Adapting to climate change, reducing carbon emissions and participating in carbon sequestration efforts is a new frontier for many farmers across the state. To help them navigate new technology and translate the latest climate research into meaningful action, Cornell Cooperative Extension added two new specialists to the Harvest New York team.
As ag climate resiliency specialists, Jenna Walczak and Zach Spangler are tackling climate impacts on the farming community head-on with education and outreach.
“I believe this new role has the potential to catalyze change on New York state farms,” said Spangler. “It will lead to resilient food and agricultural systems that support farm viability and contribute to the state’s climate change mitigation goals. Deciding what farm practices make sense on their operation is a difficult and complex process for farmers. I hope to provide clear and useful information that supports farmers making these difficult decisions.”
A multifaceted program team, Harvest New York specialists work on issues surrounding emerging crops and developing new markets for New York’s food and farm systems. The multidisciplinary team includes urban and specialty crop ag specialists, farm-to-institution coordinators, and business and marketing experts working together to take a more holistic view of New York’s agriculture and food economies.
“Ag climate resiliency is a natural addition to the Harvest New York Emerging Crops portfolio,” said Judson Reid, Harvest New York team leader. “As climate economies emerge, this program blends well with our food systems work, which reduces food miles and increases the presence of local products in New York markets. These markets may show a preference for foods produced in a climate-resilient method.”
“Our educators help farmers understand and implement best management techniques in a profitable and sustainable fashion,” Reid said.
Working hand in glove with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Harvest New York is helping align food and agriculture markets with the state’s climate goals on greenhouse gas and carbon sequestration. Funding for the ag climate resiliency specialists was made possible by a partnership with Scenic Hudson, a grassroots environmental organization focused on safeguarding land and farms in the Hudson Valley. While Spangler and Walczak will be based in Hudson, New York, they will be working with farmers and producers across the state.
Since coming on board earlier this year, Spangler and Walczak have been piecing together existing programming and resources across CCE and in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), as well as among stakeholders across New York state, and developing an assessment of farm and producer needs and gaps.
“We are starting to develop a statewide network of fellow CALS and CCE staff to share resources and provide information on expected climate change impacts,” said Walczak. “I am excited to develop and share educational materials on climate change mitigation strategies – and associated funding sources – for agricultural and working lands in New York state. I also hope to work on resources for farmers and extension educators that involve support for coping with the social-emotional impacts of climate-related stressors.”
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