My family’s apple orchard in Lebanon was purchased by my grandfather in 1965. My dad started working here when he was a teenager, and he purchased it from his dad in 1984. We’re a mixed apple orchard, with about 80 acres of apple trees spread out across about 800 acres of woods.
I, along with several other employees, prune trees in the winter, chop brush, mow and spray in the spring, plant and care for new trees in the summer, and harvest, transport and sell fruit in the fall. We’re primarily known for our line of hard apple ciders, but also grow fruit for our fall farm stand and raspberries for our pick-your-own raspberry patch. It keeps us all pretty busy.
My brother and I aspire to keep the family business going. But we don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to stay in business.
Over the last 10 years, our harvest has seen dwindling yields — because of climate change.
Temperature changes have always been a risk in apple growing, but never like what has been happening over the last decade. Slight dips in temperature are now compounded by a changing climate, leading to winters that aren’t consistently cold enough for the trees to have a proper dormancy period. When trees don’t have a proper dormancy period, or when they leave that period too early in the season because of a premature heat wave, a normal springtime cold spell can kill off the new buds.
The worst year so far was in 2013, when we lost roughly 80 percent of our crop to the changes in temperature that woke our trees out of their dormancy period early.
My parents took a vacation that harvest season because there was little to do on the farm. They tried to make the best of a bad situation, but it was a tough financial blow.
There’s not much we can do about an unstable climate on our farm — the impacts of climate change reach far beyond our orchard. That’s why we need to work together as a country to move away from fossil fuels toward clean, renewable energy systems. And we know we’ve relied on diesel to power our farm tractors just like everyone else. But the threat of climate change is too large to ignore.
Just because President Trump and his administration are removed from the reality of climate change, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. The ostrich with its head in the sand still gets eaten by the lion. There is no amount of disbelief that will turn a true thing untrue. When the food runs out, when tropical pathogens overrun our once-temperate country, when whole seaside cities are displaced messily inland, people will remember the names of those who fast-tracked the climate crisis.
Farms are already suffering deeply, and in case anyone forgot, farms are where our food comes from. We all need to eat, and we can’t afford to wait. We need to act on climate by moving to a 100-percent clean energy future now.