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.
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
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.
For the first time, the potential of agriculture as a solution to climate change was included in COP discussions. Attend this session if you would like to learn more about what it was like to attend the Paris meetings as a civil society delegate and what you can do to ensure that our country does its part to reduce emissions and cultivate climate resilience. Presented at the Abundance Foundation’s 4th Climate Adaptation Conference in Pittsboro NC on March 4, 2016. Report From Paris Abundance 2016
I had a wonderful visit to Maine last week to talk about Resilient Agriculture at the University of Maine at Orono and at Unity College in Unity. Quite unexpected was a whirlwind tour of North Haven and Vinalhaven islands hosted by Jacqueline Curtis and James Blair – graduates of my sustainable agriculture program at Warren Wilson College and two of the many young farmers driving the current resurgence of local food production in Maine.
Jacqueline and James have been involved in the restoration of Turner Farm for the last 7 years or so – clearing trees to establish pasture and cultivated fields, building greenhouses and a creamery, and establishing vegetable, beef, dairy, and cheese enterprises on the farm.
Island farming and food systems offer a unique challenges and opportunities for sustainable producers. The cost of importing materials and exporting products encourages farm and food system designs that are tightly coupled to the island’s natural resources – land, soils, water and people – and that foster local interdependence. During my time on the island, I saw many examples of the integration of local resources into food and farming systems.
Concerned about losing additional forested land on Turner Farm, Jacqueline is organizing a cooperative network of land owners with underutilized pastures who are willing to support forage production and rotational grazing on their land. This strategy produces a number of resilience benefits to Turner Farm and the island community that it serves. Jacqueline gets the additional pasture she needs to meet the growing demand for pasture-raised meats on the island, sustainable management of pasture lands on the island will enhance soil and water quality on the island, and the cooperative approach engages many land owners in food production and builds social capital.
Island farmers like Jacqueline and James are innovating sustainable farm and food system solutions that help put us on the path to a resilient food future.