Announcing our expanded Climate Resilience Program!

Announcing our expanded Climate Resilience Program!

April 12, 2024


Emily Gherman-Lad

Farmers are on the front lines of climate change: their livelihoods and the food security of our communities are directly impacted by changes we are already seeing in our climate, and farmers must adapt to the increasing frequency of extreme weather events. We've seen a lot of enthusiasm from Maine farmers to grow their farm’s climate resilience – but planning and implementation take time and resources, and every farm has unique climate risks and goals. 

This spring, we're excited to announce that we've launched a Climate Resilience Program with a suite of new and expanded resources to support farmers in growing their farms' ability to adapt and withstand the impacts of climate change.

“Farmers’ livelihoods, our food security, and our economy depend on resilient farms that can minimize and more easily bounce back from the effects of a changing climate. There's a lot of appetite from Maine farmers to adopt climate resilient strategies, but planning and implementation take time and resources, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. MFT's Climate Resilience programs support farmers with a variety of needs and goals, offering risk assessment tools, financial resources, and planning and technical assistance tailored to each farm," says Tricia Rouleau, who oversees the Climate Resilience Program as MFT’s Farm Network Director.

Melissa Law (3rd from left) of Bumbleroot Farm in Windham describes climate resilience adaptations on the farm to (left to right) Kate Burns, Jeff Pangburn, and Allison Bryant from TD.

The growth of our Climate Resilience Program was accelerated thanks to a $1 million, 3-year grant awarded by TD Bank Group (TD) through the 2022 TD Ready Challenge, through which TD is targeting CDN $1 billion (U.S. $775 million) in total by 2030 towards community giving in four areas critical to help open doors for a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow – Financial Security, Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities, and Better Health. The 2022 TD Ready Challenge problem statement was focused on supporting solutions designed to help people and communities who may be disproportionately affected by climate change, to prepare for, adapt to and help mitigate the potential impacts of climate change and/or to work towards a transition to a low-carbon economy. With funding from the TD Ready Challenge, MFT is growing scalable supports that help position farmers to withstand climate impacts and remain financially viable, securing a future for their livelihoods - and our regional food system.

"TD is thrilled to support Maine Farmland Trust as they work toward securing our future food supply by strengthening the infrastructure and climate resiliency of our farms in New England," said Sheryl McQuade, Regional President, New England Metro, TD. "As we move together toward an inclusive and sustainable future, it is so important to stand behind organizations like Maine Farmland Trust that are innovating to meet the challenges that lie ahead."

So, what's new? 

Climate Impact Assessment Mapping Tool

MFT’s new Climate Impact Assessment Mapping Tool is an interactive resource that identifies climate risks and the potential severity of impact to specific farm properties, helping farmers plan for their farm’s future or compare farm properties they're considering buying. Using geospatial information, climate science, and geological data, the mapping tool generates a risk assessment report that shows current water availability, floodplain risk, projected changes in temperature and precipitation, projected sea level rise, and projected risk of soil erosion. Based on these factors, the property also receives a weighted overall score to indicate to what degree the farm may be impacted by climate change. MFT developed the mapping tool with support from TD and from the Land Trust Alliance and Open Space Institute’s Land and Climate Grant Program

“As a nonprofit land trust, we recognize that it’s not enough to protect farmland from non-agricultural development – our responsibility extends to the agricultural productivity of that farmland and the farm businesses that are on it. Using the Climate Risk Assessment Mapping Tool, we can strengthen our long-term impact by integrating climate risk data and resilience planning into our efforts to protect and steward existing farmland, help new and expanding farmers access suitable farmland, and support the profitability of farm businesses,” says Tricia. 
At Six River Farm in Bowdoinham, the potential flooding and sea level rise risks identified through the Climate Impact Assessment Mapping Tool are helping farmers Nate Drummond & Gabrielle Gosselin make plans that target areas of highest risk to their farm operations. Photo by Bridget Besaw.

Climate Resilience Assistance Grants

We also awarded the first round of Climate Resilience Assistance Grants of $5,000 each to 19 farms across the state, spanning 8 counties and representing a diversity of farm operations, including dairy, vegetable, berry, and fruit producers. Open to MFT’s Farm Network of 550+ farms, the flexible, one-time grants are awarded to help easement-protected farms or farms engaged in MFT’s other programs to respond to current climate-related problems in ways that increase their future resilience. Another round of Climate Resilience Assistance Grants will be open to MFT’s Farm Network later in 2024.

“Whether it’s flooded fields or dry wells leading to crop loss and delayed harvests, farmers are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. With the Climate Resilience Assistance Grants, our goal is to support farmers as they grapple with the impacts they’re experiencing now in ways that will help to mitigate those impacts in the future,” says Tricia.

As a result of the record rainfall and severe storms this past year, many farms are leveraging the funds to improve drainage systems or invest in high tunnel infrastructure where growing conditions can be more easily controlled. Other farms are responding to the three consecutive summers of drought with plans to install or upgrade water lines, wells, and pumps, purchase drought-tolerant seeds, and add shade cloth.

"The reality that climatic weather patterns are changing is just another daunting challenge farms must face and adapt to in the coming years. For our operation, continued investment in irrigation capacity and reliability is paramount to overcoming many of the challenges of a shifting climate and unreliable precipitation patterns. We are grateful for Maine Farmland Trust's commitment to supporting these critical investments to our operation and operations throughout Maine. One cannot protect farmland without first protecting the viability and health of farmers and farm operations, and MFT truly stands behind that sentiment," said Eric Ferguson and Bethany Allen of Harvest Tide Organics, who plan to use their Climate Resilience Assistance Grant to install buried water lines, frost-free hydrants, and a mobile pumping station.   
Bethany Allen (left) and Eric Ferguson (right) of Harvest Tide Organics in Bowdoinham were awarded a Climate Resilience Assistance Grant to improve their water management infrastructure. Photo by Jenny McNulty.

What's coming next? 

MFT will continue to grow and scale our Climate Resilience Program to reach more farmers. Later this year, Maine farmers will have an opportunity to apply for our Climate Adaptation Planning (CAP) program, a 3-6 month program providing individualized support to assess their farm’s climate risks, identify strategies to grow their farm’s resilience, set goals, and navigate funding resources, including a $5,000 grant opportunity from MFT. The CAP program grew out of the Maine Soil Health Network (MSHN), a pilot program between MFT and Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & Environment that launched in 2021 in partnership with Pasa Sustainable Agriculture. Fourteen farms participating in the MSHN have completed or are developing climate resilience plans with a focus on soil health. Farmers who are interested in MFT's new CAP program can fill out an interest form here.

Through another program in development, MFT will work with Maine farmers interested in adopting select NRCS climate-smart practices with financial resources, data collection and evaluation, knowledge sharing, and marketing support, as one of 20 partners on the Climate-Smart Farming & Marketing project led by Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, funded by a $55 million USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities award.

And MFT is continuing to advocate for federal investments in climate-smart agriculture and support a Farm Bill that builds climate resilience by increasing farmland conservation program funding, and making these programs more accessible and efficient to meet growing farmer demand.

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