Hot Farm
Part 2: Enlisting the Unconvinced

Episode 2: Enlisting the Unconvinced

The majority of American farmers don’t believe man-made climate change is real. In this episode, producer Dana Cronin introduces us to some statistically typical American farmers—older, white, male—who grow corn and soybeans. Not for food we eat but as ingredients for processed foods, as feed for livestock, and to make ethanol. One of those farmers, Lin Warfel, may be unconvinced about man-made climate change, but as we learn, farmers like Lin are practical above all else. If doing something differently makes farming and financial sense, they’re likely to embrace it. That’s how Warfel came to be involved in a farmer-led initiative called Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources, STAR for short. The idea is to change farming practices in ways that safeguard the soil—the foundation of a farmer’s livelihood—for the next generation to farm. But many of the practices endorsed by STAR also help reduce carbon emissions, even if that isn’t the reason the farmers adopt them. It’s the kind of voluntary, meet-them-where-they-are strategy that the USDA and others hoping to convince farmers to join the climate fight say it will take to enlist the unconvinced.

Show Notes

Main character:

Lin Warfel, fourth generation corn and soybean farmer in Tolono, Illinois. He’s lived on the farm his whole life and is mostly retired now.

Other farmers:

  • Mike Wishall, corn and soybean farmer (and solar panel enthusiast!) in Tolono, Illinois, right down the street from Lin. He’s currently passing the farm down to his two sons.
  • Joe Rothermel, fifth generation corn and soybean farmer in Broadlands, Illinois. Co-founder of STAR. Also co-chair of the Champaign County Soil & Water Conservation District.
  • Steve Stierwalt, (mostly retired) corn and soybean farmer in Champaign County, Illinois. Co-founder of STAR. Also co-chair of the Champaign County Soil & Water Conservation District.

You also hear from:

  • Eric Snodgrass, atmospheric scientist with Nutrien Ag Solutions based in Champaign, Illinois. AKA “Weather wizard” for farmers.
  • Carol Hays, currently: consultant and coach. Formerly: director of the environmental non-profit, Prairie Rivers Network. Helped get STAR off the ground.

Additional reading:

Song of the Prairie by L. A. Warfel. Lin’s book of poetry!

For more on soil loss in the Midwest, you can read this peer-reviewed study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: The extent of soil loss across the US Corn Belt | PNAS