Final report for GNC22-345
Supporting Climate Dialogue in Agricultural Communities: Artistic Strategies for Engagement
In the midst of a global climate crisis that is already severely affecting agricultural communities, addressing climate change is urgent in places such as Iowa and the U.S. North Central region. Many agricultural practices contribute to climate change but can also play a critical role in climate solutions. Residents in Midwestern agricultural communities (including farmers, landowners, researchers, organizers, and, as this project demonstrates, artists) must be key players in these solutions. Research shows that a critical and often overlooked step in addressing climate change is climate dialogue. And research has also shown that effective facilitation of climate dialogue in agricultural communities should highlight values, diverse perspectives, and personal experiences. Artistic engagement methods are especially apt at incorporating these elements into public dialogue.
On one hand, arts-based projects often do not have the budgets or time to be documented thoroughly. On the other hand, arts-based engagement strategies have shown great potential for improving civic dialogue and action and so should be documented and shared. Within this context, thirteen interviews were conducted with stakeholders who have used arts and storytelling strategies to talk about climate change and agriculture in Iowa. The purpose of these interviews is to reveal how artistic resources and strategies can be leveraged to facilitate climate dialogue in Iowa and Midwestern farming communities, to amplify the work that the interviewees have already done to this end, and to highlight recommendations for how similar strategies can be applied in communities across the region. The long-term objective of this project is to contribute to increased climate dialogue – and, consequently, agency in climate action – in Midwestern farming communities.
These interviews are now published through The EcoTheatre Lab as a fourteen-episode podcast series titled, The Art of Climate Dialogue: Stories from Iowa. The series is being shared widely through organizations and online platforms that target farmer and artist audiences in the Midwest. All podcast episodes, along with information about the interviewees, can be found on The EcoTheatre Lab’s website: www.ecotheatrelab.com/the-art-of-climate-dialogue
*This project is funded by both a North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program Graduate Student Grant, which is supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and a Johnson Center for Land Stewardship Policy Emerging Leader Award.
Through interviews with Iowa agricultural stakeholders, this project documented strategies to support climate dialogue in North Central region farming communities, which is an essential step toward implementing climate action and ensuring that farmers and their communities have a voice in that process. The interviews were published through podcast episodes that are now being distributed through online platforms that target farmers and artists who are living in North Central region farming communities and who have expressed investment in initiating climate dialogue in their communities.
Intended learning outcomes include 1) increased awareness of arts-based climate dialogue facilitation efforts in the North Central region and 2) increased knowledge of arts-based climate dialogue facilitation strategies that can be applied in farming communities regionally.
Intended long-term action outcomes include 1) increased climate dialogue in North Central region farming communities and 2) increased intentional use of artistic methods in facilitating climate dialogue in North Central region farming communities. Short-term action outcomes from this study include recommendations for how to implement such arts-based methods in communities across the North Central region.
It is beyond the scope and timeline of this project to formally survey podcast listeners to assess the intended outcomes above. However, podcast listeners are invited to take a feedback survey following each podcast episode. Direct invitations to listen to the podcast have been distributed to farmers and artists through partnering organizations. The number of podcast listens are being measured, a follow-up debrief was conducted with interviewees, and feedback from partnering organizations was requested.
Motivation and Project Overview
The climate crisis is affecting communities on a global scale. Many agricultural practices contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and, at the same time, agricultural communities, such as those that make up much of Iowa, are experiencing severe consequences of climate change, which threaten their land, health, and livelihoods. Iowa agricultural communities have already faced economic, crop, and health damages from heavy precipitation and extreme weather that are increasing at an alarming rate. Encouraging widespread engagement with climate action in these communities is central to mitigation efforts.
Researchers such as Katharine Hayhoe (2018) and Matthew Goldberg et al. (2019) argue that a critical and often overlooked step in addressing climate change is climate dialogue. However, people aren’t talking about climate change enough considering the importance of climate action in places like Iowa. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (2021) reported that, in 2021, only 33% of Iowans discuss global warming at least occasionally, and as of the 2020 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, only 18% of farmers surveyed are in agreement with scientific consensus that “Climate change is occurring, and it is caused mostly by human activities” (Arbuckle, 2020). If we are going to address climate change, agricultural communities have to be a part of the solution, and it will be quite difficult to move more effectively toward climate action without first increasing how often we talk about climate change, which will in turn inform our opinions on climate change, its causes, and mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Prior research has argued that effective facilitation of climate dialogue in agricultural communities should incorporate values, diverse perspectives, and personal experiences (Benjamin, Por, & Budescu, 2017; Chatrchyan et al., 2017; Phadke et al., 2015; Sanderson et al., 2018). Arts-based engagement strategies are especially apt in incorporating these elements into public dialogue and science communication. I’ve seen evidence of this while reviewing literature for this project (see, for example, AgArts (agarts.org); Dahlstrom & Ho, 2012; Grace, 2011; Roosen, Klöckner, & Swim, 2018; Tyszczuk & Smith, 2018), and I have also observed such strategies firsthand while working with The EcoTheatre Lab over the past several years. Arts have potential to involve stakeholders in deliberative and creative dialogue that offers them more agency in climate conversations.
This context led me to pursue the following research question and objective for my graduate research in sustainable agriculture:
- Research question: What are recommended practices for using artistic methods to facilitate climate dialogue in Iowa farming communities?
- Research objectives: Examine the use of artistic strategies to facilitate climate dialogue in Iowa farming communities. Share said strategies to support climate dialogue in Midwestern farming communities.
Between October 27, 2022 and February 14, 2023, I conducted thirteen interviews with fifteen artists, farmers, landowners, community-engaged researchers, and community organizers who have all used arts and storytelling strategies to talk about climate change and agriculture in Iowa.
The purpose of these interviews was to reveal how artistic resources and strategies can be leveraged to facilitate climate dialogue in Iowa and Midwestern farming communities, to amplify the work that the interviewees have already done to this end, and to highlight recommendations for how similar strategies can be applied in communities across the region. The long-term objective of this project is to contribute to increased climate dialogue – and, consequently, agency in climate action – in Midwestern farming communities.
These interviews are now published through The EcoTheatre Lab as a fourteen-episode podcast series titled, The Art of Climate Dialogue: Stories from Iowa. They will be shared widely through organizations and online platforms that target farmer and artist audiences in the Midwest, including nineteen agriculture, environmental, and arts organizations who have already agreed to be outreach partners, sharing the podcast series with their networks.
While the podcast is public and widely available, the intended audience is individuals who are invested in facilitating climate dialogue in their own communities and may be looking for strategies to do so. This is with the recognition that, as prior research and the interviewees in this podcast series have shown, people are more likely to listen to people they trust, have a relationship with, and/or share values with. While it is unlikely farmers and agricultural community members throughout the Midwest who don’t talk about climate change or don’t want to, will listen to me, someone they don’t know nor trust and who is doing academic research, they may listen to their neighbors. My hope then is that the podcast will reach those neighbors who do want to talk about climate change, offering strategies for starting those conversations and connecting listeners with interviewees and their work to continue to build support and community for these endeavors.
After deciding to pursue this project, I applied for funding to ensure the interviewees – many of whom are farmers and/or artists, individuals who are often chronically underpaid for their work – could be compensated for participating. I received two grants to make the project possible: An NCR-SARE Program Graduate Student Grant, which is supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and a Johnson Center for Land Stewardship Policy Emerging Leader Award.
After receiving funding, I researched possible interviewees, based on the following criteria:
- They are Iowa-based (Iowa, in particular, is a Midwestern state that needs more support and documentation for arts-based community engagement efforts and a state that is critical to and holds a lot of sway in the U.S. Midwestern agricultural system)
- They identify as a farmer and/or artist (although I ended up expanding my interviewee pool to include those who have worked very closely with farmers and/or artists in relevant initiatives)
- They have experience specifically with arts-based climate change communication (as opposed to sustainability more broadly)
- They have experiences that will provide unique perspectives compared with other interviewees in the sampling pool
- They have the potential to offer recommendations that will help other farmers and artists facilitate climate dialogue in their communities
I conducted my own preliminary research and then found additional interviewee possibilities through a snowball approach: I contacted individuals and organizations with a connection to sustainable agriculture, climate action, and/or community arts to request recommendations for potential interviewees, then I contacted whoever was recommended to me and so on until I had a list of over seventy possible interviewees. Intentional efforts were made to include experiences of Indigenous communities who have a history of leadership in environmental justice issues, sustainable agriculture, and arts and community-building.
I then distributed an interest survey to a narrowed-down list of more than two dozen possible interviewees to see if/how they self-identify with the criteria I mentioned. Based on responses, I selected fifteen interviewees and extended invitations to participate in an interview at their residence, at the Iowa State University Innovation Center’s digital production studio, or virtually.
I then researched and contacted individuals I knew for recommendations on podcast development, including technology, interviewing, and editing suggestions. Because interviewing is flexible and apt for obtaining unexpected, specific, and personal information (Frankfort-Nachmias et al., 2015; Pickard, 2017), this method was ideal for discovering insightful and specific information about interviewees’ unique experiences with facilitating climate communication through artistic strategies. I used semi-structured interviews so that each podcast episode was connected to the others through a series of similar questions, while also leaving plenty of room to ask each interviewee specific questions based on their work. The interview questions were designed to reveal arts-based methods for climate communication that have been practiced in Iowa farming communities and have the potential to be practiced more widely.
I first prepared and conducted pre-interviews with each interviewee, using general questions based on the goals of the podcast and specific questions based on what I already knew of their work. The purpose of the pre-interviews was to identify what they believed was the most important information about their work to share with a Midwestern audience who may be looking for ways to facilitate climate dialogue in their own communities.
Based on this pre-interview, I then carefully crafted an interview outline for each interviewee, focused on having them describe in detail the arts and storytelling strategies they’ve used to facilitate climate dialogue, why they’ve implemented these strategies, what the outcomes and impacts have been, what the surprises and barriers have been, and their recommendations for others who are looking to engage in similar work.
I then edited each episode for content, length, and clarity. I also analyzed each episode for key themes – both unique and those that overlapped with other episodes. This analysis was presented through an additional “teaser” episode, intended to provide a summary of each episode for listeners, as well as key takeaways from the series as a whole.
I collaborated with our production team to finalize the episodes and then began to publicize the series on The EcoTheatre Lab’s website and through several local events and Mary Swander’s Emerging Voices Substack page. My collaborators included Mary Swander and two fellow members of The EcoTheatre Lab (Charissa Menefee and Taylor Sklenar) who served as consultants; a professional editor who helped merge files and polish audio quality for each episode (Rosie Marcu-Rowe); an interviewee who also served as podcast cover artist (Moselle Nita Singh); an interviewee who also served as podcast musician (Omar de Kok-Mercado); and three interviewees whom I worked with to develop a land acknowledgement for the podcast series that recognizes the leadership that many Indigenous nations, for centuries, have shown in sustainable agriculture, community-engaged arts, and climate action (Shelley Buffalo, Lance Foster, Sikowis Nobiss). As the cover artist and musician developed their pieces, I shared with them emerging themes in the interviews that could help inform their artwork, including the idea – which I think is reflected in both of their final products – of balancing grief, joy, and hope in climate action work through artistic strategies.
Arbuckle, J. G. (2020). Iowa farm and rural life poll: 2020 summary report. Extension Report SOC 3094. Iowa State University Extension.
Benjamin, D., Por, H.-H., & Budescu, D. (2017). Climate change versus global warming: Who is susceptible to the framing of climate change Environment and Behavior, 49(7), 745–770.
Chatrchyan, A. M., et al. (2017). United States agricultural stakeholder views and decisions on climate change. WIREs Climate Change, 8(5), e469.
Dahlstrom, M. F., & Ho, S. S. (2012). Ethical considerations of using narrative to communicate science. Science Communication, 34(5), 592–617.
Frankfort-Nachmias, C., Nachmias, D., & DeWaard, J. (2015). Research Methods in Social Science (Eighth Edition). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
Goldberg, M. H., et al. (2019). Discussing global warming leads to greater acceptance of climate science. PNAS, 116(30).
Grace, P. E. (2011). The effects of storytelling on worldview and attitudes toward sustainable agriculture (no. 14368) [Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Tech]. Virginia Tech Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Hayhoe, K. (2018, November). The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it. TEDWomen 2018.
Phadke, R., Manning, C., & Burlager, S. (2015). Making it personal: Diversity and deliberation in climate adaptation planning. Climate Risk Management, 9, 62-76.
Pickard, A. J. (2017). Research Methods in Information. London: Facet Publishing.
Sanderson, M. R. et al. (2018). Climate change beliefs in an agricultural context: what is the role of values held by farming and non-farming groups Climatic Change, 150, 259–272.
Roosen, L. J., Klöckner, C. A., & Swim, J. K. (2018). Visual art as a way to communicate climate change: a psychological perspective on climate change–related art. World Art, 8(1), 85-110.
Tyszczuk, R. & Smith, J. (2018). Culture and climate change scenarios: The role and potential of the arts and humanities in responding to the ‘1.5 degrees target.’ Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 31, 56-64.
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. (2021). Iowa: Public opinion on climate change, 2021. Retrieved from https://factsheets.ypccc.tools/Iowa
Thirteen interviews with fifteen Iowa agricultural stakeholders – including farmers, landowners, community-engaged researchers and organizers, and artists – resulted in a fourteen-episode podcast series. The series highlights the interviewees’ leadership in using arts and storytelling strategies to facilitate climate dialogue in agricultural communities in Iowa. Each episode includes concrete examples of the interviewees’ work, as well as recommendations for listeners who may be looking for ways to facilitate climate dialogue in their own communities.
Twelve episodes feature a single interviewee and their work, and one episode features a collaboration between three interviewees. Out of these thirteen interviews, several themes emerged regarding the potential for arts-based climate dialogue in Iowa agricultural communities – and beyond. I developed a teaser episode that provides a summary of each individual episode, as well as a synthesis of the overarching key themes I identified. Several of those themes are outlined below:
See the present, and envision the future: Almost every interviewee highlighted art and storytelling as critical tools to help us clearly see climate change in the present and, perhaps more importantly, envision a climate-resilient future that is beautiful, appealing, and hopeful. As interviewee Lance Foster says, we can be honest witnesses together through art. This vision may very well be necessary in guiding our current plans for climate action.
Tap into emotions, heal, and celebrate: People are emotional beings and often make decisions based on those emotions. Unlike many forms of science communication rooted solely in data, artistic and storytelling techniques acknowledge that emotion needs to be validated and needs to be shared in order to move toward any sort of action. And, as several interviewees have seen in their work, art incites curiosity, curiosity provokes questions, and stories beget stories, all ways to catalyze dialogue, which may lead to action.
Healing was a theme that cropped up over and over again. Many of the interviewees believe we have to find ways to heal and replenish ourselves and our relationships with each other as we are working to heal and replenish our relationships with the land. And many of the interviewees discuss how artistic practices can offer such healing. Moselle Nita Singh captures this as she says that there is great power in celebrating in resistance.
Asset-based approaches – everyone has a story: The interviewees for this podcast also emphasized again and again the power of community. Climate change is an overwhelming, far-reaching problem that is affecting us and all the life around us in sometimes incomprehensible ways. None of us will ever be able to solve the problem alone, and interviewees highlighted the importance of arts and storytelling as an asset-based way to invite people into the conversation, encouraging everyone to contribute their story, their skills, their assets.
Create relevant entry points through diversity and connections: Artistic and storytelling practices have the potential to reveal, celebrate, and examine the local histories, cultures, and values in the places we live, creating relevant entry points into climate change conversations that recognize community members, what they care about, and their skills, experiences, and perspectives. Arts and storytelling, as multi-faceted, often subjective and complex forms of communication, can help us understand – through a variety of perspectives – our histories, present, and future, and how they are intertwined.
Interviewees explored how, as we work to preserve and increase and celebrate diversity within our ecosystems, we also work to preserve and increase and celebrate diversity within our cultural systems, which is critical to climate action and justice. As Omar says, it is much easier to engage in conversations about diverse systems because there are so many more entry points where people can find connections and relevance to their own lives.
Share knowledge, resources, hope: Connected to the previous theme, interviewees discussed how, once more people find their way into the conversation, we can work toward developing shared knowledge and resources, which can lead to shared hope.
Build community and collective narratives: As we work toward sharing knowledge and resources, we can also collectively work toward shifting societal narratives about agriculture and climate change into ones that better reflect shared values, diverse perspectives, and just biocultural systems. Such societal narratives, as this series explores, will then inform the actions we take and the systems we choose to keep, dismantle, change, and build.
Educational & Outreach Activities
The podcast series in and of itself is an education and outreach deliverable. All fourteen of the podcast episodes were published by the end of May 2023, and The EcoTheatre Lab and I will now be sharing the podcast widely over the next several months. The podcasts are available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and iHeart Radio (the three platforms publicized on The EcoTheatre Lab’s website), as well as most other platforms where podcasts are streamed.
In addition to NCR-SARE, the podcast was supported by a Johnson Center for Land Stewardship Policy Emerging Leader Award. Prior to the podcast’s full release, the series was publicized at the Johnson Center for Land Stewardship Policy Forum in October 2022; at Iowa State University’s annual Sustainapalooza and Earth Day events in February and April 2023, respectively; at the March 2023 Mid-America Theatre Conference; and through Mary Swander’s Emerging Voices Substack page. This project was also the creative thesis for my M.S. degree at Iowa State University and so was shared via my defense and the 2022 and 2023 Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture Research Symposia, as well as published through Iowa State University’s digital repository.
As of mid-July 2023, the podcast has been shared with our 19 committed outreach partners (who had agreed prior to the podcast’s publication to share the series with their networks), as well as through The EcoTheatre Lab’s social media and listserv and with all interviewees and production team members. At this point, there are more than 400 podcast listens; at least 7 of the partners have already highlighted the podcast in their newsletters/via blog post; and other partners have already shared via social media, where additional organizations and individuals (who are not outreach partners) have re-shared. I discussed the podcast as a guest speaker in Iowa State University’s Performing Arts Seminar class and in a local conversation group, Ames Green Drinks. Podcast listens are expected to increase as we continue publicizing in the coming months.
In the next several months, I will share the series with at least four dozen additional organizations/ programs whose target audiences may find the podcast series beneficial. These organizations range from news and radio sources to nonprofits to government programs to academic groups who have an investment in North Central Region agriculture, climate dialogue and action, and/or community-engaged arts efforts. The EcoTheatre Lab will continue to share the podcast at events and will highlight each episode on our social media pages. As opportunities arise, we may submit proposals to publications, conferences, and events where we can share the interviewees’ work further over the next year.
In the midst of a global climate crisis that is already severely affecting agricultural communities, addressing climate change is urgent. Many agricultural practices contribute to climate change, but can also play a critical role in climate change solutions, and the economic sustainability of agriculture, especially for small farmers, relies on finding solutions to the climate crisis now. Increasing mobilization for climate solutions demands open conversations between stakeholders about climate change. This project amplifies artistic strategies for facilitating such dialogue, strategies that are rooted in community values, diverse perspectives, and local experiences.
This project shares stories of effective climate communication in Iowa agricultural communities and, in so doing, offers resources and strategies that prioritize social wellbeing and community connection in difficult conversations about climate change. The podcast episodes produced have been and will continue to be shared via online platforms across the North Central region with the intent to encourage further climate dialogue and to connect farmers, artists, and agricultural stakeholders invested in climate solutions to each other and to their communities.
These fifteen podcast interviewees come from different disciplines (artistic and otherwise) and offer unique perspectives. But like Dr. Haddad, myself, and The EcoTheatre Lab, they have all discovered the power of art and storytelling in healing our relationships with each other and all the life around us. It was fascinating to hear them discuss the themes shared above and also those that I had seen previously in my literature review and preparation for this project. The interviewees did indeed demonstrate how art and storytelling strategies can effectively leverage values, diverse perspectives, and personal experiences in a way that allows for climate dialogue.
During these interviews, I not only learned strategies for facilitating climate dialogue in agricultural communities, but the interviewees and I also actively engaged in these practices ourselves through the development of this podcast. We shared stories and art as a way to build a collection of resources, to examine our collective narratives, and to be in community. We amplified – and will continue to amplify – the alternative narratives that many of the interviewees are telling about agriculture, climate action, climate justice, and art itself. And we talked about and acknowledged the emotions – including anger, grief, joy, and hope – that affect our own and our communities’ engagement with climate action.
In May 2023, all of the interviewees were invited to a project debrief to celebrate their work, discuss the podcast, and connect with one another. 9 out of the 15 interviewees were able to attend, which meant most of our time together was spent connecting with one another and sharing updates on the podcast progress.
Feedback from project supporters:
“I had a long drive this week, which meant I got a chance to binge on several episodes of your podcast. It’s really amazing, all of it – the website, artwork, audio production, the lineup of guests, and your insightful reflections on the themes and threads across episodes. I know it was a ton of work, so I wanted to say congratulations and thank you. It’s a valuable contribution to the environmental movement in Iowa. I’m writing a blog for our upcoming newsletter with recommended summer reading and listening, and I’m going to promote the podcast to our . . . network.” – Outreach Partner
“Personally, I listened to several episodes and found them incredibly interesting and inspiring. [We were] more than happy to share.” – Outreach Partner
“First, these are terrific (well, the first two, at least, it will take time for me to listen to all of them). I don't know if you have read Braiding Sweetgrass, but the emphasis upon what the wisdom of indigenous people can bring to advancing regenerative agriculture from both a practical and cultural perspective with which you start the podcasts is great.” – Podcast Supporter
“I read the transcript of your introduction and listened to your interview podcast with my friend Connie Mutel. I liked both very much.” – Podcast Supporter
“I think your podcast is a very good explanation of a different approach towards understanding climate . . . identifying the need for greater dialogue and using art to achieve that dialogue.” – Podcast Supporter
Interviewee feedback (questions are italicized):
How would you describe your experience sharing your work through this podcast?
Vivian was extremely pleasant to work with, and quite skilled at drawing out and helping me to shape my ideas . . . Talking with Vivian helped me to verbalize my efforts, and through this to understand what I'm doing more clearly.
While I felt very vulnerable, I also felt very seen and valued by the interviewer. The fact that anyone was out there giving weight to the work artists do is deeply appreciated, as that is not typical especially of the general public. It was especially wonderful that multiple artists in a specific region were featured. It felt much more powerful realizing I have worked with and am friends with other artists featured. It felt like a snapshot in time that I'm very grateful to have been part of.
I greatly enjoyed being interviewed by Vivian and sharing the experience of my organizing and research with the project. I found the interview to be a wonderful reflective exercise through which I learned/saw connections in my work and community that were new or inspiring for me even as I am actively engaged in the work right now. At first, I was unsure how directly my organizing and research connected to the project, but Vivian’s invitation to consider my work through the lens of arts and climate change helped me to zoom out a bit to better see the big picture of what is underway. Involvement in this project helped me reframe my own work as I came to see it in connection to the good work others are doing throughout Iowa.
Energizing—I feel like I discovered a whole network of very diverse people incorporating the arts and humanities into climate conversations that I never knew existed... even though I do storytelling and climate change. I also appreciate Vivian's consistent focus on both the philosophical/creative aspects of each project's work as well as the "key takeaways"--a beautiful balance of how the arts and humanities can—and need—to be integrated into programming, research, community building.
What did you learn from other episodes besides your own?
The biggest thing is how story-telling is a technique that's being used in a great diversity of fields and in many ways, leading to multiple substantial results . . . I also learned that listening to others' stories is more important than telling your own, and leads to more substantial results (changes). Other things I knew already - but these podcasts were good reminders: the importance of developing agency in your audience, and of taking your audience where it is (rather than where you assume or want it to be). Also - since I work with climate change and other interacting environmental challenges, it's easy to get depressed about current challenges. I need to remind myself that I am one person in a thousands or millions of others who are working to mitigate our problems. The diverse podcast participants expanded my sense of this "force of millions" who are trying to heal the earth.
Everyone has a different way of describing their artistic expression and inspiration, yet we also have so much in common.
The others’ episodes highlighted for me just how much is underway in Iowa when it comes to organizing and working toward climate justice. Too often Iowa gets written off as a sacrifice zone, but it’s really the frontlines of extractive agriculture and there is a lot of needed and exciting work underway to engage people in changing the course. The interviews make clear an arc of time, story, resistance, and work from the first settlers colonizing the prairie to now. People shared how they are learning from the land, and from others in their communities, and using this knowledge to create change for future generations. For me, the biggest take away was the collective dialogue across the episodes – even though the interviewees all have different backgrounds and are engaged in different types of work, it’s very clear that there are collective threads or themes across the efforts. These threads or themes help to make that arc of time and work visible – we see how each of us, from different backgrounds and using different strategies, are not accepting status quo and are creating space for others to engage in learning/unlearning so as to make a different future.
How to integrate storytelling into food production, how relationality can factor into storytelling in ways I had not yet considered, how individuals are weaving storytelling into existing programming and conversations that involve individuals not necessarily already in the crowd who would already be engaging storytelling; how individuals are using the visual alongside the verbal
What connections did you make between your work and other interviewees’?
I realized that my use of story-telling in the written (and spoken) format is but one of many possible artistic formats.
Creativity is a motivator for imagining and creating different possibilities in the world, both internal and external.
Prior to the project, I was already familiar with some of the interviewees and/or had collaborated with them previously on other projects, yet some of them were new to me. Once the podcasts were published, it was wonderful to see the many dimensions of the work underway through the different voices and contributions of the interviewees. I hear how, for each of us, the work we are doing is very personal and that we are inspired by our own life experiences, families, and histories of the communities we call home. Additionally, I hear the connection of responsibility, and how each of us strives to take care of our communities (ecological and social) in ways that leave things better for those who come after us.
What ideas did you gain from other interviewees’ work that you’d like to apply in your own communities?
The collective interviews remind me to continue to prioritize story and place-making, even as these may not always seem the most direct ways to create changes. I know these are the foundation of long-lasting and meaningful change, and that the work is slow going – and it is encouraging to hear from others their perspectives to be reminded that I am part of a larger effort underway to shift knowledge, culture, and practices. The project has also inspired me to think of new ways to document the work I’m involved in so that we can better see the collective story we’re building together.
Have learned something from each of the podcasts I have listened to so far (I am about a third of the way through): how Tam incorporates her work into resilience; how Shelley Buffalo elevates her indigenous practices; how Moselle brings both hope and concern into her visuals; how Alice weaves in storytelling as part of how each involved on the farm shares and engages with the food and the land each day
In what ways, if any, has participating in this project expanded your network of people working at the intersection of arts and climate dialogue?
I had already connected with some of these podcasters in the past . . . and participating in the podcast told me what they are doing now and how their efforts overlap with mine. Plus now I know of others whose work I hope to see more of -
Just knowing there are others who are involved with the creative process is a relief to know I'm not alone.
I’ve shared the podcast series with my networks and have heard back from some people that they enjoyed listening to them and were inspired. Even as I’d already known/worked with many of the interviewees, seeing us all together in this dialogue has inspired me to reconnect with some of them in new projects.
I think the expansion of my network is going to be one of the two most important benefits of this podcast. I have identified how about half of the individuals involved in the podcast are doing work that I want to connect with my work and with that of my colleagues in other disciplines who are part of funded, community-engaged research projects. For so long, I have had many colleagues doing arts and humanities work that is both creative and pragmatic, and here, at last, is a podcast that brings together these two realms.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with The EcoTheatre Lab about the podcast or your future work?
Participating in this podcast has strengthened / energized my resolve to continue to work with story-telling, and to try new approaches in my writing. Thanks Vivian for giving me this gift - it's truly been a joy to get to know you!
This was such a creative project and so timely! I am excited and thankful that SARE funded this project. Sustainable agriculture is about practices, yes, but it’s also about creativity, imagination, community-making, and connections to place – these are shaped by what we think or know to be possible. Sharing stories of how people are currently engaging in reshaping the culture of rural places is an important step towards shifting rural culture to be more inclusive and resilient when it comes to trying new things in the face of the realities of climate change.
Vivian was a delight to work with—very well prepared. She gathered together a fabulous group of interviewees. I learned a lot from these colleagues who shared their expertise from the sciences to the humanities. I hope the podcasts gather a wide and diverse group of listeners.
The intended outcomes of this project include:
- Learning outcomes: 1) increased awareness of arts-based climate dialogue facilitation efforts in the North Central region and 2) increased knowledge of arts-based climate dialogue facilitation strategies that can be applied in farming communities regionally.
- Long-term action outcomes: 1) increased climate dialogue in North Central region farming communities and 2) increased intentional use of artistic methods in facilitating climate dialogue in North Central region farming communities. Short-term action outcomes from this study include recommendations for how to implement such arts-based methods in communities across the North Central region.
The scope and timeline of this project did not permit a thorough evaluation of these outcomes. Informal measures we have taken to evaluate outcomes include developing a feedback survey that is available to podcast listeners after each episode (but, unsurprisingly, this survey has not received many responses); conducting a debrief session with and requesting written feedback from interviewees; keeping track of podcast listens and partner outreach as we can; and requesting feedback from outreach partners as they can provide it. We would recommend future research to more thoroughly assess both short-term and especially long-term action outcomes like the ones outlined above, including through finding ways to more effectively receive listener/audience feedback.
Future projects could also examine concrete policy, educational, and research steps that could be taken to support the broader application of arts and storytelling-based strategies within climate action initiatives. As discussed in the proposal for this project, arts-based initiatives often do not have the budgets or time to be documented thoroughly, despite the potential they have shown for improving civic dialogue and action. Artists and farmers are also two demographic groups who are chronically underpaid for their work. Further investment in resources to support the important work artists and storytellers, farmers, and community-engaged researchers and organizers are contributing to climate dialogue and action efforts in agricultural communities (as demonstrated in this series) would be valuable.