Asparagus/Climate Change/Woodchips/Washing Machine

by Lincoln Fishman, Sawyer Farm, Worthington, MA

Lots of asparagus starting this week and going for the next few weeks. All the rain has made them very juicy and sweet. The endless rain and clouds have delayed the start of harvest, but this wonderful perennial seems happy and healthy anyway.

That’s about the only thing that’s thriving in this weather. I wrote at the end of last season about the fact that the late summer/early fall rains of 2018 were climate-related. (As the number and intensity of hurricanes in the Gulf increases, those storms make their way up the coast and dump historically unusual amounts of rain in our area.)

But I have no idea what accounts for this weather pattern that we find ourselves in. So far, in May, there have only been 4 days without precipitation. And today is only the second day in May that will have more sun than clouds. In April, there were only 9 days without precipitation, and just 5 days with more sun than clouds. It has rained 32 out of the last 45 days, and only been sunny for 7 of the last 45 days!

In contrast, rainy Seattle, WA, only had 2 days of precipitation in May, and 9 mostly sunny days. In April, there were 13 days without precipitation. We’ve been wetter and cloudier than the city that sets the bar for grey weather.

I’m generally skeptical of people who link individual weather events to climate change. History is full of unusual weather, and most days are not “average”. But I’m wondering. Maybe farmers just have a front row seat and can see what’s happening most clearly. Or maybe I’m too close to it and I’m seeing patterns where their aren’t any.

For the last 20 years I’ve been hearing about climate change — “It’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming.” Is now the moment when we look around and say, “It’s here.”? Not to say I doubt the science — it is here in a statistical sense — but is it here in the sense that it’s now significantly affecting our lives?

If weather like last fall and this spring becomes normal — or even happens every third year — what and how will we farm? Last year was unprofitable and demoralizing. This year, we started with lots of energy, only to be kept out of the field by the rains. We’ve never gotten this late a start. If this is the new normal, we would need different crops and different methods.

Meanwhile, Vinnie from Asplundh has dropped off a small mountain of woodchips. He’s done his best to direct all the chips from the line maintenance towards our farm. (Thanks Vinnie!). Woodchips are great bedding material for the animals in winter. In spring, they get turned with the compost, inoculated with microbes, saturated with nutrients, and then spread on the field, where they break down slowly over the course of many years. They are a long-term investment in the soil. It’s funny to be contemplating whether climate change will drive us out of farming while still waking up every day and working on long-term infrastructure and soil-building.

Which I will now attempt to link to the last item — a top loading washing machine. It is linked, actually. Despite these looming climate concerns, we’re starting a new venture this year — we’ll be at the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Northampton selling mesclun, chicken, eggs and a few other things. We’re hoping to be going through large quantities of mesclun and need a new drying system. Seems like most farms are using top loading washing machines on the spin setting to spin dry their greens. Anyone have an old washing machine lying around?

2 thoughts on “Asparagus/Climate Change/Woodchips/Washing Machine

  1. Hello, Josh
    I only discovered your New Rural Advocate website today (via the link in your bulletin of the Village Church). I appreciate the news there – of the farms and the education coalition. I will try to bookMark the Advocate & to stay tuned. Thank you.
    Lucy Fandel


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