How weather conditions impact farmers’ livelihoods

Oh HAIL no!

It was once obvious to people that agriculture is extremely dependant on climate. But somehow we have lost sight of this fact and have come to take the food on our tables completely for granted.

The right balance of sun and rain are required to grow the food that we eat and unfortunately, poor weather conditions can jeopardise the abundance, quality, price and access of our food supply — and yeah, the looks.

Extreme events, especially floods and droughts can greatly harm crops and vastly reduce yields. Severe wind bruises fruits and vegetables, rips cereals out of the ground and disperses seeds unfavourably. Too much water can force farmers to postpone planting or deprive the seed of oxygen, if already planted. It also enhances the possibility of disease and triggers nitrogen loss. On top of this, many weeds, pests and fungi thrive in high rainfall. On the flip side, drought kills crops very rapidly and causes them to be so dry that they are prone to ignition. It seems that all farmers are at the reckless mercy of the sky.

Meanwhile, the impact of climate change is a grave and growing concern. The increasing unpredictability of the weather makes it extremely difficult for farmers to plan their farming activities and to protect their land.

What’s more, is that our unreasonably strict visual standards for food means that small nicks and blemishes on fruit and vegetables, which have taken months to grow, can end up in a landfill. In fact, globally one third of food produced is wasted, largely for this reason. Obviously, this is a shameful waste of food and natural resources but moreover, it has a devastating effect on a farmer’s ability to make a living.

Throughout 2019, we featured a couple of items in our ugly fruit and veg box, the GRIM box, that were too skin-damaged for the market. Apricots, for example. Those apricots were saved from an organic farm collective in Southern Italy, that experienced an intense storm in April. This freak weather event left the fruit with bruises and deformations that made them “unsuitable” for supermarket shelves, according to European Marketing standards

Or oranges. Citrus fruit in general are hard to grow perfectly, for a variety of reason: Citrus are among the greediest plants and are always starving for one thing or another. If that water or nutrient is lacking, the skin quickly starts developing brown scaly patches. Or they were exposed to pests, like mite, which damaged the skin but left the inner part perfectly fine - which is what counts anyways, right? 

Why should the market not accept these perfectly fine but slightly ugly fruits? It makes sense that an orange, which due to skin damages might not be fit for zesting cannot be sold at the regular price of its pretty class 1 opponent. Sure. But rejecting these slighly ugly oranges altogether, and not even considering to sell them to a lower price, is absolute nonsense. These are just a few example of our very broken food system. 

The impact of climate disturbances on the global food supply is arguably one of the most important consideration in combating the climate crisis. If we are to overcome these challenges, we need to re-evaluate what is “acceptable” to eat.

At GRIM, we strive to embrace the“ugliness” of food. We appreciate the time and energy that goes in to each harvest and are thereby making it more possible for farmer’s to keep doing the work that ultimately, keeps us fed.