A note about climate change from Lesley

A note about climate change from Lesley


Friends of Primary Beans,

For the last few months, we’ve been hard at work preparing for a new harvest season. As we get ready to bring incredible new bean varieties to your table, we’ve also been navigating the realities that come with working directly with farms. Though we have no shortage of upsetting news in our feeds, I’d like to shed light on a subject that’s been on my mind lately– a subject that’s real and urgent, reminds me of our vulnerability as humans, and suggests that we must find new ways to grapple with it and the adjustments it might bring. I’m referring to, of course, climate change.

The IPCC Climate Report– the most comprehensive report on the subject that details what’s happening and what is expected to happen to our warming planet– came out last month. It got a full episode on The New York Times’ “The Daily” and was the center of some op-eds like the ones in The Guardian and in Time Magazine. But it mostly got overshadowed by, well, everything else that’s going on in the world: Afghanistan, the Delta variant, abortion laws, fires, tornados, and hurricanes, to name a few.

The extreme weather events we’ve been facing this summer make humans’ interdependence with the planet all too real. I’ve had regular check-ins with our farmer partners and get nervous every time I speak to them, dreading a dire update on what climatic conditions mean for the 2021 crop that is intended for Primary Beans, and more importantly what it means for their farm as a whole. Below are just a few of the updates.

“We’ve been seeing so many extremes in Michigan and have lost many dried bean growers for that reason. For example, this year it was too dry for weeks. Then the floods came in June: 4-½ inches of rain, followed by 3 inches a couple of days later and a week of on-and-off showers. Our bean crop is quite uncertain this year since most varieties of beans do not like to be saturated with water. They develop root rot, which kills the plant or delays its development. My hope is that someday soon we can find a way to fund breeding research to help with this issue that isn’t going away.”  Fran Arbogast, farmer in Michigan, USA

“I lost half my crop in 2018 when the daytime temperature reached 113 F, and I came to understand how climate change was affecting my farm directly and bean crops across the world. To adapt, we planted a mix of beans including the amazing tepary found naturally in the Sonoran Desert. It’s known to be the most drought-tolerant legume in the world, with an ability to produce a harvest of beans with a single rain, and its traits are going to be a big part of the solution in our adaptation to climate change.”  Mike Reeske, farmer in California, USA
“In Zacatecas, most farms don’t use irrigation so rain patterns are very important. Rain used to be very stable from June to September, which leads to favorable yields. Now, it’s typical to see constant heavy rain for 3 weeks and then a full month of no rain. Three years ago we didn’t get any rain at all and all the farms in our community really suffered. Luckily, this year we are doing okay.”  Armando Klein, farmer in Zacatecas, Mexico


I believe that farmers have one of the most honorable jobs in the world– one that’s deeply connected with nature and that requires an impeccable level of resilience to get you through the seasons. Farmers are responsible for leveraging natural resources and redirecting them for the production of the fresh, healthy food we eat. They’re also drivers of change because their decisions directly affect the environment and have the power to help heal the planet. Managing a functioning ecosystem is costly and complex– minimally disturbing the soil (i.e., no-till farming), utilizing cover crops, and even introducing grazing ruminants are all practices widely touted for helping to mitigate climate change. Luckily, beans are very useful on farms– they capture nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil, are ideal for crop rotations, and require comparatively little water.

The farms we work with stick to their values, even when it’s hard. While it’s nearly impossible to capture the nuances of farming practices from operation to operation, our sourcing criteria is meant to convey our philosophy regarding the type of farms we aim to partner with and support.

The rest of us, who are perhaps more disconnected from the harsh impacts of climate change (depending on where you live, of course), may be left feeling a different kind of anxiety and helplessness. One thing I’ve realized through self-reflection and reading books like On Time and Water is that much of the climate anxiety we feel may stem from our diminishing relationship with nature. It’s a disconnect that’s been brought on by the nature of living in a capitalistic society, where there’s not much time to pay attention to the seasons, soil, trees, and water.

The good news is that there are little things we can do to deepen our relationship with Earth. Maybe it’s paying close attention to the food you are eating, how it’s produced, and where it comes from. Maybe it’s planting your own little garden or finding something you can forage locally. Maybe it’s simply getting outside and opening all of your senses to take it all in. Not only will it improve our understanding of climate change, but study after study documents the psychological and physical benefits of connecting with nature.

I’ve found a certain comfort in being more intentional about spending time in nature and learning from among those who understand it best– farmers. My hope is that through the storytelling we do at Primary Beans and our thoughtfully sourced bean offerings, we’re doing our part to deepen our connection to the food we eat and the land it comes from. 

In community,



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