BELFAST — Three local farmers talked about challenges they have faced because of climate change in a panel discussion held Jan. 20 by Belfast Free Library. The event was part of the library’s ongoing series called All of Belfast Climate Dialogues, hosted virtually.

Daisy Beal, who runs Daisy Chain Farms in Belfast; Michael Bahner, who runs Bahner Farm in Belmont, and Noami Brautigam, who runs Dickey hill Farm in Monroe, discussed climate issues and steps they are taking to remain resilient.

Beal’s organic farm grows raspberries, strawberries and apples. Bahner farms vegetables in high tunnels. Brautigam grows vegetables in high tunnels and raises some beef cattle. High tunnels are dome-shaped growing enclosures covered in plastic, polyethylene or fabric.

They sell their food at farmers markets and farm stands; Bahner also sells some of his produce wholesale through Daybreak Growers Alliance. Changing weather patterns due to climate change have affected their operations in a variety of ways.

Beal said when it gets warm earlier in the spring but the frost still arrives at a normal time in the fall, the health of her plants can be affected. Excessive rain can cause some of her crops to mold. She thinks that is one reason why people are moving toward farming in high tunnels.

Brautigam said midwinter rain can cause runoff into her high tunnels. It is difficult to know in advance if there will be a lot of rain during a winter. She also said it has become difficult to work in the high tunnels in the summer during excessive heat, which affects the health of both people and plants.

Bahner faces a dilemma when there is a warmer-than-average fall because his crops grow fast, causing an early winter harvest. He has a hard time knowing whether to plant his winter crops earlier or later in the fall because he does not know if fall temperatures will be warm or cool.

He tries to find some middle ground between the two scenarios, but the changes concern him, he said. “All the fluctuations, they scare me because it means there’s … weakness in the system we’ve had for eons and things are changing, and we don’t know what it’s going to be like on the other end.”

All the farmers agreed that soil health is important for growing successful crops. Sustainable farming starts with feeding the soil, Bahner said. It can reduce the need to use pesticides like Roundup. He uses a cover crop during the winter to add nutrients to the soil. Beal said it is not good to constantly till soil and farmers should disrupt the soil as little as possible.

They also talked about the need for government support of farms. Bahner said all farms are dependent on government assistance. He gets frustrated with people who oppose government initiatives that aid farms, he said. He thinks the government should have a part in keeping farms going, as has been the case for decades.

“Farmers need the government,” Bahner said. “And if you’re a farmer, you know, you are benefiting from a lot of … social democracy. You know, the government should be involved in the business of making sure that agriculture is taken care of, both environmentally and financially.”

Beal thinks as food becomes more valuable and prices go up, farmers’ incomes will increase, giving them more security to continue to run their farms, though she acknowledged that it would be a food-security problem.

“So we’re going to have to figure out as a society how to keep people fed while also paying more for food,” she said.