Is Anyone More Resilient Than A Farmer?
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
A short while ago, an article I read about a peach shortage in the Northeast due to some irregular weather prompted me to send a note to our 2016 Produce Innovation Award winner, Amy Machamer of Hurd Orchards in western New York. In summary, the article said that some unusually mild winter weather followed by some early-spring deep freezes decimated stone fruit crops in the region. Hurd Orchards produces many of those stone fruits mentioned. So I sent a note to Amy to see just how much she was affected.
Amy Machamer is the winner of the 2016 Bayer Produce Innovation Award. The 7th generation farmer is dedicated to increasing public awareness of produce through education.
SPOILER ALERT: Unfortunately, Amy and her family suffered at the hands of Mother Nature just like many other farmers; but Amy’s resilience and positivity are unshakeable. Read the excerpt below from an email I received from Amy in response to my inquiry about her peach and stone fruit crop.
Well…the article is correct. The effects of this strange weather pattern are that we have a very poor fruit set on many fruits, and no peaches at all, save one peculiar tree that bloomed happily through it all. The scariest thing is that we HAVE seen this before, unlike the farmer quoted in the article. Since 2012 we have had a string of winter/spring weather dynamics that have each been unusual and devastating: a super arctic winter in 2015, odd as described in the article in 2016, three nights of minus 10 degrees or below in 2014, and a complete wipe out in 2012 due to 60- and 70-degree weather in January and February, and then frost after frost in late spring.
The statement about not having seen this before is very relevant, though. Although these last winters have each been really weird, prior to that I only remember loosing peaches once in the early 2000's. When I think back to my youth (I quizzed my sisters as well), I don't remember ever worrying about not having fruit; and when my mom is quizzed about her youth, she does not ever remember worrying either—and in those days we had a huge acreage of stone fruits.
So, from my perspective, weather patterns appear to be changing, or at least becoming increasingly volatile in temperature. On our farm my mom and I have committed to thinking deeply about the future, including searching for varieties that can sustain a wide range of weather patterns, thinking about rootstocks and hardiness, and thinking about which crops would warrant investments in frost/freeze protection infrastructure. We will think new and we will think old. We will try to learn from the states where winter warm ups and frost issues are customary.
I think in the end we will be a lot smarter and a lot more long-term in our thinking, and hopefully our farm will be more resilient. In the meantime we continue to think about the positive and build upon the crop we do have.
Two things really stuck with me after reading Amy’s response: 1) As our planet’s climate changes, farmers across the world will be forced to adapt to have a successful crop. 2) The word ‘quit’ is not in a farmer’s vocabulary.
If you know Amy, or any other farmer, you know how passionate she is about producing food, and that the words she wrote to me are more than just words, they’re a way of life. I deeply respect Amy for her commitment and dedication to her family and her farm, and I thank her for having the strength and the spirit to continue to produce a crop year in and year out despite the risk and uncertainty she faces.
Visit Hurd Orchards online at www.HurdOrchards.com.
Robert Graesser said:
7/28/2016 2:16 PM
I think Amy should focus on that "one peculiar tree that bloomed happily through it all". Through propagation from seed or grafted cuttings, this could be the answer to adapting to these volatile winters, It's a classic case of Darwin's "survival of the fittest".