Tractor with some mountains in the background
Macon County, a rural area in the Appalachian mountains. Photo credit: Liora Engel-Smith.

By Brianna Leduc

I went into this with the question of “does global warming affect farming?” and I found out a lot more than I thought I would from a farmer’s point of view.

I questioned a teacher of mine, Mr. Nicky Hobbs, from the Columbus Career and College Academy on farming and how he thought global warming affected him and he told me a lot of interesting things. He said that pretty much when he’s farming, global warming is “out of sight, out of mind.” That surprised me because I see it as something that you should always be thinking about, especially when you are in that kind of environment.

When coming from a teacher that I really look up to hearing that he barely thinks about global warming it kind of shocked me. But it also made me excited to hear more and hear someone give me reasons to not look into something so important.

Mr. Hobbs told me he has been farming since he was 5 years old. I didn’t ask him how old he was exactly.since he is going to be my teacher next year, I didn’t want to seem rude.

So I would assume he is in his 40’s. That means, if I am close on his age, he has been farming for almost four decades.

At his farm now they are growing soybeans. One thing I found really interesting that he told me was that it is almost impossible to grow pumpkins on his farm. As we talked about farming, he told me he really wants me and my fellow students to have experience farming.

“How has it changed my way of life since I grew up around it? So that kind of goes back to what I was saying that I wish everybody could participate in farming,” Hobbs said. “And I have, I made the comment before that. I wish it was a national law that every 16-year-old in the country had to work a summer on a farm. Because it just changes everything about your mindset. Number one, you just have a greater appreciation of things. And I don’t say just the problems you’re seeing in the plants, just because you’re seeing things grow, but,  and you know, you’ve been working really hard and it’s hot 95 degrees and you’re really thirsty and you’re just about to die of thirst. And someone brings you a drink.” 

Aranzazu Lascrurain is an assistant director at the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and an NC State University professor who worked on the 2018 National Climate Assessment that many scientists and others use to track what is happening in our country and in North Carolina. 

I spoke with her during this workshop with North Carolina Health News and Coastal Youth Media and she expressed her concerns about climate change more than my soon-to-be teacher Mr.Hobbs. 

I asked her: “Do you think global warming will change the way we farm in the near future?”

“Yes it will change in how we treat the soil and how we plant things,” Aranzazu told me. “It will also change which crops we plant.”

Then I asked her: “Do you think farming is affected by global warming?”

Here’s what she told me.

Climate change will affect farming in different ways across the country and North Carolina. Some places will see more change than others.

As Mr. Hobbs said while telling me about why he thinks students should work one summer on a farm and experience that joy of someone bringing you a cold drink after a hot day in the fields, Aranzazu made me think those fields and workers in them could get even hotter as the climate warms.

“It affects the people working outdoors and how we keep the workers cool, think about how it affects workers.” Aranzazu said.

Speaking with Mr.Hobbs and Aranzazu also made me realize that your opinion on what is happening to the environment and global warming will be different because of what you do and where you live.

After hearing both sides from these people I think that how you view the environment and what is happening in it is all based on what you are doing around it, they both affected my view.

It also made me realize as a 17-year-old how much what happens with climate change is falling on my shoulders.

I live in Whiteville now, and growing up around here my whole life, I have seen a lot of farms. It makes me think about where my food comes from. It also has made me interested in how many trees are cut down in the process of getting farmland ready for planting or livestock.

It also made me think that the loss of the trees would be making the climate warmer.

I started getting interested in climate change when I took a class last fall in environmental science. I go to the early college Columbus Career and College Academy,which means I get to take some college courses while finishing high school. Climate change also was a big issue during the presidential elections last year. We all need to think about how we can slow down climate change.

At my house, I’m more mindful of how much electricity we use and try to make sure we’re not keeping lights and other things on when we don’t need to be on.

Mr. Hobbs told me, he thinks about that some, too, as he farms.

“That one’s tricky,” Mr. Hobbs said. “Tricky. What could farmers or regular people do to slow down the effects of global warming?

“Well..My response is probably not going to be a popular one, but I think that probably a lot of the reasons that we have possibly an increasing global warming are attributed to the increase of population growth. So, you know, as, as you have more people, it takes more to sustain those people. Whether that be, roads, whether it be, transportation, whether it be housing, whether it be crops, whatever it may be, as you have more increasing your population, there is an increase in requirements to sustain that population.
So just the nature of the, the mechanics of what we do for our day to day lives are basically what’s going to be increasing that. So to slow it down, to stop it, to decrease it, Either you got to slow down the population growth they had to, I don’t know that there’s anyone kind of focused on that.”

After hearing what Mr. Hobbs had to say about what can stop the effects of global warming, I think I will definitely tell more people about it and look into it more.

I think as a 17 year old talking about it more has made me think of how I could shed light onto it so people with different views can have a civil conversation about it.

When I talk with my dad about it, he is not as convinced that climate change isn’t as urgent of a topic as I see it. He thinks it’s been over blown but I look forward to having more discussion with him on the topic because I plan to study it more.

Whether it’s because of the farmers around me or my environmental science class or other youth voices, I think we are going to be dealing with climate change for a long time in the future. We just need to talk about it more.

Most of 17-year-old Brianna Leduc’s neighbors are farmers. Brianna lives in Whiteville, North Carolina. In this episode, she set out to discover – how will the climate crisis change farming in North Carolina?