Agriculture realizes climate change has arrived

Unity College training students in sustainability
Feb 22, 2013

Unity — The popular bumper sticker that reads “No Farms, No Foods” remains true, yet the realities of global climate change have changed the way that the next generation of farmers is being trained at Unity College.

The Sustainable Agriculture program at Unity College is not only training the next generation of farmers, it is teaching them to flourish in a world that will stretch traditional methods of agriculture to the breaking point.

Experts from Unity College say that within a decade, Maine will need to produce most of the food New England consumes, with Maine likely to become the new breadbasket for New England due to the region’s access to land and water.

Unity College’s location in the farm country of Waldo County, just a stone’s throw from exceptional “hands-on” agricultural learning opportunities, has been ideal. The campus has gardens that last year produced 15,000 lbs. of vegetables and is only miles from the Maine Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) and Maine Farmland Trust, both of which are deeply concerned with creating opportunities for a new generation of farmers.

Climate change is changing farming

The programs at Unity College gives students the skills they will need to pursue agricultural careers in a world beset by global climate change. Unity’s focus on climate change is on the leading-edge of agricultural education in America.

“I know of no other college or university sustainable agriculture program that is as focused on climate change,” said Doug Fox, Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Director of the Center for Sustainability and Global Change at Unity College.

Fox says that in a recent survey of farmers, few expressed climate change as being important. The scientific data dictates a far different set of needs, problems, and priorities facing American farmers and the agricultural industry as a whole, Fox says.

Family farms and climate change

If there is a silver lining for this region, it is that Maine is well poised to experience an agricultural boom within a decade or two at most, provided its leaders at the local and state levels make good decisions to ensure the expansion of family farms.

“I attend meetings with farmers and the room is filled with gray hair,” Fox said. “This state and entire country will be in crisis if we do not take immediate steps to nurture the next generation of farmers, keep up the infrastructure, and pass along farming knowledge.”

Part of that nurturing is to put policies in place that make farming a financial possibility in a world that values land speculation above all. The price for that kind of thinking will be steep, and the bill is coming due soon, Fox says.

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