In a little more than one month hundreds of people will descend on a Michigan city just a few hours north of us in search of a good time at a festival known throughout the country; a festival that, as it so happens, depends wholly on Mother Nature’s cooperation. That festival is The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan. And the word on the street is that this year, like too many years in the recent past, they will once again have to ship in cherries in order to make the festival the success everyone expects it to be.
This, in and of itself, is not a deal breaker for most people. Locavores don’t wait around for a festival in order to buy their in-season foods and those who are coming for the fun and only the fun likely don’t care exactly where the cherries in their pies came from. The festival will move forward regardless of the area’s crop in any given year, but the problem is not one unique to festival organizers and is all too familiar — and much more complex — to many who like their food fresh and locally grown.
Year after year mass media makes it known the world over when major crops are damaged or wiped out entirely in their primary growing regions. Florida’s citrus crops probably hold more headlines than Paris Hilton. Prices always reflect the severity of the damage the country over. Navel Orange prices in upstate New York and North Dakota pass the pain of the season from farmer to consumer, state to state and in the case of imported foods even country to country. But what does a wiped out, or dreadfully light, crop mean for locavores in the regions hardest hit? The difference can be between eating well and barely eating; between living purposefully and abandoning one’s ethics in order to eat, to survive.
The cause and effect doesn’t have to be quite so drastic though. There’s no fooling Mother Nature, but with a few small safeguards in place we can live in relatively peaceful — and local — quarters with her and her bounty.
Support Small Farmers – I know, you’ve heard it and you’ve heard it and you’ve heard it again, but the message still rings true. Tending thousands of plants, trees, and animals requires a zero tolerance program for inefficiency. Big farms may offer lower prices in good years, but in bad years they also lose their crop and leave a locavore wondering what’s for dinner. Small farmers on the other hand, with a little less rigid standard for efficiency, may have taken the time to protect at least a portion of their crop from the inevitable. Especially if the crop-killing culprit was frost.
Keep a Little In Reserve – Even fruit trees can be grown in pots these days which means if you’ve got so much as a balcony a small helping of your favorite foods could be at your fingertips. Certainly, when available, you’ll still want to purchase much of those foods from the farmer’s market and pick-your own farms, but if you can’t live without a few blueberries every year a couple of patio-friendly bushes can make that happen even in the case of a total loss in local agricultural circles.
Know Your Substitutes – Start experimenting with possible substitutes now. In the case that blackberries are nowhere to be found and your friend has a craving for your world famous jam, it’s good to know that mulberries will do in a pinch.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and start safeguarding! You’re at the mercy of Mother Nature’s wrath.
Way ahead of me? How do you cope with crop losses and disappointing harvests? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!