A New Direction

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Where's the Water?

California appears to be bracing for a serious and severe drought this year as only 1/3rd of the snow has fallen compared to the norm in the Sierras over the last two months (snowiest/wettest months). The Sierras feed 2/3rds of California water according to the article. What caught my eyes is the estimate that that it is possible only 15% of orders will be fulfilled by Californian farmers. Considering they provide roughly half the produce for the country we go be in for a veggie price shock shortly. Or possibly even none at all.

As this article is from Reuters and not, say, NOTW, it seems to be fairly non-sensational. When living in Sydney I remember seeing headlines in the free dailies proclaiming the Murray-Darling basin only has 4 weeks of water left and nothing would ever materialise. This isn't to say the water use/rights in Australia are peachy, they aren't. Try sustaining an entire country continent through decade long droughts and see if it isn't the number one issue. With California's case, everyone from the Governator on down to local water agencies is greatly concerned. Conservation plans are being implemented and rationing appears likely.

Given the state of our food distribution system and supply chain management, I am concerned as well. The MN growing season is short and home gardeners tend not to see fruit until July in normal years. One states water problems could be a boon for local farmers though. If prices are high, quality low and supply short on staple items like salad, melons, grapes and tomatoes then the area farmers market becomes a fantastic alternative.

My girlfriend got me 3 seed catalogues for the holidays and I've got my orders placed. I've been going round to Home Depot buying up cheap scrap wood to fashion into raised planter boxes and should have adequate space for a wide variety of products: several tomato types, peppers, kiwi, strawberry, 3 different melons, cucumbers, chilies, herbs, onions, 9 or 10 types of lettuce, carrots and on and on. As I've said before I learned a lot of things the hard way last year and have a lot of the ground work(pun!) done for this year. We've constructed a large trellis for vined plants to grow. I've been composting for a year now so should have enough humus to enrich a lot of soil. I think I've got an OK handle on timing but even if it doesn't pan out according to plan I will have developed my skill set that much more. It's not a process of straight economics --seeds+equipment+time must be = or < economic cost of purchasing from the store what I grow-- it's a process of having a valuable skill in the future.

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