Dispatch from Boston: Food & Climate Change

[Note from the Editor: Edward sent this to me and I was too busy basking in the warmth of that sweet California “winter” sun, so I am publishing it just a few weeks late!]

Ksshhhhh! Attention, attention. Oncoming dispatch from a now-Bostonian-but-former-and-always-Sacramentan. 

At the time of writing this, it’s the end of February, start of March. If I remember correctly, flowers should be in full bloom. I recall sitting outside (the former) Butch ‘n Nellies as a high school student listening to the birds returning mid-February. Please enjoy it extra for those of us who live in colder climates… places where we rejoice when the temperature breaks 40 degrees. No joke… it hit 40 last week and the whole city was like, “WOOOO time to shred outer layer number one (of several)!”

New Englanders love to ask me what I miss most about California and my answer is, “The produce.” Let me tell you… that gets a lot of looks.

“Yeah,” I say, “… the produce is fresher… cheaper… all year around.” I recount stories of driving behind tomato trucks on 99 and fields just outside the city. Yesterday, my significant other found avocados at the bodega for $1.69 each and that was cause to break out the good whiskey. Avocados are so fricken expensive here and just… never as good.

According to the 2019-2020 California Agricultural Statistics Review report (put out by the CA Department of Agriculture), California provides a third of all produce and two-thirds of all fruits and nuts to the entirety of the United States. In 2019, Sacramento County alone produced $460,385,000 worth of produce.

Quick game! What do you think the top products were? Answer is the next line so no cheating! Write down your top two guesses…

All right pencils down…(apologies, I’m a new teacher).

The top two are: grapes (wine) and milk! The milk surprised me, honestly. I would have assumed almonds.

California feeds the country.

A few years back, when the drought was so bad Folsom Lake revealed its secrets, I spoke with friends openly about my fears, my worries. To my… anger, many never bat an eyelash. Something like, “Oh there’s a drought?” or, “Aw. That’s a bummer.” But no understanding of the human cost, no understanding of the impact on the food supply.

On one hand, I get it. There’s so much on everyone’s minds… Boston has its own worries about sea level rise, increased summer temperatures, and water supply (old industrial towns and well water don’t make a healthy mix it turns out). But, as we are more readily feeling the impacts of climate change, it will impact the food supply; availability, quality, and so on. And… it will impact the livelihoods of the workers who keep this country fed. 

So… I guess you can file this post under the “lament of a Californian in Boston who misses fresh spinach” category. But to wrap up I’d say: notice where your food comes from. Ask: who is picking, prepping, and preparing it, and how are they treated? And, if you’re looking for something to wonder about, perhaps wonder how we can keep our communities fed as the climate continues to shift?

Oh, and please savor that avocado just a little more. For those of us outside California.

Written by Edward F.

Edited by Cat X.

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