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Dry Expectations {Week 12 CSA}

Despite the glorious summer showers we've enjoyed this week, our drought and climate trajectory remain untouched. For Great Basin farmers, water is a constant consideration.

Especially in the midst of a megadrought, the worst the Western US has seen in over 1200 years. There are audible yelps of gratitude when summer brings rain on the farm. Harvests get interrupted with arms reaching towards the sky and dirty farmer faces are strewn with welcome droplets. It happened that our first summer thunderstorm this year drenched us while our Irish interns were visiting. They were noticeably amused by our desert-dwelling enthusiasm for puddles and precipitation, while they enjoyed a day that more accurately defined what their farming endeavors would look like back at home.

But even with these welcome passing storms, our high desert concerns about water security remain while new data continues to validate them. At the end of 2021, we read a report that echoed the same dire projections that climate activist and author, Bill McKibben, had written about more than a decade earlier: that the Sierra snowpack will decrease by more than 90% by 2050 (detailed in Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet). As farmers heavily reliant on groundwater reserves, McKibben's references were frightening years ago when we encountered them, but we rested our hope on his footnotes about how inherently questionable all global warming models are, due to the complex dynamics of an entirely new climate situation. After all, there isn't any ancient climate data mirroring a cycle like the one we're in, leaving us consistently surprised by new discoveries triggered by a warming planet, like the unexpected feedback loops of increased methane release from greenhouse-gas-driven climate change.

More studies continue to paint a dry future for the Sierras in general, predicting that precipitation will lessen overall with snow being replaced by rain. Should this become reality, which isn't a far-reaching consideration given the past decade of decreasing precipitation across the Sierras, the long-term impacts are almost incomprehensible. Very few would be unaffected by severe water restrictions in our region, but for farmers, it would be devastating. Snow recharges the groundwater we pump from and fills the reservoirs we flood with. The current megadrought we're facing has been unswayed by heavy snow years (like 2006 or 2016) because the years surrounding them are so abnormally dry, that catching up on water stores is proving futile.

To an extent, water shortages are a part of farming in the West and many farms have implemented water-wise irrigation methods and farming practices (ie. dry farming) that can withstand some of these fluctuations. The more a farmer focuses on soil health (i.e. increasing organic matter in their soil), the more resilient that soil will be in drought conditions. Indigenous food growing practices among tribes like the Navajo and Pueblo Nations are perhaps the most adept at weathering austerities, dependent on scant amounts of monsoon rains for their crops. The question is whether these different systems will be enough if precipitation dwindles further. Will they allow us to grow enough food to keep farming? California is the most agriculturally productive state in our nation and the fifth biggest producer in the world. Farms there have already been struggling with the water curtailments of the past two years, causing over 10,000 water rights to be denied in both 2021 and 2022. Future projections are dire and dry, with desalination plants rapidly being developed. But farmers without water this season are already abandoning ship—they have no choice.

At Prema, we bear many costs for being nestled against the Sierras at 5200 feet, including the embrace of many greenhouse-wrecking storms, but we are fortunate to be near the water source that many valley-based farmer friends thirst for. Our water table in these foothills has remained fairly stable since recording began a couple decades ago, but we understand it could change swiftly without snow.

As we literally pour ourselves into this piece of land, it's hard to question if we'll be able to stay on it. It's hard to acknowledge that there might be a necessary migration for many of us or many of our children if climatologists' predictions come to bear. Uncertainty has become the new norm and our answers to questions about long-term plans reveal that ambiguity. Perhaps remaining fluid is the only way forward in an era of quickly shifting foundations. After all, Darwin didn't tell us that it's the strongest who survive — nor the smartest: it's those most able to adapt. May we be wise enough to see how to right what's been wronged,

and to let go when we must.

Drip irrigation combined with increased organic matter in the soil are two excellent tactics for improved drought resilience.

Inside Your Box This Week

Salad Mix


Bok Choy





Little Gem Lettuce

First Fruit Sustainable Farm Melon* * First Fruit Sustainable Farm is located in Fallon, NV and while they are not certified organic, we know them well and they grow organically. Fallon has the benefit of gifting our region melons first each season, thanks to their lower elevation and higher temps.


Recipes Worth Trying...

{click images to go to recipe}


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For buying local.

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