News from a Changing Planet — #13

Lucky 13, I hope! I assume this is OK. I think so. A friend and fellow Green-Democrat, Tatiana Schlossberg sends out email updates. I re-publish them here for wider coverage.

“Hello ! 

“There’s no really good way to start anything lately, so I’ll just get right to it! I’m writing today to share with you a story I wrote this week for The Washington Post about how climate change is affecting cranberries in Massachusetts. I am proud of this story! 

“I got a chance to visit two bogs in October to witness the harvest, which was being made more difficult by the extreme drought in Southeastern Massachusetts this year — just one of the many ways that climate change is making it harder to grow cranberries. One of the bogs was the Ocean Spray “media bog” in the idyllic location of the “nature preserve” aka swamp behind the Patriots’ Stadium (I was the only member of “the media” to attend), and the other was Spring Rain Farm, belonging to Billy and Mary McCaffrey, in East Taunton. The McCaffreys were amazing: really smart and funny, generous and open, secure in the sense that what they do is important even if other people take it for granted. 

“I will try to let my story speak for itself, but I also wanted to share something that I have been feeling since I read a book on old farms (Old Farms: An Illustrated Guide by John Vince) over the summer (we all have our quirks!), which is no great revelation on my part, but feels important to try to remember: that most of us are able to do what we do for a living or go to school or have time for leisure at all because someone else grows our food. I feel that I am free — to get to be a writer, to live the life that I want — because of people like the McCaffreys and all of the farmers in the US and around the world who do that hard work, even as it becomes more and more difficult to make a living, both because of market pressures and, increasingly, climate change.

Without further ado, here is the beginning of the piece. You can read the rest here.

How climate change is complicating a Thanksgiving staple

Heat waves, drought, lack of winter ice are taking a toll on a quintessential Massachusetts crop

EAST TAUNTON, Mass. — Billy McCaffrey trawled his hands through the cold, clear water, creating a small wake in the calm. Below the surface, the flooded vines of the cranberry bog looked like a Christmas tree garlanded with shining red bulbs, pressed up close against a window pane.

He pulled up a cranberry and popped it in his mouth. The shock of sourness, which twists and wrenches the faces of the uninitiated, barely produced a pucker.

McCaffrey, 68, and his wife, Mary, 73, have been growing cranberries on their farm in East Taunton, Mass., for more than 30 years. “If I were in the Carolinas, I’d be growing rice,” said McCaffrey, who owns 12 acres of bog and also grows hay and strawberries elsewhere on his farm. “If I were in Hawaii, I’d be growing pineapple, but I’m here, so I grow cranberries. We’re holding on in Massachusetts.”

But climate change makes holding on increasingly hard.

More extreme heat in summer, warmer winters with less ice, and wild fluctuations between heavy rain and drought are taking a toll on cranberry plants here, where many of the plants are 100 years old or more. Farmers are employing new technology and altering some traditional practices to keep alive a fruit that dates to native tribes and has been associated with this state since the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth.

All farming, dependent on weather and climate, retains some element of unpredictability. But what many are seeing now is outside the range of experience.

“There was never a ‘normal’ growing season, but there’s really no normal now,” said Brian Wick, the executive director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association, a statewide organization. “It’s the hottest this, and the driest that, and that’s what we are seeing and what the growers are tackling.”

…..the story continues here


I am working on coming up with something to say about…the world(?) but having trouble thinking of what exactly it should be. Please let me know if you have something you’d like to hear about — questions you’d like answered, or an issue you’d like to have someone make sense of, or, least likely of all, my opinion on XY or Z! I would love to hear from you.

I hope everyone has a good holiday, such as it is! And take special care of your cranberries.

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