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Resilient Agriculture Author: Climate Change Isn't A Calling Out, It's A Calling In

Renee Wilde

Laura Lengnick, soil scientist and the author of Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems For A Changing Climate, says that climate change isn’t a calling out - it’s a calling in for all of us to pull together. 

County Lines producer Renee Wilde talked with Lengnick before her keynote speech at the Dayton Convention Center where she spoke on climate change, resilience, and the future of food, with members of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association during their annual convention.

I spent Valentine's Day learning about resilience agriculture at the Dayton Convention Center. Throughout the day I asked convention goers what that term meant to them.

"I guess what comes to mind is [being] adaptable to everything, and how we interact with the ecosystem to grow food, I think needs to be, yes, resilient!" says Kelly, a member of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. "I’m a farmer too. Right now, I raise Icelandic sheep. Doing a little bit of mushrooms - looking to wild cultivate some stuff in the forest, so stuff like reishi mushrooms and ginseng perhaps."

Kelly’s waiting with a trio of friends to hear Laura Lengnick, the rock star of soil scientists. I talked with Lengnick earlier in the day, and she said that resilience agriculture is not just about being able to bounce back after tough times, it’s about healthy food systems and healthy rural communities that can bounce forward with the changing climate.

"A resilient food system will be regional," says Lengnick. "So we’ll think about how can we create mutually beneficial, reciprocal, respectful relationships - not just between the people in the food systems - but between the people and the land, and between elements on the land.

And then the final rule of resilience is that the food system is set up to accumulate wealth in the region. So that that wealth is controlled by the community, and the community has (the) benefit of that wealth to help them innovate, to help them recover when there is damage, and to help them maintain their well being over time."

Lengnick says to fight climate change, our power lies as consumers.

"In the last ten years around this idea of climate change, we’ve had a lot of fingers pointed at us. Yes, we [agriculture] have been part of the problem, but we are also a very powerful solution. A big part of my work is actually looking at that bigger picture. How the way we eat fuels climate change, how the way we eat can help us solve climate change, and how the way we eat reaches all the way back to the farm. And that we all need to be part of the solution, not just farmers."

"I hope what I have painted for you a picture of what I think of as an intellectual unicorn.  As we face these difficult and troubling challenges, and uncertain times ahead of us, more than ever we need thinkers like Laura," says Carol Goland, the Executive Director of OEFFA, when she introduces Lengnick to a packed theatre.

Lengnick ends her speech with a heartfelt nod to a tool she uses to fight climate change everyday.

"Grounded hope is the belief that in order to create the future that you desire you have to be part of creating that. Turns out grounded hope is very much a community based thing. You get together with others, you agree on the desired future, and you start to head that way together. People ask me often, how can I do this work? And how can you be so positive with this work? And the truth is, I get into some pretty dark places, every now and then. Some pretty dark places. And I didn’t have the word for what I do, and what we do as a community. I didn’t have a word for it. But now I do.

Laura Lengnick is currently writing a new book called Opportunity in Change: Resilience Thinking for Small Business.

County Lines is WYSO's series on rural life, made possible by a grant from Ohio Humanities. This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.


Renee Wilde was part of the 2013 Community Voices class, allowing her to combine a passion for storytelling and love of public radio. She started out as a volunteer at the radio station, creating the weekly WYSO Community Calendar and co-producing Women’s Voices from the Dayton Correctional Institution - winner of the 2017 PRINDI award for best long-form documentary. She also had the top two highest ranked stories on the WYSO website in one year with Why So Curious features. Renee produced WYSO’s series County Lines which takes listeners down back roads and into small towns throughout southwestern Ohio, and created Agraria’s Grounded Hope podcast exploring the past, present and future of agriculture in Ohio through a regenerative lens. Her stories have been featured on NPR, Harvest Public Media and Indiana Public Radio.