- Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, study circle, technical assistance, workshop
- Farm Business Management: risk management
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 fruit and vegetable 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 proposal, 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 will 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.
Performance targets from proposal:
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.