Farming in the new normal

A workshop to help local growers

“Farmers are more connected to weather than anyone,” said executive director Nicole Braddock. “They are in the business of rolling the dice on the weather.”

With unpredictable weather patterns becoming more common, about 100 people attended a workshop earlier this year designed to help Solano County growers. “Our goal for the ‘Farming is the New Normal’ workshop was to start a conversation about possible future climate impacts on agriculture while removing the political aspects from the conservation,” said organizer Wendy Rash.

Wendy, district conservationist for the  US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), said the workshop focused on two things: what impacts growers might encounter with a variable climate, and how they might help to mitigate the changes.

“There are no one-size-fits-all adaptation strategies,” Wendy said. “We wanted to provide an understanding of what farmers might encounter, such as extreme temperatures changes, variable precipitation, and shifting growing regions.”

Picking elderflowers from a hedgerow
at Cloverleaf Farm.

Growers can help

The workshop also laid out opportunities for growers to be reimbursed or rewarded for implementing practices that can help. “It was an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to hear from their own neighbors about how some of these programs are working,” said Jasmine Westbrook, Solano Land Trust’s project director who helped with workshop planning.

Emma Torbert, a founder and partner of Cloverleaf Farm, shared some of her farm’s successes at the workshop. Cloverleaf Farm grows organic fruit while also implementing solution-based programs to help the environment and lessen their carbon output.

Emma told participants that Cloverleaf Farms has planted hedgerows and biodiverse cover crops, installed solar panels to power water pumps, utilized soil-moisture sensors, and implemented a gray water system with grants from the CA Department of Food and Agriculture, NRCS, and others.

Preserving ag land

“One of the most important things we can do to mitigate climate change is to preserve agricultural land as ag land, which has less of a carbon footprint than urban land use,” said Wendy. Cloverleaf Farms leases a portion of land from Collins Farm, which is protected by a conservation agreement held by Solano Land Trust.

With your help, Solano Land Trust is making a difference. We were one partner among many that helped NRCS and Solano Resource Conservation District put on this workshop. Other partners included Solano County, Point Blue Conservation Science, Dixon Resource Conservation District, USDA Climate Hubs, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, University of California Cooperative Extension, and CA Climate and Agriculture Network.

Photos courtesy of Cloverleaf Farm.