The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

The Food & Climate Change Connection

Posted by | September 9, 2013

Over 85 people filled the Mather Auditorium a couple of weeks ago for "You, Your Food, & the Survival of the Planet" with panelists Mort Mather, John Piotti, and Representative Chellie Pingree. The panelists answered a variety of moderated questions, and then the audience had the opportunity to ask some of their own. Following are some highlights from the notes I took during this most exciting evening!

Panel

  • There is no better way to reduce our carbon footprint than to grow and/or buy food locally. 70% of our food in Maine could be grown here, but this happening will depend on policy changes at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Some climate change effects that Mort has noticed on his 1-acre certified organic farm in Wells that he has been farming since 1972: 1) He had erosion on flat land this year, and had to put ground covers down to stop the erosion, 2) He had one inch of rain in a 24-hour period (increase of 2/3), which is great for mold and blights but difficult weather for farmers, and 3) Climate change brought ticks north
  • A lot of the best land for farming is also the best land for development.
  • The average age of farmers in Maine is going down, but the biggest barrier for young people is the cost of the land.
  • Maine has 20 million acres of land. Historically, 6.5 million acres in the state were used for farming. Now, 3-4 million acres are being used for food production. We need 7-8 million acres to produce 70-80% of our food.
  • The fastest growing market in grocery stores is the local/organic section. Even Target and Walmart want organic and they are going to decide between buying organic from China or getting their supply locally.
  • Local/organic is not just for the wealthy--the food stamp and SNAP programs are honored at farmers markets in Maine.
  • Billions of dollars are invested in subsidized food commodities, which are grown by a very few huge companies.
  • With the corporatization of agriculture, farmers make less profit and infrastructure isn't developed. We should give farmers small grants to rebuild infrastructure. We need more small farms--not large farms. In 1950, farmers received 35% of the profit, whereas today they only receive 9%.
  • Driving our food around is a huge source of pollution.
  • What can we do? Buy locally year-round! Our buying power is huge and empowers the farm movement. It is critical to be more involved at the local level in politics.
  • The Farm Bill has been very contentious in the House of Representatives. Ask candidates where they stand on food/farming issues. This issue crosses demographic and political lines.audience
  • Individual grocery stores make decisions based on consumer demand, so speak up and make suggestions. They will have an impact on how much local/organic food is available in the aisles!
  • Schools are doing great things in Maine! Bonny Eagle has a passive solar greenhouse, South Berwick Elementary has a hoophouse and the chef uses food in school meals that is grown by the students, and Portland has "locally grown Thursdays."
  • Regarding the audience question of what effect climate change will have on food production: 1) no hay made in July due to the rain, 2) insect changes/pressures (seeing insects/pests we didn't used to see), 3) blights and diseases are going to change, 4) more wind and difficulties with hoophouses, 5) problems with erosion, 6) the bigger the farm, the more difficult it will be
  • Farmers will have to be smart and nimble and experiment with lots of different techniques as the effects of climate change continue to impact us.

Congratulations to our door prize winners who went home with one of the following three prizes: Joshua's restaurant gift certificate, $50 towards a local CSA (community supported agriculture), and a Maine Farmland Trust membership, book, and CD!

The next Climate Stewards evening lecture, Keeping the Blue Skies Green: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Vacation & Business Travel, will be held on Tuesday, September 17 from 6:00-7:30pm in the Mather Auditorium.

Thank you to the NOAA Climate Stewards Education Project for providing funding for the Climate Stewards evening lecture series!

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