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Better Living Through Well Being

An old expression around where I live in Washington State is “summer doesn’t begin until after July 4th.” But though historically true, this spring was 15 degrees colder than normal in mid May, and it has been 10 percent wetter than most people remember. This has presented serious challenges for our local farmers.

The culprit is La Nina, the large-scale weather system over the Western United States that is notorious for bringing cold and damp spring seasons. There is high pressure over the Aleutian Islands and the North Pacific, and then low pressure, which brings cold and rain, sets up over the Northwest, delivering system after system into our area.

But this spring weather may soon be a dim memory. Weather experts are predicting a hotter than average summer in 2022 for much of the U.S. It will be generally hotter than usual in the North and below average heat in the South.

Forecasts are trending toward a third consecutive La Nina this fall and winter. Five of the past six summers preceding La Nina winters have been overall hot in the U.S. The setup for this summer looks similar to last year, including a “heat dome” period.

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Choosing when and what to plant has been a greater challenge than usual this year for many small farmers in the Greater Seattle area due to the extended cold and damp spring. The uncertainty has contributed to rising costs of food. Although this is tough on consumers, many farmers are barely breaking even. Shipping costs have gone up, as have costs of animal feed, fertilizer and equipment. The heat dome experienced in the Pacific Northwest last summer damaged crops and reduced the availability of local grains, increasing feed costs by over 12 percent. And that was before the expected global shortage of wheat being predicted due to the war in Ukraine.

As the summer plays out, the true impacts to our food system will become apparent, but small farms may be best-positioned to address urgent food needs. While industrial farms are dependent on imports from abroad, small farms are able to source their needs locally. Farms on five acres or less grow more food crops, account for greater crop diversity, and produce less waste than large-scale agriculture.

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A new short video episode of online media series “Made in America: American Innovator” features the public-private partnership Envision Charlotte. "The First U.S. Smart City to Build a Circular Economy" episode presents a holistic community-wide approach to improving the environment, creating a circular economy, and curbing changes to the climate that is showing up in cities and towns across America, thanks to Charlotte’s example, begun just one year ago.

A circular economy reduces material use, redesigns materials to be less resource intensive, and recaptures “waste” as a resource to manufacture new materials and products. A circular economy can be an important instrument to tackle the current triple planetary crises on climate, biodiversity and pollution. By keeping resources in the loop for longer, we’ll avoid emitting greenhouse gases caused by the energy needed to make products.

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A report released by the International Fund for Animal Welfare features case studies from around the world that demonstrate the importance of animal and habitat health to overall human well-being. The report outlines how effective welfare and conservation actions acknowledging the role of animals can lead to greater food security, prevention of disease, and increased resilience against the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

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Other articles of interest in this TMIS eNewsletter for Summer 2022:

* National League of Cities and United Conference of Mayors present amicus brief to Supreme Court in support of the Clean Power Plan in response to recent EPA decision.

* Almond trees impacted by water stress in drought-affected growing region of California show improved productivity after applications of a seaweed-based biostimulant.

* Clean Earth Challenge offers way to restore land, oceans, waterways while enjoying the great outdoors.

* Historically high temperatures threaten to impact vulnerable communities in the U.S. this summer.

* Top trends for new product launches zero in on consumer concerns about environmental issues and responsibilities.

* Flags Over Harvest campaign partners with Farm Rescue nonprofit to help struggling American family farms.

* BenefitsCheckup.org online tool connects seniors with limited incomes to over 2,000 benefits programs.

* British Medical Journal study that tracked 130,000 Americans over 24 years found an 11 percent lower risk of death from consuming adequate servings of fruits and vegetables.

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I am grateful to be in a collaborative business with many talented and skilled professionals. Your feedback is always welcome.

- Mary Michele McLaughlin


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