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  A Publication of UVM Extension's Vermont Vegetable and Berry Program

A Farm Resilience Checklist

by Vern Grubinger and Chris Callahan
Vegetable and Berry Specialist
University of Vermont Extension

Recent extreme weather events have increased attention to the concept of resilience on farms. Over the past several years different parts of the country have experienced droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Such disruptions are nothing new but if they may be more frequent or intense as part of a changing climate it makes sense for farmers to take steps to be better prepared.

Farm resilience can be thought of as the ability to bounce back quickly from a disruption by re-establishing production and marketing, hopefully with improvements so that such events will do less harm in the future. Resilience is not the same as sustainability, which addresses the long term ability of a farm to maintain production through stewardship of resources, for example.  The two goals are complementary, and probably overlap.

In a nutshell, farm resilience is the ability to harvest, process, store, and distribute food for a limited period of time when the electrical grid goes down, fossil fuel supplies are interrupted, transportation is impeded, or some other short term disruption occurs. Sustainability is the ability to maintain food production and marketing activities for generations to come by taking care of the soil and water, securing reliable and renewable energy sources, and maintaining social enthusiasm for farming – in the family, the community and the country.

Translating the general ideas of farm resilience into concrete actions is important if we are to actually be better prepared for the next extreme weather event. Here is a ‘checklist’ of steps farmers can take to minimize the impact of such events, and other disturbances, on their farms.

Install or increase irrigation system capacity
Over-size supply / create multiple sources for irrigation water
Build soil organic matter /soil health with cover crops, etc.
Install potable water storage
Install livestock water storage

Establish riparian plantings
Optimize soil drainage with tiling, swales, etc.
Elevate utilities in buildings
Elevate chemical storage
Elevate equipment storage
Elevate perishable product storage
Install flood gates for buildings, key storage areas
Build with higher curbs around building perimeter, or intentional water entry and exit paths
Have a flood warning system in place, and an action plan that is communicated
Consider portable storage infrastructure for critical items so they can be moved if needed

Liquid Fuel Shortage
Install on site storage tank(s)
Include spill prevention, containment, and countermeasures (SPCC)
Create on-site production (vegetable oil, biodiesel)

High Winds
Consider prevailing winds when building or relocating structures
Anchor greenhouses, sheds, other ‘light’ structures deep into the soil
Install heavy duty doors and closures that will not blow open
Locate trash / loose items in protected area
Consider natural wind breaks (hedgerow, etc.)

Labor Shortage
Create volunteer contact list
Create crowdsourcing on-line site

Electric Power Outage
Install passive cold storage
Install passive cooling systems
Consider increased thermal ballast (extra mass)
Consider extra insulation in critical heated/cooled areas
Install backup (biomass) heating in critical areas
Install passive (manual) water pumping
Install on-site power generation (generator)
Install backup power storage (batteries)

Roads Closed
Develop overflow product storage plan in community
Create stockpile of essential bought-in supplies

Purchase infrastructure insurance
Purchase crop / livestock insurance
Purchase on-site communication systems (2-way radio)
Develop emergency response plan/procedures; share with farm personnel
Share farm-specific hazard list with local emergency responders and management officials
Obtain copy of local emergency response plan(s).

Published April 2014
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