Creativity with climate change, low crop yields, sharing food, resilience?

Dear members,

This letter is a bit lengthy, but it is worth reading. To preview, these are the main points:
1. it is challenging to grow food during climate change
2. an explanation of our mission and how we share food,
3. due to weird weather, your produce box will contain less normal food, more weirder food.
4. help us share food.

While climate change is often talked about as something terrible that might happen in the future if we don’t change our ways, in reality our climate is already changing. Last year was the hottest on record and this year is expected to be even hotter. The past handful of years we have seen more 100 year floods, droughts, severe storms, and strange weather events in the US than our historical knowledge and experience can prepare us for. As a farmer, my every day life and choices are directly affected by the weather, and I sometimes wonder if I am crazy to try to be a farmer during climate change. On the other hand, our precarious future makes it even more important to try to part of a creative and sustainable food system.
It is part of the mission of our farm to make delicious, nutritious food available to everyone. We believe that good food is a basic right and necessary for a thriving life. In Story County, at least 15% of people have a hard time affording food for themselves and their families. Healthy food, like fresh, chemical free fruits and vegetables are more expensive and even harder to afford than basic food needs.
In Iowa we have some of the best soil in the world, a fairly long growing season, and an adequate average rainfall to grow really great food. (we also have volatile weather) It is possible for everyone in Iowa to have 3 meals a day of super delicious healthy food during for at least half the year just by growing and sharing food. We try to make this happen by helping people learn how to grow food, teaching about cooking and nutrition, encouraging sharing community relationships, and growing great food to share with others.
To keep ourselves accountable to our mission, we set a guideline of selling approximately 1/3 of the food we harvest and giving the remainder as follows : 1/3 to workers in exchange for their labor and 1/3 to those who would be unable to otherwise afford them. These donations go to the food pantries, the shelters, the soup kitchens, and directly to families. These past 2 years we have also been sharing with the Farm to Clinic program which is helping food access for low income pregnant women, new mothers, people with diabetes and others.
This year our harvests have been consistently smaller than expected and we have been having a hard time meetings these targets. Because of unusual weather, it has been a hard year all around. We have had many more pests than usual- extremely high numbers of flea beetles, grasshoppers, and cucumber beetles. These bugs have been damaging plants, spreading disease, and wiping out numerous Asian greens, cauliflowers, squash, cucumber, and melon plantings before they even produced any fruit. It is likely that we will continue to encounter new pests and diseases. WE had an extremely hot and dry June making our yields drastically lower in our potatoes, onions, and cabbages, and also keeping many plantings from germinating. Many of the crops that did particularly poorly this year are the more normal vegetables. Extremely recognizable and/or very shelf stable vegetables, like green beans, potatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, garlic, tomatoes, etc are in much higher demand at the food pantries. Because of this, we are now giving our members less of these normal veggies and larger amounts of weirder things like beets, greens, herbs, or more unusual varieties of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Part of the CSA model is that our members share in the risk, the bounty, and the fun of being farmers. Part of the risk of being a farmer is that we are not in control of the weather. Part of the bounty is that often you will get more food in your box than your equivalent dollars could buy at the store. The fun part is the sometimes unexpected new experiences and the constant miracles of taste and color that grow from such an unlikely source of seeds, dirt, water, and sunlight. We are incredibly grateful for all our members who have decided to be our companions on this remarkable food growing adventure in the advent of climate change.
This has been a tough year, but with climate change, we will potentially have many difficult weather years. We have been talking to our farming neighbors and they have been having many of the same troubles this season. We all need to work together, learn together, and be flexible and creative. We have been working hard to be good stewards of this land and good food producers for our community. We are investing in resilient systems – diverse cropping systems, conscientious irrigation, soil and water erosion reducing strategies, healthy soil ecosystems, succession planting, and diligent but safe pest management. The climate is changing and we need to keep learning. While we have had a lot of setbacks this year, we have still been growing a lot of food. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns or creative ideas as we go forward.

You can help us with our mission of sharing food. Everyone has something to offer, and all of us need help and support from our friends and neighbors. Sharing food is one of the simplest and most culturally rich traditions of showing care. You can bring extra food to food pantries, but you can also invite a neighbor over to share a melon on your porch, or welcome an immigrant family into the community and your home with a delicious meal, or cook a dinner for a family with a new baby, go to a potluck, or go cook or just eat at the Food at First meal. If you know a family that can use a gift box of vegetables, just let us know and we will add them to our list.
alice mcg