Farmers’ Forum: Climate Smart Farming in Bucks County was a Success
Bucks County Foodshed Alliance featured “Climate Smart Farming” at its Annual Farmers’ Forum in Buckingham on Tuesday, February 18, 2020. The Farmers’ Forum was attended by more than 50 farmers, as well as Congressman Fitzpatrick, County Commissioners Marseglia, Harvie, and Digirolomo, PA State Representatives Ulman, Schroeder, and Thomas, Buckingham Township Supervisor Rash and Supervisor Forest, Wrightstown Township Supervisor Magne, as well as staffers from PA Senator Santarsiero and Tomlinson’s offices.
BCFA’s volunteers celebrated locally grown farm products by preparing an appreciation lunch for the attendees. Ninety percent of the ingredients used were sourced from 16 local farms, which were primarily purchased from the Wrightstown Winter Farmers Market. The luncheon was enjoyed by all and included chili, soups, breads, root vegetables with dips, apples, cider, and homemade cookies.
The featured presentation on “Climate Smart Farming” was given by Dr. Jacqueline Ricotta of Delaware Valley University. Dr. Ricotta is a horticulture and organic production expert, as well as a champion for local farms and new farmers. “Climate Smart Farming” highlighted such challenges as extreme weather, increased disease, pests, and weeds, heat stress in livestock, and more.
Today’s farmers are facing many challenges due to climate change. Extreme weather and increased heavy precipitation causes flooding, erosion, and drowns seedling and roots of many plants. Early warm spells cause budding, often followed by killing frosts that destroy fruit crops, such as peaches. Heavy winds destroy crops and water-logged ground delays planting and harvesting dates, reducing yields. Disease, pest, and weed populations also increase with warmer temperatures and lack of long, deep winter freezes. Heat stress in livestock also reduces yields.
Suggestions to mitigate these issues included increasing soil capacity to absorb water and nutrients by using cover crops, adding organic matter, and reducing tillage. Also, hoop houses and high tunnels were suggested to protect from extreme weather. Integrated pest management, shifting planting dates, choosing crop varieties that are pest and disease resistant, were amongst the proposed tips.
Tom Murtha of Blooming Glen Farm summed up the vegetable growers key points when he advised, “Plant your cover crops, always choose the varieties with the shortest time to harvest and the most pest-resistance, use row covers – and good luck!”
Farmers split into small groups to discuss various concerns they are facing. These challenges included access to affordable land, labor and affordable housing for workers, access to credit and capital, and advocacy for small specialty farmers. Also expressed was the need for cooperatives to market products, farmer-friendly ordinances, farmer-friendly neighbors, and government programs that support small, specialty crop farmers.
Robin Hoy, co-founder and director of Bucks County Foodshed Alliance remarked, “It is so exciting to see so many new young farmers here in Bucks County and so many who are growing food for local consumers. We are so appreciative of the interest we have from our elected officials in honoring our rich agricultural heritage and supporting continuing successful farming in Bucks County, and we look forward to working together toward that goal.”