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Weather woes could scare off farmers, customers

October 12th, 2011 · No Comments · Farmers markets, Growing food, local food

Yellow leaves of autumnI’m beginning to worry that our increasingly volatile weather may put the young local-food movement in reverse.

Here in Lawrence, Kansas, which had pretty mild weather in summer 2011 compared with many parts of the county, I’ve been having a hard time accepting that summer is over because I haven’t had nearly the number of tomatoes I expect–and the ones at the peak of the summer definitely were not the usual ambrosia.

The other usually bountiful crops have been disappointing:  the melons just not as tasty, the green beans here and gone. Earlier, the raspberries were few and the cherries nonexistent. Alas, this summer’s produce crop is enough to make a farmer wonder “why am I doing this?” and prompt a wannabe local-food devotee to ask, “what’s all the fuss about?”

You could hardly blame either for their sentiments. My Rolling Prairie subscription would have had me think that potatoes are the only crop that has done really well locally in 2011.

The late season, happily, is turning things around a bit. I’ve had some delectable cherry tomatoes, flavorful and tender. Voluptuous bell peppers have supplanted the tough and puny peppers of summer. The sweet potatoes are looking good, and gorgeous Swiss chard is back. Some farmers have generous butternut squashes for sale at the Lawrence Farmers Market. The apples? Well, not their best year, but at least there are some.

Alas, the weather and thus the crops are reliably inconsistent around here, but eating local is like investments: over the long term the benefits accrue. With local food, the benefits are enriching the local economy, eating better tasting food (usually) and knowing where my food comes from. I think those benefits are worth the uncertainty. I just hope the growers keep thinking so too.


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