Fall is a time for reflection. On the farm it’s a time to reflect on the growing season, markets and management, and for setting priorities for the winter and the coming year. For organizations it is the time to evaluate projects and programs, policy and political gains and losses, and to establish priorities for the coming year.
Jim Smith and I recently met on Jim’s farm in Franklin, CT to reflect on how some of the most pressing farm issues this year intersect with WLA’s accomplishments and the priorities for the coming year. Our focused conversation quickly turned to Climate Change. The news was filled with discussion about the UN World Climate Summit, which included the current and projected impacts to the food system as well as the role agriculture can play in reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of Climate Change.
We reviewed the growing season in 2021 Connecticut, which was challenging, a cool wet spring, a short drought, then plenty of heat, followed by a deluge of precipitation and high winds. CT’s diverse agriculture definitely had winners and losers. It provided both farmers and consumers a cross section of the impacts climate change will have on agriculture, food systems, and communities.
We then discussed the impacts these weather patterns have had on their farm and the management decisions they have taken to adapt, as well as to mitigate any emissions from the dairy farm. Practices such as cover crops and no-till have reduced erosion and improved soil health while capturing carbon and reducing fossil fuel use. Better manure management and the upcoming completion of a Bio-Digester will reduce emissions, generate renewable energy, reduce fossil-fuel-based fertilizer use, and assist other farms in addressing these issues. They continue to upgrade buildings with solar arrays to cut costs, and to improve cow comfort in heat waves with larger fans and misters. Cushman Farms continues to invest in equipment, technology, infrastructure, and conservation practices to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions. The funding from government programs has helped, but falls far short of the dollars needed. The family has also made a huge investment in protecting their best farmland with permanent agricultural easements. This has provided funds for on the farm investments to increase climate resiliency and protect the prime farmland soils that are the most resilient to droughts and wetness. The secure land tenure of an easement allows investments in soil health that typically take several years to benefit from.
We think all of Connecticut’s farms and farmers in urban, suburban, and rural areas should have the resources to reduce risk, invest in climate adaptation strategies, mitigate emissions, improve food security for all, and protect our best soils for current and future generations. We are committed to the Working Lands Alliance’s focus on the policy and advocacy work necessary to engage our policy makers and the public about the importance of farmland preservation.
Protecting our working lands from sprawl development, and investing in conservation practices will help CT provide part of our nation’s climate resilient land base for food security and justice as well as the many ecosystem services critical to a changing climate such as groundwater recharge, stormwater management, urban cooling, and critical habitat. Our recent November 10th Annual Meeting highlighted WLA’s 2021 accomplishments, identified our champions of farmland preservation, and engaged an outstanding panel of farmers and legislators to discuss planning for the future of farmland. You can watch the proceedings here. Our 2022 Priorities will include the advocacy to accelerate CT’s efforts to address climate change, and work to empower and fund farm and forest managers and owners to play an important role in mitigation and adaptation.
Kip Kolesinskas and Jim Smith
Co-Chairs, Working Lands Alliance