West Coast Farmers Had a Hellish Summer. It Might Not Be an Aberration.

October 21, 2020

Up and down the West Coast, farmers are reeling from a hellish summer of consecutive and overlapping crises. First, COVID-19 spread across the country, endangering the lives of farmworkers who were deemed as essential and devastating the restaurant market. Record-breaking hot stretches, which made this August the hottest one on record in California, burnt crops and decreased yields. Then a new wave of fires descended across the forests and hills, displacing workers, demolishing homes and blanketing regions with stifling smoke. “We’re trying to put the best food on the table and it’s been very, very rough,” Tristano says.

While some might chalk up these events to a series of freakish aberrations, there are signs that none of these crises will disappear anytime soon. Climate change is facilitating record-breaking heat spells; fires are raging every season in part due to poor forest management; many employers are resigned to COVID-19 lingering through the start of next year’s planting season. Once a land of bounty, the Golden State has turned into an unrelenting minefield of obstacles that have exposed the many flaws of an entire ecosystem.

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