At my last CSA veg pickup, I overheard a conversation about the looming potato shortage due to the drought conditions during this summer. After digging a bit deeper it seems like the fears are founded on a real basis. Potato is a thirsty crop which needs large amounts of water during its growth phase. As we experienced a wonderful summer it hit the potato at a crucial time in its growth. With the consequence of reduced harvest quantities and smaller crops.
I found various articles dealing with the problem, in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK and Ireland. Especially crisp and chips producers who rely on large potato sizes are already ringing the alarm bells. They now consider using smaller crops for their processed products. Which could result in shorter chips at higher prices. Retailers are also considering increasing the availability of “wonky potatoes”. This is good news when it comes to food waste. In times of shortage it seems we find back to our common sense that we should be less wasteful and more appreciative of what we have.
We need more diverse diets
This year’s drought and the long winter beforehand which shortened the growing season has shown us how vulnerable we are as our diets rely just on a few crops, animal products and on imports. As we don’t grow enough diverse vegetables in Ireland. The homogenisation of diets is a global phenomenon also created through big industrial agriculture players, pushing their products into markets. Over-reliance on just a few crops such as wheat, starch and oil crops, the reduction of crop varieties and increase of animal products in our diets have tremendous negative effects not only on our health (obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart diseases) but also on our planet.
Monocropping drives deforestation, soil degradation, desertification, loss of biodiversity and habitat for wildlife; to name a only a few. The longterm effects also include the movements of people and wars.
Our choices count!
Isn’t it crazy just how much we can influence what happens in the world through our food choices?! Most of us are not aware of the consequences of our choices and it’s time for us to wake up and to take responsibility. The motivation behind it can be just for our personal health or be more altruistic as for the planet in general. In any case we need to consider our food choices and be aware of the impacts they can have. Just relying on a few crops means if something changes we can become food insecure quite quickly. Our industrial food system is very vulnerable and in the last years we started to feel the consequences of a changing climate through a longer and colder winter, a hotter summer as well as more intense weather events such as storms.
Climate change as a chance
From a perspective of someone who wants to promote sustainable agricultural practices, the climate crisis carries a hope that finally farmers will adopt different practices and governments will promote and support those. Sometimes it seems that we need to feel the pain before we adopt change. It’s somehow a very human thing.
Now what can we as citizens do to be part of the change? One thing is to use our power of choice, supporting farmers who farm in harmony with nature and choosing a diverse and healthy diet. Every day we face the decisions of what to buy or not. Often it’s convenience and habit (combined with clever marketing) that guides our choice. Lack of time and resources lets us chose products that can be harmful to our environment and our health. But choosing fair products; fair to the environment, to humans and to animals doesn’t need to be difficult. You can find a fair food farmer on our map and if there’s none nearby, then using organic labels as guidelines when you shop in supermarkets can help to make a better choice.
If we show that we value a different kind of approach to growing our food, that keeps us and the planet healthy, then together we can make a difference. Switching to a diverse diet can support our health and builds resilience in our agri-ecological systems. And if that’s not enough just think of the delight of adding a variety of flavours, textures and colours to your daily meals.