A new open access paper is out today in People & Nature led by PhD candidate Bernard Soubry. This one uses the fun metaphor of ‘desire lines’ — those behavioural grooves that facilitate common activities and help negotiate obstacles — to explore adaptation to climate change among small-scale farms in the Maritimes. They don’t fit a lot of the government programming designed for climate adaptation in larger operations, so they innovate with collective action to fill the gaps. Bernard did interviews across all three Maritime provinces to elicit these ‘grass routes’ alternatives. Read all about it!
I am now back from my 3+ week immersion into the farming culture of the Falkland Islands, with 700 photos, 30 hours of interviews, 20 pages of observational notes, and a strong sense of my inadequacies as a specialist within a land of self-reliant generalists. Despite coming at the busiest time in the farming calendar – shearing and lamb marking – farmers were incredibly generous in their willingness to talk, and sometimes tour and host as well. My research assistant, Marilou Delignieres, went far beyond her role as recruiter, guide and driver, happily engaging in farm work and babysitting to help me get time with farmers. Her parents, Hugues and Marie-Paul, helped us with logistics, but also provided additional opportunities during my visit. I relished my discussions with members of a contract shearing gang then working at their farm Dunbar, and got to experience a cruise ship visit, one of the ways that many farmers here diversify their incomes and benefit from hosting penguin colonies and other wildlife. I travelled by 4×4, workboat (ferry) and Islander aircraft. I marveled at all scales: skies to ground cover. These memories will sustain me through the difficult transcription phase which follows such research, and support my subsequent analysis. Thanks to the OECD Co-operative Research Programme and Dalhousie’s Supplemental Sabbatical Fund for the fellowship funding to undertake this travel, and SSHRC for its support of Marilou.
When I moved back to Canada from Australia, and started interviewing farmers in Nova Scotia, I was surprised at how small and fragmented their holdings were. I found myself wondering how this spatial pattern influenced their management. Does it mean that it is harder to think of a farm as an ecosystem, and manage accordingly? Or is it a boon for biodiversity, as remoter parcels are left to nature? I threw a few questions about farm fragmentation on our Marginal Land survey last year, and those preliminary results are now in, recently presented on a poster at ISSRM, Farm as ecosystem: What is the impact of fragmented property ownership on farm management? It show us that fragmentation in Nova Scotia is intentional, the result of purposeful land acquisition by serious farmers. While it cannot be ascribed to fragmentation alone based on the data we collected, these high fragmentation farmers were less likely to have ponds and wetlands on their properties (as a function of farm area), though they had just as many woodlands, which are seen to have high ecosystem service value (timber, etc). Moreover, high fragmentation farmers were less likely to undertake biodiversity-friendly farming techniques. I think this is enough to suggest more research is warranted. Next time I want to look for diversity within farms. Does the farmer treat far-flung parcels differently than those closer to the heart of his operations?
Last week, with winter marks submitted, launched the workshop and conference season. Monday I spent all day in the marvelous new Halifax Central Library with a range of government, academic and NGO experts interested in agricultural risk management in the face of climate change. We workshopped AgriRisk research grant proposal ideas, well provisioned by Pavia. Then I hopped into the car with recent MREM alumna Sarah Saunders, now a tidal energy specialist at WWF Canada based in Halifax, to drive to New Brunswick for a meeting on the Saint John River. Organizer Simon Mitchell, WWF Canada’s Saint John River Advisor, always picks great meeting places, this time the Brundage Point River Centre in Grand Bay-Westfield, north of Saint John. That Tuesday meeting was to troubleshoot the first maps out of the Habitat Friendly Renewable Energy Mapping Project. WWF Canada uses the HCV system to identify constraints to development – high conservation value – which has 6 elements including social value and community needs. Those people-oriented maps were almost empty, prompting lots of suggestions from me and my Energy Transitions colleagues Tom Beckley and Louise Comeau, also in attendance. A thoroughly fun day for nerds like us, but I particularly enjoyed taking the long way home, across the Westfield ferry and up the Kingston Peninsula – entirely worth the extra half hour.
I am disappointed not to have been able to make the trip to Corpus Christi, Texas, today as planned for the Society for Range Management annual meeting (and not just because it’s February in Canada). I was asked to present a talk on the value of qualitative social science methods for grazing research, in a session designed to develop common ground around adaptive grazing practices such as Holistic Management (HM). Carlisle and I also submitted a poster (above) based on our bibliometric analysis of the HM literature (as approximated by looking at papers that cite Allan Savory). I wrote the Savory Institute to give Mr Savory a heads up, given the cheeky title we used, and received a gracious and supportive reply. I told him it was like seeing the name Spiderman in my inbox and he wrote back, “Kate, it’s Spiderman.”