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University of Massachusetts Finds Farmers Talking Climate Change

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 to Friday, May 5, 2017


Extension Professor Christine Hatch leads the University of Massachusetts RiverSmart research group. 

This group has studied farm vulnerability and adaptation strategies to climate change in Massachusetts since 2014. In Massachusetts, climate change means more rain, more intense storms, and more total precipitation in winter and spring months, but less in the summer. The UMass group talks with farmers in groups to understand how both wetter and drier seasons affect the state’s agriculture. In these farmer-climate change roundtables, farmers hear about regional climate change scenarios and likely impacts to agriculture. Professor Hatch’s group then facilitates discussion of adaptation strategies and farmer needs. 

The first of these roundtables was held in April, 2017 in southeastern Massachusetts. It was quite successful and revealed many ongoing adaptations used by the local farmer community. One of the most interesting of these is that farmers are already independently discussing and developing strategies to adapt to a changing climate. In our roundtable, farmers made clear that peer-to-peer conversation is the primary way that farmers learn about and adapt to current and future changes in soil moisture, flooding, and top soil erosion (among other climate change impacts).

They also made clear that they see a roll for extension, NRCS, and other ag service providers that is not being filled. What farmers are lacking is translation from regional climate scenarios to crop-specific impacts. This may allow farmers to begin investing in crop type changes before they are forced to lose crops to climate change. In sharing this finding with other service providers, we hope we can begin research and outreach that targets this important adaptation strategy.

By Ben Warner, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Massachusetts