As the climate warms, growing seasons are becoming more erratic. That uncertainty makes it harder for farmers to decide when to plant and harvest crops.
“We cannot rely, ‘Oh, May 1st, we plant lettuce.’ It just doesn’t work that way anymore,” says David Abazs, a farmer in northeastern Minnesota.
So instead Abazs is basing his decisions on natural signs of seasonal change, like when robins arrive in spring, the marsh marigold first flowers, or snow buntings migrate.
He’s matched up records of those natural events with 30 years of his own planting and harvest data. That’s allowed him to see which events are good signposts.
“So when the dandelion flowers, we might be planting potatoes and transplanting lettuce,” he says.
After a few years of experimenting, Abazs has created a site-specific farming calendar based solely on natural events. This year, he plans to rely on that instead of traditional dates.
He’s optimistic that the approach will help him maintain good harvests in a changing climate. And he says the process has been rewarding in other ways, too.
“It forces me to observe,” he says. “And what’s better for farming than for a farmer to be observant?”
Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.