Weather patterns are changing. Some who live in this short-summer-season part of the world might even say for the better. It is true that the USDA climate zone rating for our area was changed from zone 4 to zone 5 to reflect this change. We began our blueberry enterprise 40 years ago by planting only the most winter-hardy of northern adapted varieties, but now we can successfully cultivate many of the "industry standard" northern highbush types. In fact, for the last three years our production per acre at Bayfield has out-paced the blueberry production average for Michigan fields.
But, other climate change affects are troubling. Production has become more challenging as mild winters allow a larger "carry over" of traditional pests and disease. Our climate has become more habitable for a host of new exotic pests arriving annually from Asia and elsewhere: SWD, Marmorated Stink Bug, Japanese Beetle, Lantern Moth, and others on the way. Super-saturated soils from abnormal rainfall amounts exacerbate root-rot diseases. Long periods of wet foliage increase the pressure of fungal leaf, stem, and fruit diseases. Controls are time consuming and costly.
While we have not yet experienced the extreme heat, drought, and wildfires of the West, nor the destructive hurricanes, severe flooding, and rising sea levels of the Gulf and Atlantic states, our mid-continent location near to the Great Lakes has not spared us completely to date. Violent summer storms during the last three years have washed out the major highways that serve our area, each in their turn, closing affected roads for much of the harvest season, 40% of the market for our blueberry crop depends on people being able--or willing--to come to the farm during our harvest. Most of the remainder must be trucked to urban markets. Fresh fruit is perishable. Delays, detours, and rough temporary roads take a toll. Is it unreasonable to expect that we may experience a future season when ALL of the major routes that connect Bayfield to the larger region may be affected at the same time? At the very least, it is simply not sustainable to have to repair or replace major highway infrastructure on an annual basis.
Our climate is changing and life as we have known it will change as well. How can we respond to slow or mitigate this change? For starters, we must get serious about supporting science-based climate change policy. Immediately, we can ask Representative Duffy to support The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 7173) which was introduced during the last Congress. How will we adapt to the change already taking place? As communities, we must embrace sustainability, and turn away from "growth economics". As individuals, this will ultimately mean that we must learn to live a meaningful life more simply.