How my life-long love of farming fuels my climate action

As February begins and this mild Connecticut winter continues, I find myself thumbing through seed catalogues and circling too many varieties – planning my summer garden and seed starting schedule. Dreaming of a landscape full of vegetables with my chickens roaming free is something I’ve been doing all my life.

I have always loved farms and as a child I drew countless pictures and diagrams of how my future farm would look — drawing fields, pastures, rows of vegetables…where would the barn sit, where would my chicken coop go? But as it often happens, I grew up and my interests shifted. I took a liking to science in high school, so I moved on to study chemistry and science education – both preparing me to teach high school for many years. During those years my tiny apartment stoop was always crowded with garden containers overflowing mostly with Sungold cherry tomatoes.

Yet early one summer, as fate would have it, I began talking to a pair of local organic farmers at the farmers market. Not a week later, I was working as a farm hand on their small conserved farm in New Hampshire. I loved harvesting, planting, and even weeding (to a degree) and as a small operation they needed the extra hands. But it was when I helped decipher soil test results, translating them into soil deficiencies and needs, that I felt most useful. It was a part of farming that drew upon my chemistry education, my teaching background, and my deep love for agriculture. It was that very experience that redirected my path to study soil science, focusing on improving soil health and land resiliency.

My path to AFT was winding, but what I’ve learned along the way is invaluable and supports my efforts as the climate and agriculture program manager for New England. This new year has brought with it a sense of urgency for climate change action. This month alone I have traveled to four New England states and spoke on the radio in a fifth on climate change action and how that action can also support our farmers and their land.

At the Massachusetts State House I discussed the potential impact that a healthy soils bill could make on climate change mitigation; in Maine and New Hampshire I discussed smart solar siting and farmland protection; in Connecticut I talked with land trusts about land resiliency in the face of climate change; and in Rhode Island I presented on the intersection of food systems and environmental resiliency at the fourth annual Food System Summit. Five different states and five distinct topics, yet every single one of these discussions, presentations, and conversations had something in common – something that American Farmland Trust has been saying for a long time…farmers and their land are part of the climate change solution.

Farmers practicing regenerative agriculture are taking climate action RIGHT NOW while we improve energy efficiency, electrify our grid, and increase global climate change action. Farmers put carbon in the ground with every cover crop seed they plant. Farms can provide renewable energy AND food with smart solar siting.

But none of this can happen at the scale we need if we continue to lose farmland. Farmland is under threat across the country and we have none to spare.

You can help though.

Tell your governor to embrace regenerative agriculture practices in their climate action plans.

I think about my young daughter eating Sungolds that she just picked fresh from the garden, and I am more resolved than ever to make sure that our children can continue to dream up their future farms.

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author
Emily J. Cole, PhD

New England Climate and Agriculture Program Manager

ecole@farmland.org

(202) 378-1247

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