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How Drought/Floods Are Affecting Food and Herbs

My intern, Irma, and I went for a walk yesterday. Where there were once lush wild grasses, a few naturalized yellow dock and milkweed plants, was now totally dry and crunchy underfoot. Dead cottonwoods, barely alive junipers (what everyone persists in calling cedar), and the saddest looking native chamisa and sagebrush…only the prickly pear cactus looked healthy, though small. This is drought in a high desert: the ground has NO moisture. Deer, rabbits, and all the smaller rodents are eating garden plants and flowers down to the ground. Many folks can’t keep their gardens watered enough…and even with drip irrigation the plants don’t get the nitrogen from rainwater, and hot dry winds desiccate the leaves. Our National Forests are closed because you could literally start a forest fire by holding a cigarette to a tree needle.

Meanwhile, in Europe around the Mediterranean, it has hardly stopped raining. I’m expecting essential oils from Armenia, and the distilling date just keeps being pushed forward. Whether the weather disturbances are totally caused by global warming (what I often call climate change) or a combination of various natural patterns  exacerbated by changes such as the increase of temperature and acidity of seawater, we can’t say with 100 % assurance….and yet, as I read the weather news, and talk to customers all over the continental US, everyone is reporting weird and unseasonable and record-breaking weather.

That fact means the farmers are having a harder time growing everything: vegetables, grains, fruits, herbs, flowers. First and last frost dates are changing. Warmer and wetter areas are getting warmer and wetter; drier and colder areas are getting drier…but not necessarily colder. Birds are changing where and when they arrive….and this can affect pollination just as surely as bee colony collapse or the white nose fungal disease is decimating bats.

We are living in a volatile time of change, and having adequate stores of dried food, herbs (especially tinctures that have a good shelf life) and drinking water is a good idea. If flood water can overrun a nuclear plant, if larger and more destructive tornadoes are showing up in places where tornadoes have historically been rare, emergency preparedness is not just a Girl Scout / Boy Scout slogan. Food prices and herb prices are already increasing due to shortages caused by weather disruptions ( late planting and late frosts), insect damage, higher fuel prices, and changing dietary patterns worldwide.

The social scientists have had a field day talking to each other about why the average person is having such a hard time wrapping their head around global climate change and its consequences. It’s not an easy or pretty picture. Those of us who farm, or work with plants, or bird watch: we are seeing the changes. it is not theoretical. As consumers, we can affect national policy and corporate policy primarily through how and where we spend our money. Supporting local agriculture, herbalists, and companies who are green in deed and not just spin is a worthwhile endeavor. So is bugging the hell out of all your Congresspeople.

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