Resilient Agriculture in Vermont This Week

Resilient Agriculture in Vermont This Week

Laura and Ken Dawson discuss the resilience of native grapes at Maple Springs Garden in Cedar Grove NC Credit Climate LIstening Project

I am looking forward to 3 days of learning and sharing ideas this coming week in the great state of Vermont – a national leader in practical and credible strategies for cultivating resilient communities – especially ag and food systems! I’ll be talking resilient agriculture and food systems with faculty, staff and students at UVM on Wednesday (10/18) and at Middlebury College on Thursday (10/19).

At UVM on Wednesday, I’ll focus on applications of resilience science to farm and food system education, research and development programs, where I will also meet with faculty and staff working in the Farming and Climate Change program at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture.  The Center is doing some very innovative work to develop economic case studies of climate adaptation, explore the potential of ecosystem services to enhance climate resilience of agroecosystems, and prepare farmers and foresters in the Northeast for the challenges that climate change will pose for their businesses.

The Organic Farm at Middlebury College, Vermont

I’ll be at Middlebury College on Thursday to talk food system resilience, with a focus on what it will take to put the U.S. food system on the path to resilient food future.  While at Middlebury, I’ll tour the student farm (celebrating it’s 15th year this year!)and talk with students in the Global Food Program about the work they are doing, at the college and beyond, to create solutions to some of the planet’s most challenging problems.

You can meet me at lunchtime seminars on campus both days or send me an email me if you would like to meet some other time while I’m on campus. Thanks to the UVM Plant and Soil Science Department and Woodin Colloquium Series, sponsored by the Environmental Studies Department at Middlebury for supporting my visit!

Talking Climate Risk and Resilience in the Barn

Talking Climate Risk and Resilience in the Barn

I had the great pleasure earlier today of visiting with Brian Allmer at the Barn.  We got together to talk about my visit to Colorado at the end of this month. Brian and his wife Connie live on his family farm & ranch in Northeastern Colorado.  Brian’s farm was named a Colorado Centennial Farm in 2016.

Brian Allmer

Brian is “the principle bottle washer,” as he puts it, and founder of Barn Media and the Colorado Agriculture News Network. Brian runs an awesome operation dedicated to covering the issues that matter to Colorado agriculture. “Barn Media & the Colorado Ag News Network’s mission,” says Brian, “is to provide accurate and factual information pertaining to any ag issue facing producers & agriculture entrepreneurs and then let the listener or webpage visitor make up their own minds based on the facts on the discussions presented to them.”

During our visit before the interview, Brian’s deep knowledge, abiding respect and genuine love for agriculture and the people in agriculture, especially young people, really shone through. I learned that he is the “Official Livestock Announcer” at both the Colorado State Fair and the National Western Stock Show. Brian has also served as a board member of the Colorado Future Farmers of America and 4-H Foundations.  And he is co-founder and coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open, an annual stock show that has rapidly become a “must” for 4H and FFA youth involved in exhibiting market beef, lambs and goats.

We had a great conversation today about the new risks and opportunities created by climate change. “Climate risk” is increasing agricultural risks across the board – production, marketing, legal/regulatory, financial and human.
Although Colorado producers are masters at managing the risks associated with changing weather cycles and extremes of weather, these kinds of weather challenges are likely going to come faster and be more intense in coming years. Climate risk is something new. Practices that have worked in the past to manage weather-related risks will become less successful over time.

City region food systems bring urban and rural people together for mutual benefit.  Credit FAO

We also discussed a new idea that holds a lot of opportunity for agriculture.  The “City Region Food System” is a sustainable development idea that is rapidly gaining traction around the world.  Simply put, this solution changes the nature of the relationship between urban and rural areas from one that is exploitive to one that is mutually beneficial. Rural areas are recognized as providing services essential to the health and well-being of urban areas and are remunerated accordingly. Instead of being viewed as a source of additional raw materials, rural areas are viewed, for example, as a source of high quality food, clean water and air, open space, beautiful landscapes, and living expressions of place-based tradition. Rural areas can also contribute significantly to regional climate change solutions, by storing carbon in soils, reducing flooding, and providing many other mitigation and adaptation benefits to both rural and urban communities.

One of the real joys of my work these days is the opportunity to visit with all sorts of good people working in agriculture and food systems, all across the U.S. and beyond. We don’t always agree on the problems or the solutions, but we all share a deep love for the land and the people who care for the plants and animals that feed us. Thank you, Brian Allmer, for a great visit to the Barn. I look forward to catching up with you again real soon!

You can hear the full interview at BARN ONAIR & ONLINE 24/7/365.

Resilient Agriculture in Central New York

Resilient Agriculture in Central New York

I spent 5 days talking about Resilient Agriculture in central New York the early part of this month on the SUNY-Cobleskill campus and at the Farmer’s Museum Annual Conference on Food and Agriculture in Cooperstown.  I enjoyed visiting with students in the agriculture and natural resources program at Cobleskill to talk about how dairy and beef producers can prepare for changing climate conditions, how to manage for resilience in food supply chain management,  leading edge agricultural education strategies, and how to research and write about sustainable food issues.  I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation at the evening reception and book signing, and my public presentation, Climate Change, Resilience and the Future of Food was standing room only!  The evening events were made even more special because Resilient Agriculture farmers Jim and Adele Hayes were able to attend.  I also enjoyed a visit with Jim and Adele at Sap Bush Hollow Farm to catch up on all the latest news, including their most recent venture taken on by their daughter Shannon and her husband Bob – the Sap Bush Hollow Cafe in West Fulton, NY.

This year’s Annual Conference on Food and Farming, hosted by the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown.  The museum’s collection of 23,000 artifacts reflect 19th century farm life in central New York.  The conference focused on the impacts of climate change on farming in central New York.  I kicked off the day long meeting with a keynote on Climate Change, Resilience and the Future of Food and finished the day with a New Times, New Tools workshop for farmers that presented the results of my research with award-winning sustainable farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and new management practices that a proven to reduce climate risk.


Bridging the Divide – Cultivating Conversation about Climate Change

With two weeks until the general election, we are thrilled to release Bridging the Divide, a short film designed to invite open and honest conversations about climate change across the Six Americas. We hope this video inspires viewers to reach across divides of belief about climate change in their communities, to search together for common ground from which to take climate action, and to support political leaders who are willing to work together on climate change. We think the video speaks for itself, but we wanted to share the story of how this video came to be.

Bridging the Divide emerged as an idea for Laura during her participation as a civil society delegate to COP21 in Paris at the end of 2015. Peyton, a recent college graduate with a passion for sustainability, followed the Paris climate talks closely from North Carolina. From our unique perspectives on one event, we had very similar takeaways. We both felt inspired, hopeful, and ready to engage in climate work as a result of the Paris climate agreement. But we also felt apprehensive about our country’s ability to take this global agreement and implement it at the national, state, and local levels of our government. At the time, we believed that it came down to Republicans voting against climate action and Democrats voting for it and we decided to work together on a project that would encourage North Carolina citizens to take action on climate by voting climate deniers out of office in the general 2016 election.

Fortunately, our research ultimately led us in a different direction. During the spring of 2016, we dove into researching what was known about conservative and liberal values, how those values may play into our diverse perspectives about climate change, and how we might overcome the beliefs that divide us. After 6 months or more of learning about the foundations of human belief and why beliefs change, we both realized this work had created a profound shift within ourselves, one that changed our goals for this project. Instead of voting climate deniers out of office, we wanted to encourage more thoughtful and respectful discussions about climate change among political leaders of both parties.

With this new goal in mind, we drew on research conducted to better understand American beliefs about climate change. We learned that about 30% of Americans are disengaged, doubtful or dismissive about climate change and rarely discuss the subject with anyone. This group of Americans tends to be conservative, older, higher income, Christian, white and male. We also learned in our research that the most effective way to encourage the questioning of beliefs in a group is for respected leaders of that group to share their own experiences of changing beliefs. As we wrapped up this project, we came to understand that sharing the perspectives of these white, older, conservative, southern Christian men has the potential to broaden the perspective of liberals engaged in climate change as well. We were moved by the stories that Richard, Jim and Bob shared with us about faith, leadership, and climate change. We think you will be too.

We could not have completed this project without the support of many people. Dayna Reggero of the Climate Listening Project offered valuable production advice and the project was funded in part by Ullman Consulting and 16 individual donors who responded to a Go Fund Me campaign. Andrea Desky of Call to Action Media generously offered her advice and experience to this project and managed all the technical details of the video production. We give our deepest thanks to Richard Haake, Jim McCoy, and Bob Inglis. They gave us their trust and had the courage to speak openly and honestly about a subject that is not easy to talk about in these times.

There are so many important voices to be heard in the climate change conversation. This video focuses specifically on one group in the hopes of encouraging new voices to enrich and enliven this conversation in ways that support effective climate action. We look forward to engaging with all Americans, no matter their perspective on climate change, as we continue our work to enhance the accessibility, diversity, momentum and resilience of the climate change conversation in this country.

And don’t forget, get out and vote!

Peyton Siler Jones and Laura Lengnick
Cultivating Resilience, LLC


Cultivating Resilience Welcomes Political Associate Peyton Siler Jones!

Cultivating Resilience Welcomes Political Associate Peyton Siler Jones!

In June 2016, Peyton Siler Jones joined Cultivating Resilience as a Political Associate with responsibility for developing projects that encourage citizens and political leaders to engage and collaborate on climate action.  She will also do some political background research and writing for social media.  Prior to her work for Cultivating Resilience, Peyton served as Program Associate for the Intentional Endowments Network, a nonprofit with roots in Boston, MA. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Green Mountain College in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Policy. During her time there she served as Director of the Student Campus Greening Fund, Treasurer of the Sustainable Living Floor, and as Student Representative on the Campus Sustainability Council.


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