From the Fields – Spring Ahead!
This post written by our Farm Steward – Emily Thomson
Adjusting the measurement of time to take advantage of daylight was first practiced by the Romans, whose water clocks could be calibrated to increase the number of minutes per daytime hour during the summer. First suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, it wasn’t until the early twentieth century that a standardized system of daylight savings was adopted. To save energy during the two World Wars by reducing the use of incandescent lighting, and much later, to minimize the effects of the 1973 oil embargo, the framing of daylight hours has been used to political and economic advantage.
Due to the global economy, the practice of maximizing daylight productivity is common in places where schedules are no longer governed by the sun’s movements. Still, of the roughly 250 countries that comprise the world presently, more than half don’t utilize daylight savings time at all, including much of Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa; most of these are simple agrarian cultures and, not coincidentally, are not reliant on fossil fuels.
Daylight savings time doesn’t matter much to us farmers, really. We take advantage of more daylight during the high season to get all the work done, but no matter what the clock says, harvest needs to be timed carefully. Because of plant respiration, early morning harvest – prior to the buildup of field heat – is critical for most crops, yet enough radiant heat is needed for some to be free of morning dew. Ideally, everything needs to be harvested within a short window before the midday heat.
The sun will rise and set on its own schedule no matter what artificial constructs are placed upon it, and farmers will do what they’ve always done. A Native American saying goes that “only a fool would believe that you can cut a foot from the top of a blanket, sew it on the bottom, and believe that you have a longer blanket.” Albert Einstein said that “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Both of these are well worth pondering–perhaps in a month or so, on a future evening as the light lingers.