Last week, the federal government turned off the tap on California farmers. This year, as the metastasizing Western drought stretches on, there will be no irrigation water for America’s salad bowl.
That means the most agriculturally productive counties in the country – and some of the most fruitful acres on earth – will be out of business.
And that’s not just a story on the news, that’s a reality in your life. Because it turns out your food doesn’t come from the grocery store, it comes from California, and if California isn’t growing any, well, you’re in trouble.
Thankfully, there is time to respond and be prepared.
The worldwide food-supply system that leaves American grocery stores overflowing with bounty can pick up the slack for a time. The drop off in California production can be made up now, for example, by imports from out of the country, especially the Southern Hemisphere.
But they’ve got weather and seasons down there, too, and by the time summer comes to North America, the option of flying something up from Argentina isn’t going to be there. During those summer months, half of the produce grown comes from California.
And when you take that half out of the nation’s supply, you end up with real issues of availability and affordability. That’s when your family takes it in the seat of the pants.
Fortunately, that’s also the season during which your family can be the most self-reliant and prepared.
Plant a garden.
From June through September, unless there’s a dramatic and immediate reversal to a years-long drought, California is going to be out of the fruit and vegetable business. That means your supermarket is going to be out of fruits and vegetables, or at least affordable fruits and vegetables.
That means unless you grow it, you might be out of luck.
But it is far better to realize that in February than July.
Because now is the time to plan and prepare for your own vegetable garden, a little plot in your yard or a few pots on your porch that can do a lot to meet your summer-time vegetable needs. It’s time to be practical, and to produce a little of your own food.
Either that, or you can go without.
Or squabble with others over the newly expensive and inadequately supplied grocery store fare. When demand stays at 100 percent and supply falls to 50 percent, interesting things happen to price and availability.
And the green grocer can’t bail you out.
But a few seed packets can.
During the Depression and World War II, when another drought cut food production and worldwide demand burdened American farmers, people were sent to their yards to plant victory gardens, little plots of independence that often were the difference between hunger and a full belly.
The wisdom of then can help solve the problems of now.
But it will require you to make a little effort and to learn some skills you may not have yet picked up. The undertaking, however, promises to diversify your diet and spare you food budget, and possibly introduce you to an enjoyable hobby and family undertaking.
In vegetable gardening, a small piece of tilled soil is planted with seeds or baby plants. Those plants and that soil are tended by the application of appropriate amounts of water – Mother Nature may attend to that for you – and by a little bit of weeding every now and then. You will probably put your garden in in May. In course of time, those plants will grow to maturity and fruitfulness and will move from your garden to your plate.
That short trip will reward you with fresh tastes the best of supermarket vegetables typically can’t provide. And it will do so at a cost far below price of store-bought produce in the best of times.
What should you plant?
Well, it depends on what you eat.
And what you’re willing to try.
Greens, like kale and chard, produce generously. Lettuces and tomatoes are popular, as are green beans and zucchini. Peas will need to be planted earlier in the season and corn will take all season, but the radishes can be ready in three weeks and will taste good in a salad with your own onions. Broccoli can often be grown, as can Brussels sprouts and pumpkins.
Go to any of the seed racks or websites – which would still love to send you a catalog – and look over what’s available. You can learn how to plant and care for vegetables on the Internet, with any number of folks on YouTube wanting to show you what to do.
But the process is simple and the return on investment – of money and labor – is tremendous.
And it may be your only option.
The federal government just told California farmers that there will be no irrigation water this year. That means the most fruitful fields in America will be brown and dead this year.
That means the food supply will be a little less certain and ample.
That means you might go without.
Unless you do something about it.
Plant a vegetable garden.