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Climate Chaos

In recent months, when the rain in Denver has carried on for weeks at a time, the old trope of “we need the moisture” has lost meaning. Ceaseless days of rain made for a difficult planting season with muddy gardens, huge amounts of weed growth, and low soil temperatures. The extremely rainy season is a stark contrast to last summer, when long weeks of dry 100º days stunted the growth of crops at all of our gardens.

Talk about the weather to someone who’s lived in Denver for a few decades and you’ll likely hear stories about the bygone days of predictable 4pm summer showers. That predictability has given way to new patterns in recent years – ceaseless rain, unrelenting heat, and torrential hail, all of which leaves us to face a new challenge wrought by climate change: chaos.

Climate chaos is an emerging phrase to describe the unpredictability of local weather patterns in the age of climate change. Essentially, it means that weather forecasting, already a task with varying accuracy, will become increasingly difficult (if not altogether impossible).

As farmers and gardeners, we are particularly aware of the weather and its impacts. Last November, we took some time as a team to step back and evaluate our priority areas for future programming and to share any concerns that we had as a team. Climate change came up in every single conversation we had. Last summer, we noticed many crops struggling, especially those particularly vulnerable to heat and drought. This summer, we’ve had entire gardens wiped out by hail and wind storms. There are some preventative measures we can take, like creating protective shade structures for our more vulnerable crops, but such solutions are time and resource intensive.

As time progresses and the effects of climate change become more severe, we may have to focus on growing specific, highly resilient crops. In many ways, we are prepared for this switch: focusing on resilient, native, and adaptable crops fits well within the learning model of SustainEd Farms. But an increasingly chaotic and unpredictable climate will affect everybody, not just the farmers, and it will disproportionately affect those in our community with the least access to power, wealth, and security.

These interconnecting issues highlight the importance and overlap of food justice, climate justice, and social justice. It's this interconnectedness that makes "Growing Justice" one of SustainEd Farms' core missions and values.

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