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.


Report From Paris

Report From Paris

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

Island Farms: A Unique Expression of Resilient Agriculture

Island Farms: A Unique Expression of Resilient Agriculture

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.

Turner Farm Barn North Haven_smallTurner Farm Barn View_smallTurner Farm Coleman Greenhouses

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.

Jersey on Turner Farm_smallJack and Jersey_small

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