Local Food is a Hedge Against Climate Risk

Building a strong local food movement is a prudent (and rewarding) solution to future disruptions related to global climate change. That was the consensus that emerged from a community conversation led by our Climate Smart Food and Soil Working Group at the March 4 Free the Seeds Fair in Kalispell.

Hotter temperatures, bigger storms and potential drought could affect food production in far-away places where much of our food currently is grown. Extreme weather could adversely affect long-distance distribution systems. As one attendee noted, unpredictable weather down the road could lead to national or international food shortages, and locally sourced foods is a hedge against risk.

Earlier springs and later autumn frosts could extend the growing season in the Flathead, noted Robin Kelson, who co-chairs the Food and Soil Working Group. However, weirder weather could include freak snowstorms in June or more damaging hail.

The biggest future challenge, however, may be hotter, driers summers in the Flathead. While average annual precipitation may increase in a warming climate, summers are likely to be much drier in western Montana, according to the National Climate Assessment.

“Carbon farming” is one excellent strategy to reduce greenhouse gases while improving readiness for a warmer future. Building rich, organic soil sequesters carbon in the dirt, while increasing water retention and reducing need for artificial fertilizers in your field or garden. Wise farmers manage soil and water as crops in themselves, not just resources to grow food, Kelson said.

The Kalispell Daily Inter Lake reported on the conversation, which you can view here.