A recent issue of National Geographic focused on climate change showed a graphic depicting the globe redrawn to show what rising seas would do to our banks, shores, and coastlines in the year 2100. Tifton and Statesboro are beachfront communities. Another map revealed the desertification that would stretch across our continent. I got a jolt glancing through it; the graphics and photographs were both captivating and shocking. The new and improved port of Savannah would be deep indeed.
Some of the grimmer prognostications about Georgia agriculture in the next decade or two include droughts, floods, decreased crop yields due to higher temperatures, higher rates of soil evaporation, and increases in fungal and bacterial diseases and insect pests.
Farmers are dealing with the first inklings of these trends here and now, and if they continue—and scientists and agriculture researchers expect them to—the price of food on our plates will rise much faster than global temperatures.
Want more science? According to a Georgia Tech report, “climate change has the potential to decrease the availability of water resources due to probable changes in rainfall distribution.” Most climate models and studies consistently forecast more storms, or, as the scientists prefer, “heavy precipitation events.”
Another study, by the American Security Project, estimates that temperatures in Georgia could rise by 4.5 degrees F in winter and 5.4 degrees F in summer, accompanied by a five percent increase in annual precipitation.
One thing we can do to address climate change is champion organic agriculture louder than ever. The agricultural and industrial practices that go into growing and harvesting food create 83 percent of greenhouse emissions.
Growers who’ve embraced organic farming practices are more prepared for the types of changes Georgia is likely to see, especially when it comes to efficient water use and erosion control.
In addition to being more buffered from climate change’s impact, it turns out that organic farms also mitigate the severity of change. Natural agriculture systems, rich and alive with microbes, bacteria, fungus, nematodes, humus, and roots, soak up carbon dioxide and keep it from wreaking havoc in the planet’s upper atmosphere.
Organic production practices utilize renewable resources, build soil fertility, and rely on biodiversity —all core tactics for addressing climate change through agriculture.
Our farmers are leading the way, and so are consumers who choose to eat local, organic food. That’s true teamwork on the supply and demand side.
Want to know something else you could do? Pass this issue along to one of your friends or family members—someone who’s not part of the organic movement yet, but has the potential to be. Help us generate more demand for our farmer’s delicious and beneficial food.
Another thing you can do is mark your calendar for the Georgia Organics 2014 conference on Jekyll Island, a beautiful setting to remind us of the fragility of our environment and coastline and the critical importance of our work. The conference will be February 21-22, 2014, and our theme will focus on the environment—to build on our 2013 theme, it’s Farm Rx for the planet. We will honor our growers who have been farming with a light touch on the earth and focus on the production practices and community building that can lead the way in climate change mitigation.
In addition to Friday farm tours, Saturday workshops, and fresh seafood on the menu, we’ll also offer nature and coastal tours on Sunday so we can all take a needed break and get back to nature before getting back to work.
I hope you will join our community on the coast to renew our commitment to growing and eating green and being the change we wish to see. The sea beckons in more ways than one.