Climate Farm School 👩‍🌾.

“A chorus of living wood sings to the woman, ‘if your mind were only a slightly greener thing, we’d drown you in meaning’.” - The Overstory, Richard Powers

American Gothic For Climate Resiliency

I recently attended’s Climate Farm School, which asks attendees to examine innovation in our food systems in the wake of climate change. The experience was so positive and essential to my understanding of what we eat and how it contributes to the health of our planet, that I started to wonder whether such a course might not be a requirement of all people who wish to grow food, or eat the food grown by others. In other words - all of us.

I think food is at the root of our societal issues and opportunities. Healthy food is inextricably linked to a healthy climate. A healthy climate to healthy lives and societies, and onward to politics, money, equality, and the technology that underlies and relies on it all.

Some of the things we looked into at CFS:

  • Collecting and analyzing soil samples to measure carbon sequestration.
  • Vermicomposting
  • Milking cows, feeding goats, intervening in sheep baby-mama-drama.
  • Growing Shiitake with a guy who lives in the nearby forest and hasn’t owned a fridge in 10 years.
  • Learning about the Farm Bill (didn’t know how vitally important this is in the US), and about what it takes to make a living in small ag, which seems like a monumental task no matter how knowledgeable you are or how long you’ve been at it.
  • Discussing where technology might be able to support a more climate friendly food system

The instructors are experts in their fields - ecologists, biologists, farmers, chefs, social justice workers - this is their job and educating us was just something they made time for.

I got to visit Singing Frogs Farm, which is featured in the book What Your Food Ate for the incredible nutrient density of the food it grows, and I got to prep cook for a head chef of Chez Panisse, a farm to table restaurant started by a leader of the slow food movement, Alice Waters

Climate Farm Schools Instructors, Singing Frogs Farm, and What You’re Food Ate Book

Of Singing Frogs Farm: “By comparison, the soil had over 400% more soil carbon, 7 times greater water infiltration, and soil health score (from 30+ variables) was 3 times greater”

Spending time with a diverse community, focused on a shared purpose, is something I’ve been finding elusive in my own life but I think is critical. At the farm you live together, work together, cook together, eat together, learn from each other. You set goals and hold each other accountable.

To me, the whole thing was an incredible model for immersive education, from the course structure to hands on learning, to the system of accountability,. It’s set up well to help you not just learn, but to take action, and I think a lot of educational programs could take note.

My final assignment for the course was to create a Climate Action Plan. And while it’s still a work in progress, I’m leaning toward the concept of a “Church of Climate.” As Richard Powers writes in Overstory:

“The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.”

What if we all went through a mandatory food education and climate resiliency program? The knowledge of these systems would help us, I think, tell and understand that story which is a necessary step toward action. It would help us familiarize ourselves with Nature, a thing I think is being progressively “othered.” It would help prepare us for what’s to come.