Noami Brautigam operates Dickey Hill Farm in Monroe.
Yes, we farmers have always been at the whim of the weather. And, ask nearly any farmer and they will be able to note in exactly what ways the weather is becoming less predictable and more severe on their farm.
Here in Maine, we all just farmed through our hottest summer on record. Currently, all of the state is experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions. We had both a late spring frost in June and an early frost in September. In much of Maine, this was not only an incredibly hot, dry summer growing season, but also the shortest many of us farmers have even seen.
My partner and I operate a diversified farm in Waldo County. Here at our farm, not only are we trying to adapt to increasingly unpredictable and often severe weather, but each season we find ourselves up against new unanticipated challenges as we witness the way the climate emergency impacts our farm specifically.
For us, the winter rains have created new outdoor ice topography that funnels water over the frozen ground and into our high tunnels, flooding our winter greens. During summer droughts we run our irrigation 24/7 but find ourselves needing more water capacity. Next we see a drastic
increase in pest pressure because our irrigated vegetable fields are the lushest vegetation in the neighborhood. In these drought seasons we are unable to get as many grazing rotations around our pastures so we are left to feed hay to our beef herd months early while we hear the farmers next door are forced to send animals up to slaughter prematurely because they aren’t able to get second cut hay.
Nationally, my peers and I are more and more often farming through floods, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, hailstorms and other extreme weather. We worry about soil erosion in heavy rains, wells running dry, early frosts that render a long cared for summer crop unmarketable, low crop yield due to drought, hail storms that tatter vegetable fields in minutes, the health of farmworkers harvesting next to wildfires, high winds ripping our greenhouses out of the ground, whether we will be able to provide enough feed for our livestock and our mental health as farm stress and climate anxiety grow.
Yes, growing and raising food has always been challenging. And, we farmers (and fisherwomen and fishermen) are now racing to build resilience and adapt our businesses to survive the climate crisis. In addition to the huge responsibility to maintain our capacity to feed our communities, we have an opportunity for agriculture to be part of the climate solution by widely adopting carbon sequestering, regenerative farming methods that have long been practiced by Indigenous people around the world such as no or reduced tillage, rotational grazing and cover cropping.
In response to our climate emergency, the Green New Deal calls for a just transition towards a low carbon economy in a way that recognizes the importance of food security and supports farmers and farmworkers to be part of the climate solution. This is the kind of thoughtful, bold climate action that we all so desperately need. In Maine, there is only one U.S. Senate candidate on the ballot whose climate platform even comes close to meeting our reality as laid out by scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.
Lisa Savage is the only candidate running for the Senate who endorses the Green New Deal. This year, thanks to ranked-choice voting, I can rank Savage as my first choice without any fear of “spoiling the vote.” If no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the first round of vote counting, my vote will go to the candidate I rank second in the next round.
Reality is, whoever wins this election, we must all be ready to pressure them like hell because the climate emergency is here and now and terrifying.