Scarcity: A Dry December & the Discarding of Food

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So far, Mother Nature has been completely uncooperative towards my hopes for a wet winter. As of late, she has really been giving us the cold shoulder, literally….morning temperatures the last few days in Chualar have been ranging between 21-25 degrees (F). Not that these are any record setting, bone chilling lows, but after an especially beautiful October/November in our mild Central Coast climate, it does make for a very cold start to the day (It does not escape me that with the frigid temps in other parts of the country, some folks undoubtedly don’t sympathize with me, but everything’s relative).

We could use a few more days like this.

We could use a few more days like this.

At the moment, in Chualar, we are still finishing out the season’s broccolette. Thankfully, it is a fairly hardly plant because at these temps the plants are completely frozen by the time the morning sun comes up over the Gabilan Mountains. There isn’t much we can do to protect the plants, except keep them moist, as wet soil tends to retain more heat than dry. If things are looking dry after they defrost, we might put a small shot of water out to help make it through the next night. The frost also puts a damper on any harvesting until frozen plants thaw, and when that doesn’t happen until noon, we end up canceling harvest for that day altogether. Not ideal, but all part of the gig.

Winter 'broccolette-sicles' in Chualar. Baby, it's COLD outside!

Winter ‘broccolette-sicles’ in Chualar. Baby, it’s COLD outside!

The current extended forecast shows very little possibility for any rain before the end of the year. At this point though, even if it does rain, 2013 is shaping up to be the driest year for the Central Coast since the 1850’s. For now, the lack of rain won’t hinder our growing program, nor those of others in the Salinas Valley, since we irrigate our crops with water pulled from deep underground stores. However, growers in California’s Central Valley, who rely heavily on surface water delivered from Northern California, may have to fallow thousands of acres of farm ground, due to lack of an adequate water source.

Not exactly how a rain gauge should look in December.

Not exactly how a rain gauge should look in December.

As the dry winter makes everyone concerned about the scarcity of water, I am also thinking about all the other resources that are consumed by growing our food, whether it be vegetables, grains, meat, or dairy products. Undoubtedly, farmers and ranchers do invest a tremendous amount of time, money, and resources into growing food for the nation, and the world. A recent study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that up to 40% of all food in the United States ultimately goes uneaten or is not used. There are myriad causes which contribute to this waste, starting in the field, continuing through every step of our food supply chain, and finally ending with the choices we all make as consumers. I know I am guilty of throwing away unused food at times…I go grocery shopping with the best of intentions, but then the week gets busy, unplanned events may pop up, or sometimes I just lose a little motivation and don’t cook as much as I thought I would. Consequently, items go unused, and eventually get discarded. I think this is an issue we should all be aware of, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year; and especially these days, with so many people in need.

We try our hardest out on our ranches to conserve as much as we can, to not be wasteful nor use our resources in excess, and it helps us be better farmers. Hopefully, we can all make some choices in our everyday lives that will help reduce some of this food waste, and ensure that we are utilizing our resources in the more efficient ways. I hope everyone stays warm and has a very happy holiday season!

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