The Northeast Climate Adaptation Fellowship to Support Vegetable and Fruit Farmers

Progress report for ENE20-164

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $149,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Dr. Rachel Schattman
University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture
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Project Information

Performance Target:

30 Fellows develop 15 individualized farm adaptation plans (risk assessments, adaptation plans, economic analyses) and 75 outreach products (newsletter articles, blog posts, fact sheets, or presentations) that reach an additional 150 farmers. Fifteen Fellows integrate climate change information into new/ongoing programming, assisting an additional 150 farmers.

Introduction:

Problem and Justification: In coming decades, climate change will likely cause many challenges for farmers in the northeastern U.S. including increasing floods, extreme rainfall, growing pest pressure, and drought. These will not affect all growers in the same way, depending on geographic and topographic setting, business model, and production system. Climate-risk exposure relevant to northeastern vegetable/fruit operations is difficult to quantify because of this diversity. Widespread events such as the 2016 drought are beginning to have increasingly notable effects on vegetable farms, and forecasts tell us that we will continue to see conditions that expose growers to greater degrees of risk as the century progresses. These pressures have the potential to severely undermine the livelihoods of farmers. (In this project, we use “farmers” to refer specifically to growers of vegetables and small fruit, unless otherwise noted.) Importantly, research shows that many agricultural advisors (AA) are either hesitant to provide climate related information in their professional services to farmers, or do not believe they possess the knowledge and expertise to do so. It is of great importance that service providers, including farmers who serve as informal advisors to their peers, improve their knowledge and confidence around climate change adaptation as it pertains to northeast vegetable production. In the absence of adaptive management, farm businesses are at risk.

Solution and Approach: Farmers and AAs who enroll in the Climate Adaptation Fellowship (CAF) program will enhance their knowledge of climate change, experiment with and/or evaluate adaptation management practices, and encourage other farmers to explore farm-specific adaptation. Through the recently finalized Climate Adaptation Fellowship (CAF) Program, we will provide climate education, resources, and mentoring to early-adopting farmers and AAs throughout the northeast to accelerate adaptation to climate change. The CAF curriculum (completed in 2019) is the product of a multi-year, NIFA-funded collaboration between 7 Land Grant Universities, 3 USDA Agencies, 2 non-profit organizations, and 12 land managers. It has been vetted through an extensive peer-review process where farmers, Extension professionals, and agricultural advisors evaluated the modules for relevancy, accuracy, and quality. This program aims to increase farmer and AA knowledge about climate change, improve awareness of climate related risks at the farm-level, support climate adaptation planning and management, and improve climate change focused technical outreach in the Northeast.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Marjorie Kaplan (Educator and Researcher)
  • Erin Lane (Educator and Researcher)

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Recruitment and Enrollment: A request for applications was created by our leadership team and project cooperators. AAs and farmers applied to the CAF program in pairs or they were paired after acceptance into the program. Applications were solicited through regional organizations, including the USDA Northeast Climate Hub Land Grant University Network, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Northeast Extension Directors, state organic farming associations, growers’ associations, and others. An application webinar was recorded and posted online. The leadership team reviewed applications and selected 40 Fellows.

Concepts and curriculum topics: The original CAF Vegetable/Small Fruit Module includes three presentations: (1) Climate Change: Observations and Localized Impacts; (2) Climate Change Communication: Challenges and Strategies; and (3) Integrating Climate Change into Your Work. These topics will be shared in the first program workshop (in January 2021). In addition, we are developing three additional presentations/interactive sessions: (1) Climate change science – forcings, feedback loops, and evidence; (2) Decision making tools for the Northeast; and (3) Climate mitigation potential for vegetable and small fruit operations. The additional sessions will also be delivered at the first program workshop.

Teaching guidance for the presentations includes discussion prompts and small group activities. These sessions address known challenges with climate adaptation planning and climate communication. Participants will become familiar with the effects of climate change in the Northeast relevant to vegetable and small fruit, and they will learn about adaptation practices that have the potential to reduce climate-related risk. Fellows will also become familiar with climate communication strategies and challenges, and will gain experience in science translation for farming and/or AA audiences. Four additional presentations or interactive activities will be created and delivered at the second workshop (January 2022) in response to participants’ specific needs and interests.

Instruction methods and sequence: CAF participants will begin the program by attending a virtual workshop. Originally this workshop was planned as a 2-day in person event, but COVID-19 necessitated that our program be conducted virtually instead. We have opted to hold the workshop for 2-hrs a day over the course of 5 days, according to the preferences of the Fellows and the educators. The leadership team and project cooperators will lead a series of presentations and interactive activities, culminating in an intensive planning session. Pairs of AA and farmer Fellows will work together to create a one-year work plan, including one or more of the following: a risk assessment of the farmer Fellow’s operation, cost-benefit analyses of adaptation practices, on-farm demonstration project(s), field trials, or other projects approved by CAF cooperators. Each work plan will include creation of 3-5 outreach documents or activities, such as newsletter articles, blog posts, fact sheets, or presentations. When possible, final outreach materials will be shared through the UVM/UMaine Climate Adaptation Farming Website, a new website designed to allow farmers to share information and access climate information. Project collaborators will be on site to offer personalized assistance with work plans to ensure they meet expectations of the CAF program. A second in-person workshop will be held 12-months later in New Jersey (hopefully in person), at which point CAF participants will report back to the group on the work that they completed, and lessons learned.

Supporting Fellows: During the 12-month period between workshops, the leadership team and project cooperators will be assigned to pairs of CAF participants, and will meet with them virtually to make sure activities are on track, answer questions, and troubleshoot problems. They will also help Fellows to make sure that outreach activities have multiple avenues for sharing with the broader northeast community of AAs and
vegetable and small fruit producers.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Request for applications is sent through multiple networks including the USDA Northeast Climate Hub Land Grant University Network, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Northeast Extension Directors, state organic farming associations, state Farm Bureaus, Young Farmers Coalitions, National Farmers Union, growers associations, and others, reaching an estimated 1000 farmers and AAs.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
1000
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
1000
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
1000
Proposed Completion Date:
July 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 15, 2020
Accomplishments:

Solicitation for applications was sent out through the USDA Northeast Climate Hub listserve and Newsletter (3x), through the Northeast Extension Directors association (NEED), the Northeast Research Station Association (NERA), the national NRCS Climate Adaptation in the News listserv, NOFA-CT and NOFA-NJ listservs, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board client list, to all NRCS State Conservationists in the Northeast, to all leads of Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the Northeast, to the New Jersey Natural and Working Lands Group, to the Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association list (3x), New Jersey 4-H educator lists, the Maine Vegetable and Berry Growers listserve, the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association listserve, through multiple Extension networks, through the Northeast Farmers of Color listserv, through the EMASSCRAFT listserv, and through Northeast Certified Crop Consultants lists.  

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

50 vegetable and/or small fruit farmers and 50 agriculture advisors from 12 northeast states apply to the Climate Adaptation Fellowship program by 9/2020. 30 Climate Adaptation Fellows are accepted into the program by 11/2020. Information collected through the applications allows the project team to assess baseline participant information: knowledge about climate change and its effects on northeast agriculture, management and outreach skills, and goals related to adaptation management and outreach.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
50
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
50
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
31
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
23
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
November 15, 2020
Accomplishments:

23 vegetable and/or small fruit farmers and 31 agriculture advisors from 9 northeast states applied to the Climate Adaptation Fellowship program. 17 farmers, 15 agricultural advisors, and 8 individuals who consider themselves to be both farmers and agricultural advisors from 9 northeast states were accepted as Fellows. Participants who are agricultural advisors are currently employed in University-based Extension programs, private consultancies, non-profit organizations, and/or NRCS. Information collected through the applications allows the project team to assess baseline participant information: knowledge about climate change and its effects on northeast agriculture, management and outreach skills, and goals related to adaptation management and outreach. 

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

30 Fellows attend a 2-day workshop in Maine, and learn about climate change, its effects on agriculture in the northeast, adaptation management strategies, and climate communication best practices. Fellows also learn from each other by sharing their professional experiences. Project cooperators work with 15 pairs of Fellows (30 Fellows total) to develop a one-year work plan that includes 3 climate adaptation activities and 3 outreach activities.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
January 30, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

The workshop will be held virtually due to COVID-19. Dates for the workshop are January 11-15th, 2021.

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Collectively, 30 Fellows apply their knowledge about climate change and adaptation in order to complete climate risk assessments of 15 farms, 30 financial analyses of climate management strategies, 15 farm-specific climate adaptation plans, and 5-10 demonstrations or field trials. Fellows use a standardized project report form to formalize their reflections on the projects, and demonstrate specific learning, skills acquisition, and actions.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Collectively, 30 Fellows complete 30 climate-adaptation focused outreach activities. Activities may include newsletter articles, blog posts, twilight meetings, fact sheets, and/or presentations. Report forms capture the number of secondary beneficiaries who engage with Fellows. Simultaneously, 30 Fellows will consult with members of the project team about their climate adaptation strategies twice between January 2021 and January 2022.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Collectively, 30 Fellows complete 75 climate-adaptation focused outreach activities. Activities may include newsletter articles, blog posts, twilight meetings, fact sheets, and/or presentations. Fellows use a standardized project report form to formalize their reflections on the projects, and demonstrate specific learning, skills acquisition, and actions. Report forms capture the number of secondary beneficiaries who engage with Fellows. By 3/2022.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

30 Fellows attend a second 2-day workshop in New Jersey to reflect on their work, learn from one another, and address any problems in completing their plans. Project collaborators or outside subject matter experts deliver additional presentations or provide resources targeted to specific gaps in Fellows’ knowledge and skills, identified through conversations with Fellows prior to the workshop.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

30 Fellows demonstrate a change in knowledge about climate change and its effects, 15 farmer fellows have implemented at least one climate adaptation management practice on their farm, 15 AA fellows have integrated climate change into one of their technical service programs, and 30 Fellows report sharing their new knowledge and experiences with 150 secondary beneficiaries (farmers not enrolled in CAF).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
July 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools

Learning Outcomes

Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

Programing will occur in 2021. No changes to report as of now.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
30
Target: actions the service providers will take:

30 Fellows develop 15 individualized farm adaptation plans (risk assessments, adaptation plans, economic analyses) and 75 outreach products (newsletter articles, blog posts, fact sheets, or presentations) that reach an additional 150 farmers. Fifteen Fellows integrate climate change information into new/ongoing programming, assisting an additional 150 farmers.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
300

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Additional Project Outcomes

Additional Outcomes Narrative:

Programing will occur in 2021. No changes to report as of now.

Success stories:

Farmer from Maine, upon learning about her acceptance into the Climate Adaptation Fellowship program: “Wow, great news! Thank you so much for this opportunity – I’m honored and excited to participate. Really looking forward to learning from your impressive team.”

 

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Programing will occur in 2021. No assessments to report as of now.

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.