We can live off the land — until we can't. Climate change is fundamentally changing the way farmers produce food, right down to the soil itself.
The impacts of climate change are everywhere – even in the foods we eat.
Longer heat waves and record amounts of rainfall give way to invasive species and can damage crops. Extreme weather events are happening more often, forcing farmers to adapt their practices. And new research shows that climate is even changing the very soil use to grow crops in this area.
So what does all of this mean for farmers in the region and the rest of us who depend on their hard work?
Kojo will sit down with farmers and climate professionals to find out.
The Kojo Nnamdi Show is providing special coverage on climate issues this week as part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of 250 news outlets designed to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
Produced by Victoria Chamberlin
- Kate Tully, PhD Assistant professor of agroecology, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture
- Nick Maravell Owner and operator of Nick’s Organic Farm in Buckeystown, MD
- Jim Law Owner of Linden Vineyards and Grower at Hardscrabble Vineyard in Linden, VA
- Matthew Cappucci Meteorologist, Capital Weather Gang, The Washington Post
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome. This week we're participating in covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of 250 media outlets designed to bring attention to the climate change story. We start today with a look at how climate change is affecting the food we eat. Longer heat waves and record amounts of rainfall give way to invasive species and can damage crops. Extreme weather events are happening more often forcing farmers to adapt their practices. And now research shows that climate change is actually changing the very soil used to grow crops in this region.
KOJO NNAMDISo what does all of this mean for farmers in the region and the rest of us who depend on their hard work? Joining me in studio is Matthew Cappucci. He is a meteorologist with The Washington Post Capital Weather Gang. Matthew, thank you for joining us.
MATTHEW CAPPUCCIHi, thanks so much for having me.
NNAMDIThe Washington region dealt with several intense heat waves over the summer and storms that caused widespread flooding. How is climate change contributing to our changing weather patterns?
CAPPUCCIYeah, so basically we're getting warmer and we're getting wetter, and one thing we're seeing is a lot more 95 degree days and 90 degree days. So we average about 36 90-degree days in D.C. every year. So far this year we're up to 56. So we're getting hotter. And it's those top tier heat events that are increasing disproportionately faster than anything else. In addition, we're seeing changes in rainfall patterns too. So in the past we'd see kind of more spread out rainfall, but now we're getting a burst of rainfall and much more narrow, you know, heavier events. And that can take a toll on farmers.
NNAMDIWhat could this mean? You said it could take a toll on farmers. What could it mean for agriculture?
CAPPUCCIYeah, so the way we're seeing climate change affect us both locally and regionally is that we're having the same weather, but for longer periods of time, and in more abrupt switches. So you might have for instance a period of 10-15 days where it's kind of drier than average, and then you all of a sudden revert back to a wetter than normal pattern. And that leaves what's called evapotranspiration to wreak havoc sometimes.
CAPPUCCISo what that means is that plants essentially sweat. They take in moisture. They give off moisture. And when a plant gives off moisture if more is going out than coming in plants can start to dry up, cause issues with soil, with soil moisture and with the plants themselves. And so if you have a drier period of time that lasts longer that can cause more evapotranspiration without that rainfall coming in. Likewise in the other side of the coin, you have a wetter period than normal. That can cause issues with roots rooting. It can cause issues with flooding plants. And so it's more that our changes are much more abrupt and much more longer duration that what we see in the past.
NNAMDIWhat's that more word? Evapotranspiration?
NNAMDIJust learned a new word today. Also joining us in studio is Nick Maravell. He is an organic farmer and owner of Nick's Organic Farm in Buckeyestown (sic), Maryland. He's also a founding member of the Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association. Nick, thank you for joining us.
NICK MARAVELLGreat to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDITell us about your farm in Buckeyesville. As a farmer what crops or livestock do you focus on?
MARAVELLRight, well, we have 175 acres in farmland preservation program in Buckeystown, Maryland.
NNAMDIBuckeystown, not Buckeyestown.
MARAVELLYeah, and we're just across the Montgomery County line. We look over along the Monocacy River. We look out over our farms. See the Sugarloaf Mountain. Many people are familiar with that. We raise beef cattle.
MARAVELLBlack Angus, which is 100 percent grass-fed. We also raise chickens and turkeys and we also raise eggs. And we grow corn and we grow soy beans and barley. And we have extensive pastures and hay fields. So we are what's called an integrated farm, which means we grow both animals and crops for our products. And we sell directly to the consumer. We don't tend to sell to wholesalers or stores or anything like that. People come to our farm and buy our products. And we're certified organic.
NNAMDII was about to say it's a 165 acres, certified organic farm, correct?
NNAMDIWhat impacts have you seen from climate change in your daily life on the farm? Have you had to change how you farm over the last decade or so?
MARAVELLAbsolutely. I mean, I think Matt sort of put it from the weather perspective. I can give it from the farmer's perspective. It used to be farmers would get together and talk about having a good year. Now we're getting together and hoping for a normal year, and we haven't had one in a long time. We're getting what I call the broken record syndrome. Every few years we break another record and sometimes it's back to back, Kojo. We go from the driest year on record to the wettest year on record back to back. We go from the coldest spring to the warmest spring back to back. We have these stretches of erratic from a farmer's perspective unusual long hot spell, long cold spell. That never used to happen to us. I've been doing this 40 years and believe me, the climate has changed.
MARAVELLSo yes, we have had to adapt our practices, and many of those practices that we are now using are generally referred to as regenerative practices. And they're also definitely in the mainstream of organic farming. So we have to do things differently than we did in the past. Would you like me to give some examples?
MARAVELLFor example, we don't plant just one type of corn. We plant multiple varieties of corn with different maturity dates, and that's a hedge against weather, because if you don't get the rain at the right time, if you don't get the heat at the right time, corn is very sensitive to degree days, and during its fertilization period very sensitive to when the rains come. So you space it out so, you know, you'll hope you get a good time. Well, last year we had double. That's 200 percent the normal rainfall. It kept us out of the fields most of the year. We were forced to plant our corn six weeks late and our last maturing -- our latest maturing corn, we lost 90 percent of it because we couldn't get in to harvest it. We had 10 inches of rain in 10 days in October. I mean, it's unheard of. We are in a climate crisis. That's what we're in, Kojo.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Dr. Kate Tully, an assistant professor of agroecology in Department of Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland. Kate Tully, thank you so much for joining us.
KATE TULLYThanks for having me.
NNAMDIYour research at the University of Maryland focuses on soil and farms on the eastern shore. Tell us about that work.
TULLYYeah, so some of the work I've been doing recently is looking at the effects of saltwater intrusion, which is kind of like the leading edge of climate change down on the eastern shore of Maryland and Delaware and Virginia. And what we see is as sea levels are rising, which they are across the globe, we see these fingers of salt sort of weaving their way in through our canals and our ditch systems. And that brings saltwater upland into areas that didn't previously have it. And a lot of those regions tend to be farmland.
NNAMDIWe've all seen the headlines that coastal areas could be underwater as soon as 2050. Would you say salty soil could be a major problem much sooner? What does that timeline look like? I was on the eastern shore yesterday on the Choptank River and I was seeing exactly what you're talking about happening.
TULLYYes. So this happens far in advance of sea level rise, and so salt water intrusion is occurring right now. Sometimes we talk about climate change as something that's going to happen in the future. And really what we're experiencing here in Maryland is climate change in real time and affecting farmers day to day. And so it's going to happen. It's happening now and it's only going to get worse. I have farmers who are losing land, acres and acres every single year.
NNAMDIHere's Mark in Silver Spring, Maryland. Mark, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARKSure. I just appreciate the work of the farmers. I'm a consumer. What I'd like to cite is a peer review journal, "Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition." Basically the higher the CO2 content the lower the concentration of critical micronutrients in a number of crops, wheat, rice, (unintelligible). And this would have a critical impact on the ag sector. Basically the higher CO2 forget breakfast of champions. We're going to have breakfast of mush.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Mark. I see some nods of agreement around the table, but allow me to move on to Caroline in Poolesville, Maryland. Caroline, your turn.
CAROLINEThank you, Kojo, and thanks to your guests. And this is an important conversation for us to have. Here in Montgomery County it's 93,000 acres agricultural reserve. We are feeling the crisis. And as Nick Maravell noted last year was biblical in terms of precipitation. The good news is with folks like Nick with the University of Maryland and other brain trusts, we're coming up with plans on how to address the crisis, on how to mitigate, and, you know, how to teach our expanding and next generation of farmers about permaculture, regenerative agriculture, building biomass. But this is going to take a collective commitment including from our local jurisdictions, Montgomery, Frederick, etcetera. And we're all in here at Montgomery Countryside Alliance. And, Kojo, this conversation is so important so thank you.
NNAMDIThank you for joining the conversation. Anyone who'd care to comment on that at all?
MARAVELLYes, Kojo. The University of Maryland -- places like Montgomery County Sidelines are always sponsoring activities to show additional ways to conduct your farming activity, so that you can become more adaptive to climate change. And some of the things that they're finding is that it all comes down to soil health. And so what we like to say in the organic and regenerative community is healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people, and it really works. It's almost a side benefit that at the same time you're building your organic matter in your soil and your attacking climate change. On our farm over the past 20 years, we've increased our average organic matter by 50 percent.
MARAVELLNow that doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're actively farming and to go every year and be adding to that bank account of carbon rich soil, you're taking that from the atmosphere. And if everybody was doing that we would be decreasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
NNAMDINick Maravell is an organic farmer and owner of Nick's Organic Farm in Buckeystown, Maryland. He's also a founding member of the Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association. He joins us in studio with Matthew Cappucci, Meteorologist for the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang, and Dr. Kate Tully, an assistant professor of agroecology in the Department of Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland. We're going to be taking a short break. When we come back, we'll talk about the effects this is having on wine with Jim Law, who you'll meet after that break. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. In case you're' just joining us this week we are participating in covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of 250 media outlets designed to bring attention to the climate change story. Today we're starting with the effect of climate change on agriculture. Matthew Cappucci, it's not only heatwaves and warmer temperatures that affect agriculture. It's also what happens in colder months. Has there been significant changes to winter weather patterns in our area recently as well and is that noteworthy?
CAPPUCCIThere has been. So first things first, we are losing snowfall. We used to average about 21 inches of snowfall each year in the District. We're down to about 15 and still shrinking. Nowadays we only get about three or four accumulating events, about an inch or more. So we're not really as much of a winter wonderland as we used to be. Now another thing that's worth mentioning is the extent to which we're changing the amount of snowfall we get, when we get it. So now we're only getting snow in kind of the big events. We're seeing more of those big events but more spread out over time. So my editor earlier on referred to it as feast or famine and that's really what we're seeing.
CAPPUCCISince 1984, we've seen only about eight seasons above average, but those have balanced out all the rest seasons since then because during those seasons we go so much snowfall, but only in those short little bursts. Since 1990, we've had five of our top 10 biggest snowfalls on record only in the past 25-30 years here in D.C. So we're seeing bigger storms, but just much more spread out over time.
NNAMDIAre these changes in weather patterns unique to our region?
MARAVELLNot so much. We've been seeing the same patterns in Boston. New York City for instance, back since 1990, we've seven of the top 10 biggest snowfalls. And part of it might be due to an increase in moisture over time. So, you know, we're warming up. It's tougher to get snowfall. But when we get it, there's much more juice in the atmosphere to work with. And so there's that. There are changes to the storm tracks, which are favoring bigger storms allowing the immediate eastern seaboard in the winter time. So a lot of different moving pieces. We're still trying to figure out exactly the mechanisms behind them, but it's definitely a climate trend we're seeing more of now.
NNAMDIWell, Farmer's Almanac says that we are going to be having a humongous winter. That there are going to be a lot of storms and a lot of snow. What say you?
CAPPUCCIFarmer's Almanac, that is basically like a voodoo doll. It's like Teresa from Long Island Medium if she was forecasting the weather. There's no skill whatsoever behind it. It's mostly just, you know, a blind squirrel will find a nut once in a while. So don't buy into Farmer's Almanac. Read Capital Weather Gang.
NNAMDIThank you very much. If you enjoy a glass of Virginia wine with dinner, you might have noticed an increase in the number of Rose bottles on the grocery store shelf. Joining us in studio is Jim Law. He is the owner of Linden Vineyards and a wine grower at Hardscrabble Vineyard in Linden, Virginia. Jim Law, thank you for joining us.
JIM LAWThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIYou are living with this reality as a wine maker in Virginia. How has the weather over the last year made conditions optimal for this type of wine?
LAWWell, optimal is perhaps not the word I would use, but last year we made no reds and we made all those red grapes into Rose, and the reason was because of rainfall. The rain continued throughout the growing season. And in order to make good red wines you have to have lots of sun and concentration, which you get from drier soils and drier climates. That was not happening. And I've been doing this now for 40 years, and just walking through the vineyard tasting the grapes, the red gramps. I said, there's no way this is going to work for reds. But it has some freshness. The grapes had freshness. There was good acidity. And I said, well, it's Rose. Frankly 10 years ago, I'm not sure what I would have done, but now there's a big big market. Everybody wants Rose. So it was sort of an easy decision.
NNAMDIWell, hail is a four letter word for wine makers. What can your vineyard do to prepare for these types of storms? How can you adapt?
LAWHail is a tough one. It's everything could be going well and then within two minutes your crop is destroyed or damaged. I was over in Italy a couple of years ago. They're now putting up hail netting, which is just phenomenally expensive. I hope it doesn't come to that. In the meantime, we used to pull a lot of leaves from around the clusters to open them up to air circulation. Now we're starting to leave them as little shields against the hail. That will help sometimes. But we are seeing increased hail events, and it can be quite detrimental to the crop quantity and quality.
NNAMDIHere is Shoshana in Waldorf, Maryland. Shoshana, your turn.
SHOSHANAHi. Yeah, it's not just affecting crops. It's also affecting livestock. So, obviously more directly related to crops you've got hay prices skyrocketing as people are just not able to find it, because there wasn't enough dry growing season for the hay to dry out and be able to get cut. So I know so many horse people and other farmers scrambling to get hay. And then you also have to deal with the rain in the winter. And if you've got say young animals instead of snow, they'll get drenched and then freeze. It's just not easy. The weather has really been screwing a lot of people over when it comes to their livestock.
NNAMDINick Maravell, care to comment on that?
MARAVELLYes, Kojo. That's one of the things we've had to do in the past two decades. We very rarely make dry hay anymore. It's both personally stressful, because you hate to see a nice hay crop go down and then it gets rained on. But what we have to do is we produce what's called baleage, which is the same hay. You roll it up into these big bales that are four by five feet. And then you wrap them in plastic, so it ensiles, sort of like putting the cork on one of your bottles in vineyard. And it actually preserves the nutrients a little bit better, and you don't lose as much when you pick up the hay. You get more of the hay picked up.
MARAVELLBut horse people, for example, don't use baleage, and so it's more difficult for them to find hay. But we would never consider going back to dry hay under these weather conditions, because we would only produce very, very poor quality hay.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Francesca, who says: lost one of my favorite trees this summer from the ongoing effect of last summer's rain. Because of that rain, a soil fungus killed a giant maple in a week. Now, that's amazing, isn't it, Kate?
TULLYIt is. And one of the things that we're seeing with climate change is it exacerbates a lot of these other problems that we already have, so, pine bark beetle. And when you have a tree, for instance, that's already stressed by climate change, it's just going to be more susceptible to fungus or other kinds of diseases.
NNAMDIOn now to David in Annandale, Virginia. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDOh, hey, Kojo. Listen, I was listening and I heard one of your guests talk about soil rejuvenation on organics in the soil. I'm not a farmer or a gardener, but I just got a place, about an acre out here, and I'm trying to figure out -- I just spoke with somebody from the company who was working next door about what I can do to get, I guess, organics back in the soil, so I can at least raise something, not a plush lawn, but just something besides weeds.
DAVIDI thought, you know, just planting clover would be something I could do, but the businesses around here, though, they don't really want to do that kind of thing. You know, they want to, you know, promote a plush grass. Grass is just completely unnatural to me. I was just wondering what your guests might have to say about, you know, how do you do this? Is there any way to do it on a residential basis for something like an acre?
MARAVELLWell, yes. You're absolutely correct, that if you want your grass to look like a golf green, for example, and the way that's done is with a lot of chemicals, which are not good for our soil or our water. And so what you can do is you can plant things that look more like a meadow, so you get some wild flower mixes. You can also cut your lawn a little bit less frequently now. This sometimes creates some discord with your neighbors, but we've managed to do that on our lawn. And you let the natural grasses, will come back in.
MARAVELLNow, your lawn will not, as I say, look like the country club golf green, but it will keep the soil in place and build your organic matter. It'll serve as a repository for insects. It can provide some beneficial affects around your environment. And so it's a good thing to do. You'll provide sources of pollen for wild bees and domesticated bees. So, there are places where you can go and look for meadow mixes. And you'll get grasses and broadleaf things that sort of look like flowers. And you'll get some legume, some clovers, like you were mentioning.
MARAVELLBut the key to remember here is it's not a monoculture. When you go to the golf course, it's all one type of grass. And if we have learned anything in the organic and regenerative movement, it is diversity rules. And that is the principle you should follow. So, you should mix it up. In our hayfields, we very often will plant five or six different species. And then we have what I consider the background of wild species that come in along with that. And we think that's just fine.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Donna, who writes: we recently did a bike and barge trip along the Mosel in Germany. We were told that there are certain types of wine they can no longer make because of the change of the weather. A question for you, Jim Law, there's a kind of unpleasant irony occurring here, because wine from Virginia has really got a lot of attention and recognition over the past decade or so. How do you and your fellow winemakers feel about dealing with this new challenge of climate change, just when Virginia seems to be having its moment?
LAWYeah, Kojo, that's an excellent question. I've been doing this for 40 years, and when you're starting from scratch, it just sometimes feels like an impossible deal. And you work hard, you have obstacles that you overcome, and there's hurdles. And I'm feeling at this point in my life like I'm really starting to get it right, and then the climate shifts. It's like you're running the hurdles and you're heading for the end and somebody throws another hurdle in front of you.
LAWSo, what we're doing is we're starting a climate change experimental vineyard, where we thought we had it right. We chose the land for certain grape varieties, just as the Germans, who have been doing this a lot longer than we have. And we've got to figure out what's going to work. And that's going to take decades, so we're going to get started now, planting varieties that might, in the future, be more appropriate for out site.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, but we'll be coming right back after that to talk about how climate change is affecting agriculture in this region. If you're part of a crop share, have you noticed a difference in the types of food you receive? I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about the affect climate change is having on agriculture. And we got a Tweet from Brittany who said: I've also noticed the decline in volunteerism. It's hotter earlier in the day and cooler later, and people, especially our seniors, won't work as often. The one benefit is that we've extended our growing season and grow through December and January. Matthew Cappucci?
CAPPUCCIYeah, so since about 1970, our growing season extended about two weeks in time. So, that's good for farmers, but at the same time, that really reflects the increase in temperature we're seeing that makes it uncomfortable for people to go outside. During that same timeframe, we've got about 5 to 10 percent more humid, the humidity increasing the fastest out in the more typically dry locations over towards the Appalachians and the rural parts of Western Virginia.
CAPPUCCISo, it's something that's noticeable. And it's not just the heat. It's the humidity, too. And so add those factors together, it feels about four to six degrees hotter. It's not getting as cool at night, so it's really just around the clock. We're warming up and it's starting to get noticeable.
NNAMDIAnd, Kate Tully, you lived in Tanzania, and you're having an interesting experience here. Tell us about it.
TULLYYes. So, I lived in Kenyon, Tanzania for several years and worked outside many, many hours. And the hottest I've ever been is down on the eastern shore of Maryland in the middle of the summer. The humidity is very, very high. You're in the marsh, and there's no breeze blowing. I can say for a fact that I definitely felt hotter here in Maryland than I ever did in Tanzania.
NNAMDIOne indication of what's happening. Nick Maravell, you're a founding member of the Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association. What have you heard from other farmers in Maryland about the impact that climate change is having on their operations?
MARAVELLWell, it's constantly a topic of conversation, and it's changed over the years. It used to be just, yeah, well, we got this rainfall, we got the -- no, it's changed the entire season. It's changed how people can farm. Matthew was saying how, you know, extended the growing season and increased the humidity. That's a two-edged sword, actually. That's allowing insects now who couldn't migrate this far north to continue migrating further north. I'm sure, Jim, you've seen changes in the fungal diseases in your crop because of the increased humidity.
MARAVELLSo, there's just an awful lot that's going on. We hear from farmers that they're cutting back on the types of things that they grow, because the weather keeps throwing something new at them, and they don't want to take a chance. They want to try to stick with things that they think they can get through with, even with what this climate crisis is throwing at us. And they're actively seeking alternative ways of managing their farm to adapt to climate change.
MARAVELLAnd if I might just add, we're having a farm tour next month -- the 19th and 20th of October, Saturday and Sunday -- out at our farm. And the theme's going to be regenerative agriculture. We have an eight-to-twelve-year crop rotation. And we rotate our beef and our poultry through that crop rotation, so it comes out a little bit like a Rubik's Cube, if you're trying to figure it all out. But we're going to be showing people what these regenerative farming practices are, and how it has resulted in, you know, our ability to try and cope with what's going on.
MARAVELLAnd one of the things that I'm thinking about doing, usually, I go around and I repair a little bit on my gravel farm roads. Last year, we had twice, as I said before, the average rainfall, and we got a little bit of erosion, only on our roads. It eroded the gravel roads, but because of the way we managed our fields, our fields held tight.
MARAVELLNow, I'm going to leave some of that erosion before the farm tour, and I'm going to show people how deep you can erode a gravel road, and the field right next to it is okay, because it was covered with cover crops. It had living roots on it all the time. You know, there are things that we can do to help adapt, but it doesn't take away from the fact that we're in a climate crisis.
NNAMDIIndeed. Kate Tully, you've worked with farmers on the eastern shore to conduct your research. Some of them have had the same land for centuries. Is there anything the farmers you work with can do to, as Nick put it, adapt?
TULLYYeah, so the history of the eastern shore is really fascinating. A lot of the farmers I work with have been living on the land their entire lives. And, in fact, their families go back to the 1630s, when the first Dutch and British settlers came to the region. And so, obviously, there's a lot of history, and it's very hard to change the practices that you've been doing for centuries and centuries. But that's not going to stop the tides.
NNAMDIAnd so we have to come up with some solutions that are going to keep farmers in business and not completely damage the environment, at the same time. And there's sort of three ways that farmers tend to deal with climate change, and one is trying to continue farming, as usual. Maybe they want to build up the land to, make it higher, try to keep the water off for longer.
NNAMDISome farmers are going to adapt, and so some of the adaptation strategies are planting different kinds of crops -- so, for instance, barley. There's a big microbrew (laugh) boom on the eastern shore and malt and barley actually does pretty well in salt entreated fields. Sorghum is another crop that does pretty well and so farmers are starting to think about different practices that they might need to do on their land.
NNAMDIAnd, in some cases, they're actually restoring their lands back to wetlands. And so the entire eastern shore was one giant wetland before we came and started ditching and channelizing the whole area. And so restoring the land back to what it was previously is another really good way to both, if you can, enroll in a governmental program that supports the farmers...
NNAMDII was about to say, how are government agencies like the Department of Agriculture supporting these farmers?
TULLYRight. So, there are some programs, there's the environmental quality improvement program and some conservation reserve easement programs that allow farmers to take what we call marginal land out of agriculture and put it into some sort of restoration practice. That could be trees. It could be some sort of marshland. And we can keeps those lands -- depending on the contract -- in some sort of sort of restoration state for 10 or more years. And farmers can enroll in those programs. It's a cumbersome paperwork process.
TULLYAnd so I was going to mention, the other strategy that farmers have is just to abandon the land and let nature take her course. And there are benefits to that, and there may also be some negative consequences, as well. For instance, species invasion was something that you mentioned earlier on. And so we might actually see more species invasion if we just abandon the land completely because of the fact that with agriculture we have a lot of weed species and we have a lot of invasive species. So, there are some practices that are available to farmers. And some of them are being supported by the government, but we certainly need more of those.
NNAMDIWe got a Tweet from Cilia, who says: farmers are on the frontline of climate change. Extreme weather is ruining crops. Salt water is intruding on farmland, and even hail is destroying wine grapes. No doubt we'll soon see the effects on rising food prices and shortages. And, now, here is Joe in Montgomery County, Maryland. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEHey, Kojo. Just off the bat, I'm a young farmer. I'm only about 25. I work for the (unintelligible). We row crop about 1,000 acres, and we got about 200 acres of hay. And, actually, right now, I'm going to try (unintelligible).
JOEOne major thing that I've had to deal with, being born and raised in Montgomery County, is the lack of farmland. We've lost a lot of farmland to developers. Soil conservation is one of the biggest things. I'm also one of the directors on the Soil Board, and soil conservation is something (unintelligible) Montgomery County farms have been doing for a long time, between crop rotating, (unintelligible) and cover crops.
JOEOne of the practices that I have brought in to my boss that I work for is, they were doing it this year, is we want to get as much cover crop (unintelligible) all of our harvested acres that we can this year. We also do an odd crop. We have about 300 acres of sorghum that I'm actually in the middle of harvesting right now, along with our cereal grains, the corn and soybeans. And soil conservation and climate change are intertwined together, which some of that, me as a younger farmer, I think (unintelligible) very heavily and (unintelligible) continue to push with my boss, who is an aging farmer, but he's been a mentor all my life. And I've brought many old techniques from him.
NNAMDIAnd I suspect that you both will be learning more during the course of the coming years. I interrupt only because we're running out of time. But, Joe, thank you very much for sharing your story with us. Jim Law, any plans for future weather changes that you are preparing for at your vineyard?
LAWWell, the main thing is that we are looking at different varieties, but it gets down to very specific practices that we use in what we call canopy management, in trying to use the leaves for more evapotranspiration, as Matthew had mentioned. That's very important to us. We're letting more grass grow. We're letting what used to be called weeds grow under the trellising, which we now call native cover crops. It's a little sexier, but it's the same thing.
LAWBut we're trying to get certain low-growing weeds that will take more moisture out of the soil. And that's worked out quite well for us, actually, and it does hold the soil, as far as erosion, because we're on some very steep sites.
NNAMDIAnd, Matthew Cappucci, in the 45 seconds we have left, a lot of people see climate change as an abstract idea that won't really affect them in their lifetimes. What are some of the things you've seen in your day-to-day reporting that proves it's already having an impact?
CAPPUCCIYeah, it's already happening right now. So, we're seeing just much more extreme weather. For the most part, all the different things that are going on: the hurricanes are getting stronger, the top rainfall events are getting even more significant. And so it's really just exacerbating ongoing things and making them that much more significant.
CAPPUCCIYou know, for example, we've had, just since 2003, 36 of D.C.'s top 100 wettest days. So, it's a two-to-one ratio, versus the top tier events now versus in the past. So, it's really just extremifying across the board, and something that we have to keep an eye on.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Matthew Cappucci, thank you so much for joining us. Nick Maravell, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIDr. Kate Tully, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd, Jim Law, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIToday's show was produced by Victoria Chamberlin. Coming up tomorrow, our participation in the Covering Climate Now media project continues. We'll sit down with the District's chief resilience officer and find out why some are calling long-term plans for dealing with climate change a social justice issue. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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