Farmer perceptions of climate change risk and associated on-farm management strategies in Vermont, northeastern United States

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Schattman, Rachel E. ; Conner, David ; Méndez, V. Ernesto (2016)
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Journal: Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene (issn: 2325-1026, eissn: 2325-1026)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.12952/journal.elementa.000131
  • Subject: agriculture | GE1-350 | risk | Environmental sciences | Climate change | perception

Abstract Little research has been conducted on how agricultural producers in the northeastern United States conceptualize climate-related risk and how these farmers address risk through on-farm management strategies. Two years following Tropical Storm Irene, our team interviewed 15 farmers in order to investigate their perceptions of climate-related risk and how their decision-making was influenced by these perceptions. Our results show that Vermont farmers are concerned with both ecological and economic risk. Subthemes that emerged included geographic, topographic, and hydrological characteristics of farm sites; stability of land tenure; hydrological erosion; pest and disease pressure; market access; household financial stability; and floods. Farmers in our study believed that these risks are not new but that they are significantly intensified by climate change. Farmer responses were heavily focused on adaptation activities, with discussion of climate change mitigation activities notably absent. Psychological distance construal theory and hyperbolic discounting emerged as well-suited frames to explain why farmers reported adaptation activities but not mitigation strategies. Farmers will probably experience an increasing severity of climate-related impacts in the northeast region; therefore, information about climate-related risks coming from farmers’ personal experience should be integrated with forecasting data to help farmers plan effective adaptation strategies.
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