Rural Vermont after IreneThree years after Tropical Storm Irene turned their fields into lakes and their cows into swimmers, the owners of Liberty Hill Farm are planting sunflowers, creating beauty where they once saw devastation. Beth Kennett’s eyes still flood with tears as she and her husband, Bob, recall the volunteers — strangers, mostly — who streamed into town during the late summer of 2011 to help save its last remaining dairy farm.

But for the Kennetts and the 1,137 others in Rochester and countless communities like it — remote places with abundant beauty and meager resources — the outlook is clouded at best. In its most recent report released earlier this year, the National Climate Assessment (NCA) devoted an entire chapter to the increasingly detrimental effects of climate change on rural America: its infrastructure, economy, and overall quality of life.

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