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Meet the Man Bringing Together Farmers in Iowa to Talk About Climate Change

“Nobody’s giving them credit.”

In early March, just a week before the Midwest was inundated by catastrophic flooding, a dozen farmers gathered at the First Presbyterian Church in Grinnell, Iowa, for an event billed as a conversation about “Faith, Farmers, and Climate Action.” “How is God calling you to use your farm to improve the world?” asked the evening’s facilitator, Matt Russell. “We’ve got this narrowing window of time in which we can act,” he said. “When we think about climate action—are you feeling any call to that?”

Russell directs the Iowa branch of Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit that promotes a religious response to global warming. A fifth-generation farmer who runs a livestock operation with his husband in nearby Lacona, Iowa, the 48-year-old nearly became a Catholic priest in his twenties but then got a degree in rural sociology. Now he preaches that America’s farmers—a demographic seen as religious and conservative—are a secret weapon in the climate fight.

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