California is responsible for more than 12 percent of the agriculture in the US, but, as CalMatters reports, "The future of farming in California is changing as the planet warms, altering the rain and heat patterns that guide which crops are grown where."
Take for example, Gary Gragg, described as "a nurseryman, micro-scale farmer and tropical fruit enthusiast," who believes the time is quickly coming when "he can grow and sell mangoes in Northern California."
"'I’ve been banking on this since I was 10 years old and first heard about global warming,' said Gragg, 54, who has planted several mango trees, among other subtropical trees, in his orchard about 25 miles west of Sacramento.
"Gragg’s little orchard might be the continent’s northernmost grove of mangoes, which normally are grown in places like Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
"Northern California’s climate, he said, is becoming increasingly suitable for heat-loving, frost-sensitive mango trees, as well as avocados, cherimoyas and tropical palms, a specialty of his plant nursery Golden Gate Palms … Mangoes may never become a mainstream crop in the northern half of California, but change is undoubtedly coming. Hustling to adapt, farmers around the state are experimenting with new, more sustainable crops and varieties bred to better tolerate drought, heat, humidity and other elements of the increasingly unruly climate.
"In the Central Valley, farmers are investing in avocados, which are traditionally planted farther south, and agave, a drought-resistant succulent grown in Mexico to make tequila.
"In Santa Cruz, one grower is trying a tropical exotic, lucuma, that is native to South American regions with mild winters. Others are growing tropical dragonfruit from the Central Coast down to San Diego.
"Some Sonoma and Napa Valley wineries have planted new vineyards in cooler coastal hills and valleys to escape the extreme heat of inland areas. And several Bay Area farmers have planted yangmei, a delicacy in China that can resist blights that ravage peaches and other popular California crops during rainy springs.
- KC's View:
There is, of course, good news and bad news. CalMatters points out that "pistachios have grown to one of the state’s mightiest crops," but climate change means that "crop scientists are working to save these valuable orchards from the effects of warming."
And there will be other repercussions. Think, for a moment, about those mango groves in Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico - if the weather has warmed to the point that they can be grown less than 100 miles from San Francisco, does that mean that they can't be grown in the places where they traditionally have thrived? What will climate scientists do in those places to preserve that sector of their farming business?
(A thought occurs. Perhaps they can come up with a way to convert the massive Nordstrom store being closed in downtown San Francisco into an indoor hydroponic or vertical farming installation? They're certainly going to have the space, and it is hard to imagine another retailer taking that square footage. It could, in fact, reflect a radically different approach to urban development in troubled times.)
This all matters to the food business community because retailers have gotten used to a steady supply of everything, sourced from all over the world. It is not hard to imagine that this could be a supply chain that could be broken by climate changes, which could mean that retailers will have to change their mindsets about selection and communicate effectively to shoppers about why these changes are taking place.