Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Neva Hassanein

Commitee Members

Laurie Yung, Phil Condon


Adaptation, Drought, Climate Change, Dryland Farming, Grain Farming, Montana


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies | Food Security | Nature and Society Relations | Place and Environment | United States History


Climate change has already and will likely continue to impact agriculture in the Western United States, threatening water supplies for both irrigated and rainfed agriculture (Calzadilla et al. 2010; Chambers and Pellant 2008; MacDonald et al. 2010; Pedersen et al. 2009). In the Golden Triangle, a region in north central Montana, known for its dryland grain production, the same is true. There is a need for in-depth, fine-grained, place-based, and qualitative research about the process of climate change adaptation in agriculture (Miller et al. 2013). Drought challenges farmers in the Triangle, which is semiarid and receives 10-15 inches of annual rainfall. As such, with this study, I use drought as a “research window” into the process of agricultural adaptation to climate extremes (Head et al. 2011). During the 2014 growing season, I conducted 15 in-depth interviews with conventional and organic dryland farmers in the Golden Triangle about how they experienced and responded to drought, as well as how they perceived the current, rapid climate change. In response to drought, farmers have adapted by conserving both fiscal resources and soil moisture in numerous ways, often operating within the lines of “conventional” and “organic,” though not always, as this research shows. Many farmers are adopting alternative, sustainable agricultural practices to help build soil organic matter, building their resilience to drought and other climate extremes. Despite these current and evolving changes happening on farms in the Golden Triangle, most farmers do not consider climate change when enacting adaptive changes on their farms.



© Copyright 2015 Caroline M. Stephens