The Dirt Issue 2 – All About Climate

Posted on February 22, 2016
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The Dirt

We all know the Skagit is special.

One of the biggest reasons for that is our climate, forged as it is, from a happy confluence of topography, latitude and the over-arching influence of the Pacific Ocean and its prevailing westerly winds. This fortunate balance is the dominant influence on the wonderful climate we enjoy now and the highly-sustainable agriculture base we expect in the future, even in the face of climate change.

Our fairly cool, dry summers with their long hours of sunlight and our relatively mild, wet winters combine for a 230-day growing season that is paradise on earth for a wide variety of agricultural commodities.

In just one vital sector of local agriculture, the growing of seeds, The Organic Seed Alliance says, “. . .mild summer daytime temperatures that rarely exceed 80°F are found in very few agricultural reqions on Earth and are what makes the Skagit such an ideal climate for these cool season seed crops.”

Natural variations in things such as solar radiation and volcanic activity and well as those generated by human activity like the burning of fossil fuels and its increased load on greenhouse gases all contribute to a constant state of flux. And it’s not as if there’s ever been a time when all is in equilibrium anyway. It is the natural order of climate—as least as can be ascertained by the current state of the science—to be always changing. But, what we have now is a matter of degree.

What does it mean for us here in the Skagit?

According to the Skagit River Basin Climate Science Report, September, 2011, “Climate change is expected to influence local agriculture in Skagit County via longer potential growing seasons, drier summers, wetter winters, increased temperatures, and changing risks for pests, invasive weeds and diseases.”

In other words, climate change will force adaptations not only in what is grown, but even how and when it’s grown. The fortunate thing is the people who work the land, the farmers, are by their very nature as adaptive as climate itself. They have to be. It’s in their DNA. After all it had to be a farmer who wrote:

Whether the weather be fine
Whether the weather be not
Whether the weather be cold
Whether the weather be hot
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.
                  ~ Anonymous