Farmers’ livelihoods are tied to agriculture and thus are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Farmers in the United States are already being affected by climate change impacts such as intense precipitation and/or drier and warmer weather conditions. Not all farmers are equally affected by climate impacts as farmers’ climate change adaptation and resilience are influenced by access to resources, which are unevenly distributed. For Black farmers, vulnerability to climate change is exacerbated by years of institutional racial discrimination and limited access to financial and technical resources. Farmer climate adaptation research has not examined how Black farmers are adapting to climate change or how they are accessing information on climate change. Research examining the human dimensions of climate adaptation suggests that social networks play an important role in how farmers cope with climate change. Given the history of Black farmers with discrimination, social networks will likely play an even more salient role in their coping strategies. This study is rooted in rural sociology and draws on social capital theory to examine the role that social networks play in Black farmers’ adaptation to climate change. More specifically, the study aims to answers the following questions: 1) How are Black farmers experiencing and adapting to climate change? 2) How are Black farmers using their social networks to increase their resilience to climate change?
The study will compare rural Black farmers from a midwestern state (Ohio) and a southern state (North Carolina). The timeline for the research, analysis, publications, and presentations spans from October 2021 to May 2023: I will use qualitative research methods involving semi-structured interviews of 40 farmers, 20 in each state. The findings will be disseminated via publications in academic journals and presentations at academic and practitioner conferences and workshops, with targeted outreach to events that Black farmers and policy/program decision-makers attend. As a result of this research, organizations working with Black farmers (including non-profits, Extension, and USDA) will have a better understanding of how climate change is impacting Black farmers and the networks through which Black farmers access information. Traditional and alternative institutions and organizations will be better able to adapt or extend their work to meet the climate adaptation needs of Black farmers. Ultimately, rural Black farmers will be better able to identify and respond to the impacts of climate change on their operations.
Project objectives from proposal:
Black farmer project participants will gain a voice and have an opportunity to increase the salience of issues they find important to policymakers and practitioners. They will share how they prefer to receive information about climate change, identify the networks and sources of information they most trust, and determine the types of resources they find most useful.
The study will identify gaps between existing resources available to Black farmers and Black farmers’ needs as it pertains to climate change. Therefore, it has policy and programmatic implications that will benefit the Black farming population. The findings of the research will be made available to Black farmers, non-profits and institutions who work primarily with Black farmers, and mainstream agricultural institutions including USDA-NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Institutions and organizations can draw on the results of the study to design climate adaptation policies and outreach programs that increase Black farmers’ resilience to climate impacts. Organizations which support Black farmers will have a roadmap to disseminate information and resources to them. The study will also provide Black farmers with information regarding project participants’ experience with and adaptation to climate change. Consequently, Black farmers will be able to use that information to make deliberate, effective, and sound decisions concerning climate adaptation strategies. Both the direct and indirect outcomes of the study will lead to Black farmers being able to better identify and respond to the impacts of climate change by strengthening the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of their operations.