Gardeners are a passionate bunch, and they are experiencing first-hand the new challenges climate change brings to their gardens. With the increased risk of flooding, summer heat stress, an increase in invasive pests, and temperatures changes that are all over the map, the growing season is changing with the climate.
We asked Moms Clean Air Force’s Montana Field Organizer, Michelle Uberuaga Z to tell us about a gardening event she helped to organize in her Livingston, Montana community.
Why did you organize an event around gardening and climate change?
We met with a group of community volunteers and brainstormed how to talk about climate change in a relatable way in our community. Community volunteers led the planning and shaped the event. The goal was to gain more media attention around climate change. At that time it was still faux pas to discuss climate change in Montana. We needed to create a space and cover for elected officials. It was also right around the time we were building support for America’s Clean Power Plan. We brainstormed ways to engage Montana State University and the extension office. Gardening and climate are topics that had a lot of traction. Once we identified interesting partners and speakers, we moved forward.
How does climate change impact gardening?
In Montana, many people still grow their own food in backyard gardens. Growing seasons are changing and people experience that first hand here. Early warm weather, late frosts, changes in precipitation, all impact backyard gardens. In Livingston, early warm weather can cause trees to bud too early and then the buds die after a frost. This can destroy an entire season of apples, or lilacs.
What makes your community unique?
Livingston, Montana is a small community situated along the Yellowstone River. It is surrounded by working ranches and public lands. Livingston is an old railroad town with significant socio-economic diversity and a history of industrial pollution. People continue to move to Livingston for the outdoor amenities, while people that were born and raised in Livingston struggle to find affordable housing and high-paying jobs.
Who were the speakers and what were the key take-aways?
Speakers – A master gardener from Montana State University’s extension office, an expert with Montana Permaculture, Livingston Food Resource Center, and National Wildlife Federation. Park County Environmental Council kicked off the event and framed the issue with an introductory presentation that included a film from Our Children’s Trust. The film featured a Montana youth farmer faced with planning how to continue his family farming legacy in light of climate change.
What resources did you provide?
There were educational handouts from the partner groups. We also invited local nurseries to set up tables and sell plants. The event was held at the Food Resource Center, which gave a tour of the food processing center that is available to community members to share local food. A local bakery donated cookies and coffee. The nurseries also advertised for the event in the local paper and passed out coupons.
What did you learn that you can share with families in other communities?
There is a depth of knowledge and passion for gardening in every community. Gardening is a really easy way to build common ground. Pun intended. Livingston residents wanted to make it an annual event.