[Market-farming] Somehow we'll make it: Changes due to new USDA zoning map

Carla Maness manessfarm at gmail.com
Wed Feb 8 14:38:22 EST 2012

I think every time the map has changed, we've moved into a warmer zone.  20
years ago we were 6, then 6a, 6b, now 7.Yet last winter we had the coldest
temperatures every recorded in Oklahoma. The summer of 2011 was also the
hottest every recorded. I had shrubs planted around my house that died from
that extreme cold. We also lost trees that we'd had several years from the
extreme heat. I'm not sure much of anything can adapt to such drastic
changes that happen within one year.
 We as farmers observe, and try and learn from the weather, but honestly in
the 20 + years I've been farming I don't think I've seen even 2 years in a
row with weather the same. We are always too wet, too dry, too hot, too
cold. I think the only thing I learn from this is that I must be
certifiably insane to keep trying to farm in Oklahoma. Surely this year
will be better?

Carla, Perkins, OK. Last week it was 70 and sunny. Today it's 33 and gloomy

On Tue, Feb 7, 2012 at 11:55 AM, Road's End Farm
<organic87 at frontiernet.net>wrote:

> Yes, I know that people growing in the South have crops and growing
> techniques adapted to that climate; and that the native and naturalized
> plants that are used to Zones 6, 7, and 8 do of course do well in zones 6,
> 7, and 8.. For that matter, I know that some people locate in the South
> specifically for the reason that they wish to gow in that climate.
> I chose the Northeast because, at the time I made that choice, the
> Northeast had a climate that suited me personally. And many people have a
> great deal of investment in varieties that are also suited to that climate
> -- we grow entirely different grapes than are grown down South, for
> instance; and this is a major grape growing region, though I personally
> only have a few. It's exactly spring freezes after insufficient earlier
> dormancy that are the most worrisome issue in terms of grapes, tree fruits,
> and similar crops.
> The predator insects that help with many Southern pests often won't
> overwinter here, and have to be purchased, at considerable cost, every
> year, if they're available to us at all. The issue is not only specific
> farm crops, but the overall ecology of the area we're farming in. We are
> starting to get Southern pests and Southern pest pressures without, yet,
> the predators that have adapted to control them.
> The issue isn't whether we can adapt, if we have to. The issue is how we
> are best going to. And this is made more difficult by the fact that we're
> not growing in an established Zone 8 or 7, in the middle of an ecology
> adapted to that; we're growing in what used to be zone 5 or even 4, in the
> middle of an ecology that was adapted to those circumstances, and which is
> likely to throw a wide variety of pest and other problems at us during the
> time while it's shifting into whatever it's shifting into -- while very
> likely occasionally deciding to behave briefly again like zone 5, or even
> 4; so that varieties adapted only to conditions further south can't be
> trusted here either, at least not yet.
> -- Rivka; Finger Lakes NY, Zone 6A now I think
> Fresh-market organic produce, small scale
> On Feb 2, 2012, at 4:24 PM, Richard Moyer wrote:
> Rivka wrote:
> "What's a far bigger problem than a change in the lowest temperature of the
> winter is the increase in winter days -- and often winter nights-- that
> are above freezing, which leads to insufficient hardening off in plants
> that are likely to then be damaged when the temperature does drop..."
> Rivka, please consider my contrary experience:  Having lived most of my
> life in Zones 8, 7, then 6 (moving north in stages) let me assure you that
> all manner of native and naturalized plants have the genetic resources to
> survive, even thrive in severe fluctuations in winter temps, where it can
> be 70F one day and single digits 2-3 days later.  There are cues in
> addition to freezing temps that allow plants to become and remain dormant,
> including fall dryness and shorter days.  My aunts and uncles in central GA
> grow all manner of temperate perennials, with subtropicals thrown in for
> fun, places where they rarely get into the low 20s.  They eat cold hardy
> greens and root crops all winter long; certain of these plants are well
> adapted to winter temperature swings.  My 'unholy' arugula, bok choy and
> tatsoi look so much better without flea beetle pressure.  And the high
> sugars in all the greens and some roots are appreciated on our table, and
> those of our winter market customers.
> Severe freezes in spring, after woody perennials have broken dormancy, is
> a different challenge, and can be more deadly.  During the great Easter
> Freeze of 2007, it was the Asian magnolias, Asian persimmons, etc that were
> killed outright.  Our native relatives came through with no to some damage,
> but all lived and many fruited normally that year.   Mike McConkey has
> noted that it's not absolute winter minimums that kill certain Asian, woody
> plants in his collection that can survive minus 30 to 40, but spring
> freezes after dormancy has broken, and new growth comes on.
> Another instructive event: the (minus) -14F storm in mid-March, during '93
> or '94, caused little damage to my wide collection of fruiting plants.
>  They knew winter was not over yet, despite growing in an area of NE TN
> where the ground very seldom freezes.
> Brett Grohsgal in southern MD is breeding hardy brassicas to withstand
> single digit lows, with strong regrowth in late winter into spring.
>  Another example of plants with genetic resources to survive wide-ranging
> winter temps.   Southern Exposure and Fedco offer a selection of his best
> seed.
> Somehow we southerners have managed to produce a lot of food, even some of
> it during fluctuating winter temps, in partnership with our plants and
> animals.
> As for the bugs, yes, a mild winter can have many more survivors, and
> longer periods of frost free days can allow multiple generations of serious
> pests.  Again, we southerners and the plants under our care have been at
> this for many generations.  Longer seasons also allow for multiple
> generations of predatory insects; my tatsoi and a few mustards began to
> bloom today and are being worked by some small, striped flies and wasps,
> who I trust will soon be laying eggs in anticipation of their prey hatching
> out.  Robust ecosystems (whether natural or designed) are highly resilient.
>  Varied blooms through more and more of the year is a strategy to counter
> increasing bad bug pressure from milder winters.  Again, we southerners can
> observe resistance to severe bug pressure in nature, and we mimic it in our
> better managed farmscapes.
> Not to celebrate mud, but we've been dealing with winter mud for millennia
> (and have depleted soils to show for it).  Here on Feb. 1, my stand of
> winter rye and peas is beautiful, ready for grazing our milk goats.  I'll
> take that over Phil's six more weeks of winter.  And our pastures are
> growing well, 63F and sunny as I write.  Year round grazing (stockpiled
> forages and early regrowth) can help us off the treadmill of putting up hay
> in the hottest weeks of the year then doling it out through the coldest.
> Thanks for noting the challenges of uncommon winter weather, and the
> chance for me to share how we and our ecosystems enjoy it.  Our winter
> market customers certainly enjoyed the volume and variety of field-grown
> greens in Jan, and we look forward to selling more this month.
> Richard Moyer
> SW VA  Out to take maple syrup off the pan, as it was 20 then 22F a couple
> nights ago, leading to a good syrup run.
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