Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate

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Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate Author: Format: Paperback / softback First Published: Published By: New Society Publishers Pages: 288 Language: English ISBN: 9780865717749 Categories: , , , , ,

Climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the productivity and profitability of agriculture in North America. More variable weather, drought, and flooding create the most obvious damage, but hot summer nights, warmer winters, longer growing seasons, and other environmental changes have more subtle but far-reaching effects on plant and livestock growth and development. Resilient Agriculture recognizes the critical role that sustainable agriculture will play in the coming decades and beyond. The latest science on climate risk, resilience, and climate change adaptation is blended with the personal experience of farmers and ranchers to explore: * The “strange changes” in weather recorded over the last decade * The associated shifts in crop and livestock behavior * The actions producers have taken to maintain productivity in a changing climate The climate change challenge is real and it is here now. To enjoy the sustained production of food, fiber, and fuel well into the twenty-first century, we must begin now to make changes that will enhance the adaptive capacity and resilience of North American agriculture. The rich knowledge base presented in Resilient Agriculture is poised to serve as the cornerstone of an evolving, climate-ready food system. Laura Lengnick is a researcher, policymaker, activist, educator, and farmer whose work explores the community-enhancing potential of agriculture and food systems. She directs the academic program in sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College and was a lead author of the report Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation.

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As we start to change the weather, resilience will become a watchword for farmers, as this fine book demonstrates. It's strong advice--and it reinforces the essential truth, which is that we must keep climate from changing too much--because there's nothing even the best farmer can do to cope with a truly overheated planet. --- Bill McKibben, author, Deep Economy Organic Broadcaster November/December 2015 Audrey Arner, Moonstone Farm, Montevideo, Minn. ... Laura Lengnick's Resilient Agriculture includes respectable up-to-date science, compelling testimonies, and cites the changing circumstances that ought to be affecting our decision-making as solar cell operators here on the planetary surface. In some corners, the debate labors on whether climate change is sourced by human activities. Meanwhile, Lengnick has worked way down the row in considering how we agriculturalists can position ourselves, our thinking, our cropping patterns, varietal selections and livestock management to foster our adaptive capacities. All this will be necessary to not only more effectively sequester carbon in soils, but also to withstand the onslaughts of extreme weather episodes we will encounter with greater frequency. In digging deeper, I probe for what big shifts in thought and action might carry us through the changing climate and all its related erratic precipitation, temperature fluctuations and violent storm events. There have been some great sources of inspiration, particularly among the permaculture community. Still, I find myself yearning for more substantiation for advocating for the kind of agriculture that I love. I knew I was going to eat up this new publication from New Society Publishers. Drawing deeply from recent research and historical records, Lengnick explores five categories of agricultural endeavor: vegetables, fruits and nuts, grains and livestock from the perspectives of award-winning farmers throughout all regions of the agricultural United States. Most cite more extreme weather events as being more pronounced in the last decade or so; a few maintain that the weather has always fluctuated. I appreciate her explanation of the earliest forms of agriculture: pastoralism, horticulture and sedentary agriculture and how each adapted to ecological resource limits. We are reminded that more food energy was produced than energy invested in production, and each resulted in an energy profit. I loved Lengnick's succinct history of climate change, which was responsible for the last great ice melt 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. This led to changes in the ranges of plants and animals, changing the mix of available food species and causing plants and animals that could not adjust to the new climate conditions to disappear. Sedentary agriculture then reduced the profit in half for the labor calorie invested and made possible the human population explosion we continue to experience. Her concise history of the rise of industrial agriculture and the U.S. food supply is rich in data. This serves as an important basis for laying out how we can better understand the situation at hand and what needs to be considered in making adaptations. In understanding agricultural exposure and how we might reduce it, I especially appreciated the need to understand the sensitivities of species, production systems, natural resources, management challenges, threats to built infrastructures and production costs. Resilience is the adaptive capacity of the way we humans manage the ecosystem. The section on ecosystem processes (energy flow, the water cycle, the nutrient cycle, and community dynamics) draws right out of holistic management. As a devotee of Allan Savory, who clarified these processes for me and thousands of other land managers, I immediately flicked to the citations and appendix checking for an attribution to Savory or Holistic Management. I was disappointed that there was none and the adaptive management strategy involving goal setting, resource assessment, planning and implementation, monitoring progress towards goals and re-planning fell under the often-used terminology of "Whole Farm Planning." Why not give credit where credit is due since other citations were so source specific? Some historical mention is made of indigenous agriculture in the Americas, but I did not find any suggestion of how the practical knowledge of indigenous cultures can help us all adjust and survive in the face of major climate change. Let's also remember that there will be psychological and spiritual needs ahead. Lengnick interviewed a wide range of large- and small-scale farmers across production specialties and geography, including some often-quoted farm stars from the Upper Midwest like Gabe Brown from North Dakota, Richard DeWilde from Wisconsin, and Ron Rossman from Iowa. Long-time MOSES Organic Farming Conference presenter Elizabeth Henderson from Peacework Organic CSA in New York is quoted thusly: "You have to be so nimble these days." Lengnick gets down to bedrock in her wrap-up section, "New Times, New Tools: Managing for Resilience." Her key qualities and considerations of resilient systems--some of which are more familiar to sustainable farmers than others--are worth deeply examining as we together move through the uncertain, disturbing and unexpected effects on food production. As the leaves fall, and the cover crops are seeded, the livestock preparations for freeze-up are in place, Resilient Agriculture will make for provocative early winter brain food. Give it a read before you begin farm planning for the next growing season so that it can nourish your decision making. Lengnick uses her wide-ranging scholarship to locate current food systems in time and space and asks farmers and ranchers who are creating new food systems that are more climate and community friendly to tell their stories of what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why. This book is accessible and compelling -- a must read that builds hope for systemic change for a more sustainable future. ---Cornelia Butler Flora, Charles F Curtiss Professor Emeritus, Sociology and Agriculture and Life Science, Iowa State University; and Research Professor, Kansas State University Resilient Agriculture obviously was written to help farmers cope with greater weather risks in the inherently risky world of farming. Industrial farmers must continue relying on the government. Sustainable farmers must learn to accommodate the vagaries of nature -- including changes in climate. Stories of progressive farmers who have found ways of coping, which others eventually must learn, highlight this comprehensive review of agricultural resilience and sustainability. ---John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Missouri ... Laura Lengnick's Resilient Agriculture includes respectable up-to-date science, compelling testimonies, and cites the changing circumstances that ought to be affecting our decision-making as solar cell operators here on the planetary surface. In some corners, the debate labors on whether climate change is sourced by human activities. Meanwhile, Lengnick has worked way down the row in considering how we agriculturalists can position ourselves, our thinking, our cropping patterns, varietal selections and livestock management to foster our adaptive capacities. All this will be necessary to not only more effectively sequester carbon in soils, but also to withstand the onslaughts of extreme weather episodes we will encounter with greater frequency. In digging deeper, I probe for what big shifts in thought and action might carry us through the changing climate and all its related erratic precipitation, temperature fluctuations and violent storm events. There have been some great sources of inspiration, particularly among the permaculture community. Still, I find myself yearning for more substantiation for advocating for the kind of agriculture that I love. I knew I was going to eat up this new publication from New Society Publishers. Drawing deeply from recent research and historical records, Lengnick explores five categories of agricultural endeavor: vegetables, fruits and nuts, grains and livestock from the perspectives of award-winning farmers throughout all regions of the agricultural United States. Most cite more extreme weather events as being more pronounced in the last decade or so; a few maintain that the weather has always fluctuated. I appreciate her explanation of the earliest forms of agriculture: pastoralism, horticulture and sedentary agriculture and how each adapted to ecological resource limits. We are reminded that more food energy was produced than energy invested in production, and each resulted in an energy profit. I loved Lengnick's succinct history of climate change, which was responsible for the last great ice melt 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. This led to changes in the ranges of plants and animals, changing the mix of available food species and causing plants and animals that could not adjust to the new climate conditions to disappear. Sedentary agriculture then reduced the profit in half for the labor calorie invested and made possible the human population explosion we continue to experience. Her concise history of the rise of industrial agriculture and the U.S. food supply is rich in data. This serves as an important basis for laying out how we can better understand the situation at hand and what needs to be considered in making adaptations. In understanding agricultural exposure and how we might reduce it, I especially appreciated the need to understand the sensitivities of species, production systems, natural resources, management challenges, threats to built infrastructures and production costs. Resilience is the adaptive capacity of the way we humans manage the ecosystem. The section on ecosystem processes (energy flow, the water cycle, the nutrient cycle, and community dynamics) draws right out of holistic management. As a devotee of Allan Savory, who clarified these processes for me and thousands of other land managers, I immediately flicked to the citations and appendix checking for an attribution to Savory or Holistic Management. I was disappointed that there was none and the adaptive management strategy involving goal setting, resource assessment, planning and implementation, monitoring progress towards goals and re-planning fell under the often-used terminology of "Whole Farm Planning." Why not give credit where credit is due since other citations were so source specific? Some historical mention is made of indigenous agriculture in the Americas, but I did not find any suggestion of how the practical knowledge of indigenous cultures can help us all adjust and survive in the face of major climate change. Let's also remember that there will be psychological and spiritual needs ahead. Lengnick interviewed a wide range of large- and small-scale farmers across production specialties and geography, including some often-quoted farm stars from the Upper Midwest like Gabe Brown from North Dakota, Richard DeWilde from Wisconsin, and Ron Rossman from Iowa. Long-time MOSES Organic Farming Conference presenter Elizabeth Henderson from Peacework Organic CSA in New York is quoted thusly: "You have to be so nimble these days." Lengnick gets down to bedrock in her wrap-up section, "New Times, New Tools: Managing for Resilience." Her key qualities and considerations of resilient systems--some of which are more familiar to sustainable farmers than others--are worth deeply examining as we together move through the uncertain, disturbing and unexpected effects on food production. As the leaves fall, and the cover crops are seeded, the livestock preparations for freeze-up are in place, Resilient Agriculture will make for provocative early winter brain food. Give it a read before you begin farm planning for the next growing season so that it can nourish your decision making. Audrey Arner and her husband, Richard Handeen, own and operate Moonstone Farm near Montevideo, Minn. The challenges that climate change poses to agriculture loom large. In this timely and well-written book, Laura Lengnick combines the latest science with a search for solutions. She finds answers in the fields and pastures of some of the most innovative sustainable agriculturalists in the country. Our food future hinges on their experiential, local knowledge about how to manage for resilience. Without a doubt, I'll be using this important book in my teaching right away. ---Neva Hassanein, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Montana; and author, Changing the Way America Farms: Knowledge and Community in the Sustainable Agriculture Movement Farmers now need to design a resilient, regenerative agriculture for long-term economic returns. Laura Lengnick's new book provides a comprehensive analysis on how to begin that journey. A must read for anyone interested in the future of farming. ---Frederick Kirschenmann, author, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays From a Farmer Philosopher.

Author Biography

Laura Lengnick has been actively exploring the community-enhancing potential of agriculture and food systems for more than 30 years. Through her work as a researcher, policymaker, activist, educator and farmer, she has gained the expertise necessary to better understand what it takes to move sustainability values into action at every level. Laura has been nationally recognized for her advocacy work with a USDA Secretary's Honor Award, and she contributed to the 3rd National Climate Assessment as a lead author of the report Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture: Effects and Adaptation. She directs the academic program in sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC, and spends much of her free time growing food using biointensive and permaculture methods.