Will We Be The Last To Enjoy Farmer's Markets?

Donald Duck has always and will always be my favorite Disney character. In Madison, Wisconsin we had our own Donald Duck. Walking with my preschool to the farmers market in the early hours of Wednesdays in the summer, each of our small bodies buzzed with anticipation. I never knew the duck’s name; that would ruin his mystery and legend. Each of us grew quiet as we neared big white tent. And true to his cartoon alter ego, he would appear before us squeaking away nonsense in a perfect impression of Donald Duck. 

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My dog and I outside of the State Capitol which the farmers market surrounds every Saturday in the summer. 

I’m worried that I’ll be one of the last to hear that duck voice, and eat that fresh produce - climate change will alter everything. The Farmer's Market is one of the defining qualities of Madison. It truly brings out the character of the city. There is no better way to spend an early Saturday morning in the summer than shuffling around the square from stand to stand. Cheese curds, honey sticks and Spicy Cheese Bread: the true staples of a Madison Farmer’s Market diet. But this could all change in the coming decades if we, the city of Madison, the state of Wisconsin, the USA, the world, but especially us as individuals, don’t change our ways.

Human-caused climate change will drastically change the landscape of the US, including Madison, and the seemingly endless surrounding farmland that yields the crops we all love at the Farmer’s Market. According to the National Climate Assessment, rainfall and storms will increase across the entirety of the Midwest leading up to the middle of the century.The NCA predicts that this rising irregularity in storms will have a far more substantial effect on crops than that of rising temperatures. Crops such as cherries and other fruits are left particularly vulnerable to the heightened storms.

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This map shows the increase in frequency of extreme daily precipitation events (a daily amount that now occurs once in 20 years) by the later part of this century (2081-2100) compared to the later part of last century (1981-2000). (NCA) 

In 2012, a late season freeze completely decimated Michigan’s $60 million tart cherry crop. At $0.59 per pound in 2012, that’s a loss of over 100 million pounds of cherries, enough to make around 50 million pies. Replace Michigan with Door County, famous for their cherries; it could easily have happened there, one of my favorite vacation spots in Wisconsin.

Climate change is already affecting the agriculture of the Midwest, and it is foolish for anyone to say otherwise. But we can change this trend before it becomes too late. We are the generation to make a difference. We don’t want to be the generation walking around the state capitol square in 2050, reminiscing about Donald Duck at the Farmer’s Market that used to be, that we had a chance to save, but didn’t.

Anna Sumi is a sophomore at The George Washington University majoring in Political Communication.

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