Final Report for ENE11-119

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $33,098.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: Androscoggin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Susan Gammon
Androscoggin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District
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Project Information

Summary:

“In 2012, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture accounted for approximately 8% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture have increased by approximately 19% since1990.” ² These emissions contribute to overall climate change and reduction may help slow the impact on agriculture.³ ? Agriculture has the potential to immediately reduce individual farm emissions and to sequester more carbon that will help offset other emissions. Reduction in emissions and increase in carbon sequestration ultimately will increase agricultural sustainability, while improving the environment.

 

The lack of information about what emissions reduction practices would be most beneficial for Maine and New England farms and the need to educate agricultural service providers and farmers about the same, led collaborators to develop a suite of management practices that will reduce agricultural GHG emissions and/or increase carbon sequestration and a GHG emissions reduction certification program based on a whole farm assessment. Though the group focused on practices that will work for Maine farms, most will be applicable to other states with similar farms and climate. The overall goal of the project was to provide information to service providers to increase their ability to advise farmers on management practices that will increase their sustainability in the face of climate change. Certification, which may be useful to farmers for marketing or incentive purposes, is secondary to the importance of implementing the practices that will be beneficial for the environment and the farm.

A total of 49 extension educators, consultants, government employees, farmers, students and private professionals from five states attended two workshops held in Maine. Training at the first workshop consisted of an overview of agricultural GHG emissions, practices that reduce emissions, local, regional and national activities, research and data, quantification methods, program guidelines, resource availability and assessment of the farm to best serve the farmer. The second workshop reinforced concepts from the first and focused on adaptation and mitigation in a changing climate. A farmer panel discussed their practices and concerns related to climate change as well as suggestions for program needs and improvement. Participants received a program notebook and other information resources. The workshop training and tools will help providers prioritize management practices with potential to yield the most benefit to farms.

Ten participants provided written and/or verbal responses to questions about their follow-up actions with farmers. Two participants have held additional workshops and incorporated information into presentations. Six have worked directly with farmers, completing five whole farm assessments and recommending selected practices to an additional 61 farmers. Six farmers (potato, grain, mixed vegetable and livestock) have implemented recommended practices as a result of service provided.  Practices implemented include planting cover crops and increasing energy efficiency of buildings. One of the farmers found it feasible to open a farm store and reduced fuel use associated with travel to several farm markets. Known outreach activities in addition to responses received have included 11 website postings and newsletters with a state-wide agricultural reach to over 8000 farms. In addition, about 5000 people (not all of whom are farmers) attend the annual Ag Trade show where information about GHG reduction practices was distributed each year.

Performance Target:

35 professionals, representing Cooperative Extension, Conservation Districts, Agribusiness, State and Federal agencies, and others, will increase their knowledge of practices that reduce agricultural emissions and/or increase carbon sequestration. Of these participants, 30 will provide information to 1500 farmers through websites, newsletters and meetings. 15 will provide direct assistance and an initial whole farm GHG emissions to at least one farmer each, resulting in 7 farms implementing at least one change that will reduce emissions and/or increase carbon sequestration

Introduction:
Problem

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, between 1990 and 2008 agricultural GHG emissions represented 6.1% of total United States (U.S.) emissions. Nitrous Oxide, with approximately 300 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide, was a significant portion, representing 68% of total U.S. Nitrous Oxide emissions. During this time period, agricultural Nitrous Oxide emissions increased overall by about 10%. Methane, rated at more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, followed, with about 25% of the total U.S. production coming from enteric fermentation, an increase of 6.4 %. Methane from manure management, about 8% of the U.S total, increased 54% within the same period. Carbon Dioxide, contributed primarily by fossil fuel use and by far the greatest contributor to GHG emissions in total volume in the U.S. had a net decrease, in part because of an increase in the rate of carbon sequestration. Though forest and soil management, or lack thereof, also can contribute to release of carbon dioxide, land use change and the resulting additional carbon sequestration offset an emissions increase¹. By 2012, agricultural GHG emissions represented 8.1% of total U.S. emissions.”CH4 emissions from enteric fermentation and manure management represented about 24.9 percent and 9.3 percent of total CH4 emissions from anthropogenic activities, respectively, in 2012. Agricultural soil management activities, such as fertilizer use and other cropping practices, were the largest source of U.S. N2O emissions in 2012, accounting for 74.8 percent.”²

 

There are private and publically held companies who are tracking or planning to track emissions from their supply chains. More than 60 companies worldwide, including Kraft Foods, participated in The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative, testing accounting and reporting standards that will allow them to track and measure emissions from their products and supply chains.5 Some,such as Walmart, have already committed to a GHG emissions reduction and have started to require accounting and reductions from suppliers as well, including agricultural suppliers.

 

The challenge to agriculture is to respond to new demands, reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon sequestration in ways that are practical, cost effective and that yield additional benefits, while maintaining or increasing farm sustainability. There is potential for additional carbon sequestration though agricultural land management and forest management, and thus potential for additional offsetting of emissions from other sources. The lack of information about what management practices would be most beneficial for a Maine farm to implement that would lead to accomplishment of any or all of the above was a stumbling block.

 

The primary goal of this project was to identify the management practices most likely to reduce emissions and have associated co-benefits and to provide the needed resources and education to agricultural professionals so they in turn can provide farmers with the help they need to address the issue. 

 

 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Susan Gammon
  • Thomas Gordan
  • Arthur Grindle
  • Mary Ann Hayes
  • Mark Hedrich
  • Richard Kersbergen
  • Dr. Ellen Mallory
  • Laughlin Titus
  • Andrrew Whitman

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Project Approach

Maine farms, and most New England farms, are relatively small. USDA 2012 Agricultural Statistics indicate that of 8173 Maine farms 4996 are less than 100 acres. The goal was and is to develop a program to benefit the environment and maintain or increase farm sustainability while being practical for implementation on a small farm.

 

Collaborators

Project collaborators included representatives of two Resource Conservation and Development Areas, Maine Departments of Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture, and Forest Service, Maine Association of Conservation Districts, Maine Rural Partners, Maine Farm Bureau, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District, Androscoggin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, agribusiness and farmers.

 

Program Development

Collaborators chose a “whole farm” approach, the concept being that ultimately doing so will yield more GHG emissions reductions and other benefits than any one single activity could alone, especially for small farms.

Assessment Survey:

They developed a modular program that includes a “whole farm” assessment survey that can be used by service providers or the farmers themselves to assess current farm operations and help them prioritize management practices that will yield the most emission reduction and co-benefits. Referral to other resources when warranted, including modeling experts, energy rebate programs, USDA/NRCS cost share practices, SARE Farmer Grants, or other programs that will help farmers implement recommendations for management change enhance the program and are to be part of the service package. The assessment is comprehensive and all sections do not apply to all farms. Since development, it has undergone some minor revisions and testing has shown that it will need further simplification to make it easier to use. Originally, it was designed to get information needed for various modeling programs in order to quantify emissions reductions for offset markets or for the certification program. All of the information is not necessarily needed if the farmer has no intention of participating in either and just wants to implement management practices that will benefit farm sustainability and/or their markets require them to implement practices that reduce emissions. The bottom line is that in order to prioritize management practices that will be most effective, information about current and past operations is needed. The assessment survey is attached.

 

Management Practice Modules:

Six categories of management were selected for inclusion within the modular program with practices most likely to be effective identified for each. The management modules along with the assessment survey provide the tools needed for professionals to address the assistance farmers have requested while also addressing environmental and farm sustainability issues. The modules include: Forest, Energy, Manure, Fertilizer, Crop and Land and Pasture and Grazing Management. Each has multiple management practices included with co-benefits listed and a general statement of associated payback of investment. For instance, the Fertilizer Management module includes seven practices: application rate reduction to optimal crop needs, band placement near, below and to the side of seed row, injection into root zone, synchronize application with crop growth, switch to enhanced efficiency fertilizer, no-till cover crops with scavenging potential and banding or injecting into sod with split applications. Crop and Land Management practices include: crop rotation, cover crops, change from annual to perennial, switch from conventional to zone tillage with cover crop, no-till with cover crop, conservation set aside, and irrigation improvement. The management modules are attached.

 

Certification Program:

In addition to the assessment survey and management modules, a GHG emissions reduction certification program incorporates a point system and reasonably restrictive requirements to obtain and maintain certification. The program includes goals, general and specific requirements and performance standards for each category. Collaborators decided (with feedback from farmers) that a certification program might be worthwhile for some farmers to pursue as it could be used as a marketing tool and may be an incentive to change. The certification is secondary to the importance of establishing beneficial management practices and is also the most problematic in that it is very time consuming to do an on-site assessment of farm operations, prioritizing potential useful management practices, reporting to the farmer, and monitoring for certification and re-certification. The program will need to be taken over and managed by an agency or organization with the resources to carry it forward. The certification program is the one element of the program that is most likely to be changed significantly or dropped if no entity is willing to take it over. There has been some interest in doing so by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and by a non-profit, however thus far formal talks have not happened. Certification modules and procedures are attached.

 

Workshops:

Two full day workshops for professionals were organized to give professionals the opportunity to increase their knowledge about climate change and agricultural issues and learn about the program so they in turn could provide farmers with information and assistance. Both workshop announcements were sent to professional organizations, state agencies, cooperative extension, non-profits etc. and were published in newspapers, on websites and in newsletters, reaching the performance goal of at least 200 professionals receiving recruitment information.

A total of 49 extension educators, consultants, government employees, farmers, students and private professionals from five states attended two workshops, held in Maine. Of the 49, six attended both workshops. Training at the first consisted of an overview of agricultural GHG emissions, practices that reduce emissions, local, regional and national activities, research and data, quantification, the completed program guidelines, resource availability and assessment of the farm to best serve the farmer. A hands-on activity and group discussion incorporated two video case studies, one dairy and one small vegetable and livestock. A program notebook and other information resources were provided. The second workshop reinforced the first, focused on adaptation and mitigation in a changing climate, providing updates and additional pertinent information. A panel of farmers and professionals, along with the entire group, discussed their practices and concerns related to climate change as well as suggestions for program needs and improvement. The workshop training and tools will help providers prioritize management practices with potential to yield the most benefit to farms.

Overall, the first workshop was judged to be excellent by two attendees, above average by ten and average by one. As a result of the discussion that ensued at this workshop, comments were taken into account, changes were made to the program modules and additional program materials were developed. The edited versions and revised instructions were sent to all participants as were new materials. The second workshop gathered six excellent ratings and four above average. Some of the comments received at the first workshop include:

  • “Well laid out and understandable.”
  • “A very comprehensive group of speakers, lots of information that tied in nicely into one excellent project” and “Super job putting this together. This may be the most innovative program ever!”
  • “Thank you for leading this discussion.”
  • “Coordination between speakers ahead of time might reduce redundancies but on the other hand the points really got emphasized which was great.” (There was some coordination between speakers ahead of time-we decided to not worry about repeating points for this very reason.)
  • “The man from NWF was great in his knowledge of both carbon sequestration science policy and farming practices.”
  • Referring to the group discussion on applying BMPs to the overworked dairyman. “I felt our recommendations would both save him time, sequester much more carbon and help the farm transition to possible vegetable production with his younger relative.”

One comment mentioned that they needed more information on quantification of emissions and reductions (the presentation was very abbreviated due to time constraints), which could be at least an entire day workshop in and of itself, and two mentioned that more time could have been devoted to the modules and group discussion.

Second workshop comments include:

  • “There is a lot of work to do to educate the farm community about climate change” and “obtained various perspectives of the issues, great program.”
  • “The discussion about how to get farmers to implement is bigger than Earth Smart and an Earth Smart certification is of value only if it has meaning to consumers. If the State took this over and promoted it, that might provide the “value.” (Maine Earth Smart is the current name of the certification program-it will have to be changed as we have recently found out that the name EarthSmart is trademarked.)
  • “Good session!” and there is a “trade-off of issues for mitigation and adaptation.”
  • “Good discussion” and learned from the panel discussion-“Farmers are interested in short term climate change planning information and immediate weather models.”
  • Learned from panel discussion: “What is and what isn’t working and why. Barriers to farmers adopting changes. Real life stories from farmers.”
  • “Great to hear different viewpoints.”
  • “Great program and discussion, thanks for bringing us all together. I think you need a new category for organic/sustainable practices, since we use much less fertilizer, herbicides, fuel for tractors, pesticides. These practices greatly reduce production of GG, especially NO2, so you should have a separate practice list for these types of production.”
  • Learned from the panel discussion: “Real life scenarios are the most useful tool to increase farmer participation in climate change adaptations.”
  • Learned from the panel discussion: “Farmers are thinking long-term in regards to climate change.”
  • “Presentations were excellent.”

Agendas for both workshops are attached.

Professionals tested the program on several farms and have provided feedback for potential changes to it. Two of the farmers participated in training videos used during the first workshop and farmers participated in a panel discussion at the second workshop. When the program is fully implemented, professionals will act as first contact, providing information and the initial farm assessments on request. Agricultural professionals are crucial to the success of the program as it is now designed. They have direct contact with farmers within their service areas, are familiar with their farm management practices, are trusted by the farmer, can provide unbiased advice and in many cases can help with implementation

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

Learning Milestones

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will gain a basic understanding of the issues and and/or increase their knowledge of agricultural GHG emissions, the reasons why emissions reductions are necessary, the on-farm reduction potential and the co-benefits associated with implementation.

Accomplishment: An Overview of Agricultural GHG Emissions, Causes, Effects, Potential Reduction Solutions and The Maine Experience An Overview & Tradeoffs were the agenda topics that addressed this milestone in the first (30 attendees)and second workshops (19 attendees) respectively. Of 13 evaluations received back from the first, 11 indicated that they gained a better understanding of the topic; two did not indicate what their opinion was. Of the 10 evaluations received back from the second, nine said they had a better understanding of the topic; one did not answer the question.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will learn about current related projects of collaborators, why the projects were initiated, how they were implemented and the results of implementation. Participants will connect the dots between collaborator projects and agricultural GHG emissions reductions.

Accomplishment:  This milestone was addressed by the topics Update on New England Farmers Union “Buy Local Carbon” project at the first workshop and by Update on Cornell Institute of Change and Agriculture Programs and Development of a Network for Climate Change and Agriculture for the Northeast at the second. Evaluations indicated that of the evaluations received from the first workshop, 10 gained in knowledge, one said it was not applicable, three indicated they did not have a better understanding of the issue. Nine said they had a better understanding of the second workshop topic, one did not respond.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will increase their knowledge of current regulation, events and issues related to supply chain activities and agricultural GHG emissions reductions. They will increase their understanding of the reasons why it is necessary to provide assistance to farmers to help them navigate their markets.

This was addressed in the first workshop by Update on T-AGG Work, Offset Protocols and Policy.

Accomplishment:  11 indicated they had gained a better understanding of the topic.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will gain an understanding of available pertinent and current resources, services and programs as related to agricultural GHG emissions reductions.

An Overview of Ecosystem Services was presented at the first workshop.

Accomplishment:  This topic was inadvertently omitted from the evaluation form, however the presenter did a fine job and there were no comments relating to it in the comment section of the evaluation form.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will increase their knowledge of agricultural management practices that can be used to reduce agricultural GHG emissions, increase carbon sequestration, and the current pertinent research associated with practices.

Accomplishment: The Economics and Co-benefits of Agricultural Management Practices That Reduce GHG Emissions addressed this in the first workshop. Topics presented in the second workshop focused on adaptation and mitigation practices as they relate to program specifics. One presentation Weed Communities and Weed Management in a Changing Climate was particularly pertinent to organic farmers and one comment mentioned that this presentation was excellent. Another presentation, Soil Management and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in High-Value Production Systems and a third Farm Practices to Protect Soil and Water Resources in a Changing Climate rounded out the agenda. As a result of the first workshop, 10 indicated they had a better understanding of the topic as a result of the presentation. Two said they did not and one “not so much”. Nine indicated they had a better understanding of all of the topics presented at the second workshop; one did not give an answer for any of them.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will learn about and/or increase their knowledge of agricultural best management practices that will reduce GHG emissions most effectively on Maine and New England farms. Knowledge gained will include estimated cost of implementation of practices, effects on economic sustainability, co-benefits such as increased wildlife habitat, reduction potential of priority practices, transferability to other states.

Accomplishment: Best Management Practices for Maine Farms– expected effects on sustainability, co-benefits, estimated cost of Implementation of priority practices and estimated emissions reductions, potential transferability to other states, was addressed at the first workshop. The second workshop did not address cost and/or co-benefits as separate topics, however they were included as part of certain presentations and as part of the farmer panel discussion. As a result of the first workshop, 10 indicated they gained an increased understanding in all topics, one was mixed and two had to leave during the presentation. As this was not a specific topic at the second workshop, it was not included as such on the evaluation form; however general comments and evaluations results of topics and the panel discussion indicated that they gained a greater understanding of the issues. In response to “What did you learn from the panel discussion?” The following are comments:

  • “Real life scenarios are the most useful tool to increase farmer participation in climate change adaptations.”
  • “Farmers that are using practices are passionate and see benefits. Like the rest of the population, it is hard to get people to change how they do things without an immediate financial consequence or benefit.”
  • “The perspective of other farmers enlarged and reaffirmed my observations and practices”.
  • “Farmers are thinking long-term in regards to climate change”.
  • “That there’s a lot of work to do to educate the farm community about climate change”.
  • “Trade off issues for mitigation and adaptation”
  • “What is and what isn’t working and why. Barriers to farmers adopting changes. Real life stories from farmers.”
  • “Many different tools and techniques that educators and farmers use. Liked the electronic media ideas.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will learn about related activities and consider applicability of Maine practices to other New England states.

Accomplishment:  This was not included as a separate agenda topic at either workshop, but was included as part of the general discussion in other presentations. The Cornell Institute of Climate Change and Agriculture program and Development of a Network for Climate Change and Agriculture for the Northeast presentation defined their activities and opportunities for collaboration. The Director, Allison Morrill Chatrchyan, is “collaborating with land grant institutions, extension and agencies in the Northeast through the new USDA climate change hub” and states that she will “let them know about your program for collaboration”. She has also provided feedback on the program to Cornell researchers and the NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will gain enough basic understanding of GHG emissions quantification methods and applicability to practices to make recommendations to farmers when warranted.

Accomplishment:  The presentation Overview of Quantification Methods That Relate to Modules was shortened considerably due to time constraints after discussion of best management practices was extended during the first workshop. At the second workshop, a brief demonstration of Comet Farm was given in the short time remaining after the panel and group discussions. Evaluations from the first workshop indicated that two needed more time with this, one did not increase understanding, one left early, two did not answer and six indicated they increased their understanding. It was not evaluated at the second workshop officially as it was not known ahead of time if the session could be held-it depended on time available. However one comment was received about the brief session indicating that he/she learned how to use the tool for greenhouse gas accounting and reporting. If nothing else, attendees would have learned of potential problems that can arise when using the site and the time it takes to enter data. This subject requires more time to thoroughly address even a fairly simple tool such as Comet Farm. At least a full day workshop should be held to adequately explain this and other available GHG accounting tools, of which there are many. If the Maine certification program continues, or if quantification of emissions reductions becomes necessary for other reasons, it will be worthwhile to develop a workshop for this purpose.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will gain a basic understanding of the program guidelines and protocols, and how to use the assessment/survey tool. They will learn how to do “whole farm” preliminary assessments, and increase their ability to provide requested services to farmers and to make recommendations for prioritization of best management practices.

Accomplishment:  The first workshop included training in use of developed modules and the assessment survey. A hands-on group activity included two case studies and discussion. Eight indicated they gained a basic understanding, one did not and three did not evaluate the topic. At the second workshop, program modules (practices within each management category) were distributed in the workshop packets and the panel and group discussions included insight into practices, comments and suggestions for improvement. This was not a separate topic at the second workshop and thus was not evaluated. If the Maine certification program continues, additional training for professionals will be needed.  If the certification program does not continue as designed, the assessment survey can be used as a stand-alone tool to gather information about farm operations. We do not believe additional training will be necessary for that purpose; however it may be worthwhile to develop a workshop on how to use the information gathered to prepare a report for the farmer and to prioritize recommended practices.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will understand the expectations, tracking and commitment needed.

Accomplishment:  This was covered in the first workshop and reinforced in the second workshop, which also provided an opportunity for open discussion. During the second workshop group and panel discussions, those who have conducted assessments and farmers who have had them helped to reinforce understanding of practices and expectations, however tracking and commitment was not covered as those who were active had a good understanding of the issue. The panel discussion of what  panelists are seeing, how they are adapting to climate change, what tools they need to succeed, suggested program changes, what works and what doesn’t may lead to program changes and better understanding of what is needed for the program to succeed.

 

Though the majority of evaluations indicated first workshop attendees understood the expectations, tracking and commitment not all of them indicated they would commit to verification tracking. For instance, 12 responded that they would be willing to provide information to farmers about the program but three said they were not willing to verify activities and four indicated they would. Response to tracking requests was not good after the first workshop and we hoped to be able to obtain the data needed at the second workshop by including time for participants to respond to the questions. However, even that did not work as hoped and yet another questionnaire was emailed for verification of participation. Lack of response may indicate either lack of time or lack of interest. We know that there are participants who have posted information on their websites and have done other activities, yet they did not respond to tracking requests for information for whatever reason. We also know that some of the participants have changed jobs since the first workshop and one company that had committed to doing assessments was sold during the grant period, thus they did not do follow through with any of their promised work. All in all, verification has proven to be very difficult, much more so than originally anticipated and we are very grateful to those who did participate in the process.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

Verification of performance target has been challenging, it has been difficult to get answers to queries and thus verified numbers reached were less than anticipated. A series of three emails with verification questions asked in different ways were sent out during the course and after the end of the grant, phone calls were made to some participants who did not respond in writing and questions were also included in the second workshop packet. A total of 49 extension educators, consultants, government employees, farmers, students and private professionals from five states attended two workshops, held in Maine. Of the 49, 30 attended the first and 19 the second, with six attending both workshops.

Ten beneficiaries gave written and/or verbal responses to verification queries, sent out during and after the end of the project (one additional beneficiary felt he could not separate his normal activity from what may have been a learning result of the workshop and is not included in the count). Of the ten, seven have incorporated program information into outreach activities. Two beneficiaries have held additional workshops and have incorporated information into presentations, reaching more than 80 farmers. Six  beneficiaries representing six Maine counties have worked directly with farmers, completing five whole farm assessments and recommending selected practices to an additional 62+ farmers. Six farmers from targeted production sectors (two potato, three grain, one mixed vegetable and livestock) have implemented some recommended practices as a result of service provided. Practices implemented include planting cover crops and increasing energy efficiency of buildings. One of the farmers also found it feasible to open a farm store and reduced fuel use associated with travel to several farm markets.  Farm size ranged from under 10 acres of mixed vegetables to 500 acres of forage crops and forest. 

The number of beneficiaries delivering direct services to farmer was disappointing, as we had originally hoped 15 would participate, however the numbers of farmers implementing practices on their farms (6) was very close to projection for farmer implementation of practices (7), even though fewer than half of the anticipated professionals providing services to farmers.

 

Although numbers of beneficiaries who provided information to farmers through websites, newsletters and meetings was less than the 30 targeted, we can assume that more than the target of 1500 farmers has been reached. We know that, in addition to responses to verification questions received, 11 organizations have used project information in website postings and newsletters that have a state-wide agricultural reach to over 8000 farms. Over 1900 farms are in Androscoggin, Sagadahoc, Knox, Lincoln and Kennebec counties alone, served by conservation districts where information was posted on websites. The University of Maine Extension, Maine AgCom, Maine Association of Conservation Districts, Maine Rural Partners (serves about 400 farmers) and others provided information to an unknown additional number of farmers throughout the state. In addition, about 5000 people (not all of whom are farmers) attend the annual Ag Trade show where GHG emissions reduction information was distributed each year.  

The project workshops have raised awareness within the professional community of climate change and its potential impact on agriculture and have provided information about management practices that experts selected as most likely to reduce emissions in this state. We also believe that more interstate collaboration may be one of the results of the workshops. It is expected that professionals will continue to recommend the practices more than they would have otherwise and that as collaboration and research intensifies around the issues that more will become involved in promoting the practices to farmers, emphasizing co-benefits and increased sustainability. It is expected that increased regional interest in GHG emissions reduction and climate change adaptation will lead to continued assistance to farmers throughout New England.

One might say that farmers are in the front line of climate change. They are dealing with it now in New England and will continue to do so. Mitigation and reducing emissions may be not the most important thing on their minds but adaptation to changing weather patterns will be, if it is not already. The management practices recommended by the collaborators of this project will help them adapt and as research continues others will be added, perhaps some will not be as effective as thought and will be eliminated. That the practices will reduce emissions and/or increase sequestration is important certainly and is the focus of the program, but we do not believe that it will be enough to be the main selling point, at least in the short term, that will cause farmers to adopt them. We have to show and demonstrate that there are multiple benefits to adoption, any of which could be what ultimately will lead a farmer to decide to change the way he operates. We believe that this project has been successful in that it has raised awareness within the professional community and has demonstrated that farmers will adopt practices that will be beneficial in multiple ways, including emissions reduction, if they have the knowledge, guidance and/or assistance needed to do so.

 

Additional outcomes

Four beneficiaries have incorporated new ideas from the project information into existing programming. One attendee has “participated in, developed or planned new research that is relevant to climate change and agriculture that could be attributed to what was learned or discussed at the workshops”. Five have “pursued collaboration with other agencies and organizations that might be attributed to what was learned or discussed at the workshops”.  Verification questions asked are attached.

 

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:
Learning Milestones

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will gain a basic understanding of the issues and and/or increase their knowledge of agricultural GHG emissions, the reasons why emissions reductions are necessary, the on-farm reduction potential and the co-benefits associated with implementation.

Accomplishment: An Overview of Agricultural GHG Emissions, Causes, Effects, Potential Reduction Solutions and The Maine Experience An Overview & Tradeoffs were the agenda topics that addressed this milestone in the first (30 attendees)and second workshops (19 attendees) respectively. Of 13 evaluations received back from the first, 11 indicated that they gained a better understanding of the topic; two did not indicate what their opinion was. Of the 10 evaluations received back from the second, nine said they had a better understanding of the topic; one did not answer the question.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will learn about current related projects of collaborators, why the projects were initiated, how they were implemented and the results of implementation. Participants will connect the dots between collaborator projects and agricultural GHG emissions reductions.

Accomplishment:  This milestone was addressed by the topics Update on New England Farmers Union “Buy Local Carbon” project at the first workshop and by Update on Cornell Institute of Change and Agriculture Programs and Development of a Network for Climate Change and Agriculture for the Northeast at the second. Evaluations indicated that of the evaluations received from the first workshop, 10 gained in knowledge, one said it was not applicable, three indicated they did not have a better understanding of the issue. Nine said they had a better understanding of the second workshop topic, one did not respond.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will increase their knowledge of current regulation, events and issues related to supply chain activities and agricultural GHG emissions reductions. They will increase their understanding of the reasons why it is necessary to provide assistance to farmers to help them navigate their markets.

This was addressed in the first workshop by Update on T-AGG Work, Offset Protocols and Policy.

Accomplishment:  11 indicated they had gained a better understanding of the topic.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will gain an understanding of available pertinent and current resources, services and programs as related to agricultural GHG emissions reductions.

An Overview of Ecosystem Services was presented at the first workshop.

Accomplishment:  This topic was inadvertently omitted from the evaluation form, however the presenter did a fine job and there were no comments relating to it in the comment section of the evaluation form.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will increase their knowledge of agricultural management practices that can be used to reduce agricultural GHG emissions, increase carbon sequestration, and the current pertinent research associated with practices.

Accomplishment: The Economics and Co-benefits of Agricultural Management Practices That Reduce GHG Emissions addressed this in the first workshop. Topics presented in the second workshop focused on adaptation and mitigation practices as they relate to program specifics. One presentation Weed Communities and Weed Management in a Changing Climate was particularly pertinent to organic farmers and one comment mentioned that this presentation was excellent. Another presentation, Soil Management and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in High-Value Production Systems and a third Farm Practices to Protect Soil and Water Resources in a Changing Climate rounded out the agenda. As a result of the first workshop, 10 indicated they had a better understanding of the topic as a result of the presentation. Two said they did not and one “not so much”. Nine indicated they had a better understanding of all of the topics presented at the second workshop; one did not give an answer for any of them.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will learn about and/or increase their knowledge of agricultural best management practices that will reduce GHG emissions most effectively on Maine and New England farms. Knowledge gained will include estimated cost of implementation of practices, effects on economic sustainability, co-benefits such as increased wildlife habitat, reduction potential of priority practices, transferability to other states.

Accomplishment: Best Management Practices for Maine Farms– expected effects on sustainability, co-benefits, estimated cost of Implementation of priority practices and estimated emissions reductions, potential transferability to other states, was addressed at the first workshop. The second workshop did not address cost and/or co-benefits as separate topics, however they were included as part of certain presentations and as part of the farmer panel discussion. As a result of the first workshop, 10 indicated they gained an increased understanding in all topics, one was mixed and two had to leave during the presentation. As this was not a specific topic at the second workshop, it was not included as such on the evaluation form; however general comments and evaluations results of topics and the panel discussion indicated that they gained a greater understanding of the issues. In response to “What did you learn from the panel discussion?” The following are comments:

  • “Real life scenarios are the most useful tool to increase farmer participation in climate change adaptations.”
  • “Farmers that are using practices are passionate and see benefits. Like the rest of the population, it is hard to get people to change how they do things without an immediate financial consequence or benefit.”
  • “The perspective of other farmers enlarged and reaffirmed my observations and practices”.
  • “Farmers are thinking long-term in regards to climate change”.
  • “That there’s a lot of work to do to educate the farm community about climate change”.
  • “Trade off issues for mitigation and adaptation”
  • “What is and what isn’t working and why. Barriers to farmers adopting changes. Real life stories from farmers.”
  • “Many different tools and techniques that educators and farmers use. Liked the electronic media ideas.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will learn about related activities and consider applicability of Maine practices to other New England states.

Accomplishment:  This was not included as a separate agenda topic at either workshop, but was included as part of the general discussion in other presentations. The Cornell Institute of Climate Change and Agriculture program and Development of a Network for Climate Change and Agriculture for the Northeast presentation defined their activities and opportunities for collaboration. The Director, Allison Morrill Chatrchyan, is “collaborating with land grant institutions, extension and agencies in the Northeast through the new USDA climate change hub” and states that she will “let them know about your program for collaboration”. She has also provided feedback on the program to Cornell researchers and the NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will gain enough basic understanding of GHG emissions quantification methods and applicability to practices to make recommendations to farmers when warranted.

Accomplishment:  The presentation Overview of Quantification Methods That Relate to Modules was shortened considerably due to time constraints after discussion of best management practices was extended during the first workshop. At the second workshop, a brief demonstration of Comet Farm was given in the short time remaining after the panel and group discussions. Evaluations from the first workshop indicated that two needed more time with this, one did not increase understanding, one left early, two did not answer and six indicated they increased their understanding. It was not evaluated at the second workshop officially as it was not known ahead of time if the session could be held-it depended on time available. However one comment was received about the brief session indicating that he/she learned how to use the tool for greenhouse gas accounting and reporting. If nothing else, attendees would have learned of potential problems that can arise when using the site and the time it takes to enter data. This subject requires more time to thoroughly address even a fairly simple tool such as Comet Farm. At least a full day workshop should be held to adequately explain this and other available GHG accounting tools, of which there are many. If the Maine certification program continues, or if quantification of emissions reductions becomes necessary for other reasons, it will be worthwhile to develop a workshop for this purpose.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will gain a basic understanding of the program guidelines and protocols, and how to use the assessment/survey tool. They will learn how to do “whole farm” preliminary assessments, and increase their ability to provide requested services to farmers and to make recommendations for prioritization of best management practices.

Accomplishment:  The first workshop included training in use of developed modules and the assessment survey. A hands-on group activity included two case studies and discussion. Eight indicated they gained a basic understanding, one did not and three did not evaluate the topic. At the second workshop, program modules (practices within each management category) were distributed in the workshop packets and the panel and group discussions included insight into practices, comments and suggestions for improvement. This was not a separate topic at the second workshop and thus was not evaluated. If the Maine certification program continues, additional training for professionals will be needed.  If the certification program does not continue as designed, the assessment survey can be used as a stand-alone tool to gather information about farm operations. We do not believe additional training will be necessary for that purpose; however it may be worthwhile to develop a workshop on how to use the information gathered to prepare a report for the farmer and to prioritize recommended practices.

 

Milestone:  35 workshop participants will understand the expectations, tracking and commitment needed.

Accomplishment:  This was covered in the first workshop and reinforced in the second workshop, which also provided an opportunity for open discussion. During the second workshop group and panel discussions, those who have conducted assessments and farmers who have had them helped to reinforce understanding of practices and expectations, however tracking and commitment was not covered as those who were active had a good understanding of the issue. The panel discussion of what  panelists are seeing, how they are adapting to climate change, what tools they need to succeed, suggested program changes, what works and what doesn’t may lead to program changes and better understanding of what is needed for the program to succeed.

 

Though the majority of evaluations indicated first workshop attendees understood the expectations, tracking and commitment not all of them indicated they would commit to verification tracking. For instance, 12 responded that they would be willing to provide information to farmers about the program but three said they were not willing to verify activities and four indicated they would. Response to tracking requests was not good after the first workshop and we hoped to be able to obtain the data needed at the second workshop by including time for participants to respond to the questions. However, even that did not work as hoped and yet another questionnaire was emailed for verification of participation. Lack of response may indicate either lack of time or lack of interest. We know that there are participants who have posted information on their websites and have done other activities, yet they did not respond to tracking requests for information for whatever reason. We also know that some of the participants have changed jobs since the first workshop and one company that had committed to doing assessments was sold during the grant period, thus they did not do follow through with any of their promised work. All in all, verification has proven to be very difficult, much more so than originally anticipated and we are very grateful to those who did participate in the process.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Future Recommendations

Lessons Learned

Follow-up action with farmers and tracking of those actions was an unfunded part of the overall program and the economic problems of the last few years affected the services that professionals could provide as a donation to the project. In retrospect, we should have asked for and found additional monies to pay them to do the on-farm assessments as they are labor intensive and time consuming as currently designed. Given that, we are very lucky and very thankful to have the participation and donation of time that we were able to verify. Hopefully farm assessments will continue beyond the grant period. Three of the professionals who have participated have indicated they will continue to promote management practices. One has gone on to another career, one is retiring and one has not mentioned that they plan to continue working with the program.

 

This project was complicated, extensive and had mixed results so far as target numbers of professionals participating. We also are aware that the current certification program will have to be re-designed to be less labor intensive and less complicated if it is to continue.

 

Although target numbers were reached for overall total of workshop attendance and the learning milestones were reached, fewer professionals continued on to provide direct services to farmers than hoped for and less farm assessments were done. However, the farmers who implemented recommended practices were only one less than the target, which leads one to believe that adoption of the practices, will be at least as good as anticipated if professionals provide the needed assistance and promote them.

 

Many if not most of the practices recommended in the modules may be eligible for NRCS cost share programs, which will offset the cost of implementation. Without immediate economic (cash) payment, it is especially important to be able to show reasonable payback periods, co-benefits such as reduced labor, reduced fuel use, decreased fertilizer use, reduced water quality degradation, and other environmental benefits. It is also important to be able to prioritize the practices to show what is most likely to get the “biggest bang for the buck”.

Citations

1. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2008. 2010. U.S. EPA. Provides a national inventory and discussion of U.S. GHG emissions and sinks form the basis for studying and planning GHG reduction strategies.

2. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, 1990-2012, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington D.C.  available at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html

3. Wolfe, David W. Climate Change Impacts on Northeast Agriculture: Overview. Climate Change and Agriculture: Promoting Practical and Profitable Responses. 2007. Cornell University. Conference proceedings providing information on projected impacts to Northeast agriculture due to climate change.

4. Wightman, Jennifer. Production and Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases in Agriculture. Climate Change and Agriculture: Promoting Practical and Profitable Responses. 2007. Cornell University. Conference proceedings providing a characterization of GHG production sources on farms.

5. Companies Complete Road Testing of New Global Greenhouse Accounting Standards. Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative. 2010. A quarterly newsletter article describing preliminary testing of global standards completed by more than 60 companies to help measure the greenhouse gas emissions of their products.

 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.