Whenever I hear folks complain about the cost of food I can feel my blood pressure rising. Farming is a risky and sometime dangerous occupation, albeit with many rewards other than monetary. Farmers deserve adequate pay for their labors and spoiled rich white people shouldn’t complain about the price of food. Especially when Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than any other country in the world.
Right now apples are coming into season and the price is somewhat higher this year. Still much lower than those that are shipped in from places like New Zealand but higher none the less. So I offer a little history lesson on the growing of apples in Maine. In 2010 we had a very late frost in the spring and lost large portions of our apple crop when the blossoms were killed in that frost. A bad year for apple farmers but they are used to an occasional bad year and can survive that. This year we had a normal spring and then along comes just as the crop is ripening. Many orchards will suffer losses due to apples dropping early and (as in my case) losing trees or parts of trees to the wind. It seems only fair to expect that the price will be higher to attempt to compensate for two bad years in a row. Remember supply and demand???
Many crops were impacted by the storm. I, personally, am still waiting to see if my flint corn crop is going to survive until it matures. [Update: if the raccoons don’t get it it looks like I will be harvesting at least some corn] I fear it may be a total loss due to blow down. This is what the Maine Agriculture Commissioner had to say on MPBN:
“Irene’s impact on food is also on the minds of state agriculture officials. Since the storm blew through, some alarming reports have begun to trickle in from Maine’s fields and orchards. Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb has been taking phone calls from farmers in the hard hit, western part of the state.
“We’ve talked to some of the potato growers along the Androscoggin and Saco Rivers and it really depends on their elevation, number of feet above the water level, the normal water level,” Whitcomb says. “Some are fine. They just have to wait for the water to run off. Some are actually flooded. So you’ve had crop impacts in potatoes and corn acreage in western Maine. And some will be losses. We’ll try to assess what that is.”
Whitcomb says apple growers in central Maine have also been hit hard. Some orchards, he says, had full-sized, nearly ripe apples blown to the ground by the heavy winds. Whitcomb says a full damage assessment for the industry won’t be available until after the fall harvest.”
[Update as of 9/13/11 it is looking like the apple crop will not suffer any severe effects from Irene blowing through.]
So the next time you complain about the price of local food remember this: if there are no local farmers left when the cost of transporting food from New Zealand becomes totally prohibitive one of two things will happen: you’ll be paying a hell of a lot more for those apples or you will be very hungry.
Support your local farmers. They are there for you now and you will be really happy when they are there for you in the future.