Janet Aardema, Broadfork Farm
World leaders converged in Glasgow the past two weeks for COP 26. Their task was to address the impact of climate change and attempt to agree on productive steps and appropriate goals. While leaders most certainly struggle to agree on enough and aim high enough, reporters note that finally the climate crisis is less political. We can at least celebrate the crumbling of one barrier to effective change. But what can we do on a grassroots level?
"COP" stands for Conference of the Parties and started in 1995 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and protect the world from the threat of climate change. Greenhouse gases are reportedly down, and perhaps most people (especially in wealthier countries) aren't yet experiencing direct negative impacts of the climate crisis. But when I talk with other farmers, the consensus is that the negative impact is here, and we need effective strategies immediately.
Farmers now consistently report that weather patterns are growing increasingly extreme. Droughts are longer. Drier. Rain events are more intense. Weather events keep breaking records. Recent years are filling the lists of "Top Tens" of a multitude of weather happenings. Facing these challenges, farms need resilience in order to survive (and dare we say thrive?) when conditions get increasingly difficult. We people need to eat! How can farms feed us when the growing gets tough?
The really great news is that the strategies that increase our farms' resilience are also strategies with which regenerative organic farmers are familiar. We increase organic matter to both improve water retention during dry times and improve soil drainage during times of over abundant rain. We diversify to build healthier soil, prevent pest and disease build up, and guard against crop failure. We look to ecosystems less manipulated by humans as resilient examples to emulate. (The forest teaches us so much!) We shorten the distribution chain, getting the food we grow into the hands of consumers more quickly, with fewer brokers in the middle.
Granted, small, local, regenerative, organic farms aren't positioned to feed the world. But that's exactly the point. Small, local farms feed small, local groups of people. This is how change happens. Small organic farms are usually not set up to grow cheap food, so only those that can prioritize their grocery budget can usually purchase this food. But that support grows the movement. Local small groups of people give monetary and/or sweat equity to not-for-profit farms so that local organic food can reach the kitchens of those unable to afford the market price. Community organizations leverage support to utilize this food in preparing meals for those who need them and teach how to prepare meals from these ingredients.
Yet still more of all of the above needs to happen in order to address the climate crisis. The emissions and carbon footprint of the agro-industrial complex that currently supports our country is not sustainable. Our food systems need to always be diverse - (we always need large farms as well as small farms) - and agriculture is just one element that needs to change, but increasing local, regenerative, organic agriculture is key to reversing the effects of climate change. If you haven't yet watched the film Kiss the Ground, I highly recommend watching it. It provides a phenomenal explanation of the science behind climate change as it relates to soil and agriculture.
Amongst the reports from Glasgow I heard numerous voices iterate that grassroots efforts remain critical to mitigating climate change. How fantastically perfect that the product of your local grassroots organic farmer is so delicious! You nourish yourself with this amazing food while also contributing to the solution for our climate crisis. When you increase your support of local organic farmers, your carbon footprint goes down while your farmer is able to better invest in resiliency, which increases their biosequestration. It's a win-win. We need more of it. Please go tell a friend.