Project Description: CEI’s Climate of Hope project includes three innovation areas, described below: 1) Climate Aware Agriculture featuring Renewable Energy Integration; 2) Cultivating Climate Victory Gardens; and 3) Community Climate Change Education. It includes three facets of community engagement, shown in the graphic to the right.
Climate Aware Agriculture Featuring Renewable Energy Integration:
The mainstream, industrialized, monoculture food production system currently creates ecological dead zones and contributes nearly a third of global greenhouse gas emissions through ineffective agricultural practices, transportation, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and substantial waste. CEI will utilize our farm to demonstrate the innovative best practices identified by the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands Challenge:
*Increasing Biodiversity: Achieved through planting a variety of different plants. Biodiversity creates a more resilient and stable ecosystem, reduces soil erosion and improves carbon storage.
*Agroforestry: Growing trees or shrubs among crops or pastureland. It has been shown to improve soil quality, store larger amounts of carbon, and increase biodiversity.
*Planting Perennial Crops: Perennial plants, such as many fruits and nuts, live for multiple years and have deep roots that can access water and nutrients easier than annual plants, allowing them to outlast extreme conditions. These qualities also make perennials especially effective at sequestering carbon.
*No-till farming: A way of growing crops without disturbing the soil through tillage. No-till farming preserves the quality of the soil and its potential to sequester carbon.
CEI’s “Climate of Hope” project will demonstrate the viability of these farming and/or gardening practices and help others throughout Howard County implement these techniques on their farms or at their homes or areas of work. In addition, CEI is further innovating in agriculture through agrivoltaics – farming under solar panels. CEI is partnering with Power52 and the Howard County Office of Community Sustainability to install solar arrays above cropland at the farm to demonstrate climate resiliency benefits of co-locating solar and agriculture.
Cultivating Climate Victory Gardens
The Victory Garden concept that was last seen during World Wars I and II have been re-envisioned as an opportunity to inspire people to take local action that has a positive impact on the global issue of climate change. In 2019 CEI planted and certified the 2nd Climate Victory Garden in the state of Maryland. This garden is designed to incorporate all ten practices recommended by Green America for an effective Climate Victory Garden: growing edible plants, keeping soils covered, composting, encouraging biodiversity above and below ground, planting perennials, abstaining from chemical use, integrating crops and animals, abstaining from tilling, rotating plants and crops, and getting to know your garden. All of these practices are aligned with the Natural and Working Lands Challenge practices, but the concept of Climate Victory Gardens translates what works on a larger agricultural scale to what can work and make a difference at a business, organization, or residential property scale. The goals of the CEI Climate Victory Garden portion of this project are to mitigate local carbon emissions, empower residents to create their own gardens, and to share our experiences to encourage other communities to take similar climate-based action.
CEI’s climate victory garden is currently being tended by an inter-high school, inter-faith group of students that have personally prioritized community building and climate action. A goal of the Climate of Hope Project is to develop a pilot program in which high school students design and build climate victory gardens throughout the community. We will work with our current student to develop this innovative micro-business that creates green youth work force development opportunities and expands both the climate and nutritional benefits of climate victory gardens throughout the county.
Please complete this interest form if you would like to be contacted about having a climate victory garden installed at your home in 2021 - www.surveymonkey.com/r/CEICVG.
Community Climate Change Education
Climate of Hope will offer accessible, science-based, action-focused, climate change education for the community. We will offer eight community events at our farm on a range of topics from climate victory gardening (and the associated carbon-capturing practices), to composting, energy efficiency, community solar, and more. We will also offer customized offsite presentations to eight diverse community organizations including HOAs, faith organizations, school groups, and businesses. These events will be designed to inspire participants and provide strategies and tools for sustained positive climate action. Each of participating organization will be eligible for seed funding and support to implement a climate action project on their property. These civic ecology projects (tree plantings, garden creation, etc.) each organization completes will engage additional participants, teach valuable skills, strengthen relationships, and serve as a source of inspiration in the community. Research shows that connecting to nature in this way develops a sense of self-efficacy and instills a desire to protect the places we live as well as advocate for the environment on a greater scale.