Posted  22 Jan, 2018 
In: Events

Event Date:  Feb 9, 2018

A lot of the doom and gloom around climate change can be, well, paralyzing. Organic Alberta has partnered with Rural Routes to Climate Solutions for this year’s organic conference to deliver a line-up of speakers who will help you shake that paralysis and feel empowered to take action on climate change.

The climate series at Organic Alberta 2018 Conference in Red Deer begins with Joe Munroe of Muskoday First Nation in Saskatchewan. Munroe will discuss how Indigenous traditional knowledge can be applied to our agricultural practices. Intensive grazers’ favourite beef defender Nicolette Hahn Niman will follow Munro in the Cows vs. Climate Change session.

Niman will unpack the science around cattle and greenhouse gases and present the conference with a though-provoking argument — if managed properly, cattle can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.  How? Well, we don’t want to give the whole presentation away, but a lot of it has to do with soil. Good thing soil features prominently in our conference and the climate series.

There are multiple amazing soil health sessions for your brain to feast on at this year’s conference. Keith Bamford (University of Manitoba), Jeff Battigelli (University of Alberta), Dr. Tracy Misiewicz (The Organic Center) and Kim Cornish (Food Water Wellness Foundation) will also present on various soil themes from organic no-till to soil carbon sequestration to measuring soil organic carbon. If you are a soil geek, this year’s conference is really for you.

We are also honored that Indigenous and non-Indigenous speakers from the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Collaborative are making the long voyage to Red Deer to present at the conference. Four speakers from the Collaborative will speak about how they are producing food in Canada’s changing North.

The climate series will also shed some light on a question that has likely crossed your mind once or twice if you are a producer: can beavers and farmers co-exist? Glynnis Hood (University of Alberta) will present her research showing these industrious, furry little fellas can actually help agricultural land cope with droughts and floods. You might want to put down the tannerite for a moment and check this one out.

Our grand finale, our battle royale of the climate series is our keynote—Adaptive Agriculture. Monica Kohler of the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute will provide projections on how climate change may impact biodiversity and natural habitats in Alberta to begin the keynote.  At that point, the gauntlet will be dropped and three producers—Amber Kenyon, Kris Vester and Heather Kerschbaumer—will explain how they would adapt their practices based on the projections. So, on your mark, get set, devise a suitable management plan!

Note to reader: anyone who is expecting an actual battle royale from the Adaptive Agriculture session is going to be really disappointed. Sorry.

To wrap up the climate series for us, Tracy Misiewicz of The Organic Center go into how exactly organic agriculture can help us tackle climate change and where organic practices are beating out conventional in this pursuit.

If there is one message we want you to take away from the climate series it is this—farmers and ranchers can play a pivotal role in the building the low-carbon economy of the future. Especially in Alberta, home to one-third of Canada’s agricultural land and two important carbon sinks—grasslands and the boreal forest. The wildrose province also has some of the best solar and wind power resources in Canada (check out the on-farm clean energy session with Kale Scharf at the conference for more details).

Climate solutions are often viewed as being an inconvenience to our everyday lives. But farm solutions are climate solutions, and many of them have multiple concrete benefits that go beyond stopping climate change: improving soil fertility; creating new economic opportunities; protecting biodiversity; energy independence and building resiliency against droughts and floods. Sounds like a win-win strategy to me.

Derek Leahy is the project coordinator of Rural Routes to Climate Solutions, a central Alberta-based project providing learning opportunities for rural communities to better understand climate solutions. Workshops and field days covering on-farm climate solutions will be starting soon. Follow the project on Twitter @ClimateFarmsAB.

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