(excerpt) By Rod MacRae and Phil Beard
Global climate change is a reality. The vast majority of climate scientists know it is happening and that human activities are a primary cause, that what we are experiencing is not just a product of natural forces and not the typical variations we see from season to season.
Food production and distribution are two of the most significant contributing factors, responsible for up to 30% of all emissions connected to the main activities of the economy. And now, this reality is coming back to haunt farmers, creating moisture stress, damaging fields and infrastructure on and off the farm, compromising animal health, driving up insurance and other costs. Unfortunately, many farmers appear to be overly confident in their ability to adapt to a changing climate, remembering earlier successes adapting to periodic shifts in weather patterns. But the variability we experience now is often outside the range of “normal”.
The key question for agriculture is whether we can transform farming systems to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels and shift to crops/livestock that are more resilient to the impacts of a rapidly changing climate and produce the food/fibre society needs. And will this transformation be predominantly planned or reactive. Producer interviews and focus groups reveal that concern in the Canadian agricultural community remains relatively low despite the increasing level of negative impacts associated with climate change.
However, as this briefing note outlines, the transformation needed to respond to the effects of climate change will require a major redesign of farming systems. This redesign will be more difficult to undertake the longer a landowner waits to start making changes.
Many organic farmers think that they will be protected from the effects of climate change, and relative to conventional farmers, they will likely be more resilient. But the impacts of a rapidly changing climate will be so significant that all farmers need to re-assess their farming system.
Some stories of farmers who are on the leading edge of transforming their farming systems
Farmers have figured out how to make their farms more resilient, be less reliant on fossil fuel use and be profitable. We summarize the stories of five whose farms are located in the same or similar Eco zones as southern Ontario.
(For the whole article, go to www.biodynamics.on.ca, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.)
Rod McCrae is Associate Professor for Food Studies at York University, and Phil Beard is the General Manager/Secretary-Treasurer of the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority in Wroxeter, Ontario. The original paper was commissioned by the Maitland Watershed Partnerships and published in this newsletter in 2008.