Summer and Food Security In the Pacific Northwest
One of our customers told us that they heard a national news report proclaiming that summer was finally winding down. Those words struck me with surprise, as here in Western Oregon it feels like summer is just beginning in earnest. Much of that can be attributed to our late, wet spring, which at times gave the impression that we’d never see a dry day again. Nonetheless, summer remains undeterred and we now bask in its glory and reap its rewards.
While current local conditions are optimal for food production, farmers in the Pacific Northwest work hard throughout the year to manage narrow growing windows for heat-loving crops and dramatic fluctuations in seasonal temperatures and precipitation—the blessing and curse of growing food in our temperate climate.
The tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers you buy at the market are undoubtedly grown in greenhouses. Other crops, like specialty greens, radishes, and carrots are commonly grown under a plastic fabric called floating row cover (see picture), which allows water, light, and air to pass through while trapping heat and proving a barrier to pests. These and other food growing “tricks” allow us to benefit from a full spectrum of local produce during the summer, but even more importantly, provide conditions that permit growing food year round—something that is not feasible in many parts of the United States.
This distinct advantage gives our region the unique opportunity to establish a viable local food system that supplies continuous affordable, healthy, delicious produce to all residents. So, next time you are at the market, realize that in addition to enjoying community, supporting the local economy, and stocking up on quality food for your family, you are also helping to develop a sustainable regional food system. When you think about the droughts, fires, and extreme weather impacting much of the country, the significance of local food security may be more powerful than ever.
MFM Board Member & Vendor with Fiddlehead Farm