Farmers and Climate Change – They’ve got the instinct

In the last few weeks, several articles have appeared related to climate change and agriculture. The New York Times cover story was one entitled “Temperature rising: A WarmingPlanet Struggles to Feed Itself.” There also was a big spread in the Economist entitled “Hindering harvests:Changes in the climate are already having an effect on crop yields—butnot yet a very big one”

However, it was a Nov. 28, 2010, op-edpiece in the NYT that really moved me. Jack Hedin, a farmer, eloquently described how climate change has affected his farm – the legacy of a homestead his grandfather established in the late 1800s. His description of the unexpected forces that reshaped his farm really helped me to grasp it – more than all of those big-model descriptions and dire warnings of the depletion of our food stocks.

If I were in the food business, I would want to talk to farmers like Jack Hedin to get a leg up on how this is really going to affect my operations.  If you know a farmer, ask him to tell you about climate change and his farm.  Then think about what that means for your business.  I’m eager to hear from you on what these conversations with the world’s weather experts tell you.
I had a conversation like this, myself, with Ken, a wild urban farmer in Chicago.  He talked to me about the changes in how we predict weather changes. In the past, it was the smell of rain, the look of a bank of clouds, the shift in the wind. Today, we benefit from extraordinary weather satellite data.  And then Ken shared that climate change is forcing such incredible resource demands for more irrigation and more pesticides. The conversation reminded me, thinking of the world’s food, of a quote on my desk, which says:  “The best starting point for (climate change) adaptation is to be rich.”
The Economist reported last week that the price of wheat in Texas is more than $8 a bushel, compared with last year’s average of $5.25.  Perhaps everyone will need a bit more cash.