Agriculture & Climate in Erie County: The New Normal Summit
Agriculture in Erie County has a long and robust history that goes back to the mid-1800’s. There are approximately 1,422 farms in the county producing fruits, veggies, dairy products, grapes, and products that support the agricultural industry like hay and grasses.
The US Department of Agriculture’s most recent census (2012) reports a market value of over $91 million for Erie County farms. Farms and the families that have operated them, in many cases for generations, are clearly an important part of the history and the future of the county.
While Erie County has enjoyed a rather mild climate (except for lake effect snows), increases in extreme temperatures and severe rain events that result in flooding have become the new norm.
This concept of a “New Normal” was the topic of the fourth annual “Erie County Agriculture and Our Climate” summit hosted on April 1, by the Community Resiliency Action Network of Erie County, or CRANE, which includes representatives from Environment Erie, the Erie County Department of Planning, the Northwest PA Green Economy Taskforce, and PA Sea Grant.
The summit, held at the Tom Ridge Education Center (TREC) at Presque Isle State Park, brought together community members and leaders, farmers, and those interested in learning more about how the changes to our climate may be affecting communities and farming in the region, and to share climate resiliency strategies.
The summit offered breakout workshops on topics like: garden startup and resources, canning and preserving food, urban agriculture and zoning, pest management, and buying local. In addition, firsthand accounts of “The New Normal” were shared through a panel discussion with Tim Burch, owner of Burch farms, Roberta Dudas, owner of Dudas Farms, Wendy Elliot, owner of Earth and Vine Farm, and Andy Muza, Penn State Extension Educator. All can likely attest to idea that farming is a commitment and a way of life, one that is all too often tested by Mother Nature. Read their profiles.
CRANE members hope that the conversations and educational sessions will encourage participants and the general community to buy locally produced goods from sustainably managed farms. Simply buying locally and sustainably produced products can help farmers combat climate challenges.