the robins - not even the stupid starlings. Every day I look out at that tree, and it's weight of rotten fruit, where the late season drunken bird party used to happen and think "this is not good, this is not good at all."

I also wonder how much tracking of bird populations is really happening out there. I know there are Christmas bird counts but really, when the populations nose dive, how long will it take us to figure it out?

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: June 24, 2018, 06:56:19 PM »
That Massey is a nice little tractor. Wonder why he went with 6V batteries instead of 12V. And what horsepower he gets from the rig. The original gas engine was about 30hp i think.


Good questions. I'm going to have another look at the battery converted tractors at the university here. I can see then what voltage they used. I talked to our tractor mechanic about converting one of ours and he felt that it wasn't really the right tractor for it, that the cost and work would be too high with that tractor. The ones at the university our G tractors and they apparently work well for conversions. They are cool old tractors but because they are versatile for small farms there is a lot of demand for them here and they are getting harder to find.  I've read the Gs had 34 hp and I wonder how much the batteries could bump that up.   

Consequences / Re: Decline in insect populations
« on: June 19, 2018, 01:42:37 AM »
All of my fruit trees blossomed in mid february and then a cold snap ensued no fruit, no flies, barely any bees. 

That is one of the big dangers of climate change and fruit production. We grow over 100 varieties of apples and our bloom stretches out over a couple of months since some bloom early and some late. Thus, biodiversity means we'll likely get some apples even when spring is highly unpredictable. A few heirloom varieties have long blooms even within them. Gravensteins and Bramley's Seedling will have late blooms while they have ping pong ball size fruits. I suspect with them if the first round froze out you'd still have a fair number of fine dormant buds yet to bloom.

Of course, varieties that bloom over a long span are a nightmare for orchards as they ripen over a long period and thus are terribly inefficient to harvest. In other words, the fruit will cost more to grow. Better costlier apples than none at all though.

Consequences / Re: Decline in insect populations
« on: June 19, 2018, 01:34:54 AM »
So what about apple tree pollinators? Do these stupid apple chemico-farmers haul in stupid bees (Apis mellifera) in stupid boxes with stupid Varroa mite problems? And what about those fucking vitamins that compel heedful City Homo Sapiens to eat those immaculate apples?

Yes, most farms that grow anything requiring insect pollination rent bees. Beekeepers vary widely in how healthy their bees are, how much medication they use and the type of farms they will willingly rent their bees to. This year we got lucky. We got a bunch of mason bees and we found a local beekeeper who is small scale and focused on bee health not honey production for our honeybees. His hives have, thus far, been free of mites. He only puts his bees on organic farms. I think they went to an organic clover crop after us. We hope to have enough food for pollinators throughout the year and so not need rented bees soon. We're down to using about 1/4th of what is recommended and got good pollination but it still felt like we needed them.

The crop the beekeepers I know really complain about is California almonds. They need almost every hive in the country but only for a month. Many of the almond farmers spray while the bees are there and it's such a dense monoculture of almonds that it's not a great food source for the bees. Of course, the pay is good and many beekeepers depend on it.

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: June 18, 2018, 10:35:02 PM »
The ag program at the university near us has two small battery powered tractors. They replaced the internal combustion engines in them with batteries. They work fine and actually have more horse power that way.

This got me wondering who did the work on those? How hard was it? How much did it cost? I've got a broken down old tractor that needs a couple thousand dollar repair. Now I'm thinking maybe we don't "repair" that combustion engine. Maybe we put in some batteries. Hmmmm.][url][/url]

Consequences / Re: Decline in insect populations
« on: June 18, 2018, 10:06:03 PM »
As a farmer, when I first read the article on insect decline last fall, it rocked me to the core. Scared me even more than the scariest climate change scenarios. It also rang true. We work to attract beneficial insects and it seems to get harder each year even as we have more host plants. We are, like most organic farms, surrounded by conventional farms. We farm apples and the standard budget for apple orchards, prepared by the very good ag program at the university nearby, calls for 14 rounds of spray each year. 10 of those are insecticide or fungicide. We're organic but even we have to deal with the coddling moths, which lay eggs that hatch into worms in apples. We use a virus that only kills the coddling moth but even that I ask myself - how am I contributing to this terrible problem? Achieving a balance where birds and predatory insects eat enough of the moths to have the worms stay at an acceptable level is kind of a fantasy. In our world there is no acceptable level of worms in apples. We sell mostly direct so there is a little forgiveness but if we were bigger and shipped apple there would be none.

We're a big berry growing area and those ship internationally. A certain fruit fly has become a problem here and there is zero tolerance for them. What does this mean? Blueberries, especially late season ones, are often insecticide sprayed every three days. I know conventional growers that won't eat their own berries because of the level of poisons on them.

I've no doubt that agriculture is largely responsible for insect decline. That said, consumers play a significant role here too. If you expect perfect produce know that the environmental cost of that is huge. I've had people tell me they won't buy organic produce because only chemically treated produce can leave them assured they won't encounter a bug. I doubt that much of the public would say they prefer chemicals to insects if you asked them. That said, almost all of them will chose the most perfect apple in the bin.

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: June 13, 2018, 06:36:08 PM »

Indeed. Regenerative agriculturalists (see Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta videos on youtube) seem to be able to increase organic matte in their soil by 0,1-0,3% /yr. That is a lot, it could be 1-5 tons of carbon per hectare. As there are cca 1 billion hectares of cropland globally, it means that we could potentially sequester 1-5 Gt Carbon per year. That is a lot, considering annual emissions of cca 10 Gt C. Plus we could use pastures and forests better. There is HUGE potential in this

I couldn't agree more. I think every day about how we accomplish this on our farm and it's an ongoing challenge. This is an area where public support could really make a difference. Many things we do cost money, obviously, or are really inefficient, and we compete against industrial ag on price. We've had to be very creative about direct marketing to get by.

Prior to becoming a farmer I worked in an area where I built relationships with many larger conventional farmers. I suspect that lots more of them than we might think are open to making dramatic changes to how they farm if that's what it takes to change the course of climate change. Many of them are even aware of this and making the changes they can. To really go for it they'd just have to be able to do it without going bankrupt in the short term. Many things in our system work against transitioning to regenerative farming but I've seen farms do it successfully and that gives me a little hope to hang on to.

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: June 13, 2018, 07:09:13 AM »
Thanks Sleepy, this is fascinating. It appears we need the research of those increasing nutrients by use of drought or other plant stress more than ever.
There are often huge differences in the nutrient profiles of different varieties within the same fruit or vegetable. Often the closer we get to the wild origin of a food the more nutritious. As we've bred foods for commercial agriculture we've tended to breed out some of the nutrients. Now we've altered the planet in a way that diminishes them further.
Time to breed them back to their wild roots. It's a good thing we have some delicious apples in the crab species and those Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes are amazing.

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: June 12, 2018, 10:14:28 PM »
It's been my experience, as a farmer mind you not a climate scientist, that land becomes infertile mostly because of how it's farmed. Most of my organic farmer friends have land that is becoming more fertile overtime as they implement restorative farming practices. 
Obviously climate change is altering our weather in ways that will require changes in our practices and I'm in a part of the world where those alterations are unlikely to make farming impossible. There are, none the less, a group of farmers engaged in dry farm trials here - in preparation for more limited irrigation water.

The declining levels of nutrients in food often has to do with the process of selection and breeding as well as farming techniques. Many older varieties, and some newer ones bred for better nutrition, have much higher levels of nutrients than those available in your average grocery store. Farmers like me are growing, selecting and then propagating fruit and vegetable varieties that are both more resilient to climate instability and more nutritious. In contrast to generations of ag research that bred for productivity, storage and transport without even noticing that nutrition had diminished.

Some of the most exciting research related to nutrient levels in vegetables and fruits is finding that stressful environments with insect pests, periods of drought and fungal attacks produce food with markedly higher nutrients than those farms awash in abundant chemical fertilizers and irrigation. Ted Radovich in Hawaii has done some interesting research in this.

Apples, a specialty of mine, have markedly more nutrition in areas of the fruit with scab on the surface. Truly, our most nutritious apples are in the cider bin.

I do think it's a dangerous idea that we can kill the planet and still feed ourselves and dangerous to let those leading the earths destruction spread that idea. I'd certainly rather have science and technology help us restore our ecosystems than prepare us to live in some blade runner post apocalyptic nightmare. I also concur with Neven that we can't mimic soil. Soil scientists will tell you that there are billions of microbes in a handful of soil and we understand maybe 10% of them. There is an entire other world under our feet and we are only beginning to explore it.

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: June 11, 2018, 04:52:55 PM »
Bruce - thanks for adding that point. Those of us deep into perennial biodiversity think a lot about how to operate in a way that makes us carbon sinks.

The "Plenty" site offers little for sure but they have been getting huge amounts of venture capitol funding, literally in the hundreds of millions.][url][/url]
It kills me that they and the various container farm companies are being successfully promoted as green alternatives to conventional agriculture when they may, in many ways, be even worse. I saw an article where a university sustainability program bought a container farm and another where a food bank bought several.
I've been impatiently waiting for some of the food and environmental press to wake up and critique these but sadly there has been nothing fawning over the "hyperlocal" concept of growing food in a trailer behind the restaurant.

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: June 10, 2018, 08:24:17 PM »
I am an organic farmer and, while some tech innovations in farming excite me, others terrify me. I think it's the total disconnect between much of the tech community and the natural systems that lead to innovations that make no sense to farmers.
Plenty and the various container/indoor farm companies attracting huge investments right are the latest case in point. Here's why: 1. growing the few things they can reasonably grow in artificial environments has a huge carbon footprint. Professor Bruce Bugbee of Utah has this video on the carbon footprint of indoor farming here . 2. These indoor grows save much less land than they would have you believe especially when compared with some of the more innovative small organic farmers but also when compared with just conventional farm averages. Here are some real numbers on land use and yield.  3. The few things they've been able to grow with any level of efficiency are marginal to the food system and have limited ability to sustain life and health. The last point I'll make is the most important to me and many of the organic farmers I've discussed this with over the last several months and that's this.
Indoor farms divorce us from the planet, from the natural systems that feed and sustain us. They teach all the wrong lessons about growing food and feeding ourselves. They let us continue under the delusion that we can kill the planet and still eat. We can’t, not now, not ever. We should be putting all the investment dollars, and know how, that these companies have attracted – and they’ve attracted 10s of millions, into the kind of farming that heals the planet we have instead of one that kills it quicker while growing expensive salad for the rich.
Yes. our systems of agriculture are all screwed up but these indoor grows are not a solution that leads to a healthy, resilient planet.

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