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By Keelin Kelly '20
  • Agriculture
  • Climate Change
  • Environment
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Climate change is having dire consequences all over the world, especially in agriculture. It’s not a problem of the future: farmers are experiencing the effects now, and it's impacting how our food is grown in myriad ways. Hearing the voices of farmers and involving them in climate change decision-making is incredibly important.

Research is something I love and gets to the heart of my curiosity. What drives me is understanding how climate change impacts real people and societies. Research doesn’t just mean sitting in a lab: For my honor thesis project, it meant speaking directly to farmers and hearing about their experiences with climate change.

In January I travelled to Armenia to hold focus groups with farmers. As I waited for the first focus group to gather, I was nervous. Would they take me seriously as a student? Would they even be willing to answer my questions? A million thoughts ran through my head as I straightened the forms and waited for farmers in Norapat, Armenia.

Artak Khachatryan, a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow at Cornell who was taking part in the research, reassured me: “Don’t be nervous Keelin. Everything will be okay.” I thought to myself, stand up and shake the farmers’ hands. Act confident, but kind. Act knowledgeable, but inviting. I gave the farmer a firm handshake and smiled broadly. One by one, the farmers came in, each returning my smile as we exchanged greetings. Immediately, my worry was put at ease by the initial kindness of these farmers, who took time out of their day to attend the focus group.

As the farmers spoke I was inspired by how passionate, knowledgeable and open they were to my questions. For example, one man explained how he was trying multiple experiments to help his crops grow. He said he plants rosebuds in between his grape vines, tests pesticides and observes for diseases in the roses in order to better protects his grapes. My Cornell professor and thesis advisor, Dr. Allison Chatrchyan, warmly exclaimed, “that’s Integrated Pest Management, how awesome!”

The experiences conveyed by the farmers inspired me to not just make this project an honors thesis that I complete and then forget about. My interactions with Armenian farmers reminded me of why I love research. Making connections with people, sharing resources and knowledge and working together towards a better solution is truly irreplaceable.

Climate change is a reality all countries, farmers and people everywhere need to confront. There’s no time to wait, and it’s critical that farmers are heard.

Header image: A landscape in the mountains of Armenia. Photo provided

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