- Crop Production: drainage systems, drought tolerance, irrigation, varieties and cultivars, water management
- Education and Training: focus group
- Farm Business Management: risk management
- Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, grass waterways, soil stabilization
- Pest Management: integrated pest management, weather monitoring
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
Adapting to a changing climate is imperative for agriculture, yet agricultural service providers (ASPs) may feel ill-equipped to make recommendations about new practices and technologies that could help farmers adapt. Current and projected changes in weather present new opportunities and risks for agriculture in Maine, such as a longer growing seasons but increased risks of spring frosts, summer droughts, wetter/cooler springs, and more frequent and intense rainfall. In many cases, the climate adaptation practices identified by farmers and advisors (e.g. irrigation and weather-based decision support tools) require new knowledge and skills, not just for the farmer but also for their ASPs. In this one-year project, we will conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to identify ASPs’ knowledge gaps and training needs as related to helping farmers adapt to climate change. The primary purpose is to guide the development of a 3-year SARE PDP plan for Maine, to be submitted in April 2021, that will focus on building ASP capacity in the identified topic areas. The needs assessment will have two components: a region-wide online survey and two Maine farm tour/focus groups. The survey will ascertain ASPs’ perceived need for farmer outreach and their level of confidence in making specific and detailed recommendations related to climate adaptation practices previously identified by farmers and researchers in regional studies. The Maine farm tour/focus groups will complement the survey. These sessions will provide a rich, in-depth assessment of ASPs’ knowledge gaps and perceived professional development needs related to climate adaptation practices. The format of these sessions will include a tour of a case study farm focused on climate change issues and adaptation practices, followed by a guided round table discussion. Each session will be limited to 12 participants and include 9 ASPs and 3 farmers. The two farms will be selected to represent small/medium- and large-scale operations in different parts of the state. Results from the needs assessment survey and focus groups will be made available to others in a research report and scholarly manuscript to be posted on websites for the Northeast Climate Hub and the Maine Climate and Agriculture Network.
Performance targets from proposal:
The objective of this one-year plan is to identify knowledge gaps and training needs of ASPs in Maine and the Northeast region as related to helping farmers adopt practices and utilize resources that reduce climate risks, and design a 3-year state PDP project to address those needs.