Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biological and Environmental Sciences (MSBES)

Specialization

Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems

Department

Plant Sciences and Entomology

First Advisor

John Taylor

Abstract

Climate change is projected to have significant impacts on the productivity and sustainability of agricultural production in coming years. In order to safeguard agricultural productivity and strengthen the resilience of regional food systems, farmers and other agricultural stakeholders will need to explore and adopt on-farm practices that are adaptive and/or mitigative. Understanding how farmers perceive and respond to climate change on their farms is essential to resilience building efforts.

The goal of this research is to address the lack of information on the concerns and response strategies of food-producing specialty crop growers in the U.S. Northeast, specifically the state of Rhode Island. Mixed-methods were used to explore the climate change perceptions and responses of farmers in the state. An additional survey of Cooperative Extension professionals in the U.S. Northeast was conducted and complemented by a content analysis of Cooperative Extension outreach on the websites of ten land grant universities in the Northeast.

Quantitative survey and qualitative interview findings indicate that farmers in Rhode Island have discerned changes in the frequency of extreme temperature and precipitation events and general shifts in the nature of seasons but have difficulty tracking changes in other specific climate change factors. Farmers preferred climate-wise practices that are adaptive rather than mitigative and serve multiple functions. Results from the Cooperative Extension survey and content analysis found low levels of outreach to farmers on climate change and agriculture in the Northeastern U.S., often in ineffective mediums. Online outreach, however, has been well focused on the climate change-related concerns of farmers and Cooperative Extension professionals.

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