University of Vermont

Cultivating Healthy Communities


Economic Case Studies of Climate Adaptation Practices

Spray Irrigation and Row Covers Help the Intervale Community Farm Adapt to Climate Change

Climate change impacts of increased and more variable precipitation and increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as floods or prolonged dry periods, are changing the way farmers farm in the Northeast. Furthermore, projections for increased variability and further climatic changes will potentially further expose farmers and their businesses to risk. A recent Vermont survey of farmers showed that 56% of farmers believe climate change will negatively impact their farms and 31% are not sure (Schattman and Conner 2015). As farmers' livelihoods depend directly on the weather, it's not surprising that a number of farmers have started to adapt their practices to this new normal.

As part of the USDA Climate Hub 's efforts to build capacity and deliver science-based knowledge and practical information to farmers in the region, staff from the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture have developed a series of economic case studies detailing the benefits and costs of implementing adaptation practices on northeastern farms.

Intervale Community Farm Case Study: Benefits of Climate Adaptation

The Intervale Community Farm (ICF), established in 1990 and located along the Winooski River in Burlington, is one of Vermont's oldest and largest community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms. Andy Jones has been manager of this certified organic farm since 1993, growing 25 acres of a wide variety of vegetables including cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins, melons, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes.

The farm has developed strong relationships with its 600 customers and Andy has built a reputation as a leading organic farm practitioner in the Northeast. As Andy explains, "On a 100-year floodplain, ICF soils have long been recognized as productive farmland, albeit subject to flooding. The irony is that much of the floodplain which ICF farms is composed of sandy soils, which drain well but need to be irrigated during dry periods." Over the past several decades, the impacts of climate change in the Northeast have meant an increase in extreme weather events including heavy downpours and extended dry hot periods throughout the growing season.

As a partner in this project, Andy Jones provided irrigation costs and estimated the benefits to the farm in terms of avoided crop losses due to irrigation. This case study assesses these irrigation benefits and costs from 2006 to 2016 in average dollars per acre per year. Despite a number of wet seasons, irrigation pays for itself in all but one year. As a risk management strategy, this case study showed that, if ICF can protect at least 3.5% of its crop revenues with irrigation, it will cover its costs of irrigation.


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Last modified February 20 2018 03:20 PM