An Apple A Day: Next Victim of Climate Change?

SFC_apples_redcroppedAn Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Along with its long time health-sustaining reputation, apples have been one of our favorites, battling it out with bananas to be the most consumed fruit in the USA, depending on the decade. (1) But, due to changes in our climate, the banana might win by a mile in upcoming years, depending, of course, on what  happens weather-wise in currently prime banana growing regions. (2)

 Severe Drought in Washington State

While crops in the state of Washington were thriving just a few years ago, (3) severe drought conditions are now threatening to change the scene dramatically. According to Mother Jones Magazine, “Washington, a major producer of wheat and wine grapes and the source of nearly 70 percent of US apples grown for fresh consumption, [has] endured an usually warm and snow-bereft winter.” (4)

Nova Scotia Orchards Still Buried in Snow

On the other side of the continent, farmers in Novia Scotia are also battling climate issues, albeit suffering from too much snow rather than too little. Snow drifts up to four feet high still cover some orchards as of mid April 2015.  “It’s not uncommon to get snow in Nova Scotia, but we always have it melt,” said Peter Elderkin of Elderkin Farm Markets. “But this year we got snow and it just built up and built up.”(5)

China to the Rescue?

China is the top producer of apples in the world, with the United States in the number two spot.  According to Tom Karst of The Packer, “Beginning in late May, China’s fresh apples can be shipped to the U.S., the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced April 22. The 65-page USDA rule, published in the April 23 Federal Register, will be effective May 26.” (6)  While the The U.S. Apple Association has expressed concern that imported apples will bring invasive pests,  in general, most see it as a way to reach the growing market in China.(7)

Another Reason to Support Your Local Farmer!

There is no guarantee, however, that China’s apple orchards won’t also be adversely affected by climate change, a real possibility that would further cause the apple’s status from a staple in our diets to that of an occasional or seasonal treat. The good news for folks in the USA is that apples are grown in all fifty states. (8) While shifting weather patterns will no doubt affect availability in all parts of the country, the best solution is to support local food systems, and especially your local farmers, so as to ensure that issues in just one part of the country will not affect the food supply of the entire country.

To learn how to support a farmer via Community Supported Agriculture, see:  http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml

To see how Massachusetts is working to strengthen its food system plan, see: http://www.mafoodplan.org/

  1. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/detail.aspx?chartId=30486
  2. http://ccafs.cgiar.org/blog/bananas-will-face-climate-stress#.VTolUZPKDIU
  3. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/07/20/156982/us-drought-could-be-boon-for-washington.html
  4. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/washington-state-drought-apples-snowmelt
  5. http://globalnews.ca/news/1954988/apple-growers-in-nova-scotia-worried-about-new-crop-after-harsh-winter/
  6. http://www.thepacker.com/news/chinese-apple-imports-cleared-us
  7. http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2013/1207/Why-US-apple-farmers-actually-want-Chinese-apple-imports
  8. http://urbanext.illinois.edu/apples/facts.cfm