rising food prices

A Glimpse of the Climate Future?

It was time for the yearly drive down to the Bay Area in California to visit my family, and we made a few alarming observations.

1. Lake Shasta was as low as I've ever seen it in my life! An article written in May noted a 90-foot drop in the water level, and I can just add that June, July, and half of August have done nothing to improve matters. In fact, if I'd seen the water at the level pictured in the May article, it wouldn't have freaked me out as much. Let's just say that if a drought like this ever hit Loch Ness, Nessie would have to evolve into a land animal.

2. California was importing cherries from Washington State! What the heck? My mom brought out a bag of Bing cherries from glorious Washington. Back when I was growing up, you could visit Bing cherry farms in San Jose, and now the cherries had to come from Washington? Drought drought drought.

3. The San Jose Mercury ran this graph in an article over the weekend:

The tan-colored bars are bad news. I remember those wet years in the 80s, and they were no picnic either, but mostly because drizzle depresses Californians even more than Washingtonians because they've developed neither tolerance nor secret love for it.

What does this all mean? I think it means two things:

1. Food prices will continue to climb. Our wallets have taken a hit these past couple years, and it's going to get worse. Even if you're a farmers-marketgoer, buying local as much as possible--if the rest of the country starts buying up Washington-grown foods, that means higher prices for all of us.

2. You'll want to hang on to your house and consider retiring in the Pacific Northwest because there are going to be more articles like this. Meteorologist Cliff Mass predicts that the PNW will fare way better than the rest of the country as the world warms, in terms of rainfall, rising ocean levels, heat waves, and freak storms. And even if you believe global warming is so much hooey, droughts are facts, and so far Washington State has shown more drought resilience:

It's relative of course. I think, no matter where you live in the country, people are going to have to get creative about getting and retaining water, but at least the PNW still gets plenty in Western Washington (take the crazy showers of the past day)--we just have to get creative about capturing all that wetness.

In any case, be sure to load up on our in-demand fruits and vegetables and farm goods at the Market this Thursday and Saturday, before the rest of the country cottons on to how spoiled we are!

And I leave you with a picture of much water, to relieve your mind. This is Crater Lake. Granted, it took thousands of years of snowfall and rainfall for the lake to reach its present depth (and last year they only received half of normal snowfall), but doesn't it do your heart good to see it? It was clean enough to drink, and we drank it!

Crater Lake National Park

Feeling the Food Price Pinch

I don't know about you, but in the past couple years, I've seen our average grocery bill increase by about 50%. Yes, my kids are bigger now, and the adolescent boy complains every night about how he's starving all the time, and his sisters have learned not to leave food they plan on eating unattended, but that can't account for the entire upswing. So I was glad to see some recent articles that told me the rising costs weren't all my fault.

The Wall Street Journal cites the unrelenting drought in California, which has gone on for three years, impacting the crops in the graphic below:

And USA Today expanded on the carnage at the cash register by looking at the 10 fastest-rising food costs:

1. Bacon. Possible explanation? The delightfully-named Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) in hogs.

2. Ground Beef. Culprit? Drought.

3. Oranges. Blame: Citrus greening disease in Florida and drought in California.

4. Coffee. Guilty party? Drought and producer stockpiling.

5. Peanut Butter. Pointing finger? "Poor growing conditions" and possibly increased Chinese demand, for Pete's sake!

6. Margarine. The Reason Why: who cares! You seriously should not be eating this fake food anymore anyhow. Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter. And it was called just plain Butter.

7. Wine. Whodunnit? Drought in California and general demand increases. Apparently we're drinking more to comfort ourselves for rising food prices.

8. Turkey. For want of a nail...drought led to rising corn and soy prices, which led to more expensive feed.

9. Chicken. See Turkey. That, and the whole world is eating more and more chicken because agro-industrial practices have made it comparatively cheap.

10. Grapefruit. See Orange.

What does this mean for our farmers market? I expect we'll see higher prices. After all, a rising tide lifts all the boats. I know that Skagit River Ranch cut way back on their chickens because of the feed costs, especially since they can't make up the dollars lost by cramming chickens in crates on top of each other. It'll be interesting to talk to the farmers and ask how Washington's precipitation is doing, from their perspective, and what rising costs of their own they see.

I do have a couple money-saving reminders for you, though, so all is not lost. Remember, if you can find your vegetable or fruit on the "Clean 15" list, there's no need to buy organic.

Thanks, Mary Crimmins, for the cute graphic!

I've taken to stretching a pound of meat with a can or two of black beans, and remember that saturated FAT promotes satiety faster (and slows spikes in blood sugar). Add more butter. More cheese. More whole milk and cream. Slather those bagels and pieces of toast and what-have-you in cream cheese! As I mentioned last week, to everyone's relief and good health, fat is back on the menu.

So raise your milkshake to an end to the drought, and here's hoping prices come down soon.