Sunday, November 23, 2014

How New England Could Become Farmville Again

Future Farming (Credit: James K. Hindle for the Boston Globe) Click to Enlarge.
Along with all the challenges that lie ahead, farmers in New England are also poised to see a surprising amount of new opportunity.  With longer growing seasons caused by rising temperatures, more consumer enthusiasm for locally grown food, and drought and weather instability in regions where agriculture has historically been most productive, there’s good reason to think that farming in New England—a central part of the economy here until the Industrial Revolution—could be in for a serious comeback.

“What climate change is doing is making farming in New England not just more economically attractive, but also more necessary,” said Thomas Kelly, the founding director of the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire.  “It’s shifting the outlook on the future of agriculture and food in the region.”

As New Englanders gird for more severe storms, flooding, and erosion, and threats to familiar animal species, the happy agricultural upside of climate change may be a bit of a hard sell.  And yet, adapting successfully will mean being clear-eyed about all the ways it will transform our landscape—not just what’s at risk, but also how it could position regions like New England to be more, not less, productive.
Like the subsistence farmers who dotted the local landscape in the 18th and 19th centuries, New England’s new school of farmers could make relatively low-risk decisions about what to plant where and when.  Given a climate in which, as Dave Volante puts it, “the only pattern is that there is no pattern,” the clearest path to success may be planning a harvest so diverse that, no matter how the weather plays out, we can count on something good to come up.

Read More at How New England Could Become Farmville Again

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