Wednesday 2 March 2011

Something in the Wind

People with allergies are closely attuned to the seasons.  Their itchy eyes and snuffly noses tell them the seasons’ progression as accurately and clearly as any calendar.  My eyes and nose, together with the pollen on the windshield of my car each morning, are telling me that the alders are pollinating.  I didn’t know though, until I drove by a nearby hazelnut farm, that the hazelnuts are pollinating too. 

The pollinating hazelnut trees got me thinking:  There aren’t many bees around right now so how are these trees being pollinated.  Could it be that the wind does the job for them?  I did some research online and, sure enough, that’s just how it happens.  The same breeze that deposits pollen on my windshield each day carries the pollen from tree to tree, helping to ensure a harvest of hazelnuts later in the year.

Thinking about the wind and about pollination made me think about the farmers who raise the hazelnuts and, indeed, about all farmers:  I’ve always admired the work ethic that keeps farmers farming.  (It's becoming increasingly more difficult for our farmers to make a go of it and yet they keep on working.)  What I hadn’t thought about until today is that farmers are also gamblers.  Every year they stake their livelihood on the vagaries of Mother Nature. 

The calm, clear days that we so long for are no friend to the hazelnut farmer.  They need the March winds to ensure the pollination of their crop.  And, like every farmer, they also need the right amounts of sun and rain—just enough, not too much or too little of either.

Farmers gamble each year that nature will provide the conditions that will carry them through to a good harvest and they gamble, too, that the harvest will not be so good that it causes prices to drop through over-supply.  Pretty gutsy, if you ask me.

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