J and I visited the popular U-District Farmers Market in Seattle on Saturday to pick up the turkey I ordered in August from Skagit River Ranch. We’re nearing the end of the growing season for a lot of small farms around here, but I gathered most of the seasonal ingredients I wanted to round out a simple Thanksgiving dinner. Some of the farms, like Sol to Seed, were finishing up their market season on Saturday so I wanted to buy some extra storage items (i.e. onions, winter squash, dried beans) before farms took their winter break to prepare for seasonal floods. Just two days after visiting the farmers market, Sol to Seed posted a photo of flooding at their farm in the Snoqualmie Valley on their Facebook page. The flood season begins.
Last Thursday I attended the Focus on Farming conference at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds where I led a panel discussion about regional food hubs. The conference was smaller than in previous years but the depth of the presentations and speakers was immense, particularly on the topic of conservation, climate change and drought. Two highlights for me included a fascinating lunchtime keynote by Fred Kirschenmann (Leopold Center Distinguished Fellow and thought leader on sustainable agriculture and land ethics) and Chad Kruger, Director of the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources. Chad’s presentation introduced us to the Western Washington Climate Change Assessment. One of the toughest challenges predicted for our generation is water scarcity attributed to climate change. Evidence shows that there will be a significant increase in chronic droughts in the lower half of the United States within the next two decades. Droughts that will alter our current domestic agriculture production and thus alter distribution channels, food costs, etc. Although the pivot point of my work is to create market based solutions for agriculture businesses, climate change is ultimately why I work in local food systems.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we must work hard now to prepare our agriculture infrastructure (marketing, processing, warehousing, transportation) while we advocate for better and fairer environmental regulations to protect our natural resources and public health policies to ensure food access. We have to continue to make farming a more profitable venture for future farmers while at the same time increase the value of farmland and provide affordable access to farmland for future farmers. Agriculture has to prepare itself for inevitable future development as climate change refugees may likely overburden this region’s ability to produce food, water and shelter for all of its citizens.These shifts will exhaust the precious natural resources required for sustaining civilization as we know it. Northwest Washington was not prepared for the influx of people flocking to the region during the 1990’s tech boom, but we have to get serious about the challenges facing our foodshed and watershed in the not so distant future. Folks, there is a sense of urgency here.
If you want to learn more, here are a list of resources recommended by Fred Kirschenmann in his talk:
- Resilience Alliance Books “Resilience Thinking” and “Resilience Practice” by Walker and Salt
- Ecological Economics Group
- The writings of Aldo Leopold
- Enough is Enough by Robert Deitz
- World Watch Annual Reports
- The Land Institute
- American Farmland Trust
Last thought here. I’ll be baking cornbread today while the turkey thaws. One of my favorite Thanksgiving foods is cornbread dressing. Last year, I compiled four family recipes for dressing from my mom, my sister Shawna and my cousin Janice. If you are looking for inspiration, check it out!