On January 02, 2023, New York Times columnist Peter Coy published an opinion piece entitled, A Chorus of Hope for 2023. In the article, he invited a variety of people, from many walks of life, both from the United States and abroad, to share their hopes for the new year.
The invitees included many powerful people: CEOs from investment firms, a senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisers, national and local politicians, learned university professors—and little old couple, Karen and Craig Russon, from Clare, Michigan, who want to help to reverse climate change when they retire.
Who were these people and why would Peter Coy have included them in his article?
Someone to know
As an international civil servant for a small, specialized agency of the United Nations, based in Geneva, Switzerland, reports about climate change came across Craig’s desk with increasing frequently.
These reports alarmed him to the extent that he, together with his wife, Karen, decided that, in their upcoming retirement, they would relocate somewhere safe and create a sanctuary from climate change for their family and friends.
They did research and found that their home state of Michigan is considered by many scientists to be one of the best places in the world to survive climate change. Therefore, they bought a small farm outside of Clare, Michigan from which they teleworked during the pandemic.
The Russons slowly came to the realization that, even if they created a sanctuary, if climate change renders the planet uninhabitable, they would perish along with everyone else. Therefore, they resolved to join the larger fight against climate change.
They did more research and found that currently about 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases that are emitted come from agriculture. However, if we transform our agricultural system, it could not only avoid emissions, it could also actually sequester large amounts of carbon, thus helping to mitigate climate change.
They came to conclude that the best way to transform our agricultural system might be through a system of ecological design called permaculture. Permaculture’s design principles, based on whole systems thinking, seem to them to be ideally suited to the task.
They set out to learn more about permaculture and, in the process, Russon Family Farms received Permaganic Authentication, at the pioneer level, from the Great Rivers and Lakes Permaculture Institute. They are only the second farm in Michigan to receive this honour.
Their commitment to fight climate change led them to form a private operating foundation called the Climate Change Permaculture Project (CCPP). The purpose of the foundation is to help create a critical mass of farmers who will adopt regenerative farming practices, embodied in the principles of permaculture, to begin to reverse the effects of climate change and, at the same time, help to address food insecurity.
If you do a little bit of Internet research, you will find that former-Vice President Al Gore, who has arguably done more than anyone to raise awareness about climate change, recently bought a 400-acre farm, outside Nashville, Tennessee, where he is doing very much the same thing.
CCPP’s main activity is the Permaculture Incubator Programme (PIP)—like a small business incubator, only for regenerative agriculture. The Russons used their retirement savings to buy and renovate a house with two acres of prime Michigan farmland.
The plan is to lodge four incubator programme trainees in the house and to subdivide the two acres, into four, half-acre plots that will be assigned to the trainees. The trainees will receive instruction in regenerative agriculture from a world-class permaculture expert, then they will put what they learned in the classroom into practice on their plots.
The Russons expect to build infrastructure (e.g., deer fence, well, and greenhouse) that the program needs to be successful during the summer of 2023. They will start recruiting incubator program trainees in the fall of 2023 and trainees will be in the field in early 2024.
We can provide pictures.