JESICA CLARK: My name is Jesica Clark. I'm the assistant farm manager at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. And the Poughkeepsie Farm Project is a nonprofit that has an educational mission, and also a working CSA farm.
We are not certified organic, but we do try to use organic practices. We are also what's called certified naturally grown, which is a Hudson Valley born certification process. It's a peer to peer certification. So we have other framers come out and make sure that we're growing, hopefully, sustainable manner.
On the whole, I don't know if it's me, and I would say that it actually does seem like the seasons hotter faster earlier on. And it does seem like we don't really have a cold, cold weather until later in the season. We notice climate change in terms of the disease susceptibility of our plants. And I've seen, definitely, an increase in the number of different diseases and pests that can affect us here in the Northeast.
Certainly when we have very extreme weather events, and certainly when we have sort of these very strange, either early summers or very late summers, or very, very late falls so that it doesn't actually get to freezing until February-- I'm sure that that extends how strong the disease pressure can be the next year, and the pest pressure. And heat stress actually can be a big factor for a lot of our brassicas. And in general, that's something you deal with as a farmer and the changing of the seasons.
Spring to summer brassicas are always going to be a challenge. But they're even more of a challenge. And they're a good indicator in terms of crops, because they do not like a lot of variability in their weather. They pretty much like the weather to always be relatively mild, not too wet, not too dry, and pretty much the same temperature all the time. And that's really just not what you get here.
So we're already dealing with a change in climate. And when you get to a point in the spring where it goes from-- I just remember, what was it? Two years ago when we would have 80 degree weather in early March, and then go freezing in April. Crazy things can happen in a season. It's almost like predicting for unpredictability. Having that kind of reinforces the fact that we should have diversified market areas, and also diversified crops.
You don't have to be as diversified as the CSA, because certainly that can be a little bit overboard in some areas. But certainly, to rely on one crop is like playing a game of dice. Like sometimes it's just not going to come up your turn. And certainly, if you don't have crop insurance, and even if you do have crop insurance, it can be a very risky game to play. I know people who are in the orchard business in Ulster County. And even they're kind of going more into aggro-tourism. They're going more into different crops, different specialty crops, just to have something on the side that they can rely on.
It kind of make one, as a farmer, more bold to say like, oh well, we'll just see how early we can get tomatoes if it's going to be warmer earlier. Or we'll see how late we can have crops into the fall. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But you never know, and probably something else is going to fail in the meantime. I personally like to also make sure that our organic matter is high in our soils to begin with, so that it has that humus and organic matter that's capable of holding water. As well as, as much as possible, keeping our soil covered in a cover crop when we can.
And then even when we're tilling in that cover crop, to try and choose moments where we're not losing too much soil. Certainly were thinking about carbon sequestration and being able to lock in a lot of that carbon into our soils. Partially because it's good for the Earth, and partially because it's good for our plants to have a high carbon soil.
How can you deny the idea that agriculture is a very large disturbance in a natural ecology? So to be able to balance that with some of the aspects that you would get in something like a forest, or prairie land, is very powerful to think about and to try and do. You come into the idea of sustainable farming knowing that, yeah, you're not messing things up too bad.
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Jesica Clark of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project in Poughkeepsie, NY discusses observed changes in extreme weather and climate variability and what she is doing to farm sustainably. The Poughkeepsie Farm Project is a CSA, certified naturally grown farm with a strong educational component. The Climate Smart Farming videos are produced by the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture (CICCA) and ConservationBridge.