Filming in the Fields: Farmer-to-Farmer Knowledge Sharing in a Changing Climate

Editor's Note: This is a guest-post by Hannah Roessler, a graduate student at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island who, having done some farming herself, came up with a project to help farmers share information via motion picture. You know. Videos.In a nutshell: Hannah's site features videos of farmers sharing their techniques with the rest of us. farmersfilmanac.com is the site. Thanks to Hannah for the post.

Farmers have always dealt with variable weather – it’s pretty much an essential part of farming. But climate change experts have cautioned that we’re going to be dealing with increasingly variable weather and extremes; we already see them occurring. I was curious - how do farmers perceive climate change, and what are the ways that they are adapting to it? What are ways to share this practical, adaptive knowledge, farmer-to-farmer?

This curiosity drove me to leave the farm (temporarily) for a desk, and I initiated a research project through the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. I began by interviewing farmers on and around Vancouver Island, and right away learned that farmers are certainly experiencing changing environmental conditions, Some changes carry the potential to put farmers out of business overnight - these are some very real risks. Now while this may seem a grim predicament, no one should underestimate farmers; they are a pretty innovative bunch. I found that farmers are finding unique and innovative ways to address these new environmental challenges; they are adapting, as best as they can.

filmanac screenshot

filmanac screenshot

In some ways, innovating and experimenting is what farmers have always done - yet environmental change is occurring at a greater speed and magnitude than we have previously experienced. Unique conditions require unique solutions, and it is critical that we find new ways to share locally-relevant information that deals with locally-specific environmental conditions. Additionally, we have a rapidly aging farmer population, and a lack of funding for agricultural extension in Canada, especially for small-scale organic growers. These realities seem to further widen the prevailing knowledge gap in agriculture, both for experienced farmers and new aspiring farmers. And while we’d all love to spend time visiting other farms to learn new techniques, it can be really difficult to find time to do this.

This is where the Farmers Filmanac comes in. This website is a place for innovative and adaptive techniques and practices to be showcased and shared with farmers in this region, both aspiring and experienced, and even somewhere in between. While this really can’t substitute for learning-by-doing on the farm, the videos are just another way to inspire ideas, share knowledge and connect farmers. The farmers I interviewed said they wanted short, quick, easily accessible information – so that’s what we tried to do with the videos. There’s just so much to learn, so we might as well take a stab at trying different ways of doing it.

As long as farmers continue to generously share their time and techniques, I will continue to add content. If we want to re-imagine our food system, we’ll have to try different avenues to make it possible – as we all know, it’s all about diversity, so please share your ideas.

Hannah Maia Roessler farmersfilmanac@gmail.com www.farmersfilmanac.com

hannah

hannah

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