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For our last WNC CRAFT Farmer Round Table we focused on Extreme Weather & Climate Change, in response to the wet, wet year we had last year and weather swings our farmers have had to deal with more and more over the past several years. It offered a chance to farmers to commiserate and share lessons learned.

What are Farmer Round Tables? They are open, farmer to farmer discussions geared toward a specific advanced farming topic. This ain’t no lecture series! We do have a designated facilitator but it’s a time for everyone to share ideas and experiences on a deeper more advanced level than we can get into at the CRAFT farm tours. All CRAFT Farmer Members are invited to contribute and plan for the coming season. Become a member today to participate in next years’ sessions!

Thanks so much to Steven Beltram with Balsam Gardens, our farmer facilitator, and the rest of the farmers there for the lively, in-depth discussion.

Below are some notes from the round table.

Strategies farmers are using to respond to extreme weather events & climate change in Western NC:

  • Income Diversification
    • Diverse crop production
    • Air Bnb, farm stays – Seeing people growing food is a draw for lots of people, and they’re willing to pay. How to capture that?
    • Looking for part-time work
  • Irrigation & Water Management on the Farm
    • The dilemma is needing to have access to water when you need it and the damaging aspects of too much water.
    • All farmers are investigating & considering changes to their irrigation system.
    • Having adequate irrigation & water supply (sometimes multiple water sources) is a strategy for dealing with drought conditions.
    • Building a pond is another strategy some farmers are doing to have access to reliable cleaner water.
    • One farmer is experimenting with keeping their pump on a float in the river where they get their water. This strategy helps make sure the in-take short, but has posed some problems when the river rises quickly during a heavy rain event. The float has been swept away, the pump flipped over, etc.
    • Another farmer, who also pumps from a river, keeps his pump on a trailer so he can move it further from the river if it is threatening to flood.
    • Water cleanliness can become an issue if the river rises and floods your fields. And, for some flooding has effectively changed the path of creeks and waterways impacting their fields and growing space.
    • Another consideration is growing in the bottomlands vs. higher land. Soil down low often has richer soil deposits, but the risk of flooding is much higher. It can be possible to reconstruct good soil on higher land.
    • Growing under cover (high tunnels, hay groves, etc.) also a popular way to manage water.  Can become an issue if you have high winds in your area. But, it allows you to micromanage water supply to your plants. Covered growing also protects your plants from hail damage. However, heavy winter snows threaten the structure, which can collapse under the weight. Many farmers are up all night clearing snow off their high tunnel frames when big snows are falling.
  • Paying attention to longer term weather predictions:
    • NOAA will give weather predictions 1 month out. The main thing it’ll tell you is whether we’re in El Nino or La Nina.
  • Crop Insurance:
    • You have to meet the parameters, and be at a certain scale to take advantage of it currently. But, if you can qualify can help you recoup some of your losses.
    • Farm Service Agency offers Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for non-commodity crops.
  • Crop Production:
    • Adjusting when and how you harvest, for example instead of growing call and harvesting in bunches, harvest when young and sell as braising greens
    • Upright growing crops tend to fare better in hail storms than crops that spread out.
    • Using plastic mulch does help with nutrient management. It will keep whatever nutrients you apply in the soil because they aren’t washed away during heavy rains.
  • Resilient Agriculture
    • A plug for Dr. Laura Lengnick, a friend, partner of OGS, and author of Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate.
    • According to her teaching, as organic & sustainable farmers we need to keep doing what we’re doing.

 

Questions about this article or on how to join WNC CRAFT? Please email Sera Deva at farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org

Cameron Farlow

Author: Cameron Farlow

Cameron Farlow is the Farmer Programs Director. Hailing from Greensboro, NC with dairy farming in her blood, she has now made her home in Western NC. After earning her undergraduate degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill, Cameron dove headfirst into the realm of sustainable agriculture and local food systems, and later completed her Master’s Degree in Appalachian Studies and Sustainable Development from Appalachian State University. She also brings experience in the realms of farmland preservation, food security, farm to university, and land access for farmers. She came on board with OGS in April 2012. In addition to her work with OGS, Cameron is a beekeeper, dancer, baker and avid adventurer.

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