If there’s one thing that every person on this earth understands, it’s food. Food is part of every day; it sustains our energy, provides pleasure, and can connect us culturally. But the process of growing food and getting it on our plates is much more complicated. The variables in a farmer’s mind when planning their crop span from the nutrients in their soil to international trade and everything in between.
If that weren’t complicated enough, now add in the factor of climate change. Farmers depend on natural resources and predictable weather to grow their crops and raise animals. Weather variability associated with climate change makes many farming decisions more difficult and riskier, whether trying to time it right with planting seeds to optimize their growth or protecting livestock from sudden storms.
Currently, I am working to support farmers in adopting farming practices that build resilience to climate change at the global non-profit, Environmental Defense Fund. An example of a resilience practice would be implementing soil health practices like cover crops that can protect soils from erosion caused by more severe rainstorms. Such practices can protect farmers’ soils and livelihoods over the long term. However, transitioning to new practices is always a complex proposition for a farming operation.
How can we provide farmers with the information they need to successfully adopt practices that improve the resilience of their farms? A recent collaboration with North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NC A&T) demonstrates three key successes:
Choose effective messengers. Farmers often report that they learn best from other farmers. We collaborated with three North Carolina farmers who have successfully adopted resilient farming practices to learn from their experiences and gather data on what worked.
Share data that can overcome key barriers to change. Farming is a business with very tight margins, so understanding the economics of any farm transition is critical to success. We gathered information on the farm budget impacts of the resilient practices from all three farms. We turned this information it into case studies combining the farmers’ stories with economic data on the change.
Reach your audience in multiple ways. In addition to the case studies, we worked with a local video production company to create a profile of farmers in a short film. This product provided us with another way to reach our target audience, farmers, and policymakers. NC A&T’s Cooperative Extension service uses these case studies in their regular farmer outreach and education.
The combination of farmers speaking from their own experiences, sharing economic information, and the creation of a short film makes this project more accessible to farmers who are trying to navigate complex choices on their own farms. Beyond that, sharing the stories of farmers successfully building resilience to climate change matters to anyone who cares about where their food comes from, and the people and land involved in growing it.
Access EDF’s collaboration with NC A&T Cooperative Extension here: https://ncat.edu/caes/cooperative-extension/edf/
Maggie Monast is a Senior Director of Climate-Smart Agriculture, Finance and Markets, for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). She collaborates with farmers, economists, companies, agricultural organizations, and others to create an agricultural system that drives climate stability, clean water, and food security. Maggie’s work is to quantify the farm financial impacts of conservation practice adoption, collaborate with major corporations to develop sustainability initiatives and develop innovative financial incentives to advance sustainable agriculture.
The Environmental Defense Fund is a leading environmental nonprofit focused on stabilizing the climate while helping build strong and healthy communities. Our game-changing solutions put people at the center of everything we do.