As usual I am behind in my storytelling. Last Friday Tami and company hosted their Adaptation Conference.
Officially known as “Farming Strategies in Today’s Climate,” it was another ball knocked over the fence. 150 farmers, activists, students, and researchers piled into Central Carolina Community College to get a handle on how to grow food in “today’s climate.”
One of the rockstars was Laura Lengnick from Warren Wilson College. She recently helped write a paper for USDA on adaptation strategies, and she was the keynote speaker.
It seems that it wasn’t very long ago that USDA was not allowed to talk about climate change. Now that it is here, and clearly the result of human activity, it might be good for American agriculture to adapt.
For me that was one of the beautiful things about the conference. It skipped over mitigation. There was no political overlay. No blame. Conventional farmers sat next to sustainable farmers without judgment.
Who cares who caused it? The point is that eggplant bushes in NC are big and bushy (sinking tons of carbon from the atmosphere), and lacking fruit. Got it. It’s too hot for eggplant pollen to work. So if it is too hot to grow eggplants, what next?
Some of our agriculture will move north. Some will go extinct. And new opportunities will arise. Climate change brings winners and losers. This was a conference on how to win.
This conference was a collaboration staged by a bunch of good people.
And it was packed. It was interesting that initially not a single politician responded to invitations. But when Tami and Laura made the State of Things on WUNC radio, we had Sally Kost, one of our County Commissioners show up, as did a representative from Senator Kay Hagan’s office.
Clearly the great swirling conversation around climate change and agriculture should not belong to the Abundance Foundation. After all, they are a Podunk Pittsboro non-profit focused on local food, renewable energy, and community.
This conversation should be the purview of the State. This belongs to Agricultural Extension, our Land Grant universities, North Carolina Department of Agriculture—the government should be leading the way.
Instead the NC government is passing laws against sea level rise. With a newly minted Republican governor, and a Tea Party legislature behind him, it looks like our government is content to let our agricultural interests migrate north to better growing climes.
In the meantime it is edifying to see such a huge group of farmers and researchers gathering to face adaptation. Breeds are changing. We are moving to cattle with Texan, rather than New York bloodlines. Schedules are changing. Planting times are be re-calculated. And crops are changing.
Growers are adapting their operations in order to stay alive, or to remain prosperous. They have to. They’re in business. They adapt or die. If government ever pulls its head out of the sand, it may notice an entirely new agricultural landscape, which has been reshaped by the realities of our new climate.
And I am guessing that conferences like this might be a good first step to getting the government to notice.
After a wonderful day of discussion and moderated panel discussions which paired researchers with growers, the conference ended at the Plant for an “after-party.” About 75 folks showed up for some live music and locally produced food and drink.
I gave a tour of our Solar Double Cropping project to about 40 interested producers, and I was jazzed.
It was a big day. It was a big party. It was even a big tour.
One of the thing Abundance needs to wrestle with is whether or not they should “push on” with this topic. Should they hold it again in Wilmington, Boone, and Asheville—making it bio-regionally appropriate each time? Should they hold another one for forestry, or fisheries in NC?
If no one else is going to tackle the subject, perhaps Abundance should step into the space…