When it was announced in early June that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, family farmers and ranchers across the state balked. Then they got to work.
Now, a month later, more than 90 farms from Mendocino to San Diego have joined a pact to stand by the climate accord, adding their names to the California Farmers Climate Pledge and vowing, the pledge states, “to continually improve [their] own on-farm practices to conserve energy and sequester carbon,” while continuing to work toward the goals of the Paris agreement.
Ted Hall, proprietor of Long Meadow Ranch in Rutherford, is among the handful of Napa farmers who added their names to the pledge last month.
“I really believe that doing the right thing can make economic sense,” Hall said, “and so the withdrawal from the Paris accord, the argument is that it was economically harmful. I don’t believe that that’s supported by the reality of what people can actually accomplish.”
The day after the announcement, farmers around the state began to contact the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and the Farmers Guild, an assemblage of 12 local chapters throughout the state, including one in Napa.
“Farmers are the first people to experience the backlash of climate change,” said Farmers Guild Executive Director Evan Wiig. Thus, he recalled, following the news of a U.S. withdrawal “farmers said ‘we need to take a stand.’”
Soon after, the groups drafted and published the pledge. In a matter of days, Wiig said, 50 farms had signed on.
In addition to Long Meadow Ranch, local signatories so far include Henry Brothers Ranch in Angwin, Evermore Flowers in Napa and Worm Endings Unlimited, also based in Napa.
Charles Schembre, vineyard conservation coordinator with the Napa County Resource Conservation District (RCD), signed as well. Overseeing Huichica Creek Vineyard, the RCD’s sustainable demonstration vineyard in the Carneros Region, Schembre said the pledge is “a direct reflection of the work and progress that we’ve made.” That work has largely been illustrating conservation practices like erosion control, carbon farming and restoring the property’s wetland area and riparian corridor.
So signing the pledge, Schembre said, “just kind of seemed like a no-brainer.”
“At the end of the day,” said Hall, “those of us that are farmers are most potentially impacted by climate change and because we are connected to the land and have the opportunity to farm responsibly and grow plants that consume CO2 and, in effect, sequester carbon, it’s extremely important that those of us who take farming seriously do our fair share.”
The pledge, Wiig said, is more than a symbolic gesture, lending credence to the group’s efforts advocating for sustainable policy in Sacramento, and “basically providing proof to legislators and policymakers that farmers are concerned and willing to do work on the issues.”
It also counters “a reputation that agriculture is more conservative [with] a lot of farmers out there who take a little more of a conservative stance on issues” Wiig said, noting that the family farmers and ranchers CAFF and the Farmers Guild work with “don’t just believe in climate change, they experience it every single day and they’re very concerned about it.”
“We need our country to follow suit,” he said.
For now, the group continues to seek signatures from California’s family farmers and ranchers. “We’d love to get more vineyards for instance in Napa County because we know there’s a lot forward thinking, innovative vineyard managers out there,” Wiig said.
“We’d love to keep building that list so we’ve got a nice background of support letting people know this is where farmers stand.”
Among other local responses to the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal, the city of Calistoga passed a resolution on June 20 supporting the Paris accord. Mayor Chris Canning cited the city’s Climate Action Plan, which adheres to the international agreement.