In May, the Cool Farm Alliance held the Annual Meeting ambitiously titled, “Harvesting Actions for Impact at Scale.” Being in-person again for the first time since 2019, allowed The Food Lab’s Daniella Malin, a founder and Head of Impact and Collaboration for the Cool Farm Alliance and one of the designers of the event, to put into practice event design features that maximize building connections among participants and ongoing engagement throughout the event. While leaning into the urgency of the moment in the face of advancing climate change, the event had an upbeat, purposeful, and often joyful tone, with leading practitioners eager to dig in on projects and progress together.
As the birthplace of the Cool Farm Tool, the Sustainable Food Lab continues to support, develop, and partially staff the Cool Farm Alliance, and work with shared members to use the Cool Farm Tool to usher in a more sustainable future.
High on the minds of most delegates, many of them Sustainable Food Lab and Cool Farm Alliance members, were questions about the Cool Farm Tool’s degree of alignment to the draft Land Sector and Removal Guidance coming out of WRI’s GHG Protocol. As with so many tools, the Cool Farm Alliance is working to accommodate this guidance to the extent feasible and delegates got to hear the details of what these accommodations entail.
Similarly, carbon monetization is topic that has consistently generated high interest was one of the early aspirational motivations for the Cool Farm Tool. In response, Daniella designed and facilitated a breakout session on the topic. Many have long assumed that being able to pay for soil carbon sequestration (and greenhouse gas reductions) is key to unlocking the power of agriculture to help mitigate climate change. As recent press has shown, practice holds great promise and great challenges.
Delegates learned that though still young, some entities now have a few years’ experience enabling carbon payments using the Cool Farm Tool. Buyers in the food and beverage sector use the estimated reductions as “insets” in their Scope 3 accounting rather than as formal carbon market offsets. Ensuring the integrity of these transactions has required a mix of modeling, remote sensing, measurements, and a healthy dose of humility, but this combination seems to be delivering on the promise of both getting more revenue to farmers for good practice and increasing enrollment in the practices and outcomes.
One of the most enlivening speaker provocations was from the community to the community: we, those of us that are not farmers, must stop talking about “getting farmers to change.” Instead, we can use the Cool Farm Tool to look at changing ourselves and how we organize markets and supply chains so that agriculture products that are better for the environment are in higher demand.
Other highlights included:
- Dedicated time to allowing participants to get to know each other through progressive small group interactions. The investment in intentional connections, led to more meaningful conversations and facilitated members finding common ground in interests, activities, perspectives, objectives, and projects.
- Case studies in coffee, rice, dairy, barley and potatoes showcasing the value of the Cool Farm Tool use at scale to help the industry “speak the same language” while educating, engaging and taking action.
- Breakout sessions on GHG emissions and carbon quantification in perennial cropping systems, the Dairy and Beef sector, the Cool Farm Tool software development, science and methods pipeline, soil health, biodiversity, and regenerative agriculture
- Provocative speakers that challenged and inspired participants to set bolder intentions for themselves and navigate the crushing truths of climate change and biodiversity loss without losing hope.
- An Innovation Space where many relevant goods and services were able to demonstrate and discuss their offerings.
As a community with many overlaps and a deep history with the Sustainable Food Lab, the event was a refreshing look at the nourishing power of convening in a world that has become both more pressured and more motivated to change.