“Even if the global policymakers can’t agree, farmers need nothing more than their observations of the oak trees, the soil, the moon and the sweet food that results from their efforts to know that too much is at stake.”
To Future Farmers,
I can’t imagine what it will be like for you, many years in the future, but I hope that some elements of the California landscape are still around. I hope that the terrifically productive, deep soils that grow so much sweet and sustaining food will endure. I hope that the beautiful full moon will still be floating across the night sky encouraging seeds to sprout and grow.
When the oak trees that I planted here at Full Belly Farm are 100 years old they will still be youngsters – native Californians watching the changes coming over the landscape. I sometimes imagine the lifespan of the oak trees on our farm. Some of them were here when the Indians roamed. All of them have their roots deep in the California soil. I hope that the oak trees I planted will still be overseeing your planting, weeding and harvesting. I hope they will still be healthy. But what if the climate has changed drastically?
Growing food, tilling the soil, or working with sheep and cows as we do, can take a toll on the land. Maybe in your time farmers and farmland will be understood as a key to the solution. Farmers today are learning to be carbon stewards by keeping soil covered: with legumes that feed the soil; or hedgerows that harbor pollinators; or trees like the oaks, that take carbon in from the atmosphere, use it to grow, and pass it into the soil where it feeds soil microbes and is eventually stored for millennia. These farmers know that agriculture, so dependent on weather, will be one of the first victims of climate change. These farmers are acting on the knowledge that millions of acres of farmland hold the key to returning huge quantities of carbon back to be stored in soil.
Some of the discussion at the U.N. climate talks in December will be about encouraging farming practices that will slow down climate change. If those discussions bear fruit and we increase the carbon in soils today, it will secure your ability to grow food for your communities tomorrow. Even if the global policymakers can’t agree, farmers need nothing more than their observations of the oak trees, the soil, the moon and the sweet food that results from their efforts to know that too much is at stake. The time to act is now.