Northern-Michigan-based nonprofit forms peer group to help farmers face climate change, practice 'carbon farming'

This is part in an ongoing series about Michiganders working toward climate solutions. Know someone we should write about? Hit reply!


There’s an old adage that predicting the weather is more art than science. Rapid and drastic changes in weather brought on by climate change make this statement even more accurate.

It makes sense, then, that Amanda Kik of the northern Michigan-based nonproft Crosshatch for the interconnectedness of art, farming, ecology and economy.

Since 2005, Brad and Amanda Kik, co-founders of Crosshatch, have worked with farmers, artists, individuals and organizations to tackle challenges to food production in northern Michigan. Centering the human experience in a place-based narrative, Crosshatch works to create a more sustainable and self-reliant community in their part of Michigan.

This often means finding creative solutions to problems old and new. Crosshatch offers workshops, classes and conferences for individuals and organizations to help them become, in Kik’s words, “more native to place.” At the heart of the nonprofit’s model is the formation of guilds: small, informal peer groups dedicated to sharing detailed information on a particular topic relevant to member interests.

Guilds of beekeepers, mushroom cultivators, sustainable builders, fiber artists, and more traditional grain farmers and orchard owners each work as a small group to exchange knowledge and best practices learned over the decades, specifically related to their unique location.

This peer learning is invaluable to guild members, says Amanda Kik. “You can read all the books and you can take all the webinars,” she says, “But actually touring someone’s farm and seeing what their practices look like is tremendously helpful. It seems simple, but it’s a really powerful thing when you’re learning from your neighbors.”

This collaborative approach to tackling challenges is especially helpful in a time of rapid climate change. Especially for farmers, one of Crosshatch’s core groups, sustainability in the face of climate change is becoming a top priority. Crosshatch works with farmers to plan for how climate change might affect their productivity, their sustainability, and even what kinds of crops they plant.

When the organization first started in 2005 — then named the Institute of Sustained Living, Art and Natural Design (ISLAND) — the Kiks were hesitant to even include references to climate change as a major factor in sustainability planning, says Kik. Mentioning climate change “felt like it was too ‘fringe’ for people to really get their heads around. And clearly, that's changed pretty dramatically” in the years since, she says.

By now, there’s no denying the drastic impact climate change has had on the state’s farmers.

“Farmers everywhere are really seeing the impact of really unpredictable weather,” says Kik. “Because it could be June and we can get a frost, or it can be 90 degrees. There are just all kinds of wonkiness.”

Another significant shift for Crosshatch’s partner farms is something many home gardeners are also experiencing. Growing zones — also known as hardiness zones — are shifting dramatically.

The zones, based on the coldest temperature each year averaged over thirty years, are creeping northward. The formerly unthinkable is becoming a possibility for Crosshatch’s farmers and food growers. “I know some farmers planting pecan trees,” says Kik “and right now, they're not going to get any fruit from those pecan trees. But it might be the perfect fit for this climate ten years from now.”

Recently, Crosshatch received a grant from the USDA for a peer farming partnership initiative. The Carbon Farming Planning Cohorts program will bring together six small-scale farmers in northwestern Lower Peninsula Michigan to learn together — and teach one another — how to practice carbon farming. Carbon farming uses techniques like no-till farming and perennial planting of crops like strawberries, cherries, hazelnuts and other native plants to reduce carbon emissions from farming.

Despite the challenges small farmers and food producers face across the country, says Kik, “I’m really hopeful right now,” because [the USDA} is really pouring a lot of money into agriculture in the face of climate change.”


Please forward to a friend!


Our reporting 

runs deep.

Get the latest local enviro news in your inbox with Planet Detroit.

Scroll to Top