Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of stories about how climate changed and is changing our world -- spiritually, physically -- as a result. Find more climate change coverage here.
As a third-generation farmer near Goodhue, Minnesota, Kaleb Anderson has lived his life close to the land. When changing weather patterns affected his farming, he began concentrating on regenerative practices in 2006.
“There are very few aspects of our farming activities that haven’t been touched or affected by climate change,” Anderson said. “In general, my philosophy regarding climate change is to improve my soils as fast as I can do so in order to try and protect our farm from weather extremes that are characteristic of climate change.”
Along with wife Angie and children Stella, Sophia, and Silas, Anderson does this by limiting the disturbance to the soil, keeping live roots in the soil, increasing plant diversity, and integrating cattle on all acres.
“I believe the only way to slow and even reduce climate change effects is if agriculture dramatically changes,” Anderson said. “By following these principles of regenerative agriculture, farmers can capture millions of tons of carbon and trap it in the soil in the form of humus.”
Changing weather patterns have affected what farmers must do throughout the year, Anderson said. He has adjusted his calving season later into the spring to avoid calving in unpredictable spring weather. Dry summers from 2008-2012 caused him to change cattle management. He now moves cattle daily to prevent over-compacting the soil, and to help maintain moisture in the soil.
“Producing stored forages has become more difficult, as well, especially trying to produce dry hay,” he said. “Due to this, we are trying to extend the grazing season as long as possible. My goal is to one day graze year-round, reducing my dependence on the need for stored forages.”
Later and wetter springs are also causing Midwest farmers problems during the planting season. Anderson said some producers are buying additional equipment, so they can plant faster when the opportunity arises, and other farmers are transitioning to more perennial crops.
Later springs are also causing many farmers to apply fertilizer in the fall or early spring, leaving nutrients open to erosion which can pollute streams and rivers, Anderson said.
“Things will only get tougher moving forward for farmers,” Anderson explained. “That said, I am a believer in the fact that climate change can be slowed or even reversed by globally implementing soil regenerative practices and working more with Mother Nature, not against her.”