Bridging scientific and experiential knowledges via participatory climate adaptation research
A case study of dry farmers in Oregon
Keywords:Dry Farming, Participatory Research, Climate Adaptation, Small Farmers
In western Oregon’s Willamette Valley, small fruit and vegetable growers have traditionally relied on irrigation to produce their crops. However, they are increasingly experiencing issues with water availability and access due to precipitation pattern changes associated with climate change. In 2016, the Dry Farming Collaborative (DFC) was developed as a participatory model for facilitating research, social networks, and resource-sharing among agricultural stakeholders to test the efficacy of dry farming as an adaptation strategy. Dry farming differs from irrigated cropping systems in that growers do not irrigate their fields and instead utilize a suite of practices to conserve soil moisture from winter rains for summer crop growth. To better understand how to meaningfully engage stakeholders in participatory climate adaptation research, this study explored how the participatory process facilitated the adoption of dry farming as a climate adaptation strategy among participants. Drawing on interviews with 20 DFC participants, including farmers, gardeners, and researchers, results indicate that the integration and use of different knowledge systems within the participatory research process made it easier for participants to integrate dry farming into their operational contexts. Processes designed to encourage interactions and information-sharing between participants and nonhierarchical researcher-grower relationships facilitated the exchange of these knowledge systems among participants, thus providing them with the trusted and salient information they needed to adopt new practices. Results indicate that these features could be useful for enacting future participatory climate research projects that lead to the adoption of effective adaptation strategies.
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